And no, I don't just mean same-sex marriage. This goes way beyond just that.
If you care about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights even to the smallest degree, and are considering your vote in the Tasmanian Senate, then I have the following strong advice:
Vote below the line and direct your own preferences
If you absolutely must vote above the line, consider doing so for the Pirate Party or the Sex Party, but only if you broadly support their policies and are happy with their preference allocations (which you may or may not be, depending on your politics). I should caution here that the Sex Party direct their preferences first to the Country Alliance, who are an unknown quantity (to me) on sexual rights issues. [Update: you can see their vague and socially-conservative comments on same-sex marriage here.] The Pirate Party is only a suitable choice for an above-the-line vote if you do not mind your preferences going directly to the Greens. Many people, of course, do mind this, but quite a few readers won't.
If you want help voting below the line, see the bottom of this article. (If you're short of time and don't need me to explain the reasons for my advice, feel free to skip to that bit right away.)
Why am I suggesting voting below the line, even though this means numbering 54 boxes instead of one? Because a vote above the line for any party except the two mentioned above could potentially help elect anti-gay-rights extremist Peter Madden of the Family First Party - who has a very strong above-the-line ticket flow - ahead of at least one of Labor, Liberal, or the Greens. Yes, even if you vote Labor or Green above the line in the Tasmanian Senate, it is possible for your vote to elect Peter Madden. If you vote below the line you can put him 51, 52, 53 or 54, and still support your chosen party. Let's forget all the silly sparring between the big three about how a vote for Labor is a vote for the Greens or whatever - the bigger problem is that a vote for any of them above the line is potentially a vote, or part of a vote, for Peter Madden. A vote for almost anyone above the line in Tasmania is potentially a vote for him.
If you're a Labor or Greens supporter who is socially "progressive", you might think that is no big deal and that the Liberals are so backwards on issues like same-sex marriage that it's hard to imagine Family First being worse.
If you're a Liberal supporter who is socially liberal you might think Family First are pretty harmless and fluffy compared to the thought of sending your preference to the economy-wrecking Greens or Labor.
But it is time to put those party fights aside and accept that as bad as Labor, Liberal and Green supporters may find each other's parties, and as bad as splitters like me may find them all, there are other candidates that are worse, and that should be treated as outside the pale of politics in this country and preferenced at the bottom. Rise Up Australia is one example of this, and here, alas, is yet another.
For it turns out that Madden is not just another Steven Fielding or even just another Jacquie Petrusma. As silly as his stunts may be, his stated views rank him among the most anti-gay Tasmanian public figures since the days of Rodney Cooper, George Brookes and Richard Gibbs. I must especially ask the Greens what the hell they were doing putting this guy ahead of the Liberals in 18th (given their supporters' gay rights views) and whether they did any due diligence on him first. There'd better be a very good answer!
The usual rough and tumble of Senate preference realpolitik is all very well but the Greens don't seem to have even got anything out of this - the Greens are near last on the FF ticket, ahead of only the Sex Party, the Pirates, HEMP and amusingly Andrew Roberts (whose views are very similar to Madden's). Ironically, the Greens, who were once nobbled out of a Senate seat by Labor preferencing Family First (and have never stopped complaining about it either), could possibly deliver a Senate seat to Family First themselves - and not just any old FF candidate either. This is unlikely to happen, but if it does it will make the Wikileaks Party infighting look like a picnic.
Madden Supports Putin's Anti-Gay Laws
Peter Madden's views on gay rights are so extreme that on Twitter a few months ago, he candidly supported Russia's recently introduced anti-gay laws:
The laws referred to in the top tweet (which Madden retweeted) go far beyond just controlling leading innocent youth astray. According to the link Madden retweeted, and then stated his absolute support and endorsement for, the laws in question ban the holding of gay and lesbian rights rallies. And, again according to the link, the laws in question ban promotion of "social
equality of traditional and non-traditional relation" (ie promotion of gay and straight relationships as equal, including even campaigning for same-sex marriage). The laws, according to that link, also increase penalties for "insulting people's religious feelings in public."
What Peter Madden effectively endorsed is not merely that we should not have same-sex marriage, but that we should not even have a full debate about it, that we should nobble public expressions of that debate, and that it is good that people who support gay rights in Russia can be proscuted. This position is not just a threat to gay rights but an illiberal and extreme position against freedom of speech and civil society.
In another tweet though, Madden claimed: "Thanks Rebecca,that's what democracy is all about..robust debate,hopefully without personal attack or disrespect". So, in combination of his various views, Madden supports robust debate on whether we should ban some forms of robust debate in support of stuff he doesn't like. But he prefers "robust debate" in which people suck up to his obnoxious views and treat them with respect at all times, no matter what attacks he may promote against those people through his views. He doesn't seem to realise that views like his are direct attacks on the people they target, and that expressing those attacks in general form, rather than as a personalised attack with a flower attached to each individual GLBT person, doesn't make them any better. He doesn't want back the same disrespect that he dishes out to others, through his policies, all too often.
Madden also considers Putin's "criminalising insult on religious sensibilities" to be "right" and a way to "respect religious freedom". While Madden is not alone in thinking the wrapping of religious sentiment in cotton wool is a good idea (so strangely did Labor, the Greens and some Legislative Councillors at state level recently; fortunately failing) true "religious freedom" is just the right of the believer to safely follow, espouse (without inciting harm) and practice their religion. Religious freedom is not the right to be exempt from any criticism of your religion, any debate about it, or any potentially offensive comments about it. (It is also not the right to insist that everybody else agree with your religion's definition of marriage and that the State adopt it, for that matter.) In general, Madden seems to believe that both historically and as a current norm, the ideal model of politics is one in which the state leaves religion alone, and religion interferes with the state however it likes:
...And That's Par For His Course!
If Madden's endorsement of Putin was just a one-off Twitter brainfade (which happens to the best of us) it would be one thing, but it isn't. Madden was well known in NSW where he drove a very silly truck covered in anti-same-sex marriage signs like "The dark side of same-sex marriage, homosexual sex-ed for your young
children, It's already happening in the US and Europe" and "Not my children! Not on my
watch! ALP you've gone too far!" The truck, widely seen as insinuating links between homosexuality generally and paedophilia, encountered a colourful if not entirely respectful reception. Madden also contested the NSW state seat of Sydney (at the time held by Clover Moore) for the Christian Democratic Party of fundie bible-basher Fred Nile in 2011, securing 1.1% of the vote. If he gets that next weekend, it might get him elected!
A quick browse of his Twitter stream shows that Madden has approvingly
retweeted articles suggesting SSM may lead to the normalisation of
paedophilia. He believes that "a large %" of same-sex attracted people were molested by people of the same sex as a child, which he refers to as "the pederast aspect of homosexual causation" (he goes on about this theory quite a bit.) He opposes same-sex adoption because of "the pedophile factor". He's also quite happy to take leaves out of the Cory Bernardi copybook in linking same-sex marriage to paedophilia and bestiality:
I give these examples of his views (which also include that abortion is murder in all cases) to show that there is nothing out of the box about his support for Putin's illiberalism. It is merely the most extreme and offensive way in which his anti-gay-rights views have manifested.
And for someone who believes SSM is one of the "silly side issues"
in politics Madden seems to devote an awful lot of his time to opposing
it. For your special entertainment, here's a word cloud of over two and a half years of Madden twitter feed:
"Marriage" (usually in the context of SSM), SSM, "Children" and "Risk" (usually in the context of SSM being the latter to the former) and a URL from his lobbying of politicians to reject SSM are most of the most common things he talks about!
Alex Greenwich (former Australians for Marriage Equality convener, now NSW MP) suggests that Peter Madden was basically laughed out of NSW. Whatever the case, he moved to Tasmania at the start of this year:
... and was endorsed Family First candidate within a month, if not before.
Madden's personal story, which was just broken to Tasmanian audiences today but is well-known online, is a rocky one. Madden describes himself as a reformed former "sex addict" who had sex with a moderately large number of women, including prostitutes; a behaviour pattern he attributes to being "sexually abused between the ages of nine and 17 by an older female". He credits Christianity with his difficult overcoming of the problem caused by his earlier experience. He deserves sympathy for that experience. He would deserve more if he did not now so clearly believe in imposing aspects of the solution he found for his own problems on people who do not consider their own GLBT identity, or their own active sex lives, as problems at all, and are not looking for solutions to them - just free and fair treatment by the law. Far from solving problems for such people, Madden's ideology creates them. It's a bit like recovering from appendicitis then spending the rest of your life trying to rip everybody else's appendix out.
Furthermore, it is interesting that people like Madden squeal about the possible "redefinition" of "marriage", but have no problem mangling the meaning of a word closely connected with it, "love". Yes, Peter Madden is another of these who, despite wanting to have same-sex attracted people banned from adopting children, marrying or even attending rallies in support of LGBT causes, still claims to love "homosexual people". What he, and others like him, "love" in each case is an abstracted human shell that he wishes to fill with his own blueprint of a good life and his own religious zeal. Not the person for who and what they essentially are and want to be.
Does Peter Madden Have A Chance?
In a word, yes. Probably the Liberal and Green votes will be too high for him to make it, but there's a realistic chance that they will not, and then if nearly all voters have voted above the line he could well compete with the Liberals, or less probably the Greens, for the final seat. The latest rewrite of my article Prospects for the Tasmanian Senate, fortunately written before I paid attention to Madden's views, considers 2-2-1-1 (2 Labor, 2 Liberal, 1 Green and Madden) as probably the most likely scenario apart from the favourite 3-2-1 (3 Liberal, 2 Labor, 1 Green). In fact, if the Liberal vote plus the Sex Party vote is far enough below three quotas (42.8%) for below-the-line leakage not to make a difference, then Family First has strong winning chances even off only 1% of the vote - see also the comment on modelling by reader intuitivereason at the bottom of that piece. Months ago, I didn't think micros like Family First had any real chance in Tasmania, but the sheer number of them and the strong preference flow to FF from any number of people who really should have known much better changes that.
It is very conceivable that the preferences of any of Liberal, Labor and Green really could flow to Family First, if enough of the micros are out of the way first. In the case of Liberal preferences, this happens if the party wins three seats with a small surplus. For Labor, this could happen if the party wins two seats with Lin Thorp excluded. For the Greens, this could happen in the form of surplus if the party is elected with quota and Labor is later excluded, or in the form of surplus if the party crosses the line later (for the Senate, all votes are rethrown, not just the last bundle).
Would Peter Madden Be Dangerous In The Senate?
It is true that Peter Madden could not cause laws like Putin's to be enacted by himself as a Senator if elected, since almost no-one would support them and they would certainly be found unconstitutional even if ever passed here. However, as with various other micro religious parties, there is the prospect that he might hold the balance of power on the Senate crossbench, should the Coalition win enough seats to govern without needing Green or Labor votes to pass legislation. A crossbencher could have great influence on Coalition policies on same-sex issues or abortion through a process of horse-trading. Conservative religious crossbenchers might support Government bills in other policy areas in exchange for a more conservative approach to social policy. So yes, Peter Madden might be a political joke, but the trouble with political jokes is that they sometimes get elected. And then, they're not so funny any more.
How To Vote Below The Line
Voting below the line is simple but for most people it takes a little preparation. If the time it takes you to do it seems too long, remember that there are many countries in the world where people queue for hours just to cast a vote where they cannot even distribute their preferences at all. We have it lucky here; Tasmania has a proud record with our Hare-Clark system and here's our chance to show the nation how it's done. Hopefully, something will be done about the Senate system mess in the next parliament and this will be the only time we need to number 54 boxes.
To vote below the line in Tasmania you should number all the boxes below the line from 1 to 54, in order of your preference. If you make a mistake you can ask for another ballot paper. Don't repeat or skip numbers. Don't stop partway through leaving lots of boxes blank. (There is an option to leave up to five boxes blank at the end, but I suggest filling in the lot.) When you have finished, double-check that you have each number once and once only, and that all your numbers are clearly distinct from each other and easy to read.
The best way to do a below the line vote is to pre-prepare it and take a copy of how you intend to vote with you. Tools to help you to do this can be found at these links:
These sites can help you prepare your own personal how-to-vote card, which you can then take to the ballot box with you - you'll need to manually copy the numbers into the right boxes on the actual Senate ballot paper.
For most voters, I suggest that you just vote for the parties below the line in order of your preference for them. If you don't have time to research the smaller parties online, put the parties you've never heard of below all of Labor, Liberal and Green (in whatever order you put those parties in). That said, if you do research them, you might find you like some of them more than the mainstream parties. Don't place a party highly because it has a cool-sounding name without finding out what it actually stands for. Also note that some parties have confusing names: the Liberal Party and the Liberal Democrats are not the same thing, Labor is not the same as the Democratic Labour Party, and Australian Independents are not independents; they're a party.
(For very advanced players there are a few tricks that can increase the power of your vote. For instance, I nearly always vote 1 in the Senate for the second candidate of a micro-party I consider to be harmless, in order to protect my vote from being reduced in value as part of someone's surplus. But I don't suggest most readers bother with this unless they feel they know what they are doing. The important bit is to vote below the line.)
If someone hands you a how to vote card just ignore the Senate part. How to vote cards often contain instructions designed to convince you there is only one way to vote for your chosen party. Such instructions are always false. If you want to slavishly follow your party's chosen preferences for the Lower House, that's up to you, though I advise against that too. (Especially if you're a Denison Labor voter who doesn't want to elect a Liberal.)
Insurance Option Note: If you're still not sure your vote is formal after numbering 54 squares, there is a way to protect your vote from being discarded if it turns out you have made too many errors. That is to put a 1 above the line in your preferred party's box as well. What happens then is that if your below the line vote is formal, it is used, but if your below the line vote is not formal, your above the line vote counts instead.
Questions on voting below the line are welcome - feel free to email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
PS (5 Sep): This article received many more hits in its first 24 hours than any other in this site's brief history, except for my LegCo live broadcast. 38% of the hits so far have come from Facebook. I am not a Facebook member and don't intend becoming one, and this does make searching the place somewhat difficult, but I finally found out that the piece had been featured on Family First Tasmania's facebook page:
"The following article indicates both our great chance of victory but also possible backlash from the "progressive" activists."
Ahem. I'm personally neither progressive nor an activist, but you're probably right about the latter part. Rodney Saltmarsh of Elizabeth Town (apparently a fellow chessplayer, sigh!) writes:
"So we definitely need to place Family First 1 in the senate if for no other reason than just to displease Dr Kevin Bonham."
While I'm quite flattered that displeasing me would motivate anyone in such a way, the election of Madden to the Senate would give me six years of opportunities to enjoy taking the mickey out of a very ridiculous Senator. It would also mean six years of pointing out to the lazy and complacent Tasmanian left how they had caused it. In an ideal world, in the truest of liberal democracies, far more of Mr Madden's agenda would be clearly unconstitutional. To be sure, I would feel much embarrassment on behalf of my home state were we (even via the arcane route of preference harvesting) to elect such a person as Senator. But clearly it would be far from a dead loss for me - my concern is for voters who have been let down by their parties directing preferences to someone whose views they don't support and who could cause some of those voters to be undeservedly stigmatised.
Laura Welch writes:
"I've had dealings with such people. Need any pointers to fight back, just ask!"
Oh how heroic! Doesn't look like anyone did need any pointers though. The most effective way to "fight back" would have been to come over here and submit a comment pointing out why what I was saying was false. Either I would have published it and been debunked, or I would have rejected it and been shown up as rejecting reasonable criticism of my case. But no, there's been none of that, probably because Madden has damned himself too thoroughly by his own words, and because the people I wrote this article for will not be listening to the likes of you.
I noticed with a smile that the FF page contains a document with these quotes:
"One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors"
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing"
The first is attributed to Plato, incorrectly; the second to Edmund Burke, groundlessly.
Misquotes as they are, they very well describe why I took the action of writing this piece!
How this played out: Likely deliverance from the Family First snowball of doom arrived in an unexpected manner via a primary vote for Palmer United that was much larger than anyone had forseen. I had actually run models with PUP at 4-5% to see if they could get a seat but in such models their preference flows were no good. I did not expect they would get over 6.5%, and I don't think anybody trying to model it did.
For those who voted above the line for Labor or Green, your preferences now go to Peter Whish-Wilson, and then after he is elected at reduced value to PUP (assisting PUP in their contest with the Liberals) assuming FF are no longer in the contest (as seems very likely, but not yet certain.) Whether the PUP candidate is any better than the Liberals, from the point of view of the issues canvassed in this article, is another question.
Final Result: In the end this was quite close. Family First were eliminated because they failed to pass the Sex Party at a crucial count by a mere 821 votes, or 0.25% of the Tasmanian vote. Had they made that cutoff then they would have snowballed to victory on the preferences of Labor, the Greens and others, but as it was the Sex Party were momentarily holding preferences Family First needed and would have later received. Below the line voters for minor parties who preferenced the Sex Party ahead of the majors or the Greens made especially important contributions in this case, but you never know whose vote at which stage is going to matter the most.
Bob Brown's old party putting a stridently anti-gay candidate in the Senate would have been a sad and terrible day indeed. It is difficult to say from the evidence whether my criticism of Madden, or my comments about the Sex Party and Pirate Party being FF-safe above-the-line options, actually affected voting intention to any real degree. (The Sex Party's vote increased by a greater proportion on the day in Tasmania than anywhere else bar the ACT, but that impact was stronger in the north.) But when margins are so close, it is important to try.
Hopefully the above-the-line ticket system will perish before the next election. But if it doesn't, Green supporters especially should make sure their party does not preference the anti-gay right. Because if they do, I will be back and saying all of this again - only much louder and much earlier.
Thankyou to everyone who retweeted this article, posted it on Facebook, emailed it to your friends, or whatever. It is much appreciated.