The Hobo Guide to the 2016 Election
A double-dissolution election has been called for July 2. Here’s what you need to know.
Since you’re reading this, chances are you’re young, fairly broke and really busy. Despite having the best intentions to stay informed, you probably don’t have the time or patience to learn all the intricacies of Australia’s volatile and, let’s face it, fairly absurd political set up. To you, politicians range from bland robots to downright evil reptilians, and the whole democratic process is uninspiring and mostly just sad.
But voting isn’t something to be scoffed at. The result of this election will definitely impact your life in some way. If you’re the sort of person who complains about the hassle of voting or hasn’t even bothered to register, consider this: it wasn’t until 1962 that Aboriginal Australians were granted full voting rights. Very recently, indigenous activists had to fight hard for this basic human right and even now, in countries under dictatorial rule, people don’t get to vote. Since you’ve been given this fundamental democratic privilege, it’s time to inform yourself and exercise it with as much dignity as you can muster. It’s time to give a fuck, even just a little bit.
How to vote
In Australia, voting is technically compulsory so you need to enrol – do it here before May 23. If you’re travelling, you can sort it out here. (It’s true that if you never enrol to vote, you’ll never cop the fine for not voting, but the result of the election will be your fault).
If there’s absolutely no one you want to support, you can vote informally, which is when you submit a blank ballot paper. Some people consider this a form of protest against the political system itself, and at the last election, almost six per cent of voters did this. But it’s questionable whether it achieves anything. Voting is probably slightly more complicated than it should be, but basically, there are two ways to do it – above the line or below it.
Voting Below The Line
This is the more complex and time-consuming way of voting, and as a result, not many people bother doing it. You have to individually number your preferences. In 2013 there were 110 boxes, which meant those who voted below the line had to put 110 numbers down in order of preference. This method of voting is more prone to mistakes, but you can make up to three without having your vote discredited. Voting below the line was traditionally the only way to subvert dodgy preference deals but this is less of an issue now because of the senate voting reforms. It’s still a good option if you really want to put a certain candidate in dead last place.
Voting Above The Line
Voting above the line is the quickest and simplest way to vote. Traditionally, it meant you just picked a party and put a 1 in the box. The preferences for second, third and beyond were then decided and allocated down the line by the party you voted for.
Now, as a result of senate voting reforms that were introduced earlier this year, this has changed so that you can now preference the parties from one to six, even if you vote above the line.
Who To Vote For
One thing that really, really scares me is when people vote exactly the same way as their parents without questioning the actual policies of who they’re voting for. Figure out what issues are most important to you and see where the major parties stand on them. The ABC website has something called Vote Compass, which asks you a bunch of questions about political issues and then tells you which party they are most aligned with. This is a good place to start.
For most people, it’s a choice between the Liberal-National Coalition, the Labor Party and the Greens.
The Liberal-National crew claim to be good at managing the economy, but they don’t have much compassion for poor people. Despite the word “liberal”, they’re the most conservative major party and they are generally known to look after the wealthy. They want to cut corporate tax and tax rates for small businesses, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 – 28% by 2030, continue to “stop the boats”, leave negative gearing alone and hold a plebiscite (a non-binding national vote) on same-sex marriage.
The Labor party was built on the union movement and they are responsible for the eight-hour working day; they’re considered a centre-leftist party. Labor claim to look after the workers, but they seem to change their mind a lot depending on what’s popular, so it’s hard to trust them. They’ve pledged to increase funding to schools and hospitals, cut tax rates for small businesses, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030, limit negative gearing to new houses by next year and hold a parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage within 100 days of the next election.
The Greens want to look after the environment and poor people, but some don’t think they can manage the economy. The party was born out of the environmental activism movement after they prevented the damming of the Franklin River in Tasmania. Their policies focus on increasing Australia’s refugee intake, shutting down Manus Island and Nauru, abolishing negative gearing, legalising same-sex marriage, introducing a cap to the tax deductions the top 1% of earners can claim and shifting Australia to 90% renewable energy by 2030.
That’s a grossly oversimplified synopsis, but it gives you a vague idea of who’s who.
One thing that should be made explicitly clear before this election is this: if you don’t like the major parties, you don’t have to vote for them. There are loads of micro parties with single policy agendas – there’s the Science Party, the Pirate Party, the Voluntary Euthanasia Party and heaps of others. If all the career politicians seem a bit too cold-blooded, maybe just cast your vote for a single agenda. It’s better than supporting a bunch of morally bankrupt scumbags just because everyone says they’re going to win. And if you really have to, you can draw a dick on your ballot paper, safe in the knowledge that it will still be counted.
Amazing political art by Gemma Clarke