Church and [the first] state – a guide to democracy for NSW Christians. Part 2

This post is part of a series

Today I want to explain as simply as possible what you’re going to have to do in order to vote on Saturday. Voting in NSW elections is a bit more complicated than voting federally. The complications are good, in that they give you more control over exactly what your vote ends up doing, but they’re bad in that… well… they’re more complicated!

Before we disentangle you on that though, a little year 6 Australian political system refresher –

Australia has three tiers of government: Local (generally called ‘council’); State; and Federal. The local government’s head is called a Mayor (or Shire President), The state’s head is a Premier and the federal leader is called the Prime Minister. You vote in local council elections every four years, state elections every four years and federal elections roughly every three years.

Our state government (like our federal government) has two houses. In the lower house (or Legislative Assembly) your area, probably your suburb/village and the few suburbs around you, has one representative who [theoretically] acts in the interests of your local community. In the upper house (or Legislative Council) everyone in NSW has a say on the same group of people and selects 42 people from across the state to represent all of us.

To make sure that these levels of government don’t tread on each others’ toes too much, over the last century Australia has figured out which government should be in charge of what (e.g. Local Councils have no jurisdiction over our armed forces and Federal governments have no control over your wheelie bins). This has changed over time. There was a time when Universities were a matter for each state, but this was changed in the 70s, more recently the former Rudd government made plans for taking over hospital care from the states. For a simple explanation of which government does what go here.

So when we’re talking about our state government, it looks after things like the police, electricity, public transport, prisons, schools, public heath and the agricultural sector.

Now, voting in the NSW state election is a little different to voting federally. You still have two pieces of paper because you’re electing people to two different houses.

The way your vote is counted is still the same (if you’re not sure how that bit works watch this vid – it’s from the Federal Election but the gist is still the same):

But unlike the Federal election you don’t need to put a number in every box. Allow me to illustrate:

Lets pretend in your electorate there are three people running for office.

Candidate 1 is from the Puppy Slayers Party (PSP)

Candidate 2 is from the We Like Puppies Party (WLPP)

Candidate 3 is from the Puppies are OK but Lets Not Go Crazy Party (PAOKLNGCP).

Just say your preference was for the WLPP party to win, you hated the PSP and you didn’t mind the PAOKLNGCP.What you could do is put a “1” in the WLPP box, a “2” in the PAOKLNGCP box and then stop there. You don’t have to have your vote eventually be directed to the PSP.

Why does this matter? Well what this means is that you can prevent your vote electing someone you don’t like. The great thing about this is if you live in an electorate that is “safe” for a party you don’t like, you can actually prevent your vote being counted as one of there’s, after preferences have been worked out.

The upper house (big sheet) is also more complicated. To explain that, I’m going to leave the instructions to our friends at below the line. Below the line takes the time out of filling in your big piece of paper, while at the same time giving you optimal control over where your vote gets cast. You can sit at home and organise your vote and it’ll give you a print out, telling you (given your preferences) what numbers to put where on your sheet. It’s a fabulous resource and one I’d encourage everyone to use – especially Christians concerned about the ethical implications of their vote.

That’s enough procedural stuff. Tomorrow, we’re going to start dealing with the issues and the parties – Over the next three posts I’m going to suggest one issue a day you should care about as a Christian voter. Then I’m also going to suggest (and this is a bit cheeky) three issues you shouldn’t care about as you think through voting on Saturday.

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2 Comments

Filed under NSW Election 2011

2 responses to “Church and [the first] state – a guide to democracy for NSW Christians. Part 2

  1. Peter

    I don’t think we have a representative of the WLPP in my electorate! Is there a cat slaying party (CSP)?
    On a serious note.. Thanks again. I’ll go to the below the line but may need further guidance!

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