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Issue #1737      June 29, 2016

Put the Coalition last in the Senate

The voting system for the Senate has changed. In the past, voting above the line involved ticking a box against the name of a party or group. Preferences were distributed according to that party’s preference list or lists (up to three). These lists were put to the Australian Electoral Commission prior to the elections.

Anyone voting below the line, put a number against every candidate in order of preference.

Under the new system, parties do not submit preference lists to the Australian Electoral Commission. The voter determines how their preferences are allocated. They do this by numbering at least six boxes in order of preference. It is not necessary to put a number against every box if there are more than six boxes (i.e. parties or groups).

Preferences are first distributed to candidates in the party or group you have chosen, then to the next party and so on.

The order of distribution within a party or group is the same as the order selected by the organisation – this can be seen in the party’s list of candidates below the line.

“The main question for working people in these elections is to defeat the Coalition government and conservative forces and to continue the process of breaking the two-party system,” the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) noted in a statement on the federal elections. (“Defeat the Coalition”, Guardian, 22-06-2016, #1736)

The statement recommended putting the Coalition and other right-wing forces last.

The Australian Greens have proven to be better on such questions as health, education, jobs, military spending, the Australian Building and Construction Commission, penalty rates, trade union and workers’ rights, climate change and the environment and so deserve our support along with other progressive and left forces.

Because of their position on questions like penalty rates, industrial relations and some other issues, the CPA recommends putting the ALP above the various right-wing candidates and the Coalition.

It is important to secure the balance of power for the Australian Greens and other progressive candidates. A repeat of the situation when the Howard Coalition government gained control over both Houses would prove deadly for the trade union movement, workers, social security recipients and the most vulnerable.

To do this the CPA recommends voting 1 to 6 above the line with the Greens in number 1 position followed by left and progressive parties and independents.

The CPA urges members and supporters not to preference the Coalition parties at all.

At the same time it is important to preference the Labor Party. Otherwise your vote does not put the Coalition last. If your preferences are exhausted, and your vote has not flowed to Labor then it puts Labor and the Coalition on the same footing. In effect, the Coalition is not put last.

If voting below the line it is necessary to vote for at least 12 candidates by numbering boxes in order of preferences.

Note, parties can still “exchange preferences” and recommend preferences on their how-to-vote cards that they distribute outside polling booths. But it is up to the individual voter how to finally allocate preferences on the ballot paper.

As this is a double dissolution, a completely new Senate is being elected, instead of half every three years. This means that the quota required for election will be half the usual 14.3 percent in the states and 33 percent in the territories.

The method of voting for the House of Representatives remains unchanged. For a valid vote, it is necessary to put a number against each candidate in order of preference. Again, put the Coalition last with the Australian Greens and other progressives first.

Next article – Orlando and beyond

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