AUSTRALIA: The secret Senate rule
Malcolm Turnbull always liked to checkmate his opponents with a neat manoeuvre. His neat trick this year was to inflate a crisis around the Construction Forestry Mining Electrical Union so he could force an election for every seat in the House and the Senate. Second trick was to change the voting rules to prevent those pesky micro-parties like the Motor Enthusiasts from winning any seats.
No question the Senate voting rules needed changing, because even though we like wildcard senators we shouldn’t pick them through an insane scheme of preference-trading. A lottery would be better, cheaper, funner, and actually a great idea.
But -- the way it will work on July 2 is that you will either (1) number the parties’ logos above the black line on the ballot, or (2) number individual candidates in whatever order you like below the line.
When the Coalition, Greens and Xenophon were writing these new rules, they knew that punters were used to doing the really easy/lazy thing of just putting a “1” in the box of their favorite party – in fact, for the past 30 years 95% of voters have marked their Senate ballot papers with a single '1' above the line. Under the old rules, that meant your chosen party would pass on all your preferences to whichever other parties they had made deals with -- but you did technically help select all 12 senators.
This year, if you only put a “1” in your fave party’s box, you’ll only vote for candidates of that party, and even if your party is Labor or the Coalition, you will have helped choose just 3 or 4 senators out of 12. That’s why the pollies keep saying you “need to” number at least 6 parties, not just one, above the line, or 12 individual candidates if you vote below the line. The Australian Electoral Commission’s full-page ad in last week’s Echo said exactly that – you “need to” vote 1 to 6.
But here’s the weird secret: when they say you “need to”, they want you to think you have to do that or your vote will be tossed. But that’s not true. The pollies realized that requiring us to number 1 to 6 would seriously increase the number of people who couldn’t be bothered or lost track of their numerals after “3”. So they included a “savings provision” that says voters who number just “1” (or 2 3 4 or 5) will still have their vote counted. But no one’s advertising this obscure rule.
What’s behind this “you need to do this but you don’t really have to and I’m not going to say this out loud” thing? I reckon it’s a bit of school-principalism, which we Australians periodically suffer in silence, such as when the Principal threw out head-prefect Gough Whitlam.
I also believe Australia will be a better place if we all furrow our brows and number 1 to 6, or better still 1 to 12 or better again vote below the line 1 to 24 or 48.
Ultimately, a ballot with just a “1” is OK for the big parties and gets worse for other parties the smaller they get. The “savings provision” is supposed to die in a few years, presumably because we’ll all learn how to number up to 6, but the ruling parties could change the rules again, which is also weird.
USA: What could stump Trump? Money!
Meanwhile in America, Trump is the Republican’s “presumptive nominee”, meaning nearly all the Republican poobahs have given up trying to stop him. But conservative journalists have raised an issue that might ruin his whole Presidential bid – which is money.
All along the media has assumed that part of Trump’s appeal is that he’s so rich he doesn’t need corporations or other billionaires to fund his campaign, which means he’ll be uncorrupted by his backers. It’s true that Trump’ can’t be corrupted because he already is, but he’s also nowhere near as rich as he says he is, plus he’s way too selfish to waste whatever cash he has on buying an election. So far he’s put up only $36 million of his own, and that’s a loan to his campaign, to be paid back whenever someone else makes a contribution, but will they?
Last week the conservative Washington Examiner reported that “The Republican donors who helped Mitt Romney raise $1 billion in 2012 have a target figure in mind for Donald Trump: zero. …”
Hillary Clinton (who continues to lose primaries to Bernie Sanders who continues to be ignored by the media) is aiming to spend $2 billion to win in November, and she has thousands of old-school experts and new-wave hipster social media mavens hauling in the millions.
Trump might be left with only free media to get his voters out on election day, and how long will they keep giving him headlines featuring nothing more than his bragging, slagging, bullshit and baloney? OK, so he only needs to string ‘em out six more months.
Now Trump is busy lining up a cast of crackpot or cranky billionaires, like him, to fund his campaign, having officially retracted his promise to pay his own way to the White House.