Election 2016: Senate voting changes
A crash course in the recent changes to the Senate voting rules. Produced in association with UNSWTV.PT1M35S 620 349
On polling day I want to be proud of who I vote for. I want to agree with their ideas and policies, have confidence in the leader, and feel like I've contributed to Australia being a better place by voting for them.
Politics should be discussed openly and the idea that it's rude to ask someone who they voted for is for the 1950s, not today. You are responsible, as a citizen in a democracy, for picking a party or leader who represents your values. If you're not willing to share who you want controlling the country, then I think it's fair to assume that you are embarrassed of what they stand for. I could not care less if your vote went towards your favourite backwards, racist, sexist, homophobic, regressive, and financially irresponsible party - at least I know to avoid you at parties now.
It's when people won't tell the truth is when alarm bells start to ring. What are you hiding? Are you ashamed of your party? If so, why? Do you not have the guts to stand by your decision? Are you afraid that by revealing your vote you'll expose some unpopular opinions you hold, and you don't want them questioned?
Voters in the ACT election in October 2016. Photo: Karleen Minney
Every idea and opinion should be questioned. I can tell you as a neuropsychologist, the human mind is extremely suggestable and it is naïve to think that our decisions are purely rational ones surrounding such large issues.
Of course you have the right to keep your vote to yourself for whatever reason. I'm not arguing that voting should no longer be anonymous, but I do believe it's a sign of moral weakness to refuse to discuss your choice with others. All voting should remain private as some people may be in genuine danger if they reveal who they will vote for. This is not about people escaping persecution or fearing for their lives if they vote for the wrong party. This is about your average Australian on the street, in the pub, or on Facebook, who can safely talk about and vote for whoever they want.
Preferential voting means your choice always counts. Photo: Cathy Wilcox
With that being said, I can recognise, and do often feel the frustration of our two party system. Of the limited pickings, it feels like voting for the lesser of two evils. Both Labor and Liberal parties are nowhere near up to the standard that most Australians desire. I'm a young lefty and although we sound like broken records, our main concerns are not being addressed. So I've turned to smaller parties who I can proudly support.
Don't mistake me for someone who is actively engaged in politics. I have never contributed to a campaign, nor gone door knocking for votes. I'm a lazy citizen, I share and retweet my favourite parties and candidates, officially vote for them, and then dust my hands off triumphantly. But I found a party I wholeheartedly believe in, and I will tell anyone who will listen why. I'm not embarrassed by their policies.
In the spirit of openness and political discussion, I will happily tell anyone that today I'm voting for the Australian Sex Party. Don't be put off by their name - their most important policies are taxing religious institutions, humane treatment for refugees, legalising medicinal and recreational marijuana, supporting the LGBTIQ community, and legalising assisted suicide. These are game changers, and I wholeheartedly support their fantastic leader Fiona Patten.
Fiona Patten has introduced a bill into the Victorian Parliament to allow for a consumption room pilot. Photo: James Brickwood
I know they won't lead the country, but if my vote contributed to them representing me and my values in some sort of significant way in parliament or the community, I can consider myself a good dutiful citizen.
If you're embarrassed to admit the party you've voted for every election, then perhaps it's time to make a change. As we've seen in the last few years, anyone can become a politician. Parties can be about cars, religion, money, the internet, freedom, sex, or even bicycles. There is no excuse for not finding a political party or individual that represents you, and our preferential voting system means your vote will always count, even if your minor party first choice doesn't win (which is why it's still important to be clear the order of your major party preference).
If you really want control over your say in the Senate - and this double dissolution election means that is more important than ever - then you can vote below the line, numbering the parties, big or small, in order of your preference. But please, research your parties and candidates, as some have misleading names (my preferred party included!).
This is Australia. We are extremely lucky that you don't have to just vote for Labor even though you're ashamed of their abhorrent refugee policies, or Liberal even though their main goal seems to destroy the environment whilst filling millionaire's pockets. You have options.
And you also have the freedom - and in my opinion, responsibility - to discuss those options and stand by your choice.