Menu Home

Arthur’s Really Quite Simple How To Vote (Australian Federal Election 2010)

Or simplistic?  Well, mix and match.  You’ll work it out!  :D

1. Vote based on policy

This is easy: the party with the best policies wins.  It’s also time-consuming: you’ll have to read them all!

2. Vote based on party

Not so keen on reading policies?  Just catch the vibe of what each party stands for.  That’s not so easy though, even if you can cut through the mess of spin and advertising.  And parties also change their tune over time, so don’t just vote with your parents, Gen Y!

3. Vote based on local candidates

This can actually make politics creative and fun.  Meet your local representatives in person and vote for the one you trust.  This can be a great option for people who believe in local communities, including Christian anarchists.

4. Vote based on your political compass

This is a useful way of working out your own basic approach to political questions before you start.  Figure out where you stand in terms of social and economic change, then arrange your vote around the best fit.

5. Donkey vote or informal vote

These are two different things.  As far as I’m concerned, a donkey vote is a big fat non-option.  It’s not a real protest and it’s not opting out — it’s just a vote with no thought behind it (‘donkey’).  Is an informal vote any better?  It doesn’t count in any way, so it’s just a lost vote — and informal ‘protest’ votes made up less than %2 of election votes in 2001.  That’s not ‘making a difference’!  If you’re really miffed about the system, then why not own it: either cop the vote and think about it, or boycott it altogether and take the consequences.  It’s the same deal for the Christians amongst us: our driving motivation is Do Good rather than Do No Harm, which will mean either deliberately opting in or deliberately opting out.  (And you can still be an anarchist either way!)  Is an informal vote

6. Vote to tilt the system

I’ve been intrigued with this idea, which is to look beyond party and policy to the system itself.  If you think Labor and Liberal have gone wrong and wish there was a change of scene, you could vote for the Greens instead, which will send a message to the Big Two that they’re bowling at the wrong wicket.  Will it work?  Well, I’m seriously considering it!  Guy Pearse goes into more detail in The Monthly (you can find it here but subscription needed at time of posting).

I’d love to hear what you’re planning this year!

Categories: Uncategorized Written by Arthur

Tagged as:

Arthur Davis

Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

19 replies

  1. Great post, Arthur – I think it’s very good for Christians to engage themselves intellectually and spiritually with something as ostensibly carnal as politics. A couple things surprised me, though:

    1) Why advocate voting for The Greens, when much (most?) of their policy trajectory is quite clearly anti-Christian? They’re strong advocates of gay rights, have campaigned for abortion rights, and their environmental language often borders on the downright pagan. I’m all for voting for minority parties (and I lament the demise of the Democrats), but surely a protest vote for The Greens is a double-edged sword?

    2) I read Greg Boyd’s post on (so-called) Christian anarchy, and I think it widely misses the mark. Passages like Romans 13 surely knock the “all governments are evil” argument on the head, no?

  2. The Greens might stand for equality for gays, and disagree with the Catholic Church on the subject of abortion, but those are hardly the issues Jesus spoke most strongly about. And on those issues – looking after the poor, treating your neighbour humanely, that sort of thing, the Greens are well ahead of the other parties.

    I also think their determination to protect what Christians see as God’s Creation, our natural environment, is a good fit for religious people.

    The only way you could interpret the Greens as “anti-Christian” is by wilfully misreading both what they say, and the Bible.

  3. I’m with you, Jeremy. I don’t agree with all the Greens’ policies, but then I don’t agree with all Labor or Liberal’s either! But there are some important Christian principles that the Greens do pick up on and my hope is that a vote for them will send a message to the major parties.

    I’m sick of populist politics: it’s time for our government to grow a backbone and start showing some compassion to the poor, oppressed and alien.

  4. As much as I hate it I’m a single issue voter this year. My vote is for school chaplaincy and the only party guaranteeing its ongoing funding are the Liberals. Without School Chaplaincy we will lose many great gospel opportunities…

    Aside from not telling everyone to vote Liberal because of that reason, good advice! I reckon generally you should vote on party ideology.

  5. Today someone asked me whether I had deliberately left out “vote based on a leader”. I wasn’t trying to be exhaustive, but that one really did slip my mind! :P

    Andy, I kind of wonder why you’re surprised? :)

    Since when are other parties so pro-Christian? Since when do traditional marriage and pro-life exhaust a Christian political outlook, even if they are the sharpest of issues?

    The Greens have for a long time attracted a portion of Christian voters precisely because these voters believe they are represented by the Greens. I see it as a legit Christian vote! :)

    But “vote to tilt the system” needn’t be about throwing your support behind a party, anyway. Do it for the system if not for the Greens. :) (The Greens will probably hold the balance of power.)

    Have another read of that intro to Christian anarchy — it touches on Romans 13. Christian anarchy is about taking seriously the messiness of human governance and institutions. Politics really is carnal, which requires a deep mistrust. And of course anarchism (as an ideology) isn’t necessarily about violence and chaos.

    I’m not a Christian anarchist, but it’s a perspective I have sympathy for as a legitimate Christian approach to politics.

  6. On that article on Christian Anarchy, I have to say that it does completely miss the point of Romans 13. That restatement of the passage completely twists the meaning. The passage states that authorities are there because God put them there, not because he suffers them to exist. Also one could infer from the role of apostles and elders that there is a place for some form of authority (in this earthly life at least)

    I agree that the issue of school chaplaincy is a very significant one in this election, and should at least be considered by Christian voters.

    On the Greens, some of their policies are more of an issue than others. For example the question of gay marriage, it is not likely to cause much change in what people are already doing, but with abortion, if one holds to a view that life begins at conception, then it is depriving people of their lives, and thus a much more significant issue. We were discussing this the other day, and decided we need a Christian left party.

  7. Hey all,

    I’m a Christian in Melbourne who is strongly considering voting for the Greens, so I thought I’d weigh in.

    I don’t want to start a huge discussion about hot-button issues, but instead provide some reasons why a vote for the Greens is not, in my view, opposed to (or even in tension with) my beliefs as a Christian. Bear in mind that I’m not trying to convince anyone to share my view, merely to add something to the discussion.

    To me, a vote for the Greens (in both Houses) is a systematic vote that expresses dissatisfaction with the major parties (for reasons Arthur has described). This is my primary consideration.

    Onto the issues – in my opinion, the Greens have the strongest suite of policies on issues of social justice and the environment, and, contrary to popular opinion in Christian circles, they are not really libertarians. If you take the time to read their policy statements, I think you’ll be surprised about how statist they really are (e.g. on law-and-order issues, drugs, health, etc).

    Now, to the hot-buttons that are contentious for us Christians – gay rights and abortion.

    I am a strong supporter of gay rights for three reasons – firstly, because I believe the Biblical mandate in support of a society that is free from discrimination and oppression is stronger than that for a society that adheres to Christian values. Secondly, I actually don’t believe the Bible prohibits homosexuality, a view which is fed in to by the trend in science that suggests that many homosexuals were, in fact, born as such (which is my third reason). Peggy Campolo is my source of theological views on this, if you are curious.

    Finally – the Greens, and the ALP for that matter, are not “pro-abortion”. Both parties subscribe to the Clintonian view that abortion should be ‘safe, legal, and rare’. I think it’s a common oversimplification that Christians make when they suggest that criminalising abortion will stop it, and that legalising it will result in a flood of them. For me, this comes down to a pragmatic choice – I have a moral objection to abortion. However, given the choice between ‘safe, legal and rare’ and abortions performed in a black market, realpolitik dictates that the former is preferable.

    Just my 2c, to show that Christians who vote for the Greens aren’t necessarily selling out on Jesus.

  8. One addendum – it should be noted that health is, by and large, a State matter, so your Federal members generally don’t have much to do with abortion policy.

    So, in a real practical sense, abortion really is a non-issue in Federal politics.

  9. @Chris: I’d love a Christian Left party – maybe you can start one?

    I honestly find myself torn between issues that I think the right get right (abortion, … OK maybe there’s only one), and the things that the left get right (compassion for the poor, the alien, the oppressed, care for creation, people over profit, global trade justice etc.).

    According to the test I just took, I’m redder than Mao, which might explain why I vote Green, but the abortion thing is still a big concern, as are the general anti-Christian leanings of the Greens party. Obviously I’m not say that their policies are less loving or Christianlike than the competition, but they do at times profess an explicit antagonism towards Christ and His Church. That makes me uneasy, but it might not be a real issue?

    After all, government antagonism hasn’t much hurt the Chinese Church.

    What are people’s opinions on legislating ‘personal morality’, like pornography, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, smoking, drunkenness, drug use etc. (assuming that these activities only harm the consenting participant, which can be debated)?

    Case Study: If you were a ‘Christian Left’ representative, how would you vote on a bill to legalise/ban pornography made and consumed by consenting adults?

  10. Addendum:

    Thanks for your post, Tom. I only read it after I had posted mine.

    Interesting points on the abortion (non?) issue. Definitely more thought needed for me on that one.

    Although I’d venture to say that the ‘harm-minimisation’ approach to abortion is unlikely to be deemed appropriate by those who see abortion as the taking of human life, and equal to murder. After all, no-one would argue that we decriminalise murder, on the grounds that ‘people are going to do it anyway’. This does of course, hinge on our understanding of the nature of abortion.

    Thanks for the ideas everyone.

  11. Hey Brett,

    I agree that it’s a really thorny one.

    The debate over the nature of abortion viz murder goes to the heart of one of the longest-running debates in legal theory – that is, whether (and to what extent) people obey laws out of conviction or out of convention, and as an overlapping conception to that, whether the law exists to control behaviour by imposing sanctions, or whether law is largely obeyed as it is merely a reflection of social norms that exist independently of the law.

    To apply this to the issue at hand – there is a strong argument to be made that people abstain from murder because it is a social norm independent of the criminal law. This is uncontroversial. What is controversial, however, is the moral/normative conception of abortion, as you’ve mentioned.

    The reason why no-one would argue for decriminalisation of murder is that there’s a consensus both of conviction and of convention that murder is wrong, and there should be criminal sanctions for it. There is neither consensus about abortion, which means that the effect of criminal sanctions on behaviour is dubious at best.

    So, to wrap up – where everyone agrees (at least, in a broad social consensus) about the morality of an act, you don’t need criminal sanctions to maintain the consensus – the sanctions are rather a way of enforcing said consensus against the minority who, for whatever reason, find themselves outside the consensus.

    Where there is no consensus, however, criminal sanctions may have a limited effect, but they are unlikely to have the eradicative effect that some would want.

    So, back to your point – the grounds that ‘people are going to do it anyway’ for a harm-minimisation approach is quite a logical way to address an issue that lacks normative support.

    Awkwardly argued, I know, but I hope that makes some sense.

  12. Very enlightening, thanks Tom.

    I must confess to having only given idle thought to the question of why/when something should be prohibited by law. I’ve done no formal study on it – I don’t think my 1st year criminology subjects touched on this particular aspect.

    Could you perhaps tell me what ‘conviction’ and ‘convention’ refer to?
    The law is a type of convention, but convictions are also passed under it. Equally, I think both terms might be related to personal moral belief or social norms. Care to help me in my confusion?

  13. Hey Brett,

    I’m new to all of this too, and forgive me for using terminology without really explaining it.

    People broadly adhere to the law when they ‘agree’ with it. People agree with the law for two reasons – convention, and convenience. ‘Agreement’ in this sense is less about a person’s subjective opinion of a rule, and more about whether or not their behaviour conforms to it.

    We drive on the left hand side of the road because there is a consensus of convention – there’s no moral reason to drive on the left rather than the right, but an enormous interest to society in everyone driving on the same side of the road. Many other regulatory rules are followed for this reason.

    On the other hand, we would say that the primary reason people abstain from murder or theft is because there is a personal conviction supporting it, rather than just a convenient rule. When people obey the law out of conviction, they primarily do so with a rational and personal basis for obedience, rather than conventional rules, which are adhered to rather arbitrarily.

    The difficulty comes when the state tries to impose laws which have neither strong conventional convenience nor the broad support of personal convictions. It takes time and cultural change to implement behavioural change to enforce such laws. Wearing seatbelts, speed limits, some drug use, etc falls into this mixed category – where there are good rational reasons for obedience, yet many will not obey because of the ease of self-justification, or the difficulty in breaking habits, etc.

    Anyway, the long and the short of it is that the law is especially inefficient at changing behaviour when the desired change is not necessarily agreed to by a population.

    The convention/conviction theory was propounded by Ronald Dworkin, and the first legal theorist to propound the normative conception of law and behaviour was HLA Hart, if you’re interested in further reading.

  14. Thanks Tom,

    That makes sense to me now. Should keep my brain busy for the next little while.

    And thanks Arthur for letting us hijack your thread =)

    I’m still on track to vote Green, as usual, but y’all still got a few weeks to change my mind…

  15. Brett,

    No worries – I find this stuff intensely fascinating (as a law student, a Christian and a human).

    Meanwhile, I’m trying to get a meeting with Adam Bandt to grill him about some of these things. I hope it happens – will be interesting.

  16. Hey lads, great discussion!! :D

    Tom, thanks for sharing your thinking and your emerging law expertise! :D And a possible meeting with Adam Bandt — that’s heaps exciting! Keep us posted!

    I reckon we Christians need to reconsider our widespread stigma against the Greens, and I also hope the Greens consider how they’re perceived by Christians.

    One quick thought on one of the hot button issues, just while it’s on my mind. :) I’m pro full legal recognition of non-traditional relationships but against gay marriage, for reasons partly explained here. I reckon the Greens policy of “marriage for all” is still blurring the lines between church and state on that one… (The blog where I found this is a great one.)

  17. Hi Arthur and Tamie, nice to be reading your blog again. :-) I’m with Chris on being a single issue voter. There’s a lot to dislike from both the major parties, but as much as I do like some of the Greens policies, I can’t throw my support behind them as a Christian. The reason for this is their stance on Scripture in schools. I know it’s a state issue, but with a national curriculum, I am wondering how long it will stay that way. I can’t vote in a way that may be seen as my supporting the eradication of Scripture in our state schools. I can only speak for the states in which I have lived, but in both VIC and NSW where Scripture is strong (unlike SA) that would mean thousands of children not hearing the gospel every week, when otherwise they would be engaged in a Scripture class.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: