In case no-one knows, today Oz is going to the Polls. It’s a bit different from the UK.
Polling Day is always a Saturday, the polls open at 8.00 am and shut at 6.00 pm and voting is compulsory – fines apply for not voting – and every polling station has a sausage sizzle (no fines apply for not buying or eating the same).
Today’s election is a little different from those I have participated in before. Normally, one votes for the House of Representatives (I do wish that the Members of that House remembered that they are reps and not delegates) and for half of the Senate. The normal term for the Reps is four years, and for the Senate eight years, half being renewed every four years.
However, there is provision within the Constitution for what is called a “Double Dissolution”, the government can claim that the Senate is blocking essential legislation and ask that the whole of the Senate be removed and for the country to elect a whole new bunch. Early this year (so early in fact that the whole campaign has become exceedingly boring) the incumbent government sought and obtained a Double Dissolution. This is the seventh time this has happened since 1901 – so it’s a pretty rare occurrence. Please don’t ask me how it is determined which half of the Senate will go in four years time- because I really don’t know!
As some may know, the voting system here is not first past the post. In my electorate there were some 6 candidates which I had to list in order of preference. So if my first choice was unsuccessful, my vote would go to my second choice and so on down the line. Personally I like the system, since it does mean that my vote is not lost at the first count.
The Senate Vote is different. There are twelve seats for each State and Territory and they are filled by Proportional Representation. I have no idea how many people were actually standing, but there were 38 different parties (including the Pirates Party and the Sex/Hemp Party) plus some 21 unclassified parties. I had the choice of numbering my preferences by person 1-12 or by party 1-6. The form was at least two foot wide and I had trouble fitting it in the polling booth!
Nonetheless, I have done my civic duty. The results of the House of Reps voting will be announced with any luck tonight. The Senate takes a little longer.
Well some of you did ask… 🙂