A vote of confidence?

Barely a moment of the day passes when we Australians are not assaulted from seemingly every dimension of the cosmos by election coverage. Taking comfort in the fact that it will all be over in three weeks is about the best one can do under the circumstances, unless you’re a reporter or opinioneer in the mainstream media.

But in an election campaign that resembles hungry seagulls squabbling over the last chip on the picnic table, one of the current battles is particularly insulting to any thinking voter. While it’s tough to nail down which issue is being manipulated and reported more abhorrently than another, one does stand out – or hang down, as the case may be: the distribution of preferences.

For Real News Australia readers who are not familiar with our preferential voting system for the House of Representatives, the Electoral Council of Australia provides a clear and concise explanation.

This system heavily favours the major parties, Liberal/National Coalition and the Australian Labor Party, because of their entrenched positions. Australians have become so used to either one these parties warming the government benches that we have become resigned to putting either as one of the top two choices on the ballot, simply because we don’t expect minor parties or independents to have a real shot at getting in. While this has changed a little in recent years, the major parties still have a pit bull’s grip on almost all seats in the national parliament.

Making it to the polling booth on election day generally includes running the gauntlet of party members or friends and family of the candidates handing out how-to-vote cards. True, it’s a minor inconvenience along the route to the true goal of the day: locating the cake stand and sausage sizzle that makes representative democracy worthwhile. At a primal level, though, how-to-vote cards are an affront to thinking voters.

Why? In my view, presumptuous – yet mildly amusing – is a mild euphemism for describing the double-dealing that political parties large and small engage in to consolidate their power base or curry favour via pieces of paper filled with names and numbers. Pieces of paper too stiff and scratchy to serve any worthwhile purpose.

This piece gleaned from The Australian today exemplifies a typical day of preference swapping during this election campaign.

There’s this:

LABOR’S decision to give its preferences to the Greens makes it more likely that the minor party will hold the balance of power in the new Senate.

And this:

In Queensland, the race for the final place has been complicated by Labor’s decision to preference the Katter Australia Party.

Labor has decided to preference KAP in the Queensland Senate race before any other party in return for KAP preferences in several key marginal Queensland seats it needs to hold government.

The deal drew anger from the Greens, with the Queensland Greens convener Andrew Bartlett saying: “The deal betrays the ideals of the ALP. [my emphasis, just for a laugh]

“The final Senate seat in Queensland is likely to come down to a contest between the Katter party and the Greens, and this Labor-Katter deal could well make the difference between keeping or losing carbon pricing and billions of dollars in investment in creating jobs while modernising our economy into a clean-energy one,” he said.

None of this would mean anything if we humble voters disregarded the decisions about preference allocation that the parties kindly make on our behalf.

As voters, we’re not obliged to follow these voting guides at all. We can still think, and perhaps create a little mischief one vote at a time. A vote is a valuable asset in cultivating liberty and should not be wasted by supporting preference deals that put the main parties first, not us.

So on September 7 vote with your own mind. Vote below the line for the Senate. And get to the polling station before the sausages run out.

*Disclaimer: Real News Australia does not support any particular political party or candidate in the forthcoming Australian federal election.

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Categories: Australian-news


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