From Left to Right: Current Prime Minister - Kevin Rudd, Green's Leader - Christine Milne, Liberal Party Leader - Tony Abbott

From Left to Right: Current Prime Minister – Kevin Rudd, Greens Leader – Christine Milne, Liberal Party Leader – Tony Abbott

Tomorrow, You Decide

With tomorrow being the election, finally, many people are still undecided on who to vote for. In this article we aim to help you finally decide on who that is going to be, and more importantly help you figure out why. If you are a first time voter, you may not be aware that in Australia we have a preferential voting system, which means your vote has more power than you think in regards to the senate. As an Australian Citizen, one of your rights (though we currently do not have a ‘Bill of Rights’ like America) is that you have the Right to Vote. Australia, like our British counterparts, is a democracy. The people can chose who governs them, and the government is responsible for the protection of its people. 

What is a democracy?

Essentially a democracy means a country has a government by the people and for the people. Although the people cannot vote on what laws and changes should be made in order to benefit the people, we can however elect people to represent us to do it for us. Basically, if you don’t agree with the party that you are voting for, don’t vote for them. In some countries such as North Korea, Cuba and ironically enough the Peoples Democratic Republic of China, citizens are not allowed to vote – and this system of government is known as an authoritative government or a dictatorship government. 

So I am privileged to be able to vote, so who should I chose on Saturday?

Whilst it is compulsory to vote, we cannot specifically instruct you on who to vote for, no one can; it comes down to being your choice. Whilst you drive your car to the voting polls and walk into the voting place, you may still be making up your mind. So we’re here to help. The most important thing to remember is you are not voting for the person you see on the screen at all the press conferences, you are voting for that entire political party. Below are outlines of the policies sourced directly from media releases and the websites of each political party. 

If you vote for Labor on Saturday, this is what you agree with…

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Within 100 days of a re-elected Rudd Labor Government, Federal Labor will introduce a Bill into the Parliament to legalise same-sex marriage. Tony Abott believes LGBT people should not have the right to be recognised by the state as a married couple. 

Labor has increased Family Tax Benefit Part A & B payments as part of the Household Assistance Package. And each year, a typical family will receive more than $280 to help with the bills – money that the Coalition has promised to take away. 

All Australians deserve a safe, secure home and Labor is tackling the complex challenge of homelessness. Labor aims to halve the rate of homelessness and provide supported accommodation to all rough sleepers who seek it by 2020. To back this commitment, Labor has invested an unprecedented $5 billion into support for homelessness services and programs.

An ambitious target has been set by Labor that by 2025, 40 per cent of all 25-to-34-year-olds will hold a bachelor’s degree or above, and 20 per cent of undergraduate enrolments will be disadvantaged students from low socio-economic backgrounds. The Liberal party has announced no additional funding for schools, only that they will match whatever Labor has done in the past. 

Labor has changed 85 laws to remove discrimination against same-sex couples and their children. This means that same-sex relationships are treated in the same way that opposite-sex de facto relationships are for Commonwealth entitlements and programs like taxation, superannuation, social security, health, aged care, veterans’ entitlements, workers’ compensation, employment entitlements, immigration, child support and family law.

If you vote for Liberal on Saturday, this is what you agree with…

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The Coalition will deliver a genuine paid parental leave scheme to give mothers six  months leave based on their actual wage. With the costings announced yesterday, they have announced to abolish the mining and carbon tax in order to fund this scheme. The Labor government only has 18 weeks (4 months – 2 weeks) but eligible dads and same-sex partners can receive an additional two weeks’ of government paid leave at the minimum wage to spend time more time at home with their partner and baby.

Young Australians aged 18 to 30 who have been unemployed for 12 months or more and are on Youth Allowance or Newstart Allowance will receive a $2500 Job Commitment Bonus if they find work and retain that position for more than 12 months. A further Job Commitment Bonus of $4000 will be given to the same job-seeker if they remain in a job for more than 24 months. 

The Coalition will cut the company tax rate by 1.5 per cent from 1 July 2015.

The Coalition will appoint a senior Commonwealth official as the Children’s e-Safety Commissioner. The Children’s e-Safety Commissioner will be supported by relevant resources re-allocated from existing locations within the public service. This may be a good thing in terms of investing time and money into the protection of children online.

The Coalition will cut $4.5 billion in foreign aid should they win the election on Saturday.

If you vote for Greens on Saturday, this is what you agree with…

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The community understands that it’s an issue of basic fairness. The Greens have listened to the community, right from the start, and we’ve acted.  Kevin Rudd says he’ll introduce a Bill in Parliament in the first 100 days — but last time there was a vote on same-sex marriage, only 52.9% of Labor MPs voted aye. Tony Abbott’s Coalition don’t even have a conscience vote on the issue.

“Refugees are welcome in Australia”. The Greens party has announced that it will support asylum seekers and that “Punishing refugees with deportations, detention and military responses doesn’t work. Asylum seekers had enough intimidation, enough fear and enough danger already — and cruel camps like Manus are no place for vulnerable people and their children. It’s time to shut the camps down.” Tony Abbott wants to ‘turn back the boats’, Rudd has already enforced his ‘PNG’ solution. 

The Greens will be initating a Homelessness Action Plan – to end homeless by 2020 by doubling funding for services and building 7,000 homes nationally for all rough sleepers as a matter of urgency.  This would cost $900m – 1 billion a year to 2020.

Better Deal for Renters package – to set up a new national body to introduce national minimum standards for rentals, boost renters’ rights, make rental properties safer, more sustainable, energy and water efficient, and more affordable. Landlords will be offered a package worth $500 per property to help them make upgrades and meet the new national standard. It would also provide an extra $3m for Tenants’ Advocacy services. This package is worth $103 million.

An outline about voting in Australia

As #australiavotes tomorrow, most of my peers will be casting their first ever vote in a federal election. While this is a fairly exciting prospect for political junkies like myself, I know a plethora of people who still do not really know who to vote for, how to vote, or even why to vote. Definitely scary. Unless you have been living under a rock, you will be somewhat aware of at least some of the policy platforms of the two major parties. You will know that Kevin Rudd supports same-sex marriage, and that Tony Abbott is all for introducing a proper paid parental leave scheme, among many other promises. Hoping that by now you are enlightened enough about Labor and Coalition policies to know who you want to vote for, let’s move on to how the whole voting process works here in Australia. Before that though, if you live in any electorate apart from Griffith or Warringah, Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott’s names will NOT appear on your ballot paper. I needed to get that out of the way.

The room where people shout at each other, aka where the House of Representatives sit

The room where people shout at each other, aka where the House of Representatives sit

So what’s on the green piece of paper we receive at the polling stations?

The green paper is where you vote for the House of Representatives – voters are given a list of the candidates running for office in their particular electorate. Using the full preferential voting system, they have to rank each candidate from 1 to say 4, in the case of four people vying to represent that electorate, in order of preference. So if Labor is your first choice for example, you would vote 1 for the Labor candidate in your electorate and so on. When it comes to counting, if a candidate gets an absolute majority of votes, that is 50 percent plus 1, then they win. If not, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated and the remaining votes are distributed among in this case, the top three candidates. This process is repeated until one candidate has a majority of votes and is declared the winner. House of Representatives is especially important because it is the party that wins the majority of seats there that gets to form government and its leader becomes the Prime Minister.

And the white paper?

That’s where you vote to have people elected into the senate. In the Senate, each state is represented by the same number of Senators regardless of its population. While which candidates get elected into the Senate does not impact which political party forms government, you will want to put a fair bit of consideration into who you vote for because among other things, these Senators will review every piece of legislation before it can be passed and proclaimed. Unlike the House of Representatives, the Senate uses the proportional representation method of voting. This is where you vote either above or below the line. Voting above the line simply means that you will place the number 1 for the party you favour most, and that is all. You will not be voting for specific candidates or listing your preferences, you will simply vote for the party. If you choose to vote below the line on the other hand, which ideally you should, you have to rank every candidate on the list in order of preference. While doing this, however, please make sure that you do not rank candidates randomly, an occurrence that is known as ‘donkey voting’. If you are not actually sure of specifically who and what you prefer over who and what, you will be better off sticking to voting above the line. The form of proportional representation used for the Senate is the single transferable vote system. Under this, each vote can be transferred between candidates in order of the voter’s preference and a candidate only wins when their total number of votes equals or exceeds the quota.

So now that you know how to vote, go ahead and cast your vote tomorrow for Labor, LNP, or even, you know, the Australian Sex Party if that’s what you fancy. Seriously though, spare a thought for the minor parties and independents.

*All policies outlined in this article are taken directly from each parties website and media releases, which can be found below.

www.liberal.org.au/our-policies
www.alp.org.au
www.greens.org.au/policy

Written in collaboration between Maeesha Afia and Tanysha Bolger

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