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Justice for animals in Australian politics?

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pitterpatter pitterpatter QLD Posts: 376
1 20 Jun 2010
Justice for animals in Australian politics?
Features | Christina Cox | Sunday, 20 June 2010

Part 1 of aduki's feature on the recently formed Animal Justice Party.

Unsure of what to expect from an interview with a representative of the newly formed Animal Justice Party, I was heartened when an hour prior to our meeting, I received a text message from my interviewee, Mark, that read “I’m the one who looks just like Johnny Depp.”

When I eventually found Mark, he wasn’t exactly like Johnny Depp, but he certainly wasn’t the stereotypical animal rights activist I was expecting either: no shaggy hair, no polar-fleece, and definitely no pictures of tortured animals.

Over a coffee with Mark, I learned that the Animal Justice Party is certainly differentiating itself from grassroots animal liberation groups. The Animal Justice Party’s aim is not to exclude activist groups from the political arena. However, as a political party, Mark says that the Animal Justice Party’s main goal differs somewhat from the goals of animal welfare groups, due to its focus on garnering governmental support for animal welfare through elected representatives in parliament. Indeed, simply having an Animal Justice Party candidate’s name on ballot papers at election time, even if they are not elected, could have some effect on the prominence of animal welfare issues in future political discourse.

According to Mark, the strategies and goals of many animal welfare activist groups include lobbying, investigating animal cruelty and educating people about animal welfare. However, the Animal Justice Party is different, Mark says, because of its focus is on being active in parliament, encouraging discussions about animal welfare, and ultimately, influencing legislation to do with the humane treatment of animals.

Mark, whose role in the Animal Justice Party is as vice-president of the committee, says that throughout its formation, the Party has had to perform a balancing act between its prioritisation of animal welfare, and other key concerns that don’t necessarily have a direct link to the treatment of animals. For example, Mark says that as well as animal welfare, the Animal Justice Party is concerned with issues of a “broad ethical concern,” including the welfare of largely “voiceless” Australians, such as homeless and disabled people and Indigenous Australians.

The Animal Justice Party has come to the attention of some prominent political parties, namely, the Democrats and the Greens. Mark believes that the Animal Justice Party has attracted people who are dissatisfied with the major political parties’ handling of animal welfare issues. Indeed, the Animal Justice Party has attracted just over 600 members since September 2009. To be sure, the Animal Justice Party is small, but when you need 500 members in your political party to register with the Australian Electoral Commission to run in a federal election, engaging 600 members is definitely a boon. Mark is confident that the Party, while specialized in its focus, has a broad enough appeal to garner more support from the wider community.

But, I hear you ask, what exactly does the Animal Justice Party stand for? What are the key issues it plans to campaign on? And who will vote for them? I'll do my best to answer these questions in the next installment of this fascinating feature on the Animal Justice Party! Stay tuned, folks!

Link to article:  http://aduki.net.au/online/38-features/371-justice-for-animals-in-australian-politics
Link to AJP page: http://www.animaljusticeparty.org/Welcome.html
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Millie1 Millie1 NSW Posts: 14
2 20 Jun 2010
My boyfriend and I sent our membership forms away on Friday!
I read the party's 'constitution' a while ago and reading it i just felt that finally there is a group that represents how I feel. I hope this (eventually, i know it will take time) will make an enormous difference for animals happy
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Brendon Brendon NSW Posts: 1212
3 20 Jun 2010
I'm a member.
I like them except for the typos on their website they sound pretty good.
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pitterpatter pitterpatter QLD Posts: 376
4 21 Jun 2010
I was very lazy and only got around to posting it off today.  The letter kept getting lost in the chaos that is my room.  Awesome to hear that there are other people joining! happy.  With voting, if a party doesn't make it, the votes that went to them go to whoever they choose right?  Please correct me if I'm wrong!  So who do our votes go to if we vote for the AJP?
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Ellim Ellim United Kingdom Posts: 480
5 22 Jun 2010
pitterpatter said:
I was very lazy and only got around to posting it off today.  The letter kept getting lost in the chaos that is my room.  Awesome to hear that there are other people joining! happy.  With voting, if a party doesn't make it, the votes that went to them go to whoever they choose right?  Please correct me if I'm wrong!  So who do our votes go to if we vote for the AJP?
Preference negotiations wouldn't have occurred for the next Federal election yet, so there isn't a definite answer.  Having said that - by voting BELOW THE LINE you can choose where your preferences go.  VOTING BELOW THE LINE ensures that your vote counts in the way you want it to!

A party's vote preferences will only come into effect if you vote above the line; and then your vote goes where they want it to go (which may or may not be where you want it to go!)
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tarkine tarkine Iran Posts: 296
6 22 Jun 2010
pitterpatter said:
With voting, if a party doesn't make it, the votes that went to them go to whoever they choose right?  Please correct me if I'm wrong!  So who do our votes go to if we vote for the AJP?
It's really important to spend a few minutes learning how the voting system works, otherwise your vote may be "informal" and count for nothing. I'd recommend that you get neutral advice from the Australian Electoral Commission either before the election or on the day itself (by asking one of the AEC staff at the polling booth, not the people handing out "how to vote" cards). There is heaps of reliable info at: http://www.aec.gov.au/FAQs/Voting_Australia.htm

In terms of preferences, I'm guessing you're talking about the next federal election (ie. the Parliament based in Canberra that runs the country, where the Prime Minister sits). Voting at state elections is a bit different... especially in Queensland, which has only one house of Parliament.

At the federal level, Parliament is made up of two houses - the upper "red" house (Senate) and the lower "green" house (House of Representatives). By convention, the party with the majority of seats in the lower house is the party that forms government, and their leader becomes the Prime Minister. The Senate is considered a house of "review", and it has to approve any proposed new laws (known as bills) before they can actually become law, which usually happens after the Senators have negotiated some amendments (there are a couple of other formalities, but this is the basic gist of the process).

Lots of people mistakenly believe that they are "wasting" their vote if they don't put the Labor party (ALP) or the Liberals down as their first preference in the lower house, simply because these are currently the biggest two parties. This is entirely not true! If you vote for an independent candidate or a so-called minor party (such as the Greens, or the AJP) as your first preference in either house, and they don't win, your next preference still counts 100%. This effectively means that you get to vote for who you don't want (by putting them last in your preferences) as well as who you do want.

Australia's voting system is different to most other countries' (including the USA), but most experts agree that our way of doing things is the most fair in terms of delivering a truly representative Parliament. That said, our system is far from perfect, partly because the Australian political scene is dominated by two major parties, who are often likened to Tweedledum and Tweedledumber because their policies are not only dumb, but virtually indistinguishable.

You don't necessarily have to let the party you put down as your first preference decide what your own preferences will be (both the Liberals and the Labor party often try to scare people away from voting for the Greens by alleging that your vote will either be "wasted" (which is a lie), or that your preference vote will automatically go to the other major party (whereas your preferences are entirely your own choice). This is why I personally hate both the Liberals and the Labor party, because they are liars, and corrupt (they receive massive funding from rich and powerful corporations (including companies in the meat and dairy industries, mining and forestry), and seem to care more about the money they're getting from big corporate donors than social justice, environmental issues and animals.

For more info about how to vote (without any bias, including mine), have a look at the AEC website.

Voting in the Senate:
http://www.aec.gov.au/Voting/How_to_vote/Voting_Senate.htm

Voting for the House of Representatives:
http://www.aec.gov.au/Voting/How_to_vote/Voting_HOR.htm
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pitterpatter pitterpatter QLD Posts: 376
7 25 Jun 2010
Hey tarkine,

Thanks so much for that link, I read through everything!  Seems that a lot of the people I've spoken to are misinformed, which is sad.  They seem to think they have a lot less power than they do.  

A lot people also have told me that "A vote for the greens is a vote for labor" which, according to the research I just did (thanks to your links) is just NOT the case.  The labor representitives were ranked 26-29 on the Greens' group ballot thing (I think I'm getting the terminology wrong there) so even if you voted for the Greens your vote wouldn't get carried to Labor til 26th down the line...  

It'll be annoying having to fill out every single square under the line but I'm totally up for exercising my power as a voter!  I just wish there was some sort of easy summary of the views/policies of each party available that was unbiased.  I found a list of the current ones on the AEC website but there is not much information about each of them.  Time to google!

Thanks again, so much!
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tarkine tarkine Iran Posts: 296
8 26 Jun 2010
No worries pitterpatter, good luck with it - most parties will have a policy booklet of some kind on their website, otherwise I'm sure they'll post you a copy if you ring up and ask.

These are the websites for the main parties (you'll have to google for smaller parties):

Labor: http://www.alp.org.au
Greens: http://greens.org.au
Liberals: http://www.liberal.org.au
Nationals: http://www.nationals.org.au

One thing that's really fun and worthwhile doing is to contact your local members of Parliament (State or Federal), and arrange a time to drop in for a chat - democracy in action! They're always happy to talk with people who live in their area and listen to your concerns about all sorts of issues (that's their job after all).

You can find your local House of Reps member at: http://apps.aec.gov.au/esearch - the AEC website should have links to find your local Senators and State pollies too.
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Ellim Ellim United Kingdom Posts: 480
9 26 Jun 2010
pitterpatter said:
It'll be annoying having to fill out every single square under the line but I'm totally up for exercising my power as a voter!  I just wish there was some sort of easy summary of the views/policies of each party available that was unbiased.  I found a list of the current ones on the AEC website but there is not much information about each of them.  Time to google!
Don't forget that you are allowed to take material into the booth with you, the easiest thing is to take a list of your preferences and just fill out the boxes.

Also, don't forget that the election hasn't been called yet.  Preference negotiation for the next federal elections have not even begun yet.  This goes for policies, as well.  There will be various policy changes/new policy announcements once the election is called.

The reason your Greens vote often goes to the ALP (again, remembering that preference negotiation for the NEXT election has not begun yet!) is because of the two party preferred system - that's not to say that the earlier vote preferences don't count, but they count in different ways than the vote for the Libs/Nats or the ALP (that's a very simplistic view, I know, but it's either than or a 10,000 word essay...)
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tarkine tarkine Iran Posts: 296
10 27 Jun 2010
EJay said:
The reason your Greens vote often goes to the ALP (again, remembering that preference negotiation for the NEXT election has not begun yet!) is because of the two party preferred system - that's not to say that the earlier vote preferences don't count, but they count in different ways than the vote for the Libs/Nats or the ALP (that's a very simplistic view, I know, but it's either than or a 10,000 word essay...)
I'm just a bit curious what you mean EJay - a 10,000 word essay is probably too much to ask, but "simplistic" messages like this are apt to mislead people. I don't see the connection you're drawing between our preferential voting system, and your suggestion that a primary vote for the Greens counts "in different ways" to a primary vote for the Coalition or the ALP. With all respect, this simply isn't true - all votes count equally. And it's important to emphasise that preferences from Greens voters only go to the ALP if individual voters choose to put the ALP ahead of other parties.
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