Xavier Toby

About Xavier Toby

Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian. His debut comedic non-fiction book about six months on a mining site 'Mining My Own Business' is available through UWA Publishing (http://uwap.uwa.edu.au/books-and-authors/book/mining-my-own-business). For more writing, upcoming performance details and some embarrassing photos check out his website.

WA Senate Election: Democracy “in-action”

Did the March in March have any effect at all?

What’s the real feeling around Australia towards the Liberal Party?

The Labor Party?

All the other parties?

This weekend in Western Australia, we get to find out.

Recent state elections in South Australia and Tasmania have featured swings towards the Liberal Party, despite all those marchers in March telling us that this country is already fed up with Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party.

At the 2013 federal election in WA, the smaller parties got such a large percentage of the vote, the final count was so close and a significant amount of votes was lost behind the couch or put through the wash or something, that there’s been cause for a recount.

Numbers in the senate are precariously perched as it is, and allowing for the quirks of the way the senate works, in the very near future, the balance of power in this country could lead with a bunch of parties who didn’t exist four years ago. Imagine two family factions can’t decide where to hold Christmas Lunch one particular year, and the crazy drunk uncle has the deciding vote. So instead of a house, he suggests lunch of fairy floss, held on a raft in the Indian Ocean on New Year’s Eve. A suggestion that must be then considered, because both sides need his vote.

Say less than ten percent of people vote for someone. Do you think that someone should have the final say on how we run the country?

Well if the result in the WA Senate election is anything like last time around, that’s exactly what we can expect for Australian politics, because at the last election that’s exactly how we voted.

Ten percent on a driving test means you crashed before you left the car park; ten percent battery is a freshly charged but faulty iPhone; and in a survey, if only ten percent of people think something is a good idea, then it’s definitely not a good idea.

During the 2013 election, around ten per cent of us decided that we would rather have anyone in charge, instead of someone from either of the two major parties or the Greens. We voted for anyone, and that’s exactly who we got.

Each Federal election, half of the Senate is up for re-election, as every Senator serves roughly two terms or seven years, twice as long as those in the House of Representatives. During the 2013 election, out of the 38 Senate seats being contested, we voted in around seven of these random Senators from tiny parties.

Not one of these random Senators got more than ten percent of the primary vote. Most got less than two percent, and a few didn’t even get half a percent. In order to get elected with such a small percentage of the primary vote, most of these smaller parties worked together to do something extremely clever. They decided to share their votes in such a way that if one particular party couldn’t win, all their votes would be passed to a different micro party, regardless of the fact that they might have competing or completely opposite beliefs, before they ever got to a major party.

So this meant that all the random votes for the different crazies ended up going to the same crazy.

Most of the micro parties agreed to play along, which meant that once they got enough votes for a seat in the Senate, we were always going to end up with at least one crazy, and it was then just a lottery to see which crazy it’d be.

So, now we’ve got Senators from Family First, the Australian Motorists Party, the Sex Party and the Palmer United Party along with a few others. Have a look at their policies, and then check them against logic and common sense. There’s very little crossover between the two.

If we went to the dodgiest pub in Australia, and waited until after closing time, and then grabbed whoever was throwing up or passed out in the gutter, we’d have done better than what we ended up with in the Senate.

At least with a drunk there’s a chance that they’d sober up and make some sensible decisions, but sane people don’t join tiny political parties. Any lunatic in Australia can start a political party, and unfortunately it’s usually only the lunatics who bother.

Here’s where this problem becomes a catastrophe. If you’re already well aware of all this, I reckon it’s worth going over again, just to make completely clear how screwed our political system is, and how stuffed we all are.

To pass a law, a majority of those in both the Senate and the House of Representatives need to vote for it. After the last election, the Coalition won a clear majority in the House of Representatives.

However, nobody won a majority in the Senate, and all the deciding votes now belong to the maniacs. This means that in order to get anything passed into law, the Coalition are going to have to make and change laws to satisfy at least some of the extreme demands of the loonies.

Imagine Australia is a pizza, and the different political parties are ingredients. Labor is the dough base and the Coalition, made up of the Liberals and the National party, are the tomato paste and the cheese. The three key ingredients.

Now, if we work on the amount of votes the different parties got, the smaller parties aren’t even popular to be actual ingredients, but let’s pretend. The Palmer United Party is the pineapple, Family First are the olives, and the Sex Party are anchovies. However it’s not one party that will be making the decisions – it’s the combination of ingredients.

It’s like the weird genetic offspring of a pineapple, olive and anchovy.

Let’s call it a ‘pinolchovy’.

In Australia we’ve previously attempted combining Vegemite and cheese. Two things most people like, but nobody liked the combination. Imagine how popular the ‘pinolchovy’ will be?

Well that’s the ingredient that we voted onto every pizza for the next three years.

For anyone who argues that it’s just a quirk of the system, why does it keep happening?

And it’s not just Australia.

In America they have their own crazies called the Tea Party. They’re aligned with the American version of the Liberal Party, the Republicans. However, they’re an extreme version, like ‘Mega-Republicans’ with similar beliefs to the Palmer United Party, and are currently holding the whole country to ransom because they don’t believe in taxes, or welfare, or the government.

Egypt had a revolt where they demanded democracy and elected extremists who quickly plunged the country back into the chaos from where they’d just emerged.

So, around election time as a society we need to start making better decisions.

As a first step though, we need a better system.

A system that stops all of this Senate vote-sharing nonsense.

This has already been proposed by the Coalition, and guess how the micro parties reacted?

They said that if the major parties work together to pass it into law, they will vote against every single bill proposed over the next three years. Already they’re putting their own interests ahead of what’s best for the country.

Now tell me democracy isn’t broken, or it’s pinolchovy pizza for dinner again.

And again.


So WA, this weekend is your chance. Please help save us from ourselves. Take the time and number everything below the line. If we still end up with a country run by the loonies, at least they’ll be the loonies that we chose, not loonies spat out for us by quirks of the system.

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