This Election Day, Vote To Keep One Nation Out Of The Senate
By Lilith Zaharias
Lilith Zaharias was a candidate for the Greens in the 2019 NSW State Election
So, it’s election day –time to enjoy some good old democracy sausage and draw either some numbers or genitalia on a piece of paper that will ultimately determine who’s in charge for the next three years. No biggie.
What we do know for sure is that at the end of the day, the Prime Minister will be a stale pale male, one or the other of the incredibly bland focus grouped, market researched, blue-tie-and-suit wearing men will be running the country for at least the next few weeks until the first negative opinion poll.
Given the distinct lack of palatable options for anybody who isn’t a middle-class middle-aged man, it can be very easy to decide that this whole politics lark isn’t really for us anyway, and practice our phallic art skills. And I get it! It’s tempting! There’s something about drawing a member next to the name of your local member that just feels... apt.
However, what you’re missing out on is the chance to participate in a contest that will actually matter –and where your vote will actually count.
Crash course on the federal Senate, also known as the upper house: unlike the lower house, the House of Representatives, the Senate has members that represent an entire state, rather than just one local area. Crucially, the votes are counted proportionally, rather than simply choosing the one winning member. That means that members can be chosen even if they’re not getting the highest number of votes overall –which is why you don’t just end up with Liberal or Labor members but can have a whole host of minor parties as well.
This is very important, because for a government to be able to get pretty much anything done, it needs to pass legislation through both houses. Whilst the government of the day usually has a really easy job in the lower house, it hardly ever has a majority in the Senate, which means the Senate is where most genuine debate and amendment of proposed laws happens. Basically, the Senate is the only thing stopping the next Prime Minister being able to do whatever he wants.
Each election, six seats from each state are up for election –and it is the sixth of these this year that can change the face of the country for the next decade. The seat is currently held by NSW Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi, but she is facing a challenge from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation to hold on to it.
Some opinion polls have put One Nation’s support at almost 7% NSW wide –a result which would be enough to challenge the Greens who usually fall around 9%. This would be enough to put the final Senate seat in play. Importantly, most opinion polls have a margin of error of at least 2%, and often under-report the support for extreme right-wing candidates, as respondents are often unwilling to admit to supporting socially unacceptable views –this was seen in the way many opinion polls did not predict the election of US President Donald Trump.
To be clear, this is the difference between a Senator who can hold the government to account from the progressive left, fighting against bigotry and state-sanctioned cruelty, and a Senator who would be barracking the government of the day ever further to the loony right. This is the difference between the first ever Muslim woman in any parliament in Australia, and someone who believes she never should have been allowed into Australia in the first place. This is the difference between a party that has been fighting for decades so that we’ll still have a planet to live on for the next century, and a party that doesn’t think climate change is a credible phenomenon.
This is as close to a contest between right and wrong as you are ever likely to see in politics. One Nation proudly advertise their policy to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, suggesting that climate change is a belief not based on evidence.They want to build multiple new coal-fired power stations and build more dams across the country, flooding millions of hectares of ecologically critical river valleys. They are not just hostile to asylum seekers –which is politically par for the course for the major parties as well –but also advocate drastic cuts to immigration, especially non-White immigration. Their policy page on immigration bemoans the Constitutional prohibition on being able to ask immigrants what their religion is.
But One Nation’s immigration policies are low-hanging fruit; after all the party was born when the Liberal Party disendorsed Pauline Hanson as a candidate for being too racist.However, they don’t just have seriously racist immigration policies and climate change policies more cooked than the planet is going be –they have a whole raft of other messed up policies that read like Donald Trump’s Christmas list.
They want to make it drastically easier to own a gun in Australia, even after the horrific mass-shooting in Christchurch (carried out by an Australian citizen). They want to end universal fee support for universities, at the same time as reducing the number of international students, which would see fees sky-rocket for both domestic and international students. If you want to get very depressed, go read more of their policies on the One Nation website –I just did and it’s like screaming into the void.
The Greens, meanwhile, have credible targets to move to 100% renewable energy by 2030, scrap all fees for university and TAFE, increase Newstart and Youth Allowance, expand Medicare to include dental and mental health services, and fight for true equality regardless of race, gender identity, sexuality, or disability.
The prospect that Mehreen could lose her seat to a One Nation MP genuinely terrifies me. It terrifies me as a trans woman whose very existence is threatened by their far-right ideology. It terrifies me as young person who will still be alive to see the effects of the runaway global warming we are allowing to happen with every passing minute. Most of all, it terrifies me as someone who wants to see less hatred and division in our society, not more.
On a personal note, I know Mehreen Faruqi well. She has never failed to impress me as one of the best people I have had the privilege to meet. She has so much genuine kindness and compassion, fire and compassion, integrity and dignity –she is, in short, the real deal, the kind of politician that we need more of, not less.
Up to 20% of people do not make up their minds on how to vote until election day. If you are one of them, please. I am begging you. Use your vote to help tip the scales in the most important contest of this election. Your vote DOES count, especially in the Senate. What kind of Australia do you want to see?