First for some clarifications. A vote for the state elections is, in most respects, similar to a vote for the local municipality in most other countries. States do not have much power when it comes to the big politics of this world; it's mostly to do with day to day things like public roads and public transport, schools, and the all important stamp duties on house purchases (important due to the most Australian hobby of buying investment properties).
Second, votes are collected in a preferential system. You don't cast just one vote, you rank all the candidates according to your preferred order.
And third, you vote for two different things: the upper house and the lower house. One is for your local area's representative, which in my case - because we live at the edges of a rich people's area - is a very safe Liberal seat. The other vote is for a legislative council style type things, a place where legislation is contemplated; this is where the small parties can make a difference if they manage to establish themselves as the balance of power between the two big parties, Labor and the Liberals.
Insufficient expositions aside, who should I be voting for?
For a start, I wouldn't be voting for the current government: Labor's Steve Bracks. I state this for two main reasons:
- In the 7 years Bracks has been in charge I don't think he has been doing enough to improve stuff. As far as water supplies have been concerned, he did nothing to change old agricultural habits and encourage sustainable farming (as in raising stuff that doesn't consume much water instead of cattle). As far as sustainable power sources are concerned, he invested in wind farms that look sexy but didn't do anything to promote things that may impact much more, such as subsidizing solar panels at people's homes. The same applies to education and health: he does just about enough to look sexy, but he won't offend anyone while getting there, and he doesn't even try to really make an impact; just to look as if he is trying to.
- His government is corrupt. He has been a slave to the big companies as far as the environment is concerned, endorsing the timbre industry that damages the environment and the water supplies and on the other hand crying out for people to save water. Private companies made a bundle under his supervision at the expense of your average citizen: CityLink and the other toll road operators; public transport operators Yarra Trams and Connex, which specialize in delayed and canceled services yet receive enormous subsidies from the state.
I see no reason for this corruptness, the will to please those with the power - i.e., money - to change. With public transport, the private operator's contract will expire in 2008 and the state can claim those services back; yet Bracks said he wouldn't do it, providing some explanations that make no sense and managing to get away with it because this entire affair is below the public's radar at the moment.
The answer there is "over my dead body". The Liberal's solution to everything is usually to do with more things that would benefit those that are already on the "over benefited" side of things. Problems with road congestion? Build more roads (and neglect public transport). Problems with crime? Let's build more jails and toughen the legislation to get "hoons" off our street (and nothing to address the causes for these hoons being there in the first place - like making education better and more affordable). In short, the Liberals are all for turning Australia into the American model; most Australians, me included, are against it.
It's quite interesting to watch the confrontation taking place between the Liberals and Labor at the moment. They're both promising to spend tons of tax money on bullshit stuff - free public transport for students, another train station in a place I've never heard off. It's all things aimed at seducing certain margin seats' pockets, but things that would not make a big difference. What's a new train station compared to the total revamp of public transport they should be doing?
Both talk the same and promise the same. In fact, they're hardly any different; choosing between the two is basically choosing whose friend is going to get kickbacks once their party is elected. Both stray of revolutions, and both politely avoid stepping into territories that would harm their rich friends: things like handling polluting industries and the big companies with whom they have connections. Basically, both major parties are not about to do anything that might offend the private sector's top guns in the least.
I point my finger towards the media there, which allows these politicians to get away with it during the peak of an election campaign, failing to point public opinion at these issues - which are ten times more important than the issues that are supposedly on debate during these elections. But then again, if you look at the people in charge of the media you see that they're prime time members of the private sector top gun club - you can't expect them to damage themselves for the benefit or society (or can you?). Here I point my fingers (two fingers, to be exact) towards the federal government for creating the atmosphere in which this corruption and this dumbing down of the public can take place.
So - allow me to repeat myself - who should I vote for?
Allow me to quote my friend Sherlock: "Eliminate all corrupt parties, and the one s which remain, however improbable, must be the one to vote for."
Which leaves me with two parties: The Democrats and The Greens.
To be honest, I cannot say that I know what the difference between the two is. What I do know about the Democrats is that they originated from the Liberals and that now they are a dying party, highly likely to disappear, and mainly due to their own fault. The Greens, on the other hand, are on the rise - but they are still far away from the limelight.
Both pretty much say the same things only at a different order. Both talk about public transport, education, the environment, and health. My impression is that the Democrats are more towards true liberalism - as in being a libertarian, while the Greens are fanatic about shrubbery but quite naive when it comes to real life politics.
It's funny to see how much it costs to become a member of each of those parties. The Greens charge more for "high income earners" (that is, more than $40k in their book) than anyone else around, while the Democrats charge peanuts.
I would like to be a member of a political party in order to feel I'm doing my share to make a difference, but at this stage I cannot identify a party that I'm truly in sync with; if anything, I think it's probably better to avoid the corruption that comes with politics and join an apolitical organization. It's just that I have no idea where to start.
Anyway, the bottom line is that I'm going to use preferential voting and vote for a Democrat-Greens mix.
For my local representative (a token vote, since it is obvious the Liberals will take it), I'm going to vote for: (1) Greens (2) Independent (3) Labor (4) Liberals and (5) Family First. These are all the candidates in my area.
For the legislative vote I'm going to vote below the line for a mix of Democrats and Greens (starting with the Democrats, as I heard good things about their candidate), followed by the Labor Candidates, followed by the independents, followed by People Power, Liberals, Democratic Labor Party, and Family First.
In case you're curious, parties such as the Democratic Labor Party and Family First are eccentric conservative parties - the Christian, gay bashing kind of thing. People Power are just eccentric.
One last comment regarding voting above or below the line:
You can take the easy option when voting for the legislative house and just select one party, thus relying on the preferences set by that particular party. I consider people who vote this way to be - excuse my bluntness - people who are not worth the atoms they are made of. People whose intelligence is wasted. [Disclaimer: I'm exaggerating with my sarcasm here to make a point]
Why? Because, if you read the news, all the big parties are corrupt in the way they set their preferences. So corrupt that the Liberals and Labor - the elections' arch rivals - prefer their arch rival more than they prefer their smaller allies, in an effort to get rid of the small parties and ensure the power stays with them. And that's bad, because that defies everything they're supposedly standing for.
I will therefore spend 2 to 3 minutes of my time voting below the line and ranking my preferences exactly the way I want them to be. I owe it to myself and I owe it to fellow Victorians, because I will not get a better chance to make a difference in the few years to come.