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I live in Canberra, so my vote doesn't count.

Well, not much, anyway. John Howard used to say of Canberra, "Funny place. Looks like Killara (a leafy, upper-class suburb in Sydney), votes like Lithgow (an industrial town)."

Canberra is a safe Labor city. Only once has a Liberal member held one of the local seats, and that was when the Australian Labor Party thought so little of the voters that the outgoing member - a minister in the hugely unpopular government of Paul Keating forced to resign over the "sports rorts affair" - referred to the transition as "like handing over my baby". The Labor candidate at the by-election was a lesbian party hack, who failed to resonate with the family voters of Tuggeranong.

This election, both local members are resigning, and once again party hacks have been rewarded with safe seats. The people vote for the party, not the person, you see.

I don't believe in safe seats. The representative takes the voters for granted, the electorate is ignored by both the Government gravy train and the Opposition election promise bandwagon, and the local member is generally someone who wouldn't be able to win a marginal seat, but must be rewarded for his work in the party.

In any case, a representative from either of the two major parties will give his primary loyalty to the party, not the people.

So I'm voting Independent this election. Independents have the devil's own job getting elected, but once in they tend to stick. The voters are delighted to have a representative in Parliament who raises the issues that matter to them, who isn't beholden to party bosses, and doesn't vote the party line.

I'm well aware that no Independent candidate will win more than a handful of votes, but that's fine by me. Firstly, I'd like to encourage them. Secondly, public election funding kicks in at 4%, and having $2.50 of taxpayer money given to one of the major parties on my behalf just because I voted for their hack candidate gets right up my nose. I shouldn't have to pay to vote, even if it's not coming directly out of my pocket, it's still money that could usefully be spent on something positive, like health or education. I'm going to vote for an Independent candidate who isn't going to get 4% of the vote. So long as he or she isn't too obnoxious in their views.

But, Australian voting being of the preferential nature, I have to number all the boxes, and that means I have to put one of the major party candidates ahead of the other. It's unlikely that my vote will ever be counted, as the ALP will probably receive an absolute majority of votes and preferences won't be counted, but just in case, I'd like my vote to count towards making the seat marginal.

Marginal seats tend to attract more government attention and a better class of candidates. The marginal seat of Eden-Monaro, just across the New South Wales border, is a case in point. It is loaded down with Commonwealth-funded projects, and the local members have always worked hard to win or retain their seat. They work for every vote.

And that means I'm going to put Liberal ahead of Labor (and any minor candidates I really detest, such as the mildly-mad Socialist Workers Party or the gibbering idiots of the Democrats).

Of course, my vote will have minimal effect. Through some shonky dealings over the years, the 350 000 residents of Canberra elect just four MPs, compared to Tasmania, where 325 000 voters return seventeen representatives. My vote will count for 0.001% of the total. It's more a matter of making me feel that I've done my tiny best.

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Skyring

September 2010

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