Working out your senate vote in SA

The senate ballot paper can be daunting. This year, in SA, there are forty-two candidates, most of whose names you have never heard of before. Six of them will end up sitting in the Senate, deciding Australian Legislation for the next six years. That’s an important job, so we should look closely and think about…

The senate ballot paper can be daunting. This year, in SA, there are forty-two candidates, most of whose names you have never heard of before. Six of them will end up sitting in the Senate, deciding Australian Legislation for the next six years. That’s an important job, so we should look closely and think about who we will vote for.

This article is, hopefully, a good starting point to work out how you will vote if you happen to be a South Australian. I’m going to introduce all the parties/candidates and the basic propositions that they represent. I’ve grouped them into my own categories, so this is not the order they appear on the ballot paper.

It’s a long read, so you may want to skim read or skip to the parties you are specifically interested in learning about.

1. The Rural Mob

The great Australian party is the first cab off the rank. This is the party of Senator Rod Culleton, formerly of One Nation, whose website is currently being upgraded. The people behind this party are also behind the know your rights group.

At the time of writing, this party doesn’t have a policy package, but they have outlined their policy principles, which include: taxation reform consistent with the Commonwealth Constitution, bank reform back to the provisions of the Commonwealth Constitution, legislator reform in line with the Commonwealth Constitution and encouraging education of all the people about the importance of the… you guessed it, the Commonwealth Constitution.

They’re a bit obsessed with the constitution.

Our local candidate for this party is Mark Aldridge, a community advocate and civil and human rights campaigner who has an animal sanctuary and, judging from his website, occasional poor grammar. He also formerly stood to represent One Nation, though apparently he now regrets it.

Fraser Anning’s conservative national party is the next option. If you don’t know about Fraser Anning, then you’ve been hiding under a rock. Formerly representing One Nation, then Bob Katter’s party, he has now started his own. Fraser Anning is one of the few people willing to speak about Islam, for which he has gained some respect and a support base. He’s also been censured heavily by other members of parliament for quoting Nazis (unintentionally, we think) and “blaming the victim” for the Christchurch attack, which has probably grown his base, if anything.

His party’s platform on immigration is, basically, restoration of the White Australia policy (if you listen closely, his two-word Nazi quote about the “final solution” was advocating a referendum on this issue). He has a list of other items his party will promote, including social cohesion, private enterprise, the democratic consent of the governed, and universal home-ownership as a national objective (some clearly stolen from other parties). Despite that, he still comes across like a single-issue person. His single issue is foreigners, and he doesn’t have what I would describe as a balanced, practical, politically viable or compassionate policy for them.

Our local candidate for this new party is Peter Manuel. Peter is a Beef farmer, and previously executive director of FLAG Australia, where he advocated for farmer’s water rights.

One Nation, the party of Pauline Hanson and Mark Latham, is logically next on the list. If you don’t feel like voting for One Nation’s alumni above, why not go straight to the source?

Apart from a tendency to lose her representatives after they’ve been voted in, what do we know about One Nation? Most of their policy statements are one sentence, providing clear and high-level principles about, for example, family law (they prefer both parents have access to children) and foreign ownership (they oppose full foreign ownership and particularly want to protect the farming industry). Their immigration policy, in contrast, has more than one paragraph. It goes to some effort to make clear that it is not racist, but rather is based on economic considerations.

Our local One Nation candidate is Jennifer Game. Jennifer has an honours degree in science and a tax law degree and worked for the ATO for 20 years. She has her own main platforms: Pull out of the Paris agreement, reduce immigration, reduce poverty, reform tax law, and build new dams and pipelines including a pipeline from Western Australia to Moomba.

(That last one is, presumably, a gas pipeline, and has been a dotted line on the national gas network map for years. I am actually a gas pipeline designer and in my opinion, it’s a really bad idea. It won’t magically create jobs in SA (pipelines hardly employ anyone, they just sit there), it will cost a lot of money, it is an inefficient way to transport gas that distance, and there’s no real need to transport it there anyway.)

The shooters, fishers and farmers are an old favourite. They advocate for gun rights, fishing rights, and, these days, farmer’s rights.

Environmentalist movements over the past decades have mounted an ongoing attack on farming, fishing and forestry industries. They have created endless red-tape for them, restricted their activities, and effectively interrupted generational knowledge transfer so that what was lost may never come back. I don’t support loosening gun regulations – guns are dangerous, obviously, and I see no reason why they should be a “right” – but I sympathise with a party advocating for the other two items.

The SFF has a broader policy platform than some. Though they have a basically libertarian bent, their loyalty seems more rural. Their economy policy, for instance, appears to support government intervention in the market to break up large companies or disadvantage them compared to small ones, which is not a particularly right-wing position.

Our local candidate for the SFF is John Hahn. He’s a fifth-generation farmer and vigneron for the Barrossa Valley, and he has been involved in Primary Producers SA, the Wine and Grape Council, and the Australian Deer Association.

These first four parties are variations on a theme. They are all rural sorts of parties, with a lot of One Nation alumni in their mix. The next group would call this group all “far right”, but that’s not fair for all of them. With variety in their nuance and intelligence, they stand for real issues that affect real people.

Unfortunately, none of these parties or individuals inspire confidence in me, and neither do I quite agree with any of them. Also, outside of their area of interest, they may be unpredictable.

2. The Environmentalists

In listing the environmentalist parties, it’s logical to start with their most successful: the Greens. Senator Sarah Hanson-Young (SHY) is up for re-election this year, and the Greens have optimistically fielded three candidates alongside her. The greens support radical measures to solve the climate change problem. They “have a plan, based on the science, to rapidly transition our economy to renewable energy”.

The greens also say, “The major parties will try to convince you that we can only have cheaper energy bills or renewable power. Don’t believe them: we can have both.” I know it turns into “he said, she said”, but don’t believe the Greens. Renewable energy is not sufficiently developed such that it can be cheaper than traditional fossil-fuel based energy system; it simply isn’t.

We know where the greens stand on environmental issues, but what about everything else? Well, some of us affectionately call them the Communist Party in order to clarify this. The greens are, in their own words, the party of public ownership, advocating that both energy and banking should be owned by the government. Among their policies are free or low-cost access to all essential community services including child-care, increasing new-start and youth allowance, ensuring everyone has an affordable and secure home and treating drug use as a health, not a criminal, issue.

The greens are also the party of identity politics. Their policies include ensuring equality for women, stamping out systemic racism and hate speech, and ensuring LGBTIQ+ people have full equality under the law and in our communities. SHY (along with all her colleagues) is always throwing accusations of racism, sexism and homophobia at everyone on the other side of parliament; she currently has a defamation case against former Senator David Leyonhjelm. The effect has been divisive and toxic. Personally, I wouldn’t trust the Greens to discern between “stamping out hate-speech” and “freedom of speech”.

Sustainable Australia could be in this list or the next one. Their commitment to sustainability extends beyond the environmental issue, though you can imagine that carbon, carbon and carbon are front and centre. When asked ‘what is the difference between you and the greens?’ they explain that they are in the political centre, where the greens are left wing. So they offer environmentalism without the communism.

This party support renewable energy, and also a total ban on fraccing (which irritates me—how many parliamentary investigations do they need before understanding that it can be done safely?). They also support a reduction of immigration, to achieve “sustainable” population growth for Australia. Globally, they support better access to contraceptives, as they believe worldwide net population growth is also unsustainable. The notion of controlling population growth gives me the heebie-jeebies, but at least their policy advocates access to contraceptives, not abortion. On other issues, they are, as ever, an unknown – but their expressed desire to be politically centrist is promising.

Our local representative is Graham Davies. I’ve actually met Graham, albeit briefly. He was hosting an Engineers Australia event about renewables technology. He is an engineer and principal at resonant solutions, with experience in the delivery of large projects.

Next up, the animal justice party. These are a gentle bunch of people (I’ve actually met quite a few of them). They really are a single issue party, though within that single issue there are quite a large number of sub-topics, from greyhounds to battery hens.

The party’s long-term goal is that everyone should become a vegan (or vegetarian? I’m not sure which), but “the AJP understands that dietary change will be a lengthy process and that animal production methods must be improved urgently as an interim measure; so [they] will prioritise the phase-out of factory farming.”

Our local SA candidate for this party is Louise Pfeiffer. Louise is an advocate for animals, with a very active twitter account. She is also a financial planner, previously worked in business development for AXA, and has an MBA with first class honours in marketing. I’m not sure I want vegans to be good at marketing. However, if they do win a seat, we at least won’t be sending a marginally-educated motor-mechanic to parliament.

I’m going to throw the HEMP party in at this point because, why not, hey? The long name for this hip party is Help End Marijuana Prohibition. If you want to know more about why we should end the prohibition of marijuana, then I recommend visiting their website. How they would vote, or even whether they would vote, on any other issue, is entirely unknowable.

Our local candidate for HEMP is someone named Angela Adams.

That concludes the environmentalists. I am personally supportive of neither veganism, marijuana, nor large-scale efforts to prevent climate change. If you are, however, I would probably commend Sustainable Australia as the safest party in which to sink an environmentalist vote. It is not a bad idea to have more engineers in politics, if I may say so myself, and Graham’s extensive knowledge of the energy industry should render him more immune to the politicised half-truths going around.

3. We’re Centrists, Really We Are

Up next, the centre alliance. This party is what gets left behind when you remove Nick Xenophon from the Nick Xenophon party. South Australia always comes first for these guys. They won’t make specific policy promises, instead, they will make decisions according to principles.

What principles, you ask? That is a very, very good question. What they provide is not a list of principles, but I wouldn’t call them policies either. Instead, they are a list of… fairly specific goals? For example, “all essential utilities should be owned by the public”. Or, “genuine asylum seekers must be treated with dignity and compassion.” Or, “In general, the fair work commission should determine pay and conditions.” (Personally I think that in general, the labour market should determine their pay and conditions, and the FWC should in general butt out. But hey, that’s just me.)

Here’s another one, “Government must facilitate and bring together world-class research and development, innovative thinkers, venture capital and a highly skilled, creative and diverse workforce.” And one last one: “people should be encouraged to move to areas where there is low population growth”. Their means of accomplishing this is tax breaks for two years for businesses and individuals who commit to moving.

Our candidate is former senator Skye Kakoshke-Moore, who had to leave parliament due to being a dual citizen. To my eyes, there are some good and some rubbish ideas in their list. The problem is, they’re un-categorisable. Being “centre” in their case means being “random”. So what can we infer from their policies? Their heart is in the rightish place, but they believe it is the government’s job to solve our problems; that actually makes them lean left.

Hey, remember Natasha Stott Despoja? Well, it turns out that the Australian Democrats still exist. Their party platform is very pro-democracy, and some of their reps are still using the “keep the bastards honest” hashtag.

A sample of their policies: fund education in line with the Gonsky recommendations, ensure government transitions us to a sustainable, diverse and decentralised energy economy, and political accountability in general.

Unlike the centre alliance, this party does have a list of principles, like “to act honestly and ethically”, “to uphold principles of freedom, self-determination, personal responsibility, democracy, fairness and human rights” (rights to what, exactly, is the sixty-five million dollar question), and “to accept the scientific method as the best tool to understand the world around us” (huh, I wonder what they had in mind when writing that?).

It was because of these principles that our local candidate, Tim Burrow, decided to join this party when he decided to run for senate. He’s an enthusiastic Christian in the uniting church, and arguably also belongs to the “rural mob” above. He served as CEO of Agribusiness Australia and has worked in agribusiness for many years.

You’ve been waiting for it – or maybe you haven’t – our next group is the United Australia Party, Clive Palmer’s latest attempt to prove that enough money can win any election. What are the principles or vision of this party? Good question, no-one knows. What are the policies of this party? Well, if you visit their website, they have a policy statement consisting of 177 words, telling you about their strong position on political lobbyists and their desire to increase utilising of Australia’s mineral wealth and return the revenue from it to the region it was taken from.

Apart from the brief policy statement, the UAP has a number of press releases, featuring endless photos of Clive Palmer. These cover such topics as Australia’s “unacceptable” gender inequality, a plan for an Australia Fund to handle natural disasters, problematic Chinese involvement in Australia, and our complex and uncertain tax system.

Our local candidate for the UAP is Kristian Rees, a former soccer player and coach, who is apparently going to be shadow minister for community services. He has nothing else on his bio apart from soccer and the four times he’s tried to stand for election in various places.

Though these parties claim to be centrist, they could also be described as politically ambiguous. I personally won’t be voting for a soccer player, and I consider the Centre Alliance to be more like a front for a left-wing party. The only representative I would give a preference here is Tim Burrow, and because of his personal position, more than his party. There are parties coming that I would put higher on my list…

4. The Thinkers

Several parties are built on a political philosophy. One of these is the liberal democrats, the party of Senator David Leyonhjelm, who you may be familiar with.

Liberal democrats tend to frame all issues from the perspective of liberty. They believe the left tend to suppress economic freedom while granting personal freedoms, and that the right exercise social control while granting economic freedom. When taken to extremes, left and right both tend towards totalitarianism, by robbing people of all freedoms. Given a chance, liberals would grant both social and economic freedom. For more information, look up the Nolan Chart.

Consequently, the basic liberal position is to reduce the size and scope of government. Taken to extreme, this position would result in anarchy, but one hopes that the liberal democrats don’t want to take it to its extreme, hence the word “democrats”.

This party’s policies include legalising cannabis and assisted suicide. They support increasing speed limits. They also support “competitive federalism” (provision of greater power to state rather than federal government). They support freedom of religion, while also “Acknowledg[ing] the significant contribution of Christianity to liberal democratic values”.

Our local candidate for the liberal democrats is Kimbra Louise Ransley. By using Google, I found someone of that name who received a PhD in psychology last year. It’s not a common name, so it’s probably the same person. She has an astonishingly small digital footprint, and I’m disappointed with the liberal democrats that they don’t provide information about her. Do they even want to win?

Next up, is the Australian Conservatives. This is the party that was started by Cory Bernardi, and amalgamated with the former Family First party. For full disclosure, I am a member of this party, and they align with my own views in most areas.

The Australian Conservatives have a set of principles and a set of policies. Up front, their principles address the question, ‘what is the purpose of government?’ Most other parties start by asking ‘what can I fix in Australia?’ Their principles are limited government, personal responsibility, free enterprise, stronger families, and civil society.

Some policy highlights from the AC: taking education back to basics by focussing on reading writing and maths and opposing any political indoctrination, removing the moratorium on Nuclear energy, and stopping subsidies of electricity generation, withdrawing from the UN refugee convention and controlling immigration in accordance with Australia’s interests, and amalgamating the ABC and SBS.

Our local representative is Rikki Lambert. He is a former lawyer who worked in family law. In politics, he has worked for the Family First party and now works as Cory Bernardi’s chief of staff.

The citizens electoral council is a difficult party for me to write about. They are obsessed with money and financing, and I can’t understand almost anything I read on their website.

What I can say is that they intend to introduce Glass-Steagal type legislation, which is something Bernie Sanders in the USA also stands for. They also want us to sign up to China’s Belt and Road initiative. Many commentators have been warning about this programme, claiming that it is an aggressive Chinese strategy to gain global influence. Daniel Andrews in Victoria signed up to this initiative, despite the fact that making treaties is a federal issue.

Other policy highlights: They want a moratorium on bank foreclosures, they want to end “bail-in” (whatever that is), they want to break up the banks and establish a new national bank. They want to reverse deregulation and privatisation that has occurred since the Hawke-Keating era. They want to tax large companies more.

If you think that Bernie Sanders, Daniel Andrews and China are good company – or if you think that life is all about money – then maybe you should vote for these guys. Our local candidate for the CEC is Sean Allwood, a chiropractor.

So that’s the thinkers. As you may guess, I will be putting Rikki from Australian Conservatives number one on my ballot. I am sympathetic to the political thinking of the liberal democrats also, but find their ethics are non-Christian, so they won’t get my vote. The CEC won’t get my vote either; maybe if they spoke everyday English I would discover they are right about everything and change my mind; for now, it’s all gobbledygook.

5. The Independents

There are three independents on the ballot this year, Michael Lesiw, Brett O’donnell, and Henry Cox.

According to an InDaily report, Michael Lesiw “developed borderline major depression and irritable bowel syndrome as a result of stress he suffered while managing what he believed to be the “fraudulent” compensation claims of his employees at Blue Ribbon Smallgoods in 2001.” Since winning a favourable outcome in the SA Employment Tribunal, he has stood for parliament several times. I have no idea what he stands for.

Brett O’Donnell is a “storeperson”. It’s hard to find out anything about him, but his email is, so that might be a clue as to what he stands for. Henry Cox is a farmer/anthropologist with no contact details.

Yeah, I won’t be voting for any of these guys.

6. The Majors

That all brings me to the major parties, Liberal and Labor, and this year the difference between them is starker than it has been at most elections.

Labor are hoping to form a government under Bill Shorten. They have a huge list of policies. If you spend some time scrolling through them, just keep asking yourself, ‘does this cost money, or save money?’ (Basically, every policy costs money.)

Labor has set an ambitious energy target of 50% renewable by 2030, and they are going to spend one billion dollars on a hydrogen project. This, and the rest of their energy policy could make electricity more expensive but don’t worry, they will introduce price regulation so the electricity companies aren’t allowed to charge more for it.

Labour will build a “pride” centre in Melbourne for eight LGBTIQ+ organisations to be based in ($10m). They will pressure the states to legalise abortion under the nation’s first ever Sexual and Reproductive Health strategy, which will oblige public hospitals to provide abortions. They will establish a compensation scheme for survivors of the stolen generation and a $10m national healing fund.

Rather than introduce income splitting, Labour will prevent the use of trusts for “income splitting”, further disadvantaging stay-at-home mums. But don’t worry, they will increase access to childcare (with a $4 billion investment in early education), and they will address the gender pay gap so that women who do work will get more money. How? By increasing minimum wages in female-dominated industries, among other things. They will also provide 10 days of “family violence leave”.

To my mind, Labour’s agenda this year is extremely expensive and takes a multitude of subtle opportunities to be anti-family. It also involves greater government intervention in a whole range of aspects of Australian life and industry. They intend to pay for it all by taxing businesses more because businesses (those large organisations who employ most of us) are the enemy.

The senate candidates for Labour are:

  • Former TWU chief Senator Alex Gallagher, who is aligned with the Labor right faction.
  • Marielle Smith, who holds a bachelor of arts, political science and government, and a master of public policy from the London school of economics. She has served as a senior adviser to Julia Gillard and an adviser to Kate Ellis on various issues, and is also of the Labor right faction.
  • Emily Gore, an ANU graduate and youth delegate for amnesty international. Emily says “these experiences showed her that younger people care deeply about social justice issues and want to be involved in making positive changes” – clearly aligned with Labor left.
  • Lawyer Larissa Harrison, an Adelaide university graduate and South Australian convenor of Emily’s List, which is an organisation that seeks to place progressive women into government positions.

The Liberals have had a season of Turmoil in government for the last six years, with two leadership changes. The Liberals have a statement of principles, which includes “the inalienable rights and freedoms of all peoples” (again begging the question, the right to what?), “freedom of thought, worship, speech and association”, “government that nurtures and encourages its citizens through incentive, rather than putting limits…”, “equal opportunity”, “preserving Australia’s natural beauty” and “wherever possible, government should not compete with an efficient private sector”.

Some policy highlights include: a significant package for youth suicide prevention efforts, creating jobs (how? I don’t know), income tax reductions, regional training hubs, small business grants for measures that will reduce energy costs and many more. For full details, I recommend visiting their website.

The Senate candidates for liberal include:

  • Senator Anne Ruston is from Renmark; her first speech in parliament spoke about small business and the rural community. She is currently assistant minister for international development and the pacific.
  • Senator David Fawcett spent 22 years in the defence force, and is now assistant minister for defence. Recently I met David, and listened to him speak at an Australian Christian Lobby event. He is very clear about freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
  • Alex Antic is a solicitor from Adelaide, and state party vice-president.
  • Lucy Gichuhi is a former Family-First senator. She defected to the liberal party, and, being fourth on the ticket, is unlikely to win a seat.

As far as the major parties go, I find that the Labor party have crossed a line on abortion and identity politics, and their economic policies are increasingly advocating for price controls and market interference. I will not be supporting them. I am supportive of the principles of the Liberal party; However, on recent form, I don’t necessarily trust them to stick to those principles well, which is why I will put them below the Australian conservatives and possibly some other parties. However, I am a particular fan of Senator David Fawcett and will happily direct my preferences to him first of the liberals.

Wow, that was a long list! That brings me to the end of the different parties.

For Christians, it is important that we take our vote seriously and consider the morals of the parties. It is also true that whoever wins, God never loses. Like he used Joseph’s brothers, He can use the worst of parties for good, so we can pray for a good outcome, without fearing a bad one.

I hope you enjoy working out how you will vote.

If you feel that there is useful information that has been omitted from this, or would like to know how I will be voting, then please feel free to contact me on LinkedIn or Facebook. I may make subsequent updates to this summary if you bring important new information to light.

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