tales from urban dilettantia


Western Australia: State Election 2013

I’ll update and re-run the whole Election How-To  series for the Australian Federal Election later in the year, but for now here’s a quick roundup for the Western Australian State Election:

Western Australian Electoral Commission has lots of information for you: the candidates, the polling places, the district and regional profiles, the inquiry hotline, early voting, social media coverage and more.

There’s a good overview up at the Wikipedia entry for the election.

And, as ever, the ABC are doing a sterling job over at their election site, with all the data, election calculators, candidate profiles, boundary redistributions, and – most importantly – the divine Mr Antony Green.

Finally, my FAQ published for previous elections is still broadly relevant.

Western Australian elections make me cranky (see: odds from SportsBet) so I shall now return to my regularly scheduled, obviously non-partisan, activity of Making A Troy Buswell Action Figure.  I just need some glue for the hair.

Queens, Cabbages & Occupation

This morning I have the time to be down in Forrest Place, sitting at OccupyPerth. On the other hand, this morning I have the time to write about OccupyPerth, and things to say. Regrettably, they’re mutually exclusive options, since my netbook isn’t charged. And so I’m here writing, because I believe it’s the more effective use of my time. And so, at greater than expected length, this is my Perth. This is my Occupy. This is my why.

For those who are reading this from afar, a small and peaceful happening in isolated Perth likely hasn’t made your news. Yesterday, the CHOGM – the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting – opened here. It’s something that happens bi-annually in various cities, where a staggering amount of money is spent to close off public spaces, sweep the streets of the embarrassing homeless, and to host a summit of monarchs, prime ministers and presidents, not to mention war-criminals who also fall into one or another of those categories. But that’s another rant, and one that’s been well covered elsewhere.

Yesterday morning, a surprisingly large and enthusiastic protest march happened here. People came along for all kinds of reasons – a colourful and chaotic swirl of concerns that they have chosen to raise. Corporate greed, genocide in Sri Lanka, their objections to CHOGM, democracy (or rather, lack thereof) in Zimbabwe, fractional reserve banking, equal marriage, climate change, refugee rights, deaths in custody, mining, and more. All those and a profound wish to demonstrate that the shiny, sanitised face Perth has presented to the CHOGM delegates is not the city we inhabit from day-to-day. A photograph of a protester holding up a sign saying ‘shit’s fucked up and bullshit’ has been doing the rounds for the last couple of weeks, and that probably comes closest to expressing the overall sentiment.

Riot police and mounted police lined up along the perimeter of the restricted area, watching for violence that never came. Police officers herded me into the media pack, in spite of the fact that I wasn’t wearing the necessary credentials, which was surprising and pleasing given that I’d expected them to throw me out. The local media ranted about it being ‘unfocussed’. The people were there for a multitude of personal reasons, and few people agreed on all the things others were there to say. And I thought hard about it all.

Upon returning to Forrest Place, the protest shifted from the hands of the CHOGM demonstrators to those who had been working to get OccupyPerth off the ground, and people stayed there with their concerns, issues, signs and opinions. The previous month, I’d been reading a diverse mix of commentary around the OccupyX events, and until this week I’d not managed to form a consistent opinion. This month, after speaking to a number of people, and in particular one wonderful man who’d spend time at OccupySydney, my opinion has crystalised into solid support.

Like Perth’s CHOGM demonstration, I believe OccupyX isn’t fundamentally about presenting a single, coherent and targeted message or set of demands. Its value and meaning has everything to do with the stubborn occupation of a public space, generally in the face of disapproval and sometimes violent resistance, and to control that space in a manner such that people can express their frustration, anger, sadness, opinions, hopes and fears. People arrive, sometimes with well-argued concerns, but often with inarticulate, uninformed or plain incomprehensible things to say. Things are sometimes – often – organised poorly, randomly, or even in a manner that involves internal oppression within the gathering.

But the micromanagement, the perfection or otherwise, the execution, the persistent presence of only a small group of people in some cities, these things are not really the point. It’s okay for things not to be done optimally, because the point is to be there and – ever more in the face of official resistance – to occupy and to assert that we have every right to gather and to speak. To assert that we haven’t, that we can be moved away, to be told that we’ve made our point and must return home is against everything in which I believe. Return to your homes people; your government has everything under control.

Last night, in the midst of this, I had a realisation. To encroach upon the ability of ordinary people to gather and to speak of their concerns is to move collective dialogue into the domain of the privileged. The people with homes and private spaces that accommodate gathering. The people without thin common walls, and the threat of eviction in the event of such an action. The people who have never, and will never, have the experience of university that funnels many into large groups who have spaces in which to gather, but are so often elitist and alienate the working class. The people who live on our streets and simply don’t have a home.

And so (in addition to a fundamental belief that it is right for citizens to be able to assemble in a public space and to speak) no matter how bizarre, random, or even factually incorrect people’s words may seem to me, I have spent time at OccupyPerth because I cannot watch the crack-downs and removals in other cities without a rising horror that these remove the freedom to speak and organise from the people who need it most.

There will always be some measure of chaos, disagreement and sheer randomness in any movement that attempts to accommodate the ability of all to speak. Some people will inevitably be oppressed by the movement for the views they air, unfortunate as that is. Because we are human, fallible, confused, we will do things that are peculiar, strange, poorly thought out or articulated or plain half-arsed. And that is not the end of the world. The point of OccupyX is not, in the eyes of many, to evangelise, to overthrow or to charm the media or to change the whole world. It is okay not to be perfect, because the point is not, and never has been, perfection. The point of OccupyX is to occupy, and for it to exist – tautological is it is – is sufficient reason for it to exist.

What Post-Election Comedown?

Listening to the people around me in the office today (someone remind me to take a few days’ leave after elections in the future) I’m full of gratitude for you wonderful people I have talked to about voting on Twitter, LJ and Facebook over the past few weeks. You take it so seriously, make every effort to inform yourselves, educate your peers, ask questions before election day (not after), take time to think about policies and…well, I just have so much respect for you and am proud to share citizenship and an electoral system with you.

While we wait for the electorates of Hasluck, Boothby and Dunkley to be counted, I will foist on you a number of utterly random thoughts to pass the time:

1. It’s ‘bellwether‘, not ‘bellweather’ – the word comes from the practice of putting a bell on the lead sheep so the shepherd could locate the flock. (Although I did read that so many people misspell it that the OED now lists the ‘weather’ spelling as a variant.)

2. All the non-partisan electoral posting has exhausted my capacity for neutrality and consequently I’m now all about the loathing and the outraged feminism and the seething and gloating in a most unbecoming and partisan manner. It had to come out sometime.

3. I’ve been thinking hard about the potential impacts of optional preferential voting in the lower house; can anyone direct me to any studies or academic thinking on what the ethical and practical consequences, positives and negatives of this might be? I’m looking specifically at a system where any sequentially numbered lower house ballot would be counted so far as preferences were numbered – whether that be one candidate, all candidates, or some proportion in-between – and then expire when no more numbered preferences were marked.

4. I’m seeing a lot of people say that Australia has decided ‘not to decide’, or that Australians have voted to punish Labor by not giving them power, but not giving power to the Coalition, and many similar things. This has been grating on me a little every time I see it, as it assumes that ‘Australia’ has a single consciousness and is capable of ‘deciding’ to deliver a hung Parliament. Since ‘some of each please’ (or indeed ‘none of each please’) wasn’t an option on the ballot papers, I think it’s a little more rational to assume that around half of the voters happened to like Labour a bit more, and half liked the Coalition a bit more. This is not some canny plot by a hive-mind of ‘Australian voters’ to deliver a hung result, because as cool as a hive-mind would be, we don’t actually have one. Or if we do, I wasn’t invited.

5. Speaking of ‘mad as a cut snake’ (I know we weren’t; I just like the phrase and have a great desire to use it at every opportunity), the imminent removal of Tuckey and Fielding from Parliament merits celebration, I feel.

6. Shorten, Arbib, Feeney, Howes and Bitar have shattered my support for the Labor party for me for a very long time to come. Is there any point in writing to my local Labor MP (Stephen Smith) to explain how very disappointed my friends and I are about the party’s decline into xenophobic marketing, focus-group-driven spin, censorship, sacrificial lambs and the like? I know the ALP has always been factional and that the Catholic Right boys have long wielded power, but I am beyond disgusted this time around.

7. The count for my electorate shows a 5% higher turnout than the State average, a relatively tiny Family First vote (I charitably like to think some of those people just looked at the ballot and thought ‘Families, hey? I have one of those!’ without checking what they were voting for) and a big Green vote currently hovering around 15-16%. What a lovely bunch of hippies (or disenfranchised Labor voters) we are!

Election How-To #6

Go Vote; It’s Great!

Just a reminder to all Australians to go get yourself some democracy tomorrow!

Yes, tomorrow is the day, so if you’re still not sure then it’s time to make a decision. If you need references, you can find all of my previous election posts under the election how-to tag.

Your nearest polling places can be found here, the brilliant Antony Green’s election blog can be found here (read it and he will turn you into an election know-it-all in mere minutes!) and the ABC’s official Election 2010 site is here.   The Twitter hash tag for the election is #ausvotes, and as of 36 hours ago, we have entered the election advertising blackout period. (And very grateful for that I am.)

Now go out tomorrow and vote for what you believe in. Do it with notes if you need to, and make sure you do it right so that it counts. Do it with conviction and enthusiasm and a sense that you’re not only exercising a right but fulfilling one of your greatest responsibilities. Go vote; it’s great!

Election How-To #5

How do I fill out the ballot papers? : 2010 Re-Run

If you are an Australian citizen and will be voting on Saturday, this post is the really important one. It even has pictures! Accidentally stuffing up your ballot paper means that you’ll have no say in the election, so if you have any questions at all, please do ask and I’m sure that either myself or one of my election-savvy readers will be able to find you an answer.

What follows is an extract from the Australian Electoral Commission website:

House of Representatives ballot papers

?The order of the candidates on the ballot paper is determined by a random draw conducted in the office of the Divisional Returning Officer immediately after the declaration of nominations. House of Representative ballot papers are green in colour.

How to complete the ballot paper

To vote for a Member of the House of Representatives, a voter is required to write the number ‘1’ in the box next to the candidate who is their first choice, and the numbers ‘2’, ‘3’ and so on against all the other candidates until all the boxes have been numbered, in order of the voter’s preference.

Ballot papers must be marked according to the rules for voting so that they do not create informal votes. Ballot papers cannot be counted if they are informal.

Polling officials at the polling place are available to assist you in completing your ballot paper. Remember, if you make a mistake on a ballot paper you may return it to the polling official who issued it to you and receive a fresh one.


Formal votes

To make a formal vote on a House of Representatives ballot paper, a voter must number every box with a series of consecutive numbers according to their preference. A voter must:

  • write the number 1 in the box beside the candidate who is their first choice,
  • write the number 2 in the box beside the candidate who is their second choice,
  • write the number 3 in the box beside the candidate who is their third choice, and so on until they have numbered every box.

Informal votes

An informal ballot paper is one that has been incorrectly completed or not filled in at all. Informal votes are not counted towards any candidate but are set aside.

A House of Representatives ballot paper is informal if:

  • it is blank or unmarked,
  • ticks or crosses have been used,
  • it has writing on it which identifies the voter,
  • a number is repeated,
  • the voter’s intention is not clear, or
  • it has not received the official mark of the presiding officer and is not considered authentic.

Note: If a House of Representatives ballot paper has all squares numbered but one then it is assumed that the unmarked square constitutes the last preference and the ballot paper will be deemed formal.

Senate ballot papers

?The order of the candidates on the ballot paper is determined by a random draw conducted in the office of the Australian Electoral Officer for that State or Territory, following the public declaration of nominations. Senate ballot papers are white in colour.

How to complete the ballot paper

The ballot paper is divided into two sections. Voters have a choice of two methods when voting for Senators:

Above the line


A voter may vote for a political party or group by putting the number ‘1’ in one box only above the black line. The rest of the ballot paper will be left blank.

By casting a vote this way, voters are allowing the order of their preference to be determined by the party or group they are voting for.

Group Voting Ticket

A Senate group may lodge a written statement setting out a preference order of all candidates in the election. This is referred to as a group voting ticket. Instead of a voter numbering all of the boxes ‘below the line’, the AEC will automatically allocate preferences in the predetermined order outlined by the particular party or group.

Ungrouped candidates do not lodge a group voting ticket and so do not have a box above the line on the Senate ballot paper.

A group voting ticket looks similar to a completed Senate ballot paper. A booklet with all the group voting tickets for the voter’s particular state can be viewed at a local polling place. The group voting ticket clearly shows the order in which the party or group will allocate a voter’s preferences, or votes. Each party or group can register up to three group voting tickets.

Below the line


A voter can choose to fill in every box below the line in the order of their preference by putting the number ‘1’ in the box of the candidate they want as their first choice, number ‘2’ in the box of the candidate they want as their second choice, and so on until all the boxes have been numbered. The top part of the ballot paper will be left blank.

If a voter chooses to vote below the line, they must number every box below the line for their vote to count.

Informal votes

An informal ballot paper is one that has been incorrectly completed or not filled in at all. Informal votes are not counted towards any candidate but are set aside.

A Senate ballot paper is informal if:

  • it is unmarked,
  • it has not received the official mark of the presiding officer and is not considered authentic,
  • it has writing on it which identifies the voter, or
  • the voter’s intention is not clear.

A vote above the line will be informal if:

  • it has no first preference mark, or
  • there is more than one first preference mark.

A vote below the line is informal if:

  • it has no first preference mark,
  • a tick or cross has been used as a first preference mark,
  • there is more than one first preference mark,
  • there are 10 or more candidates and 90% or more of the squares opposite the names of candidates are not numbered as required or more than three numbers would need to be changed for a correct numeric sequencing to occur.
    • This means, for example that where there are twenty candidates, a ballot paper would be informal if it did not have on it either the numbers 1 to 18 (90% of 20) without repetitions or omissions, or numbers which, if up to three of them were changed, would be the numbers 1 to 18 without repetitions or omissions, or
  • there are less than 10 candidates and not all of the squares next to the candidate’s names, or all but one of those squares (which is left blank), form a sequence of consecutive numbers beginning with the number 1, or no more than two numbers would need to be changed for a correct numbering sequence to occur.
    • This means, for example that where there are nine candidates, a ballot paper would be informal if it did not have on it either the numbers from 1 to at least 8 without repetitions or omissions, or numbers which, if up to two of them were changed, would be the numbers from 1 to at least 8 without repetitions or omissions.

Note: The numbers on a ballot paper are never actually changed to ensure formality. In addition, a formal vote will only be counted until the point at which the voter’s intention becomes unclear, for instance to the point of the numbering sequence where it is no longer sequential.

Below the line?

There’s been an impressive push over the last few months to help educate people about voting below the line and having their say regarding the Senate, rather than voting above the line and allowing their vote to be directed by the Group Voting Tickets.  If you’re considering voting below the line for the first time (or indeed if you are a seasoned below the line veteran), you might want to check out some of these tools:

http://belowtheline.cc/ allows you to choose groups on the ballot and then re-arrange them and print an example of a ballot paper that you can take along as a voting guide.

https://www.belowtheline.org.au/ takes the parties’ registered tickets and allows you to re-arrange them, and again, gives you a sample ballot to take along.

http://filter-conroy.org/ alows Victorians to choose the party they would have voted for above the line and generates an example ballot paper which is identical to that party’s Group Voting Ticket, except that Stephen Conroy is numbered last.  If you’re Victorian and don’t know why you might want to do this, check out the Wikipedia article on internet censorship in Australia.

Election How-To #4

Australian Political Party Quiz Round-Up: 2010 Re-Run

1. News.com.au Vote-a-Matic

While somewhat improved from news.com.au’s horrible 2007 effort, this quiz still features graphics over substance.  It’s big on generalisation and light on policy detail.  The questions are also fairly heavily weighted towards families with children.

The Age Vote-a-Matic

In contrast, The Age‘s quiz goes into a lot of policy detail, and some of the questions require quite a bit of thought – I found that I often agreed with more than one option (or parts of each option) and didn’t like the ‘either/or’ nature of the quiz. It might have been more effectively presented in a ‘rank these options’ format, rather than a ‘choose your favourite’ format.

LDP Austalian Political Quiz

Written by a small libertarian party, this quiz requires a bit more political knowledge and confidence to complete.  Additionally, it only asks ten questions, with these swinging between the highly technical (“What percentage of GDP do you think the government should control through taxing and spending?”) and the highly emotive (“What should the governments role be with regards to issues of life such as abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide?”)   Essentially, the quiz only asks about the key policy issues of the LDP.   It does give you a nice diagram at the end, showing how LDP perceives each Australian party fitting into the political landscape, but a word of warning – the quiz content doesn’t appear to have changed since the 2007 election and may not fully recognise any movement in the policies of the major parties.

4. Political Compass Test

If you found the diagram on the LDP site interesting, here’s another that generates a pictorial result.  While the quiz isn’t Australia-specific, you can go to the Australia page once you’re done to see how your political compass compares to the one showing the major Australian parties.   The Political Compass is sometimes criticised for being a little ambiguous in its questions, and for having some libertarian bias, but on the whole I think it’s a pretty good little quiz and it does provide an output that is easily to understand, share and compare.

If, after all of those tests, you’re still wanting to know more about your political leanings, there are also many, many non-Australia-specific tests out there (check out The World’s Smallest Political Quiz and Understand Why You Think What You Think By Taking This Political Test for a couple of examples).

If on the other hand, you’re done with testing but want to learn more about Australian Political Parties, check out some of these resources and click the party names to access further information on each party:

Election How-To #3

Who Can I Vote For? : 2010 Re-Run

Step 1: Go to the 2010 Federal Election candidates page on the Australian Electoral Commission website.

Step 2: To see candidates running for the House of Representatives (Lower House), scroll down to your state in the list under ‘House of Representatives candidates, 2010 federal election’.

Step 3: Remember how we talked about looking up your electorate’s name?  Find your electorate on the list and check out the list of candidates running.

Step 4:
To see candidates running for the Senate (Upper House), click the ‘Back’ button on your browser and choose your state from the list under ‘Senate candidates, 2010 federal election’.

Step 5: You should now have two lists of names, but what can you do with them?   Well, to begin with, it depends on which list you’re looking at.  For the House of Representatives ballot papers, you’ll have to number every box from most-liked to least-liked.  We’re going to look at some online quizzes tomorrow to help give you some ideas about the parties you are most likely to support, but it’s still worth hitting Google and seeing what you can find when you search for each candidate’s name.   (If a candidate has a very common name, adding ‘site:au’ or ‘election’ to the search should help narrow down your list of results.)   Most candidates will have their own website or a page on their party’s site, and you may be able to uncover news reports and other sources.  Most seats will have no more than six people running, so it shouldn’t take you too long to get an overview of each candidate.   Don’t forget to read critically and remember that the publishing of opinion on the internet is largely unregulated!

Step 6: For the Senate candidates, you’ll be given two choices on the ballot paper – either you can simply select the party whom you most like, or you can number each individual candidate.   The scope of your Senate candidate research will depend largely on the way you choose to vote.   In either case, searching for information on all the listed parties with whom you’re not familiar is a good start.   If you’re considering numbering individual candidates, you can then get into some more detailed research on those people.  (Given that most Australians like to simply select their preferred party, it’s likely that you’ll be most comfortable looking up information on the parties on this list, rather than checking out each individual – however, if you prefer to make your own mind, we’ll be looking at how to vote easily below-the-line next week.)

Tip: The people with no party listed are independent candidates, and are unaffiliated with a political party.    If you have an independent running in your electorate, you may need to do a little more research to identify their views, as they won’t be aligned with the policies of a specific party.

Election How-To #2

Learning Something About Your Electorate in Five Minutes or Less: 2010 Re-Run

Part 1: Finding out what electorate you live in.

1. Go to the Australian Electoral Commission’s e-search.
2. Enter your postcode in the search box.
3. Select ‘Postcode’ from the drop down menu next to the search box.

Part 2: Learning about your electorate.

1. Click on the name of your electorate, then select the ‘More information about the electorate of...’ link near the top of the page to access further information, including the current member, and link to a profile and maps with some interesting historical details.


2.   Scroll to the bottom of the page for a list of polling places near you.


3.  Find out more about what happened to your electorate in the 2004 and 2007 elections, using the ABC website.

Part 3:  Take a moment to feel good about becoming an intelligent and informed participant in the democratic process!

After five minutes of clicking around, you probably know more about your electorate than many people who live there!   Go you.

Part 4:  Knowing the candidates.

Nominations for candidates close between 11 and 38 days after the election is called, and are declared (that is, made public) 24 hours after they close.   The candidates for 2010 are now available via the AEC website, which we’ll take look at in tomorrow’s Election How-To.

Thanks to all the people who have provided feedback and support on the returning Election How-To series; comments, improved links and corrections are welcome!  After covering the AEC candiate website, the series will review a variety of online tools, surveys and quizzes intended to help you assess your political alignment and work out which Australian parties might have policies that correspond to your views and beliefs.

Election How-To #1

Are you an Australian citizen?
Know nothing about politics?
Care nothing about politics?
Usually vote for the guy your Mum and Dad always voted for?
I wrote this for you.

2010 Election FAQ For The Non-Political

I have to vote, right?

Technically, not quite. Yes, you have to turn up to a polling station on election day and have your name ticked off. However, you have every right to put a blank ballot paper into the box and refuse to exercise your right to vote. (Personally, I’d like you to remember that the vote was a hard-won right – and ladies, many women served jail sentences and even died to secure women’s suffrage – before you decide not to exercise your vote. However, it is an option.)

What if I don’t like any of the candidates?

I’ve heard this said a lot, but almost always by people who haven’t actually bothered to inform themselves about any of the candidates. Sure, there might not be some perfect candidate running in your electorate who stands for everything you believe in and is your perfect political match. Every person in every seat over there in Canberra is a human being and unless you run for election yourself, none of them is going to be…well, you. However, I’ll bet you if you start looking around you’ll find that there are candidates in your electorate who stand for things that you abhor and would never vote for. If you can’t get motivated to vote because you’ve found someone great to vote for, at least get motivated to vote to keep the rabble out! (A little cynical, I know, but I’ve often numbered a ballot paper backwards from most-despised to most-tolerated. Perhaps it’s just easier to get passionate about what you don’t want?)

Aren’t all the parties pretty much the same now?

This has been said quite a lot in recent years, and perhaps to some extent there is a convergence. However, if you do your homework, you’ll see that even the two major parties have different policies on many issues – economic, social and environmental – and the minor parties offer some very different alternatives. Don’t believe they’re the same just because someone told you so, or because it’s chic to be cynical. Make up your own mind.

But what’s the point in voting for a minor party? Isn’t it a waste of a vote?

I’m amazed by often I hear this in Australia. It’s a myth and utterly incorrect. We are very fortunate to have a preferential voting system in place here, which means that we not only vote for who we like best, but also for how much we like every single candidate in our electorate. Look at it this way – say James, Sarah and Amanda are running in the election. You vote for Sarah, whom you like best, but she gets the least number of votes of the three. So the election officials take all the voting cards where Sarah is number one and distribute them to whomever was numbered two on each card. Even if Amanda received less number one votes than James, she can still win the seat by receiving enough number two votes to tip her over the line. It’s a little more complicated than that, but fundamentally, the system averages out how much voters like every candidate and the candidate who is preferred on average wins. The beauty of this system? You can vote for anyone you want and if they don’t get elected it won’t be wasted, but will trickle down to the person you prefer next after your first choice.  (Also, it’s inherently democratic because it allows you to express an opinion on every candidate, even if the one you like best is a from a small party.)
2010 edit: Each first preference vote in the House of Reps goes pro rata to determine public funding for the party / candidate of choice, provided they receive more than 4% of the vote.  So even in a safe seat you are helping to finance your preferred candidate’s political activities by backing them as #1.

I live in a safe seat; my vote makes no difference anyway, right?

I know how you feel; I live in one of the safest seats in the country. However, the idea that your vote makes no difference is a myth. Certainly your vote for the House of Representatives (the lower house) might be a tiny drop in the ocean. However seats in the Senate (the upper house) aren’t divided by electorate but by State and Territory, and your Senate vote has the power to make a big difference to the legislation that will be passed, rejected or modified by the Senate over the next four years.

Why is the Senate important? Isn’t it the party who wins the most seats in the House of Reps that forms a Government?

The Senate is great; the Senate is our sanity-check! While legislation can be introduced in either house, it’s generally introduced in the House of Reps and then moved through to the Senate where it is debated and amended. This can make a massive difference to the law that comes out the other end of the process, and is often something people forget about. It’s quite normal for one or a group of the smaller parties to hold the balance of power in the Senate over the four year term, meaning that the bigger parties have to negotiate with minor party Senators to get new legislation through, amending the legislation until enough people are happy with it for it to be passed.

Are you making this into some big moral thing?

I am, rather. Look at it this way; we have compulsory voting in this country. This means that every person has a right to vote. However, it also reinforces the idea that every person has a responsibility to vote. If you do one political thing in the next four years do this: devote even a few minutes towards taking this seriously and actually thinking about it. Even for five minutes, try being a responsible person who wants to make a considered, intelligent and informed call about what they want to see in the future. It’s a wonderful and by-no-means universal thing to be able to – simply by right of being an ordinary, Australian human being – have the power to personally say what you think should happen to yourself, your loved ones and all other Australians in the future. To have the power to define your own leaders and the decisions to come. It’s not a perfect world, nor a perfect system, but you’ve been blessed with something pretty damn special, so grab the opportunity with both hands and be thankful for it.

What do I have to do to be able to vote?

Firstly, you have to be enrolled (if you’re not already, you’ve missed the boat for 2010.)  Next you have to decide who you want to vote for; you can write it down on a piece of paper and take it into the voting booth with you if you need a reminder. (I always do this, because I would hate to throw my vote away just because I made a careless mistake!) Finally, you need to turn up to a polling booth on election day and cast your vote.

Where can I vote?

Why shouldn’t I just vote for the guy Mum and Dad always voted for?

It’s about being a grown-up and taking responsibility for yourself. Sure, you might do your homework and come around to the point of view that Mum and Dad were onto something good, but the world has changed a lot since the day that they first went out and voted the same way your grandparents did. Don’t be a sheep; make sure you know what you’re voting for.

But it’s too hard; how can I know who to vote for?

I’m planning to post as many useful links as I can in the weeks to come, to make the research easier on everyone. However, there may come a time in every person’s life when they have to suck it up, put their fingers to the Google and do a little research of their own. Be brave; it’s better to have tried your best and not be 100% certain than to have voted like a lemming!  (In fact, I have lingering suspicions that intelligent people don’t see things in black and white and will never be 100% certain.)

How do I fill out all the forms?

I’m going to post a separate FAQ covering all the nuances of filling out the forms closer to the election date; look out for it!

Can you tell me who to vote for?

Nope. In fact, nobody should make that decision but you. Not your parents, friends, teachers, churches, husbands or wives. People voting en masse for a particular candidate because they are blindly following instructions rather than using their own brain undermines democracy throughout the world. Don’t abdicate your vote to someone else; treasure it and do the best you can to make it count!

So, should I vote for someone who is good for me, or good for the majority of people?

I don’t think that the Philosophy 101 unit I took in 1997 adequately equipped me to deal with this question. Personally, I believe that a society where even the poorest of people are well fed, educated and cared for is going to be a safer and happier one for all citizens. However, there are arguments for and against altruism, so this is a call that comes down to your own belief system.

I’m still confused; can you help?

Absolutely. I’ll be posting election how-to information for beginners right up until Election Night. If you want to access any past posts, they will all be tagged with ‘election how-to’, and I’m going to do my best to help you find all the stuff you need to make an informed choice for yourself, your family and your fellow citizens.

Why are you doing this? Wouldn’t you rather promote the people you want to win?

Sure, I have my own opinions. But I happen to think that the democratic process is more important than my personal opinions, and it’s going to mean a hell of a lot more to me to know that my friends and family are out there making their own good choices than to hope people tick a box because I said it was the right one.

Election How-To

The Federal Election was called over the weekend, and will be held on Saturday 21 August 2010. If you’re not enrolled to vote, you have a tiny bit of grace to get it done.

Australians not enrolled to vote have until 8pm tonight to enrol.  Australian who are already on the electoral roll but have moved address have until 8pm on Thursday July 22 (that’s this coming Thursday) to update their details. ‘

While it’s now too late to post your enrolment form, you can still take it to any Australian Electoral Commission office in person, or fax or email it to an office between the hours of 8:30am and 8pm today.

Location and contact details of AEC offices: http://www.aec.gov.au/contact

Information on returning enrolment form: http://www.aec.gov.au/enrol/send-form.htm

If you’re not sure if you’re enroled correctly, you can check here: http://www.aec.gov.au/check or by calling 13 23 26.

While the AEC website will tell you that it is compulsory for all Australian citizens aged 18 years and over to enrol and vote in the 2010 federal election, this is not technically the case. In October 2007, the AEC confirmed that “it is not an offence to vote informally in a federal election, nor is it an offence to encourage other voters to vote informally”. The significance of this is that it is compulsory for you to enrol to vote and it’s compulsory for you to turn up to a polling place (or submit a postal vote form), but it is fine to put a blank ballot in the box if you so choose, and so abstain from casting a vote. (While I don’t personally believe in abstaining, I do think you have a right to accurate information.)

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be running an updated version my ‘election-how-to’ series from 2007 on my LiveJournal and my blog at flyingblogspot.com – if you have any election-related questions over the next month that aren’t addressed in the series, ask in the comments and I will do my best to find you an answer.

But in the meantime, if you’re not correctly enroled, go do it now!


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@dilettantiquity is interested in an unreasonable number of things, including the wide and wonderful universe, happiness, well-being, wine, optimal human experience, non-violent communication, complex systems, existential nihilism, rationality, technology, grassroots organising, cacophony, music, creativity, learning and love.