This post is part of a series
Election Principle 1 – You don’t vote for yourself.
I know others have made this point but it bears repeating. Christians are meant to think of others before themselves. This is true for the little things (they can have the last Tim Tam) and the bigger things (I’m going to put a promised tax break to myself below promised welfare to my neighbour). This is totally counter-cultural. Everything about this current election is appealing to self-interest. The Christian is to be different. We are to consider the welfare of others. This means we consider how our vote could best serve those most disadvantaged in our society: the indigenous, the carers, the refugees, the elderly, the recently born, the unborn, the disabled, the mentally ill.
This Election101 – The Senate
In this section I’m going to be channeling that bit of information you learned on your year 6 Canberra trip and promptly forgot.
Alright, this election is going to be most interesting because of the outcome of the Senate (or upper house) race. It’s important to have the right balance in the Senate because of how laws are made. If any one party holds an absolute majority in both houses of parliament, then they can push through more extreme elements of their policy platform (as we saw with Workchoices in the final three Howard years) without it being properly reviewed and the hard edges shaved off. Likewise, it’s dangerous to have one major party controlling the lower house, and the other major party controlling the upper house. The danger is that the party controlling the Senate abuses their power. The best situation is that, in the Senate neither the government nor the opposition has control – a third party does. This is called the balance of power. My pick is that the Greens will win the balance of power in the Senate and I think this is a really good thing (and I’m not alone h/t Steve Kryger for passing on this link). Have a look at Anthony Green’s Senate summary here.
The tricky thing about voting for the Senate is that the paper is so massive and it can be utterly overwhelming. You’re handed a scroll of paper and told you can either put one mark on it or around 100. Most people vote above the line to save the confusion.
But I want to suggest this isn’t the best strategy. Here’s some things to consider:
– Do your research early. You can now see who all the candidates for all the parties are on the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) website (go here for NSW).
– Vote below the line. I know this can seem a bit daunting (and will mean it takes you an extra 5 minutes to get out and get your sausage sandwich from the Rotary club BBQ) but it’s the best way to ensure your vote goes where you want it to. If you vote above the line the parties do this work for you (through their preference deals), which is OK, except it means that your vote can have unintended consequences. It was preference deals like this that got Steve Fielding into office even though his popular (actual) vote was very small.
– Vote with an idea of who you want to position first, last and put everyone else in the middle. So personally I’ll be prioritising the Greens quite highly because on the whole I like their policies, the Australian Sex Party last (because of their opposition to the Greens policy of ending human sex trafficking) and the other parties somewhere in between.
– My advice is, unless you know the independents personally, don’t vote for them highly. Independent candidates are great because they aren’t tied down to party positions, but they’re not so great because (like any of us) it’s harder to know how they’d react in a full variety of different policy situations.
Anything on the Senate I missed?
Policy area – the Environment
This might seem an odd place to start for a Christian discussion of politics but it’s as good a place as any. In elections gone by organisations like the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) and indeed the Australian Christian Values Institute (ACVI) have declined to take a position on environmental policy because Christians disagree on it. This, I would argue, is a dumb way for Christians to develop a voting ethic because Christian morality is not herd morality but heard morality. As we listen to the word of God in the Bible we work out what His priorities are and live our life to serve Him. As it turns out, God cares a fair bit about our stewardship of the world (you’ll find it on page 1). God’s intention for us was to have a good relationship with Him, with others and to take care of creation as stewards.
As individual Christians, we can take big steps towards acting sustainably ourselves, but as voters we have the potential to make this stewardship stretch further. The onus is on us to choose a government that will protect the environment for us, and for the sake of generations to come because God made it and wants us to. This governmental stewardship takes a number of forms (how we generate our power; how we regulate industry to prevent corporate environmental destruction; how we protect and fund our national parks and gardens; how we regulate the importation of products that damage the environment of others; how we get people to their workplace – i.e. public transport; how we reward individuals, communities and businesses that act in an environmentally responsible way).
This election the ACL has made some advancement in this area, asking all the parties to comment on their position on climate change (though the question is extremely non-committal about whether climate change is actually real). Let me suggest some things for you to think about as you trawl through those responses:
– Fixing environmental problems will cost us. It may even slow our economic growth. Sometimes doing the right thing will cost us (cf: Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery. The British GDP dropped by 10% following the Slavery Abolition Act 1833). Wanting the problem to be fixed without it costing anything is at best naive and at worst disgraceful.
– Climate change is by far our biggest pressing environmental challenge but it isn’t our only pressing environmental challenge. Firstly, there are a disproportionate number of minor parties including both the so called “Christian” parties (Christian Democrats and Family First) who take a sceptical stance on climate change. This is embarrassing because of the overwhelming scientific data. But there are other matters to be considered and let me give you one example: Mining. Mines like the Lake Cowal goldmine regularly spill cyanide, threatening waterways; gas mines like the one in on the Burrup Peninsula threaten aboriginal rock carvings 6 times older than the pyramids; natural gas and oil mining in East Timor and West Papua by Australia robs them of their natural resources and threatens the local fishing industry. I’d like to hear more from the ACL on these issues at the next election.
The best resource I’ve found to help you easily digest the carbon policies of the major 3 is the Climate Institute’s very pretty polluto-o-meter.
Any other thoughts on the environment?
More to come all this week.