By Jim Wallace, ACL Managing Director

Do you know where your Senate preferences will go this election?

One of the hottest battles in this year’s federal election is in the Senate, where the Greens are well-placed to hold the balance of power in their own right for the first time in their history, when newly-elected state Senators take up their seats from July 1 next year.

Unlike for the House of Representatives, voters have a choice of two ways in which to complete their ballot papers for the Senate – above or below the line. ACL has produced short videos on how to vote in both houses for people who are unsure of the process or otherwise interested. You can view the videos by clicking here. The Australian Electoral Commission describes the Senate voting process here.

The majority of people cast their Senate vote above the line because it is quicker and easier, and you are less likely to cast an informal vote – it takes quite a bit of time and concentration to correctly number 80-odd boxes below the line for voters in New South Wales!

When voting above the line you simply write the number ‘1’ in the box for the political party or group of your choice. Voting this way means that you agree to your preferred party or group distributing preferences in the order they have determined. The way each party or group will direct its preferences is outlined in Group Voting Tickets.

A quick analysis of the Group Voting Tickets for the five parties whose questionnaire responses are featured in the Australia Votes Election Summary Booklet – Greens, Labor, Coalition, Family First and the Christian Democratic Party (CDP) – has thrown up some interesting results that might cause some people to carefully consider their voting intentions.

ACL has produced a summary document of the five featured parties and how they will distribute preferences in each state and territory (where fielding candidates). Under each party name are listed the other parties in the order of where the featured parties will send their preferences. (Note that independent and ungrouped candidates have not been listed.)

The way a party distributes its preferences is by no means an absolute guide to its principles, but it does somewhat reflect an alignment of values with parties it preferences first. Some of the interesting observations and trends to arise from an analysis of the Group Voting Tickets for each state and territory include:

  • The ALP, through a noteworthy preference-swap arrangement, is preferencing the Greens first in every state and territory.

  • The Greens preference the Sex Party, which is essentially the political mouthpiece of the adult sex industry, second in Victoria and first in the Northern Territory.

  • The ALP preferences the Sex Party above Family First in every state where both of these two minor parties are contesting, except South Australia.

  • The Greens preference the Secular Party, which believes that “religions are not only untrue but harmful to society”, no lower than fourth in all states, and first in New South Wales.

  • The Coalition preferences both the CDP and Family First in the top three in each state where those two smaller parties are fielding candidates.

  • The preferences of CDP and Family First are relatively straightforward with both parties keen to attract the Christian vote. Although in a number of states they have both preferenced One Nation higher than the major parties, this seems to a degree due to wanting to place the Greens and the Sex Party lowest in the order.


(The complete Group Voting Tickets for the Senate are available from the Australian Electoral Commission website – simply follow the link to your respective state or territory from the homepage.)

Now it is important to point out that parties allocate their preference flows to best ensure their election and that they all preference all the other parties. However you might rightly question a party’s priorities and its philosophy of “the means justifying the ends,” in the order of preference allocation.

My final word

With the election so close, we have a PM who despite her atheist beliefs and membership of Emily’s List has sought as late as the last 24 hours to give her assurances on her support for traditional marriage and belief in the importance of Australia’s Christian heritage. While moving later than the Coalition, she has also agreed to support chaplaincy, and even more generously; and while not quite as unequivocally, to reviewing the classification system.

Tony Abbott comes into the election with a strong record of personal and public faith, particularly on life issues. The Coalition’s position on marriage and support for chaplaincy have never been in doubt and they have announced the appointment of an International Development Minister to give higher profile to aid within government. They too have committed to a comprehensive review of the classification system, but disappointingly for ACL, are opposed to the Government’s plan to filter RC material on the internet at ISP level.

The remaining policy positions are as they have been throughout the campaign on this site and for the major parties you will find general convergence on most social justice issues, but often a difference in approach, and particularly on homelessness which deserves study.

Don’t forget the importance of the Senate vote. The Greens do not for us provide a real alternative for the Christian voter, as much because of how they have misrepresented themselves to the constituency.  This seems further confirmed by their preference deals outlined above.  If you are seeking an alternative to the major parties in the Senate we suggest you look seriously at Family First and CDP.

The election is now nigh – please pray for God’s purpose and will to be accomplished.