The greater the number of minor parties and independents sitting in the Senate means better representation for all Australians. A good and fair democracy needs people from all walks of life, not just people from the governing political party. For our democracy to work, we need to increase diversity and a wealth of different life experiences in our government.
Did you know, the Senate is more likely to have more independent and minor parties elected than the House of Representatives? Part of the reason is that the voting system for the Australian Senate combines both preferential voting and proportional representation counting.
Our Westminster democratic system includes a lower house and an upper house. Th upper house is comprised of eight electorates (six states and two territories), each represented by multiple senators. This is why there are 12 senators in the upper house representing all Victorians. All senators are elected for a six-year term; and yes, you can choose on May 21.
Those elected into the House of Representatives, however, stay in power for only three years before having to be re-elected. So why is this important? Well because our democratic system is not like the USA, although the media pretends that it is; this year the media has been focused on Scomo and Albo.
Over the past 15 years, the average term of a sitting Prime Minister has been 2 years and 4 months. Yet, the senators who pass our laws and are in Parliament for six years and hardly get a mention in the traditional media. Is it any wonder only a few voters (less than 1%) can name any one of the 12 senators representing Victorians?!
But wait, there’s more… the “preference deals” also known as Group Voting Tickets? Those shady back-room deals no one talks about (no, I didn’t say prayer room) and the shenanigans and horse-trading concepts few understand, continue. The back-room deals are the answer to how, in 2013, Ricky Muir got elected with only 0.5% of first preferences. As 96.5% of voters chose to only mark one single box above the line, it was a system that allowed political parties to direct which way the preferences from our #1 vote were distributed.
Thankfully that system is no longer available, and hasn’t been around since senate electoral reforms in 2016. Parties no longer lodge Group Voting Tickets that control preferences between parties. Voters must mark a minimum of 1-6 above the line. Preferences only flow to another party as you, the voter chooses.
The only way a party can ‘control’ where your preferences go now is if you follow their “how to vote’’ cards.
The major parties this year have put political favours over the welfare of the Australian people. For example, the Liberal Party has preferenced far right-wing United Australia Party 2nd this year, whilst Labor has placed several right-wing and anti-vax parties as their preferences. (Yes, I too am horrified.)
I like to think about preferences like a BBQ or a party, in order to understand the concept of how votes are distributed. Imagine you have 20 people over for lunch. Before people leave, you ask each one to take some of the leftovers home. Once they take the food, you have no control of what they do with it. So, imagine, they give some of the leftovers to their neighbour; the neighbour give some to their brother or sister or other. The brother or sister then gives a bit to the kids, and the kids give some to the dog. Do you follow? So, if you want to make sure the leftovers do not go to the dogs, mark all six boxes above the line (1 to 6). Please, don’t get sucked into the major parties catch cries of “you’re wasting your vote” if you don’t vote #1 for them. You simply cannot waste your vote. If the party or independent you vote #1 doesn’t win a seat, the full value of your vote flows on to your 2nd, then 3rd preference and so on down to your last preference.
So, when you have your senate ballot paper in front of you. Vote #1 for the party you really want to represent you. Vote knowing that even if the party you choose doesn’t get elected, your 2nd, 3rd… preferences will count towards electing a representative of your choice.
My decision to run for a Senate seat is based on the fact the Senate is the most powerful house in our democracy. I want to ensure I can represent all Victorians and deliver progressive evidence-based policy and integrity in politics for the people. I will demand real action on climate change, equity for all, human rights for all, and address the long list of inequalities in our society.
Both you and I know, we can do better. Please talk to your friends, family, neighbours, kids, anyone that will listen. Our democracy is worth saving.