What the animals want this election
Part 1 - How the system works
At each election, every party has the opportunity to not only run candidates, but in a preferential voting system such as the one in Australia, inform its supporters who else to vote for after itself, in order to best advance its interests. This is the area of ‘preferences’.
For a fuller explanation of the new system, you can see this video, or this explanation by the AEC.
In the past, there have been two different types of preferences. The first might be called ‘party selected - automatic’ preferences. This is where each party would prepare a document called a Group Voting Ticket (“GVT”), which would indicate to the Electoral Commission what happened to votes once the party was eliminated. Most people voted ‘1’ above the line for their preferred party, and then, if the party was eliminated from the Senate race, the GVT would be consulted to see what happened to the preferences after that. It was hard to know who you were really voting for, in the case where your party was not successful (the GVTs were published and discussed, but most voters would not have the time to be aware of them).
Just before this federal election, the Coalition Government, with the support of The Greens, modified the voting system to eliminate the GVTs. Instead, each voter is now asked to put their own preferences on the Senate ticket, by voting at least 1-6 above the line: 1 = my preferred party, 2 is next preferred, etc. If your preferred party loses, your vote then goes to your second preference. If the second also loses, then it goes to your third, etc.
Whether the old scheme, or the new, this ‘single transferable vote’ makes for a good electoral system, and makes our politics much more open to negotiation and influence than a ‘First past the post’ system such as operates in other places, like the UK and the USA.
The recent change to our senate voting system, while having some strengths (removing the GVT), is also designed to strengthen the hand of the major parties. We are not so delighted about that, but have no choice. We must fight the election on the rules that are set. It is not like this is their only advantage. The major parties will also get all the media coverage and all the money!
There is a second type of preferences that might be called “recommendations” (but is still called ‘preferences’ in ordinary political parlance). This is where the party provides a ‘How to Vote’ (HTV) card to the voter, which typically says Vote 1 for our party, and then vote for other parties in a particular order. This is, at most, a suggestion, which no one is compelled to follow, but may, if they want to vote to the best advantage of the party providing it. This is not new, but is the only kind of preferences left after the recent senate reform bill.
The most important thing by far for us is that people vote 1 AJP. That gives us the best chance of winning seats. However, we will be handing out HTVs at as many booths as possible on July 2 (and beforehand, at pre-poll) in order to secure that vote, but also to direct voters to the next best choice. Winning a senate seat is a likely possibility, but it is especially hard to win in the lower house. There, we can have further influence over who DOES win the seat.
Influencing who wins the seat is quite important to us. Not only does it make sure that we get animal friendly politicians elected, even if it is not us, it also gives us the leverage with the major parties to negotiate outcomes for animals. They care a lot about who we preference, and we can use this negotiating power to ask for changes in their approach to issues of relevance to animals. At the last Victorian state election, for example, our preferences removed a sitting Liberal MP and replaced him with a Green MP (Sam Hibbins in Prahran).
Part 2 - Who we recommend you support on behalf of animals
The first point to make is that we are not responsible for the policies and actions of other parties. Whoever we recommend, we don’t recommend them over ourselves. They all have flawed policy and priorities in our view. Some are just less flawed than others. We couldn’t possibly be seen to be endorsing all of their views.
In the Lower House, a single MP is elected from 150 geographic areas around Australia, and the party with the most MPs forms government. We are running in a total of 40 seats across Australia in the lower house.
In the Upper House, or Senate, 12 Senators are elected from across the state (and 2 from each territory). We are running in every state and the ACT (7 regions, 14 candidates).
We are supporting the following parties in one form or another:
The Greens under Richard Di Natale
Of the three biggest parties, The Greens have the best policies regarding animals. Their policies are not perfect by any stretch, but they oppose Live Export, Factory Farming and agree with the implementation of an Independent Office of Animal Welfare. They worked with us to put up a bill to ban animal tested cosmetics. Not all of their elected MPs or candidates are good for animals, but some are very good indeed. We have discussed with representatives of their party the things that we are most unhappy about. We don’t like them ordering the shooting of Kangaroos and other native wildlife. We don’t like them avoiding the discussion about animal agriculture and climate change (watch ‘Cowspiracy’). Most of all, we don’t like the fact that they have held significant power in both houses of the federal parliament without using that power to actually achieve breakthroughs for animals. They have listened to us and we believe they have made real commitments to work with us to change that in this next parliament.
We will be supporting the Greens ahead of the other two parties in most seats, and most of the ones that they consider critical. For example, we are recommending to vote 2, Green in the seats of Batman, Wills, Melbourne, Melbourne Ports, Higgins, Richmond and a range of other seats throughout Victoria and Australia.
In the Senate we will be recommending people vote for The Greens over any other major party in all states, and over any other smaller party that might be strong competition to them. In the ACT, we will not be recommending any of the major parties.
Labor under Bill Shorten
We have worked extensively with a number of Labor politicians and party representatives to try and secure a better future for animals in a future Labor government. Despite some serious engagement and discussion, there have been a number of disappointments. However, they have also come to see some things our way, and have committed to some helpful reforms for animals should they be elected. This includes the creation of a fully funded Independent Office of Animal Welfare (IOAW), which we have campaigned for to break the conflict of interest involved with the Minister for Agriculture being responsible for animal welfare. They will also establish an independent Inspector-General of Animal Welfare, renew the Animal Welfare Strategy and commit to greater transparency and accountability in what is actually happening in the Live Export trade. Of course, the ALP has committed to a ban on animal tested cosmetics.
Labor has also gone further. For example, they are committed to significant funding of research into plant based farming practices, directed to the development and expansion of initiatives which can maximise plant-based food production and growing these agricultural markets. This is the kind of innovation that will provide a replacement for a declining animal-based agricultural sector (which WE say must be reduced or eliminated for reasons of justice, health, economy and environment).
We will be supporting Labor over their major rival, the Coalition, in all seats bar La Trobe.
In a number of contests where the decision will be between Labor and the Coalition, we are preferencing Labor first (rather than The Greens), to minimise confusion and maximise the number of preferences they receive from our voters. We are also running an open ticket in Grayndler and Sydney, which will allow Albanese and Plibersek to contest those seats against The Greens on their merits.
In the Senate we recommend Labor over the Coalition in all states.
Liberal / National coalition under Malcolm Turnbull
For animals, this government is a total disappointment. The coalition under Turnbull looks much the same as the coalition under Abbott. With Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce, the government has been prepared to not only allow all kinds of animal cruelty to continue, but to actively seek to punish those who expose it, with a range of ‘negative’ initiatives such as Ag gag laws. Time does not permit us to list the other negative impacts on animals that this government has implemented or attempted.
In general, we cannot support them.
In the Senate, we are not recommending the Coalition on any of our tickets.
There have been only two good stories for animals by this current government. The first is the banning of the import of Lion trophies from Africa to counteract the growth in the ‘Canned Hunting’ practice. The second is their commitment to ban the importation and sale of animal tested cosmetics within 100 days of taking office, if re-elected. This now means, whichever side wins government, that ban will proceed (all three major parties are committed to it). Because of his good work in both of these matters, we are supporting the re-election of Jason Wood in the seat of La Trobe. We have a more detailed explanation of this decision in a previous post.
There are a number of smaller parties running in lower house and Senate seats. Most of them we cannot support at all. However, we will be supporting a small number of parties with our preferences ahead of, or behind, the major parties, in order to boost their (very small) chance of election. This doesn’t mean we endorse everything they believe, say and do. But they have indicated a better attitude to animals than many current politicians. They include the Renewable Energy party, Sustainable Australia party, Equality party, Australian Cyclists party, Health Party Australia, Science Party, the Secular party and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party.
Q. If party A is better than party B, why not just support them everywhere?
A. Parties are not homogeneous. We need to be able to support those that work for animals, and punish those that work against them. We are not a cypher or puppet for any other party, we represent the animals only. If we cannot ask our voters to prefer one side or another in particular circumstances, we lose our power to negotiate. It is often our negotiating power that secures real outcomes for animals.
Q. So you are really suggesting a Liberal in one seat?
A. We really are. He's the best advocate for animals within the Coalition. Vote 1 AJP, then consider keeping Jason Wood in the seat.
Q. What if I don’t like your suggestions?
A. Then don’t follow them. Vote 1 AJP and secure political power for animals. Vote 2 and onwards as you choose.