My first ever vote as an Australian citizen was almost 3 years ago back in March 2012. That was for the ‘local’ Queensland elections, although let’s put local into perspective. You can fit seven UK’s into Queensland; it’s that sort of local.
At that time, the Liberal National Party (LNP) quite literally thrashed the Australian Labor Party (ALP) winning the election by 78 seats to the ALP’s 5. It was one of the biggest landslides in Australian political history. For more on that see my post One Man; One Vote. Queensland Decides.
On Saturday I was off to the polls again…
Local elections are much simpler than federal elections, remember this? This is the ballot paper from my first federal election, I wrote about it on my post How Does Australian Preferential Voting Work?
The ballot paper
First, here’s the extreme left…
The ballot paper for this local election was much simpler though…
A pleasant surprise.
The real surprise though, was when news of the result started to filter through at about 10 o’clock that night. Most of the polls were suggesting that the LNP would retain power, but to find out what’s really likely to happen, I prefer to look at what the bookies are saying.
They have to get their prices right, otherwise they lose money. Bookies don’t like losing money. Here were the odds available the night before the election.
- LNP: 1-10
- ALP: 7-1
- Others: 250-1
- ALP – 42 seats
- LNP – 38 seats
- Katter’s Australian Party – 2 seats
- Others – 1 seat
Some votes are still being counted, but the current prediction is for the ALP to win three more seats, which would give them 45 out of the 89 seats they need to form a majority government.
It’s been an incredible turnaround. I’m not sure if those kind of odds have ever been overcome in a UK election, but it happened here over the weekend.
Compulsory voting in Australia
That night I was down the pub watching Australia beat South Korea in the AFC Asian Cup Final which was, incidentally, a result we were expecting, or at least hoping for. I was chatting to one of my mates and we got onto the subject of the days voting.
He told me he had no interest in politics, knew nothing about it, didn’t care either, and would have preferred not to have to vote at all. Quite frankly, he said, he didn’t know who to vote for.
I did mention that he always had the option of spoiling his ballot paper, that’s completing it incorrectly. There are many ways of spoiling your ballot paper, for example you could mark “1” in every box or not mark any box at all. When that happens your vote will not count, it’s called “Informal Voting” here and around 5% to 6% of voters take this option.
My friend didn’t want to do that, so here’s what he did instead. He asked his wife who to vote for. She suggested he vote for ALP because she was a nurse and the ALP have promised not to reduce frontline jobs.
I’m not knocking how my friend made his choice, but it does make me wonder how many people forced to vote do so without really knowing what they’re voting for or why they’re really voting for it.
I understand that Australia introduced compulsory voting when the turnout dropped to as low as 28%, does that mean we are forcing over 60% of Australians to vote when they don’t really want to?
Is compulsory voting in Australia a good thing or a bad thing?
I don’t know the answer to that, but I have just witnessed one of the most surprising election results I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.
What is your view on compulsory voting? Do let me know in the comments below…