I’m enrolled in Bradfield and this week I decided it was about time for me to see who the candidates are for Saturday’s election. I didn’t want to be one of those people who voted for someone on spec and wound up stuck with a redneck fish shop owner. So I went to the Australian Electoral Commission website and downloaded a list of the 22 candidates, hoping to find out more about them.
I quickly discovered that the challenge of voting in Bradfield would not be who to put first, but who to put last.
One of the best things about living in a democracy is being able to vote for the individual or party whose views best reflect yours. It’s a wonderful feeling when the politician you like gets elected and starts changing things for the better. However, when you live in what’s been a safe Liberal seat for 60 years, the most satisfaction you can get is when you put the candidate you really despise dead last on the ticket.
At a glance, the obvious choice for last place is Paul Fletcher, the Liberal Party’s blow-in whose platform is less than enticing. And shouldn’t we be punishing the party who forced such a pointless by-election onto us?
But when I looked down the list, I realised it wasn’t that black and white. For starters, we have not one, not two, but nine Christian Democrats all muscling for a place at the bottom of my list. I mean, should I do my research and find out which one feels most strongly about banning Muslim immigration? Or which one will most passionately fight for the life of a terminally ill cancer-sufferer who wants nothing more than release?
Maybe Brian Buckley, the so-called "serial candidate" who posted material for both the local council and NRMA elections on the same pamphlet last year? A guy that desperate to get elected is a real contender for my last preference.
Or Goronwy Price, the "Environmentalist for Nuclear Energy"? That’s an oxymoron if ever there was one. How do these parties even come to exist? Do we have the Foreigners Against Immigration Party, or the Vegetarians But Only After Six Party? If Goronwy ran for the latter, I’m sure he’d organise a sausage-sizzle fundraiser.
We can’t forget the latest One Nation candidate. He’ll flush out the racist vote, as usual. Actually wait — that’s not true. The racists are going to be completely confused in Bradfield. With the Christian Democrats, Liberal Party, and One Nation candidate, who are you supposed to vote for if you want to get rid of those pesky foreigners? I guess it depends on whether you hate Asians, Muslims, or refugees the most.
Another candidate with strong form is the Liberal Democrat. If you need a good laugh, have a look at the party’s homepage and read some of their zany policies. They’re climate change sceptics who cite the least credible sceptic in the world, Bjorn Lomborg, as an authority. They’re also libertarians who respect the rights of smokers but couldn’t give a toss about non-smokers. Ridiculous, yes — but he made me laugh. Does that make him better or worse than someone whose policies are only dumb enough to depress you instead of giving you a chuckle? See — it’s not cut and dried.
In case you’re not already confused, you also have the Democratic Labor candidate. Is anyone else confused by these obscure parties? What’s next, the Democratic Liberals for One Green Labor Nation? Rest assured, their website — currently "Under Construction" — is bound to clear the air. Simon McCaffrey is their man, a right-to-life obstetrician with 10 kids. His particular interest is the financial challenges women face when leaving the workforce to have children. I don’t know what to say about this guy. He has 10 kids and that’s his platform? He’s in with a real chance.
A handful of independents are yet to be sorted through. We can safely put Bill Koutalianos in the anti-climate-change bin, who says (with a straight face) that "Scientific consensus is history". He reckons "non-scientists" like Al Gore are to blame for spreading doomsday messages and misleading silly politicians all around the world. For more humour, watch his video. It’s amusing, but it leaves me with the same humour/depression dilemma I’ve already mentioned.
The remaining three independents, unfortunately, did not provide me with their materials. This is a shame, because I’m sure one or two of them might be contenders for the few places at the other end of the ballot. I agree with independent candidate Philip Dowling who has expressed his concern that many candidates do not provide adequate contact details. Philip never got around to sending my household any of his own info, though I’ll grant that it’s a big ask for an independent to letterbox an entire electorate with tens of thousands of voters. Dowling misses out on my 22nd spot for sparing a few trees.
This leaves us with just three candidates. We have Deborah Burt from the Climate Change Coalition (CCC), a party focusing on sustainability and effective solutions to climate change. Sounds nice, but do they have comprehensive policies in other areas? The CCC candidate I met at the last state election said they were primarily focusing on that one issue, but who knows, things could’ve changed in the meantime. The other two are Susie Gemmell from the Greens and Marianne Leishman (aka Zahra Stardust) from the Australian Sex Party.
Basically, I have 15 candidates all fighting it out for last place, a few independents in the middle who I know nothing about, and three candidates who look like they might get my actual vote. Tragically, Miss Stardust the pole-dancer from the Sex Party is in my top three. Even more tragically, her policies are actually better than many of the others.
I don’t reckon she’ll get my Number 1 though — that’ll probably go to Gemmell, who I’ve known for several years and who has been active in the local community for a long time. Zahra Stardust or Deborah Burt from the CCC will come second. After that, I think I’m going to work backwards.
I still don’t know who’ll get the big Two-Two — I’ll probably stand in the polling booth for half an hour deciding. But I can say this: in a field of this size and calibre, whoever does get my last preference will have really earned it.
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