Democrats candidate (and incidentally a former campaign manager of AOTW) from Southern Metro region John Mathieson sent out this email to the true believers... and me as well, for some reason:
In 2006 the voting system has been changed for the Victorian Upper House. Instead of the old system where 22 members were each elected for 2 terms in single member electorates, we now have a senate style voting system where 8 electorates will each elect 5 members. This means for the first time that smaller parties are likely to win seats in the Victorian Upper House. In fact it is more than likely that smaller parties will hold the balance of power in the Upper House. This could maybe be The Greens, or Family First or some of the new dodgy outfits with an unproven track record.
Or it could be a party with a 25 year proven track record of mediation and forward thinking in the Australian Senate such as the Australian Democrats. This year... I am standing, along with my friend, the extraordinarily passionate and dedicated Paul Kavanagh, for the seat of Southern Metropolitan in the Victorian Upper House. Southern Metropolitan covers most of the prosperous areas where you people are likely to be living – from Beaumaris to Port Melbourne to Balwyn to Oakleigh...
I have seen how John Howard has handled his Senate majority “soberly, sensibly and wisely” since he got control of both Houses of Parliament and I’m not too sure he owns the same dictionary as me. Mine is from Oxford, his I think may have been penned by Alan Jones. Howard’s not the first to think that controlling both houses of parliament is a licence to shut down the Democratic process and he won’t be the last. I want to be involved in ensuring that Upper Houses around Australia remain serious Houses of Review and not rubber stamps and that fellows like Howard and his kind don’t get the opportunity to unleash their worst instincts on the Australian public in the future. At the end of the day, why have an Upper House if it is not able or prepared to scrutinize legislation thoroughly and objectively?
It's a fine questions that John poses. It seems most likely that the balance of power will be held by some or all of People Power, Family First and the Greens. Sorry, not the Democrats.
Two of those three prospects are alarming. The thought of a government needing to rely on the support on ideological zealots on either the left or the right in order to pass legislation is a scary one. The Greens and Family First both represent a victory of fundamentalist principles over moderation and compromise.
Which leaves those of us who value a rigourous but functional upper house in a quandry. At best, the Democrats will be a preference funnel for someone else, picking up a percent or two only the have themselves knocked out of the race just a little after the DLP. Perhaps the way out is the great unknown, People Power, who see to have sprung up from nothing, and have taken what can best be described as a scattergun approach to policy? At the moment I'm leaning in that direction, but not with much confidence.
What's a moderate voter to do?
UPDATE 22/11, 11:10AM: One emailer has queried whether my leaning toward People Power was for my first preference. It's not: instead it's my highest preference out of the three in contention for the balance of power. With respect to my primary vote, well, old habits die hard!
Thanks to an anonymous commenter who has pointed me toward UpperHouse.Info, a site to which I've become quite a fan, especially with its election calculators. For the psephologist nerd in us all.