It’s federal election time again in Australia, thanks to the double dissolution. If, like me, you’ve completely given up on following politics, you’re going to be confused as hell when you step into the booth this Saturday (or open up your postal vote if you’re busy/lazy/hate getting pamphlets shoved in your face/hate sausage sizzles).
This time around it’s even trickier, because you have to number at least 6 parties above the line for the Senate form. Gone are the days that you could put “1” for the major party you hate the least and hope for the best. And annoyingly, the minor parties often require a bit of research to work out what they actually stand for. For example, Health Australia Party is headed by a guy who wants to use homeopathy against infectious diseases. The Australian Liberty Alliance sounds great (who doesn’t love liberty?) but turns out to be mostly concerned about liberating Australia from Islam (maybe they’re just disturbed by the meteoric rise of the Halal Snack Pack? Who knows!)
Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know this election:
How to vote
6% of ballots last election were invalid and couldn’t be counted, so make sure you know what you’re doing. If you want a dry run, the Australian Electoral Commission have a thing on their site for that.
House of Reps (small green paper): Number your candidates in order of preference from 1 onwards. All squares must be numbered, and ticks and crosses and anything else don’t count.
Senate (giant white bedsheet): Number at least 6 parties above the line, or at least 12 candidates below.
Because Australia uses preferential voting, your vote can’t be “wasted” on a non-winning party. You should number the party you support the most as number 1, regardless of whether you think they have a chance of winning. This comic explains preferential voting in more detail – in short it can influence the policy decisions of the major parties and add to their campaign funds.
If you don’t vote and you don’t have a good excuse, you’ll get a $20 fine, which goes up to $50 if you’ve missed a vote before. More info on these rules here.
How to Decide Who to Vote for
The ABC has made a voting compass which matches your answers to policy-based questions with the standings of the 3 biggest political parties (Liberal, Labor, Greens). Fairfax media has made one too due to disagreements about how accurate the ABC one is, but I got identical results for them. It’s a bit less fancy. I Side With is an American-based site which has a vote compass with 2 extra parties (Liberal, Labor, Greens, Family First, Liberal Democrats) and gives you a bunch of cool visualisations of your results.
Unfortunately there isn’t a single, unbiased site with a straightforward list of every minor party’s policies to help you out with the Senate form.
- Here’s a list that summarises each party but it’s written in a cynical tone that isn’t always the most helpful if you’re not already quite familiar with Australian politics.
- Here are the minor parties mapped on the Vote Compass graph for the 2013 election. It doesn’t include all of the new parties that have turned up for the 2016 election and some parties’ policies have changed since then, but it gives you an idea of which parties are near your ideological position and would be worth researching further.
- This thread on Reddit has a list of links to the policy pages for all the registered parties.
My recommended method for sorting through this mess is:
- Look at the Senate form for your state.
- Work out which parties are close to your ideological position on the Vote Compass map
- Have a quick scan through the summary of minor parties and try to get at least 6 parties you like and work out the order you want
- If you don’t already have Liberal, Labor or Greens on your list of preferences, add the one you hate the least to the end. (This is because there’s likely going to be at least one candidate from these parties in each state’s Senate representatives, so your vote will end up with the one you hate the least even if all your other preferences fail. To be extra safe, end on Labor if you used the Greens, since in some states they only had one candidate.)
I managed to fill in all 41 parties on the form, but I’m pretty sure I wasted 20 minutes numbering parties after the major party that my vote will probably end up counting for.