Voting for Federal elections in Australia are tentatively to be held on Saturday, 14 September 2013. The election announcement made by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, came at the end of January. Though not yet official, the election must occur before 30 November 2013. Every three years in Australia voters head to the polls to elect a new federal government.
If you are an Australian who doesn’t understand the voting process, or who stares at the green and yellow voting forms wondering who all the candidates are, then you are not alone. Historically, Australia’s political environment is dominated by a handful of parties, Australian Labor Party, Australian Liberal Party, Australian Greens, Australian National Party and the Australian Democrats. Because of the arduous task of completing the white senate ballot paper using the preferential voting system to its fullest, it is extremely tempting for a voter to choose the much shorter method of completing the ballot paper when voting, especially for the Senate. This year, don’t pick the easiest option. Do a little research into the parties, their representatives and the independents in your area. Discover who can really make a difference to your life and the issues you care about.
Between now and the next election, Jacmus will be presenting a number of articles on the different Australian political parties, their policies, candidates and ideologies. Towards the end of this article we’ve provided a list of all the registered political parties in Australia with links to their online presence. Our aim is to inform the voter of other political parties and candidates that Australian’s may not usually consider voting for for at election time, but whose policies may align more with the individual’s political persuasions.
Voting Overview of Nominated Candidates and Parties
Both the House of Representatives and available Senate seats from electoral divisions across the country will be up for selection. Existing representatives and new candidates can register to represent the people within their electorate. Since the election was officially called in February by the current Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, campaigning to date has been passive. As registrations for political parties closed on the 23 May 2013, Australians can expect a significant increase in advertising and presence in their communities from hopeful candidates and major parties.
Candidates for the political parties are nominated and selected initially by the financial party members that they represent. Candidates must live in the electorate in which they are nominated. In some electorates not all political parties will be represented. Being a member of political party is not compulsory unless you desire to run for office for that party. Independent candidates are also encouraged to run.
Voting for the House of Representatives
All of the 150 seats for the House of Representatives from all electoral divisions across the country become vacated every three years just prior to the election, allowing the seats to be contested by new candidates.
Voting for the Australian of Senate
As the majority of senate seats are vacated every six years, not every seat will be up for election unless their is a double dissolution in which all 76 Senate seats become vacant (12 for each State and 2 each for the Territories).
Senate seats represent the States and Territories of Australia rather than the local electoral division.
Prime Ministerial Position
Party Leaders who are nominated by their party as their proposed leader to take the position of Prime Minister must also run for their local electoral division seat. If the party leader does not win their seat, they can not become Prime Minister. Instead, the winning party or coalition of parties (if there is no overwhelming majority using a preferential voting system), must elect a new leader to take the Prime Minister’s position. The Prime Minister then selects their cabinet from winning candidates within their party or coalition of parties.
Australian’s do not have the privilege to elect an individual Prime Minister, only their prefered party by means of their local electoral division voting.
General Overview of Compulsory Voting
Elections became compulsory in Australia for any citizen over the age of 18 years, in 1925.
Belonging to a Political Party
You are not required to become a member of a political party in Australia unless you are running as a candidate for that party. Political parties may approach you for membership and if you feel strongly enough about supporting a political party and its policies, you can become a financial member of a party. Party members who are not running for an electoral division can vote within the party on proposed candidates, party policies, committee positions and assist with marketing including polling day displays and how to vote cards.
How to Vote
There are a few different ways to vote depending upon circumstances.
The ordinary way of voting is to attend a polling booth on election day within your electoral division. Electoral divisions are based upon your registered address with the Australian Electoral Commission. If you are outside of your electoral division on voting day but still within your state, you can cast an absentee vote from a different electoral division polling place. In most cases you will not need to line up for long as polling places are well staffed.
If a voter is unable to vote on the day of the election they can send in their voting papers prior to the election through a postal vote system prior to election day. Alternatively, if they are unable to vote in their electorate but have access to a different polling booth within their home state or territory, they can vote outside of their electorate using an absentee vote. Absentee and postal votes are not usually completely counted until a few days after the official election day, which can delay final results for an election.
Other methods of voting include:
- Overseas Voting
- Interstate Voting at a specially designated interstate voting place
- Mobile Voting
Completing Voting Forms
Your name or any type of identification should never appear on a voting form. Voting is private and confidential. Australia’s voting system is mostly a manual system where you are given two sheets of paper to complete. One for your electoral division for the House of Representatives and one for the Senate.
The candidates for the House of Representatives are listed on a green piece of paper. Candidates are chosen by allocating a number against each candidate in order of preference with 1 being the most preferred. All candidates should be allocated a number. If only one candidate is missed, it will be considered the least preferred otherwise the ballot will be considered void.
The candidates for the Senate are listed on a white piece of paper. There are two different ways to complete the Senate ballot paper. The first method is to designate your party of choice. The second method can take more time complete as it requires all candidates to be allocated a number in order of preference using a numerical system similar to the House of Representatives.
For more information on how to complete voting forms visit the Australian Electoral Commission.
Registered Parties as at 21 May 2013
- Animal Justice Party
- Australia First Party (NSW) Incorporated
- Australian Christians
- Australian Democrats
- Australian First Nations Political Party
- Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party
- Australian Greens (including three additional branches listed below)
- The Greens NSW
- Queensland Greens
- The Greens (WA) Inc
- Australian Labor Party (ALP) (including nine additional branches listed below)
- Australian Labor Party (N.S.W. Branch)
- Australian Labor Party (Victorian Branch)
- Australian Labor Party (State of Queensland)
- Australian Labor Party (Western Australian Branch)
- Australian Labor Party (South Australian Branch)
- Australian Labor Party (Tasmanian Branch)
- Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch)
- Australian Labor Party (Northern Territory) Branch
- Country Labor Party
- Australian Protectionist Party
- Australian Sex Party
- Australian Stable Population Party
- Bank Reform Party
- Building Australia Party
- Bullet Train For Australia
- Carers Alliance
- Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group)
- Citizens Electoral Council of Australia
- Country Alliance
- Country Liberals (Northern Territory)
- Democratic Labor Party (DLP) of Australia
- Family First Party
- Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party
- Katter’s Australian Party
- Liberal Democratic Party
- Liberal Party of Australia (including seven additional branches listed below)
- Liberal Party of Australia, NSW Division
- Liberal Party of Australia (Victorian Division)
- Liberal National Party of Queensland
- Liberal Party (W.A. Division) Inc.
- Liberal Party of Australia (S.A. Division)
- Liberal Party of Australia – Tasmanian Division
- Liberal Party of Australia – ACT Division
- National Party of Australia (including four additional branches listed below)
- National Party of Australia – N.S.W.
- National Party of Australia – Victoria
- National Party of Australia (WA) Inc
- National Party of Australia (S.A.) Inc.
- No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics
- Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting)
- One Nation
- Pirate Party Australia
- Rise Up Australia Party
- Secular Party of Australia
- Senator Online (Internet Voting Bills/Issues)
- Shooters and Fishers Party
- Socialist Alliance
- Socialist Equality Party
While many of the lessor known parties appear to have overlapping policies, Jacmus hopes that our focus on the federal election in Australia will help to provide you with a broader knowledge of political parties. Information is key to providing balance in representation and replacing the current domination of the Australian parliament with a more representative government for the people of Australia. Each week between now and the beginning of August, Jacmus will be reviewing party policies and propositions for each of the above parties, so that Australians can make a more informed decision when heading to the polling booths later this year.