Once more unto the brink...
I described the new Legislative Council (state upper house) in another post. The Australian Democrats have never had any representation in State Parliament so in a sense we have nothing to loose in this election. However the introduction of Proportional Representation (PR) in this election gives us an opportunity to make ground at a state level over one or more state elections. Also campaigning now is a worthwhile 'practice-run' for the Federal Election which may happen in the next 12 months and at which we have a lot to loose (we currently have four senators - the same number of senators as the Greens or Nationals - but all four positions will be facing election).
We are standing groups of three candidates in each of the five metropolitan Legislative Council electorates. This small array of candidates allows us to provide the majority of voters in the state with the chance to vote for us. But they have a lot of other parties to select from and in the rest of this post I will give a personal summary of my own estimation of the ideological character of the parties on offer.
Here I present the basic ideology of all registered political parties as listed in alphabetical order on the VEC site and I will use the philosophical descriptors of my Political Objectives Test to do so. Technically the test was intended for persons rather than groups but I figure that we can also apply it to the average ideology of all active members of a party. I cannot make every member of every party take my test but I can make assumptions based on the stated objectives and observed actions of parties.
* Australian Democrats: My party are progressives but have a tiresome (if historically useful) habit of using non-ideological terminology in its own self-descriptions.
* Australian Labor Party: The ideology of Labor depends on which faction one looks at. The Labor Left fit my description of socialist (note the factional name 'Socialist Left' and the affiliation of the ALP to the Socialist International) but the rest of the factions better fit my description of moderate. I personally think this centrist positioning makes Labor the closest thing we have to a 'natural party of government' but it also tends to make for do-nothing governments.
* Christian Democratic Party: The CDP (Fred Nile Group) are ultra-conservative and more openly represent the fundamentalist kind of philosophy that is suspected of Family First.
* Citizens Electoral Council: The CEC can be a tricky critter to catagorise because what they say differs markedly from what others accuse them of. They combine a socialist interest in government economic intervention with an allegedly conservative cultural agenda. They have (among other things) an elitist desire to instil in all of us a love of classical art and music at the expense of 'decadent' popular culture. They are part of an international network whose policy platform is dictated by one controversial academic. They are secular yet seem to operate in an an almost cult-like manner in terms of member conduct and relations. I think the best-fit descriptor for them is authoritarian.
* Country Alliance: Can a small bunch of mates who had some concerns with current state politics and decide to get involved have a particular ideology attributed to them? Possibly. In the case of Country Alliance it can be difficult as they are deliberately keeping objectives and policy statements scant so as to give any parliamentarians they elect a lot of room to move in how they choose to represent constituents. In the past these characters may have supported candidates in the establishmentarian mould but they themselves look reactionary.
* Democratic Labor Party: The DLP is historically a communitarian party and the current incarnation of the DLP may well fit that ideology too. They focus almost entirely on right-to-life issues in campaigning but say that they also hold to other traditional DLP policy stances.
* Family First Party: Family First may present as merely conservative and may well include many members who fit this description. However the religious interests associated with the party are more likely to be ultra-conservative in nature.
* Liberal Party of Australia: The Liberals are a party of both establishmentarian and liberal elements. At a Federal level the former dominate the latter but at a state level there is a much better balance of power between these two tendencies. In this state election the Liberals are competing with the Nationals for votes in rural electorates as the coalition agreement was broken some time ago.
* National Party of Australia: The Nationals are a rural party of both establishmentarian and conservative elements. At a Federal level the former dominate the latter but at a state level there is a much better balance of power between these two tendencies. In this state election the Nationals are competing with the Liberals for votes in rural electorates as the coalition agreement was broken some time ago.
* People Power: People Power are a party of 'small-l' liberals that has been slowly forming since the turn of the century. They were founded by a former Liberal Party member (Stephen Mayne) and a former Australian Democrat (Vern Hughes) and are seeking to draw on votes from both. They are making a splash in the media over-and-above what is warrented by size or past electoral performance and this can only be attributed to the journalistic contacts Mayne has cultivated as the person behind the political news and commentary site Crikey Dot Com (since writing this entry People Power have disbanded as a political party).
* Socialist Alliance: This amalgamation of Marxist groups prepared to work within the confines of parliamentary democracy best fits my descriptor of utopian socialist. This party was formed specifically to participate in public elections but they seem to be making scant effort in this election.
* The Australian Greens: Historically the Greens fit my descriptor of radicals. Since having become more successful I think they have also attracted utopian socialists but that the oldschool Greens have a stronger hold on the direction of the party than those newer members of Marxist and ex Labor-Left origin.
Of course ideology is only one criteria in selecting candidates. Other things citizens factor into voting include specific performance of the party in government, media profile of parties, policy positions on particular pet issues, personal feelings regarding particular candidates, and the voting habits of peers or parents.
One thing worth noting is that this time voting for the Legislative Council is by non-exhaustive preferential. Voters can fill in one box above the line (which indicates that they want the party to distribute preferences according to lodged tickets) or they can vote below the line and only have to fill in five boxes from one to five. This is fantastic for anyone who has qualms about giving any kind of preference to candidates they find repugnant. I am very much considering using this personally.