I just read a couple of really interesting pieces on the Senate competition in this election, which (as it should be) has been receiving much more attention than in some of Australia's elections from recent history.
Over at Larvatus Prodeo Anna Winter has argued that if you're in WA your vote is best spent on the Labor Party in the WA Senate race1. That probably makes sense for WA voters, but I will argue strongly that for Queenslanders, a vote for the Democrats 2 (Andrew Bartlett and Sharon Neill) is easily the best way to help ensure the Senate both regains it's independence and retains a progressive voice.
There has been much made in the press about how little chance the Democrats have in this election, which is a pity for two very important reasons. First, their chance (especially in Queensland) isn't nearly as bad as the press make out. And second, the time wasted by the press in reporting the (exaggerated) odds means the significant3 work the Democrats Senators do is all but ignored.
I have seen only two positive pieces on the Democrats in the media in the past six months or so4. One in the Sunday Mail last weekend (just a horse race piece on the fact that the Dem's polling in Queensland isn't actually that bad) and one published back in September by Jason Koutsoukis in The Age. Jason's piece makes a strong argument for keeping the Democrats represented in the Senate and the whole article is well worth a read. Here is one of the most pertinent points:
"What I would say to people is to think about the Senate vote," says Murray. "Because if they don't think about it, the chances of having the restraints, checks and balances but still progress are minimised."
Murray rightly points out that most commentators now look back on the nine years when the Democrats held the balance of power as a good time for the Coalition because it was restrained from its most extreme desires, and the period since as a dangerous one.
"It's because when there was a problem they could either negotiate with Labor, which they did and did often, or with us," says Murray. "They could never negotiate with the Greens because Greens don't do that.
"The media says we're finished, but ignores work we do every day, the amendments we pound through daily, and all the other effort we still put in. The media just says that's irrelevant."
I haven't paid close attention to the Senate race in other states, but in Queensland the minor parties (Dems, Greens or Family First5) do stand a good chance of gaining a seat. Please consider your Senate vote carefully, and consider voting below the line on Saturday (you can count to 65, right?) to ensure your vote follows your preferences and not the preferences dictated by deals between the parties.
For those of you who consider WorkChoices a big election issue and are also fans of the environment (I'm sure that's a few of you), here is another short snippet from the article above which should be of interest:
So what happens if after the election Brown and the Greens get the balance of power?
"I expect gridlock," says Democrats Senator Andrew Murray. "Take Labor's policy on WorkChoices. The Greens oppose them and have said they won't negotiate. So if Labor wins the election and moves their changes to WorkChoices, the Greens, given their track record, will oppose them and end up being responsible for keeping WorkChoices intact."
Finally, if you've read this far you're probably at least mildly interested in making your vote count and using it to try and move Australia in the direction you think it should go. If there's anything about the electoral process you don't understand or you'd like to know more about, but couldn't be bothered reading (it can be a slog sometimes), drop me a line and I'll be more than happy to explain anything I know about verbally.
Get involved kids! Oh, and Vote 1 Andrew Bartlett.
- Her argument is really for a progressive senate, which she believes will be best achieved at this election by making sure Labor's third WA candidate gets elected. [↩]
- In case it's unclear, yes, I'm a paid up member of the Democrats. [↩]
- Significant in both amount and importance. [↩]
- Yeah, I've probably missed some. Point them out to me, please. [↩]
- Oh, dear God, please don't let it be Family First. [↩]