Sunday, September 1, 2013

Christian parties battle 'mini-majors' and their own preferencing for Senate success

Christian political parties, how to vote christian, Christian voters, election 2013,
With the emergence of several, well resourced, smaller parties in 2013 - mini-majors - Christian parties face a daunting task in making an electoral impact.

Parties associated with high-profile names such as Bob Katter, Clive Palmer and Julian Assange are all seeking to take some ground from the established voting base of the major parties while also drawing in those who may not normally vote Liberal, Labor or Greens but don't see any real alternatives.

Christian parties have the same goals and while they don't have high-profile national figures to head them (Fred Nile perhaps being an exception) they hope their association with the Christian faith will bring electoral success.

We can broadly classify the following parties as seeking to represent or attract Christian voters: Australian Christians,  Christian Democratic Party, Democratic Labor Party, Family First and Rise Up Australia.

It is unlikely that any Christian party candidate will go close to winning in the House of Representatives as usually their resources are so slim it is difficult to compete. Still a vote for one of these candidates can bring electoral influence as larger parties will always respect the ballot box.

It is the Senate where Christian parties have some success, with Family First's Steve Fielding successful in Victoria in 2004 and Fred Nile narrowly missing out in NSW in the same election. The Democratic Labor Party (strongly associated with the Catholic vote) took over from Family First in 2010, winning the final Victorian Senate seat.

Victoria is again shaping up as one of the interesting Senate battles, and this time around Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is a candidate and likely to have success. This will make the battle for the final Senate seat in that state harder still.

This year there are no less than four 'Christian' parties contesting the Victorian Senate election, with new players Australian Christians and Rise Up Australia joining the fray with DLP and Family First. Australian Christian's Vicki Jansen and Rise Up Australia's Danny Nalliah would seem to be the strongest candidates in Victoria.

It would have been five in Victoria but CDP has decided not to stand, a move reciprocated by Australian Christians who have stayed out of NSW to give space to the CDP campaign there. Lead CDP candidate in NSW, Robyn Peebles, has run a quiet but steady campaign and should poll well.

The other state with an historical support base for a Christian party is South Australia where Family First was formed and has had state electoral success. Bob Day AO is the lead candidate there and again, should poll well. Family First would say they are not just for Christians but represent family and small business interests more broadly.

While all drawing on slightly different constituencies, CDP, DLP, Family First, Australian Christians and Rise Up Australia do broadly rely on church attending, morally conservative, family-oriented, faith-motivated voters.

But for this vote to have strength, it would need to find its way through the maze of group voting preferences to support the run of the most successful Christian party candidate in any given state.

This will depend on whether these parties have carefully preferenced each other and the answer in many cases is no. As a result, the new mini-majors - and even One Nation in some cases - could soak up the support a Christian 'bloc' might otherwise have created.

To see for yourself how preferences are being given, set aside several hours and visit the Australian Election Commission's Senate Group Voting resource.

As a general rule, if you believe in supporting parties that more directly associate themselves with the Christian vote, then vote beneath the line and preference them in turn, before moving to other parties.

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