Valerie Yules Letters

August 12, 2013

Australian elections

Blurb: Yes, indeed Australians have preferential voting, but how does it work out in the Polls before the election, and choices on the ballot papers?

Voters’ Choice in Elections

Elections that in practice give a choice between only two parties, leave hundreds of parties without a chance

Australia has preferential voting, which should mean that all parties and individuals standing have a chance of winning votes. Yet the Polls that keep up polling them before the election, offer a narrow choice, that has the effect of convincing most people that there are only two parties, coalition and ALP, that they can vote for without wasting their vote

So many parties are contesting this election! The Senate ballot paper alone with 53 people standing could be wallpaper for every voter’s home. Yet no party has any chance except the two that figure always on the Polls as being the parties that must be preferred.

This constant feature of the regular polling has many bad consequences.

Britain once had two parties which contested power between them – Conservative and Liberal. But when Labor entered the arena it eventually became one of the two leading parties in the early 1920s, ousting the Liberal Party, which became the third party. By that time, the Conservative and Liberal parties were so close in policies and appeal, that the Labour Party brought in something new and allowed new people to vote for it.

That cannot happen in Australia, even when the Coalition and Labor parties tend to be funded by most of the same people and corporations. Parties like the Australian Democrats (which effectively committed suicide) and now the Greens, can get up to 15% of the vote in some electorates, but no more.

People are convinced by the format of the Polls that only the Coalition and the ALP have a chance. There is widespread ignorance of how preferential voting works, and many believe that if they do not vote for either of these, their vote is wasted.

The ballot paper confirms this belief. Voting above and below the line confuses them. Voting above the line only shoes in the Coalition or ALP, and their blanket policies. Voting below the line requires the voter to put a figure in every box and there are too many boxes to be able or willing to fill in properly.

Many of the parties and individuals on the Senate paper are really shadow parties that will help to push in one of the two major parties. Nobody knows what all of them mean, or their policies.

Our electoral system is a farce at present. It requires cleaning up, so that ordinary people can tell what the choices are and how to vote for what they really want.

There is no chance of us repeating what Britain did in the 1920s, changing the top parties as society and economic conditions require. Three effective parties meant that the party gaining power took heed of all the country’s needs including those represented by the other two.

Australia is different.

Samples were taken of the Radio National News on 5 August 2013. ABC Federal Election News contained mention of the Greens or Green program ONCE in ten broadcasts that all mentioned the two main parties. This mention was citing a Greens leader saying that if you wanted to save the Tarkine, the possum (or was it the potaroo?) and the Barrier Reef you would vote Greens. And that was all the News said about their platform! Nothing about their economic, social, political or other conservation policies!

The leading letter to the Age on June 7, p 16, by Chris Pettifer said that a Greens vote will only guarantee an Abbott government. This is not true as preferential voting will give the vote to a failing first preference on to the second preference. Yet many believe like Chris Pettifer, not understanding preferential voting, and the media does not help them with the facts.

The results are serious. In Australia today, the climate is widely recognized as the great ‘moral issue’ but we do not have the leading parties that give us a chance to really act. Neither wish to take the steps that are needed. They need the push that a really plain election ballot paper vote would give the public a chance to vote for policies as well as parties. They need the facts of preferential voting made clear in the polls they are given. And the media must give the public the chance to know what all the parties mean, their policies, and their alignments to the major parties.

The Electoral council remains uncommunicative on these issues.

In theory our election policies are democratic, but when it comes to how they operate, they give the ordinary voters little chance to find out how they can really tell whatever party wins what are the policies they would really support.

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