In this federal election, I am voting for Sam Byrne of the Greens in the House of Representatives seat of Grayndler.
In the Senate, for New South Wales, I am giving my first preference to Lee Rhiannon of the Greens in a below-the-line vote which I shall explain separately.
My preferences in both houses lean towards the Labor Party ahead of the Liberals.
By any normal measure, I would argue that the Labor government of the past term, started by Kevin Rudd and concluded by Julia Gillard, is not doing enough to warrant re-election. Their record on managing the GFC stands them in good stead, their cowardice over carbon emission reductions unforgivable. Many ideals disappeared early on the road to fruition - notably, the outcomes of the 2020 Summit. The overthrow of Prime Minister Rudd was but a symptom of a parliamentary political party behaving as nothing more than the shop front for a back-room party machine gone feral. While some of their policy pledges in this campaign have considerable merit - e-health a standout in this regard - others, such as the climate change "Citizen's Assembly" are too stupid for anyone to believe they can ever be implemented.
However, the alternative prospect, of a Liberal-National government led by Tony Abbott, is worse to the point of being frightening. With a personal style that is both ostentatious and erratic and sometimes downright physically reckless (viz his 36 hour sleepless final two days of campaigning, currently in progress), as well as (regardless of how much he would deny it) misogynistic, Abbott fronts a party that has knifed two leaders in the past two years (though one, Brendan Nelson, really shouldn't have been promoted in the first place), has clearly failed to regroup after its 2007 election loss, and has failed to put vested interests in their place on the matter of climate change policy. Their disproportionate preoccupation with "boat people" is simply disgraceful.
The Greens tick a lot of boxes in terms of ideals that many progressive voters like. It would be easy to dismiss them on this argument, but with Labor faltering as a party of the Left, support for the Greens is rising to the level where they can actually wield influence in federal parliament. They are likely to hold the balance of power in the Senate in their own right (from 1 July 2011) and, if they can win the seat of Melbourne, could be influential in the (slightly unlikely) prospect of a hung parliament. They may well have to compromise some of those ideals in the real world of federal politics - negotiating instruments to set a price for carbon will be difficult after they helped block the ETS earlier this year (rightly in my opinion, as it was bad policy as formulated). But their influence will add depth to a shallowness of ideals that has permeated both major parties in the dumbed-down post-Howard era.
For mine, there has been no more inspirational speech by an Australian politician in recent times than this one given by Greens Senator Christine Milne at the National Press Club in June 2009.
In my electorate of Grayndler, the Greens candidate Sam Byrne gets my vote. He already claims a place in local history as the first Greens mayor of Marrickville Council in 2005-06. Having said that, I have no strong objections to sitting member Anthony Albanese, who gets my second preference, and whom I expect to see elected. Byrne should achieve what no Greens candidate in Grayndler has done before - finish as high as second place. With the Liberal Party effectively running dead in the electorate by selecting 19 year-old university student Alex Dore as their candidate, this is highly likely.
Lee Rhiannon will have a tough time being elected for the Senate. She needs 16.66% of the vote after distribution of preferences, and most of the other parties are directing their preferences in directions away from the Greens (many, quite dangerously, towards the Liberal Democratic Party). Rhiannon, however, would be a definite credit to the Greens contingent in Canberra, after more than a decade in the New South Wales Legislative Council. A relentless approach to accountability, especially in the area of political donations, helps make her what I believe is the ideal third-party member of a "house of review". I really hope she gets over the line. It would be a loss to politics if she drifts into retirement after the election.
This is my thirteenth federal election, nine (1977-1998) in the electorate of Shortland, my fourth (2001 to date) in Grayndler. I voted Labor in the lower house from 1977 to 2004, this will be the second in which I have given first preference to the Greens.
In the Senate I have generally favoured minor parties over the ALP, but this will be the most complex below-the-line ticket I have completed. It needs a blog entry to itself, but just a teaser for now, Bill Heffernan comes in at number 4...