- AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL ELECTION 2001 -
Australia has a Parliament consisting of 76 Senators and double that number of representatives. The Australian constitution requires that the majority house leader (the Prime Minister) should request the Governor General to prorogue (dissolve) parliament at intervals of no more than three years. The Governor General is appointed by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, on the advice of the Prime Minister, and has reserve powers that would allow him to rule by decree.
Every election six senators are elected from each of the six original states, and one from each of the two territories. These senators are elected with the whole state as the electorate. Differing numbers of representatives are elected from each state, from regions as determined by distributions based on the population.
Like many representative democracies Australia has two major political parties and a gaggle of smaller parties. The "Labour" party pretends to represent the workers, and draws much of it's funding from union coffers. The "Liberal" party pretends to represent the "petite bourgeois", (small business men). In coalition with the Liberal Party is the "National" party, which pretends to represent rural interests.
The "Democrat" party has existed for a score of years, and pretends to represent welfare and conservation interests. The "Greens" claim the environment as their mandate. The other small party is "One Nation". This party became notorious when figurehead Pauline Hanson suggested that the indigenous Aborigines should not get preference over non indigenous Australians for pensions, education and housing, and that illegal immigration should be curtailed.
The voting system in Australia is "compulsory" and "preferential" which means that everyone must vote (or be fined) and that candidates should be placed in order of preference on the ballot. In this way, a person's vote is not "lost" if their first choice candidate is from a minority party that is discarded after the first round of preferences is allocated.
If there were many minor parties, then a voter could in theory first vote for all minority candidates as his representative. If he placed his major party choices in second last and last preference positions, the result would be as if he had voted for the second last choice.
In this way it is possible to register a protest vote, whilst still ensuring that the least obnoxious candidate is elected.
Pauline Hanson is not a charismatic person. Detractors speak in derogatory terms of her intelligence. However intelligence is neither necessary nor desirable in a politician. Consider Reagan & Clinton. Reagan's detractors claimed he lacked intellectual ability, Clinton was recognized as bright (or cunning) even by detractors. Reagan was acclaimed. Clinton was controversial.
SPIN plans to vote "One Nation" (ON) first. This intent is based on an assessment of ON policies that include CIR an (apparent) commitment to repeal the GST, and revision of the parliamentary Superannuation scheme. Rational analysis of ON immigration policies reveal that they are indistinguishable from those of the ruling Liberal party, and Labour appears a hairsbreadth different.
The Democrats have totally lost credibility since their "volte face" on the GST.
The Greens are basically misguided - good hearts but bad science on the environment.
Probably Liberal will be second last preference, and Labour
last, but that order may well be reversed between now and the election.