Why Your Senate Vote Matters For Fighting The Filter

There's been a number of comments circulating online that a vote for the Greens in the upcoming election is a vote for Conroy, due to the recently announced preferences deal between the Greens and Labor. Unfortunately there seems to be some misunderstanding how the electoral system for the Senate works, because nothing could be further from the truth. Here's why.

If you vote for the Greens above the line your preferences will NEVER flow to Conroy. There is a simple reason for this - they don't need to. By the time preferences flow from the Greens, Conroy will already have been declared elected. Preferences only flow to candidates who have not yet been declared.

There are six seats for the Senate up for election in each state. The way the system works (simply put) is that you need to gain a portion of the vote (called a quota) in order to win a seat. This quota is equal to the total number of votes divided by number of seats to be elected plus one. So basically one seventh of the vote, or 14.3% of the total votes.

Knowing this, what happens to your vote if you vote in the Victorian Senate election above the line for the Greens?

If we use the current Victorian poll figures we get the following result. With a primary vote of 42% Labor is just shy of having 3 full quotas in their own right. Greens have 12% or a bit less that a quota. The Coalition will have more than 2 full quotas with their 38%. Assuming this holds on election day the first thing the returning officer will do is declare the first 2 Labor candidates and the first 2 Coalition candidates elected. This means Conroy has been elected already. Your vote is sitting in the pile of the Greens votes waiting to get enough extra votes from preferences to get my candidate elected. Thus your vote has not, and cannot go to Conroy. If you were otherwise going to put your preferences to Labor by voting for all their candidates without Conroy there will be no difference whether you voted above or below the line.

If the Greens vote had gained a quota in its own right then the situation doesn't really change. The Greens candidate is declared elected and the overflow of above the line vote then will flow to the next unelected Labor candidate, which will be their third candidate again meaning that your vote never goes to Conroy.

Whether we like it or not Conroy is going to get elected as long as the Labor party polls better than 14% in the state of Victoria. The Greens preference deal with Labor will have absolutely zero impact on that fact. This might be different if Conroy was the third candidate on the ticket, but he isn't.

So if you were preparing to vote below the line for the Senate in Victoria because you wanted to vote Green to stop the filter, but wanted to make sure that your vote did not go anywhere near Senator Conroy you can rest assured that putting a single "1" above the line will have the same result and avoid having to fill in all the numbers on the tablecloth. Of course, you can still vote below the line to make your choices more emphatic, but the choice is yours.

But unlike Labor and the Liberals, the Greens have a clear policy opposing the filter. It is entirely disingenuous for anyone to suggest that voting to give the Greens the balance of power in the Senate will mean support for the filter. The Labor party's position on the filter is clear, and the Coalition simply dodges all attempts to get clarity on their position. Even though the National party conference decided to oppose the filter, this has not translated into Coalition going on the record as saying "We will not introduce or support legislation that creates a mandatory filtering program for the internet". If the Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate then this legislation would not be able to pass without the support of the Coalition.

Right now a few minor parties oppose the filter, but only one of these has the potential to take control of the upper house and change this filter policy for good. If this issue is going to decide your vote then it should be simple to decide where your '1' vote should go.

Gregory Moore is a true renaissance man and self-confessed 'total geek' who has worked in a wide variety of industries including law, old and new media, and the live entertainment industry. Recently he was able to marry much of this experience as the technical brains behind the live technology show 'Byteside'. He has a particular interest in electoral theory having been an elected student politician himself and also returning officer for a number of elections with systems far more byzantine than that used for the Australian Senate. You can follow him on twitter @reselsnark.



    Greens got my vote. Voted labour my entire life. Not this time.

      Same here. Labour has lost my vote to the greens

        Ditto. I won't be voting for a party where groups of corrupt upstart ministers are in charge as opposed to the elected prime minister. Maybe even more outrageous than the stupid filter. Oh and of course I won't be voting for the mad monk. He's a christian do gooder, seems like a filter type of man to me! I don't trust him.

      Yep. I just joined the Greens mainly because of the filter issue. Never been a member of a party before.

        If you wanted to join a party to oppose the filter, you should have joined the Pirate Party of Australia. http://www.pirateparty.org.au/

      My Vote goes to The Australian Sex Party at least I will be able to choose what I look at & not have to worry about my state being a "Nanny State" VOTE 1 Australian Sex Party

    Good to know, as I was planning to numbering every box below the line. The Greens will be getting '1' above the line, just as they have done so for a number of elections now.

    Great explanation Gregory.

    I'm voting Green also, the scaremongering and avoidance of the other two is just pathetic.

    At least you know the Greens stand for something in between elections!

    Didn't Giz do a feature on how to explain the filter (and why it's a bad thing) to the non-tech-inclined? Could someone post the link please, I'm gonna evangelize a bit on my day off!

    Yup.. greens now have my vote. Lets hope this works out for the best.

    Even if you don't feel comfortable voting for the Greens in the Senate (say for differences of opinion!) it is very important that you do not vote for Labor.

    If you choose to vote below the line, preference all Labor candidates very last on the Ballot.

    But at the very least if you don’t want mandatory internet censorship vote for a party that has a clear anti-filter position.

      Very last is extreme!
      In reality, unless you're voting for obscure parties all the way, anyone below 20 is highly unlikely to see your preference.
      If Labor, Liberal, Family First or Green are in the Top 20, your preference will go to them and that's where it stops.

      My point being that I'm pretty sure that for most people, despite the Filter, Labor is not the most unwanted party on the ballot.

        StevoTheDevo - whilst I agree that allocating Labor candidates last on the Senate ballot seems extreme, for anti-manditory internet censorship proponents this is pretty much an all in or nothing election.

        Once a censorship filter is in place there will be no un-ringing of the bell.

        The problem is that even if the Greens control the balance of power in the Senate, with the Mad Monks religious views I can see the Coalition and Labor just agreeing to support the filter and then it matters not what the Greens say or do.

        At the end of the day this isn't about kiddie pron and protecting children it is about the government wanting to control what you are able to read and watch on the internet and as mentioned in earlier comments is only the thin edge of the wedge if this legislation gets through.

        Personally I refuse to give my vote in the house of reps or senate to any party that supports censorship of the internet and I refuse to give my vote to a party that would prefer us to use two tin cans and a bit of string for broadband.

        Therefore both my lower and upper house votes will be going to candidates who demonstrate that they are pro NBN and anti filter. Who they are I am yet to find out but I will before the day of the election and any pollie who or polster who drops by for a chat will be told the exact same thing.

        "The problem is that even if the Greens control the balance of power in the Senate, with the Mad Monks religious views I can see the Coalition and Labor just agreeing to support the filter and then it matters not what the Greens say or do."

        We need the Greens in control of the senate, AND we need one of the major parties to be desperate enough for Greens senate support on one issue that they agree to vote with the Greens on another, AND we need the Greens to choose to use those votes to kill the filter rather than use them on an environmental issue, its a long shot.

        nsimpson - again with the misinformation. And it seems, discrimination. What does it matter that Tony Abbott is a Catholic? Its because of discrimination like that, that the former Prime Minister, the one WE the people voted for, Kevin Rudd left Catholicism and converted to the more trendy Anglican church.

        It would seem you would rather elect a woman who doesn't believe in anything other than union domination.

        Amber, I was just quoting Quozl's post because it was too far down to reply to directly, I've got nothing against catholics, I don't care what religion any politician belongs too, and I'm no fan of Julia Gillard.

    I'm voting Green, I think Bob Brown is perhaps one of the few politicians with any form of integrity.

      Ummmm sorry to tell ya but Bob Brown is no longer in parliament...last anybody heard he was off waiting to be probed by aliens or some such thing. One can best suspect he's had a bit too much "green" produce !

    For people who don't know, this from Antony Green: http://www.abc.net.au/elections/federal/2010/guide/howtovote.htm

    What happens if I vote both above and below the line?

    A below the line takes precedence over an above the line vote. However, an advantage of voting above and below the line is that if your below the line vote works out to be informal, then your above the line vote will stand.

    I'm not voting Green. Voted Labor all my life and I'm not changing for something as trivial as this. The stupid filter is not life changing. Letting Abbott get in is. That filter proposal is on its last legs and will be greatly modified or abandoned in the next 18 months. By all means vote Green for the Senate, but don't waste a vote in the House of Reps on the Greens.

      Totally agree with Chris, please do not throw away your votes to just vote Greens for the sake of a pipeline filter proposal. Put them in the Senate not in House of Reps!

      A vote for the greens in the House of Reps isn't a "wasted vote" either.. Once again, preferences will kick in.
      A Vote for Green in the House of Reps can still ultimately be a vote for Labor (or Liberal, or whoever else) but removes the "mandate" for Labor (or Liberal or whoever else's) policy.
      That's why I'll be voting Green in both houses but preferencing Labor ahead of Liberal and Family First. (I can't possibly support a party with Tony Abbot as leader, and well, frankly Family First is worse than Abbot!)

      I'm sorry, but in my electorate that is a complete lie. The Federal Seat of Melbourne is showing every sign of going to Adam Bandt

        Hi Nicolai, You're right, your electorate is a bit different than most, and You can vote Greens in the lower house too to help stop the internet filter. Having a Greens in the lower house puts more pressure on the governments proposed internet filter. It can also send a clear MSG to ALP that they'll loose key lower house seats if they keep going on with the filter.

    Im conflicted, A vote for labor means an internet filter and a vote for liberal means that in a few years time we wont have the internet. The libs have already said that the first thing they will dump is the NBN. Where ever you vote its not a good choice. The way i look at it is, its either an internet filter that will most probably not get in the way of day to day browsing or not internet at all.

      A vote for a minor party with a preference to Labor or Liberal is the only way you can send a message to your elected rep that they need to rethink some policies.

      The whole point of this discussion is to find how your needs can be balanced. In this case, if Labor wins the lower house but the Greens take a 'balance of power' control of the upper house (like the Democrats used to have) then you get a Labor government that will be able to push on with the NBN but will also no longer have to maintain policies that keep Family First happy (eg. a mandatory filter) because they don't need Family First's vote to get things done.

      Once the mandatory filter is in place two things are enabled
      1) A backroom of people (placed by who?) will decide what you can and cannot view.
      2) Any future government will have complete control. It may be innocuous now (or not who really knows) but it has potential to be dangerous in the wrong hands. We have no idea what governments we will have in years to come and how they may choose to utilize this tool.

      Civil liberties given away now will be near impossible to regain later.

    Of course, you can still vote below the line to make your choices more emphatic...

    Yes.. yes I will, only takes 5 mins of my time.

    Greens here I come, Greens all the way Greens WOOT !

    All this talk of the Greens, hasn't anyone heard that the preferences of the Greens are going to Labor.

    And doesn't anyone remember what happened the last time we had a former head of the ACTU as Prime Minister ?

    We had massive government spending that lead to massive government debt that lead to 20% mortgage interest rates, "the recession we had to have" and high unemployment.

    Never mind Luke, whether or not you have the internet. Worry whether you have a job to afford your bills.

    This current mob can't even build a school hall at a reasonable price.

    Liberals for me !!!

      Did you not read the article?
      besides your preferences are YOUR preferences, if you dont want to follow the Greens preferences then dont use their how to vote cards its YOUR choice.

        Amber hasn't read the article, or economics, or history.

        My dear nsimpson.

        I had read the article. I do have a very good understanding of economics.

        For instance, when the government gives away $900 to every voter, it runs up the national debt and therefore has to borrow either domestically or internationally. At the moment the domestic economy is shot and therefore Australia has to borrow internationally. This means we have to pay other countries interest - money that can't be spent domestically. As our debt goes up, Australia's credit rating goes down until it resembles something like Greece.

        And what history would you be speaking of? The pink batts scandle? The mismanagement of the Building the Education Revolution? Building child care centres in every primary school to make a one stop drop shop? Building apprenticeship labs in every TAFE. Computers for every student in schools? Every promise scheme bungled or broken and you want to put them back?
        And you say I don't understand economics or history . . . . ? I don't think that's right either.

        Amber, your post doesn't so much show an understanding of economics as it does an exposure to Liberal party propaganda.
        Stimulus programs are designed to increase the velocity of money, it doesn't matter if it's not spent wisely the aim is just to get it moving. Government borrowing is not inherently bad, and our economy is in great shape compared to the rest of the world because of it, because of $900 handouts, insulation and school halls. History was perhaps the wrong word given we're talking about such recent events, but your post seemed to imply that both Keating and Gillard were ACTU presidents. If you are interested in history, perhaps could read about how the kind of "very good understanding of economics" you seem to have prolonged the great depression.

    The Socialist Alliance believes:
    - the government should not have the right to decide what information people access;
    - the filter will not protect children and laws already exist to penalise criminal behaviour;
    - the fact that banned sites will be kept secret and that half the banned sites are not related to child porn indicates that the government is not honest about its motives;
    - given the way the government has used the anti-terror laws to convict people of thought “crimes”, we should not allow the government to censor the internet; and
    - an internet filter would be the thin edge of the wedge — if the government succeeds in implementing the internet filter, it is likely to include more and more sites on the banned list.

    Vote 1 Socialist Alliance!

      Lawl. If the Socialist Alliance couldn't get my vote for a University Student Union council, they're definitely not going to get it for something that actually matters.

        Because you understand and disagree with their policies, or because socialist is a scare word?

      Yeah right buddy :P

      Any ism is a dead duck. Same for the mainstream parties I guess..

    I don't get it.

    Greens goes to Labor. Labor will put the filter in if they go into power.

    So doesn't it stand to reason you should not vote Greens, whether or not it has any effect on Conjob getting in? Because it will ultimately help Labor and the filter.

      Only if YOU put Labor as your next preferance

      A preferential vote only goes to Labor if the Greens are knocked out of the race for the candidate's seat. I thought Greens were giving preference to Labor in the House of Representatives and Labor is giving preference to the Greens in the Senate.

      The biggest thing to remember is that the House and the Senate are completely seperate. Labor can run the House of Reps without the control of the Senate. The House of Reps can put policies forward but the majority need to be passed in the Senate.

      If you like Labor and want them to run the country, VOTE LABOR 1 in the House of Reps. If don't want the internet filter, VOTE 1 the GREENS or another party. Hell even VOTE 1 for the Australian Sex Party in the Senate as they oppose the mandatory internet filter.

        Thanks for clearing that up, a bit. I feel like I'm as qualified a voter as everyone else in the country who doesn't understand anything about the house and senate and the difference and how all this stuff works.

        Which is odd considering how many of those "how to vote" cards they hand out. Because they don't actually give us any information on what the hell we're doing.

        Maybe I should do some research, somewhere, wherever it is...

    Isn't a vote for the Greens basically a preferential vote for labor anyway?

      Only if YOU put Labor as your next preference

      Read my reply to doctor owl above.
      P.S. I am not the Darren talking about the Socialist Alliance. He stole my name! :P

      One other item about preferences. The Greens party preferences only go to Labor is you only place a 1 in the box and do not lable all of the boxed 1 through 26 or whatever it is this election.

    Sorry, but it'll be a cold day in hell before I vote for the Greens and never EVER Labor.

    Why do people think that the NBN won't come with the internet filter built in?

    It won't be up to ISPs to implement the filter, the backbone they all connect to will do it regardless.

    Game over, you lose.

      This is what I was thinking.

      The Internet in Australia would become essentially a single network. The in and out points would be the fibre running across the sea.

    @DoctorOwl, @Fud, @Roland, @Amber


    The 'Greens preferencing Labour' deal that you are reading about in the media is only in terms of Greens and Labour How To Vote cards - i.e. they tell people who are too lazy or too illinformed what to do. You don't have to follow their cards though. You can do whatever you like.


      It's a consequence of compulsory voting that citizens do not know how the electoral system works. It's a shame, but it is one of the costs...

      People seem to think that the preferences deals are somehow binding, rather then just an agreement about how a leaflet will look.

      Yes. You can do whatever you like, but do you really think preferencing finishes on election day.

      If the Greens &/or Independents continue to hold the balance of power in the senate, then they will be the gate keepers of what legislation gets through (as they are now).

      That's why I'm choosing team Liberal this election. That - and I don't want to ever pay 20% interest on my home again. The interest rates under Keating killed my business.

        "Yes. You can do whatever you like, but do you really think preferencing finishes on election day."

        Well Duh, and thats why you need to have the Senate as the gatekeeper, it means that governments can't just push legislation through bullishly(Past example Workchoices, current example ISP Filtering). They have to deal with other parties/independants to get the votes. And 1 small party/Independant senator has a lot more influence than any single Labor or Liberal senator when they hold the balance of power.

        "If the Greens &/or Independents continue to hold the balance of power in the senate, then they will be the gate keepers of what legislation gets through (as they are now)."

        Works for me, then the government has to justify what it does. The worst thing that happened in Aussie politics was the loss of the Democrat control of the Senate.

        "The interest rates under Keating killed my business."
        What The, do your research Girl, Keating actually argued against the recommendations of the public service in regards to the interest rate hikes. The REALITY is NO government has direct control over interest rates. They can influence and affect but they don't have direct control.

      Thanks cbp. Wow that's strange the media makes such a big deal over the layout of the how to vote cards.

      Why didn't someone else explain this?!

    The preference to Labour deal doesn't apply in South Australia... or in some marginal seats in Queensland and Victoria. According to the front page of today's Advertiser newspaper.

    So if we don't want to go with the 'within the box' group-think, we should invert your recommendations?


    If every1 voted below the line and put Conroy last that would work wouldn't it?

      It would, but such a small proportion of people vote below the line it won't do it. You're talking about convincing 86% of Victorians to NOT vote for Labor in the Senate.

      If you believe that is possible you're living somewhere other than reality.

    For crying out loud, a vote for greens is a vote for labor in the 2 party preferred vote... therefore a vote for greens is a vote for Julia Gillard.

    Vote Liberal. Vote Nationals.

      Why does it always seem to be Liberal supporters who keep raising this misconception?

        I put my preference for Liberal after the Greens - Like what the greens stand for, but disagree with their fiscal policy, hence the Liberal support.

        Some Liberal supporters realise how the system works, but your point is taken

    let's all not forget that there are bigger things in the Australia that we should be considering when we vote.

    ie. Taxes, Infrastructure Developments, Budget Policies etc. etc.

    With all this talk of voting for the Greens due to the filter, has anyone looked at the other things the Greens want to do? They don't just want to stop the Internet Filter, they also want to close down Hazelwood. That supplies something like 45% of Victoria's power. No need to worry about the filter when you won't have any power to turn on your computer! The Greens are not the Democrats. They have their own agenda. If you support that then vote Green, but don't do it just as a protest.

      I get it. But unfortunately... I'd prefer everyone lose their jobs and having no power, than have a censored internet.

      Bet Labor didn't think I would go THAT far did they! And they were wrong. *smug*.

      PS: So if we vote Greens, save the how-to-vote papers for later kindling. It's going to be a cold next winter!

        "I’d prefer everyone lose their jobs and having no power, than have a censored internet."

        I believe the Greens policy is to replace existing fossil fuel power with renewables, and to use power more efficiently.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now