As we go into the final week of the election, I will attempt to write several shorter pieces, each relating to an aspect of ethics (and corruption) within an election. The intention is to provide a single piece each week day, they will necessarily be a little bit shorter.
Brokering the Senate
An interesting phenomenon has emerged in this federal election, which is the rise of micro-parties. That is a huge variety of special interest parties, which are all strongly competing for the final seat in various Senate States. Their presence, and the significance of not being able to put preferential votes above the line, means that there is a plethora of choice; manifest in 6 point font and a senate paper longer than a meter. Whether this huge tableau of choice will overwhelm or invigorate the average voter to exercise the full extent of their vote has yet to be seen.
However, far more insidious, we have seen a variety of preference swapping that seeks to capitalise on this issue. If you’re like me and you’ve been following the political activity, not only will you be aware that there has been an alarming concern around the choice of party preference for above the line voting. Notably, both the Wikileaks Party and the Australian Sex Party submitted preferences that placed several of the right wing micro-parties higher than any of the three major parties, including those their membership would normally consider antithetical to their party platforms.
Two of the more significant political agitators/commentators have weighed in on this. Pauline Pantsdown has been vocally critical on this issue, arguing that a bunch of these micro-parties are nothing more than fronts for groups like One Nation. She is suggesting that the confluence of preference votes was a deliberate orchestration designed to manipulate the pool of micro-party preferences all to funnel towards One Nation. Likewise, Antony Green has laid into the state of affairs, for possibly being able to produce a Senator in the form of Pauline Hanson, even if she only polled 2.5% of the primary vote.
As Green has commented elsewhere, the race for the Senate is one that typically falls two apiece in each original state to both the Coalition and the ALP. The final two are usually the more contested seats, with usually the third on either side falling to the Greens, an Independent or other minor party, such as Stephen Fielding taking the Senate on Family First’s party. In NSW, the Greens have suggested that it is a fight between putting Pauline Hanson or putting Cate Faehrmann into the Senate, while others have suggested that Hanson might actually steal the third Senate seat from the third Liberal Candidate. Likewise, in both WA and SA, both Scott Ludlam and Sarah Hanson-Young are finding the prospects of their re-election brought into serious contestation. If we look at the Australian’s report on this, it shows that even they think there is going to be some serious fighting on our hands.
Admittedly, this might seem to be a secondary electoral issue, as the fight for forming government does not occur in this arena. However, unlike many other bicameral nations, the Senate is an active legislature, serving as a house of review; acting more like the US Senate, rather than the UK’s House of Lords or the Canadian Upper House. It is one of the rare instance of American appropriation in our Westminster-esque system. As a house of review, it holds nearly equal power to the House of Representatives, and consternation ensues around where the balance of power will lie.
The Power of a Vote
Much of this conduct speaks to the transparency and authenticity of the electoral system. In order to outline my point on this, it will be necessary to cover a few of the basics relevant to the democratic process. Some of it is contestable, and I will justify my position where necessary, but I will not seek to enquire more deeply into the arguments themselves, so that I can more quickly to illustrating my points.
Australia faces something of an electoral crisis of faith. A lack of conviction with regards to the status quo of contemporary politics is prolific. Despite Australia representing one of the few nations in the world which has mandatory voting, and moreover one of the fewer nations where it is enforced through a fine (i.e. Mexico has compulsory voting, but there is no enforcement).
So yesterday I did a thing. I investigated the preferences set by my preferred party for the Senate. Lo and behold I discovered that more or less their preferences matched mine. Sufficiently enough for me to vote above the line on the Greens ticket. This is what happens when you align preferences with member expectation. You build trust with your constituency.
Here’s a quiet update because I can’t help myself run numbers.
ReachTEL Poll Primary Votes: ALP 33.7 (+1.0) L/NP 43.5 (-0.1) GRN 10.2 (+0.2) PUP 7.0 (+0.9)
This is what I get if I run those into the Senate Election Calculator (though I assumed PUP 9.0 in Qld).