OPINION: Who are these people? Senate parties explained
SO YOU'RE in the polling booth struggling with more than a metre of Queensland Senate voting paper and you've got no clue who to vote for.
Well you can vote above the line, number at least six boxes indicating which parties you'd like your votes to go, number one being your first choice. But be wary of where preferences are flowing.
If you're voting below the line, you must number at least 12 boxes, number one your first choice, and you can go all the way through the 120-odd individual Senate candidates if you choose.
You can number as many more than six (above the line) or 12 (below the line) as you choose, but you must fill in at least those minimum numbers to have your vote count.
Once you're done, you're probably going to have to learn some sort of origami or paper wizardry to fold the swathe of paper into the ballot box. Best to call for backup from an AEC staffer if you're struggling.
So, are you ready to call the whole thing off and bail to the pub yet? Don't despair. You're nailing democracy Australian style.
Here's a few things you should know about each of the 38 parties vying for your vote in the Senate if you plan on having some input into how your country is run, with a dose of light-hearted fun poking thrown in.
And if none of this helps, scroll to the bottom and have a look at the online practice Senate voting form.
- GROUP A: Australian Cyclists Party
THE vision: a "cycling friendly Australia". Sounds pretty simply right? A few bike paths, some free helmets and they're sweet? Well the ACP has a few other policies.
A national inquiry into optional bike helmet use for adults, development of a national "rail trails" network and a small percentage of infrastructure budgets committed to expanding cycling infrastructure and facilities are just a few.
Political position: Leaning left
The verdict: These guys likey-likey the Lycra a little too much, but you could do worse.
- GROUP B: The Arts Party
THE only party in Australia to be crowd-funded into existence, these artistic types want to implement mandatory music education, free entry to government-funded museums and galleries for those under-21 and over-65 and the Arts to be at the centre of innovation.
Policies include reversing funding cuts to public broadcasters, continued funding of Trove and a taxed, regulatory system for the sale of cannabis, among others.
Political position: Left
The verdict: Who doesn't like the prospect of the enjoying some devil's lettuce and heading to the free museum? Could be a wild ride if they control the balance of power.
- GROUP C: Secular Party of Australia
A PARTY dedicated to eradicating the influence of religion in schools, politics, education, health and other key aspects of society. Separation of the church and state is the only way for a free and liberal democracy in this party's eyes.
Policies include bringing an end to religious tax exemptions and subsidies and that marriage definition should be reworked to be "between two people", among other policies.
Political position: A little left of centre
The verdict: Why should the church remain tax exempt as more and more institutionalised abuse horrors come to light? Seems fair. Not sure how willing to accept some of their other policies the public might be though.
- GROUP D: Australian Labor Party
STANDING up for middle and working class people the website reads and that's what the party has structured its campaigns around for decades. Drawing ever nearer to the LNP on major issues, the red corner are one of the two political heavyweights in Australia.
Policies include Gonski schools funding and major healthcare reform, including trials, evaluation and implementation of new payment and service delivery models, among others.
Political position: Centre-left
The verdict: If you like your zingers hot then Shorten's your man. Historically known as the spenders to the LNP's savers and more socially progressive, it's becoming harder to distinguish between the two.
- GROUP E: Liberal Democrats
END POLITICAL correctness. Surely not a three-word slogan? Nah, it's just the blueprint being followed by New South Wales Senator David Leyonhjelm and co.
Policies include an end to government-owned businesses and service provision that could be covered by the private sector as well as the right to own firearms for sport, hunting and self-defence and that government foreign aid other than short-term humanitarian aid should stop, among others.
Political position: Well to the right
The verdict: These cats are all about pro-choice. Let the publican choose whether smoking's okay in the pub. The choice to voluntarily end your own life. Their plans to make significant tax cuts while slashing government spending may be a little tougher to swallow.
- GROUP F: Online Direct Democracy
A PARTY without policies? What? Wait, sorry, they do have only one policy according to Coast lower house candidate Kris Bullen, which is to merely do what they're told.
The plan is simple. Online democracy. One vote per person, per topic, whichever the majority decides is the way legislation or policy decisions will be made.
Political position: Well that's completely up to voters. Arguably dead centre at the moment.
The verdict: Sounds too good to be true and that's why they're probably no chance. Can you imagine a government that can't be bought, influenced, frozen out or threatened? Neither can we.
- GROUP G: Liberal National Party of Queensland
JOBS AND growth! If that didn't set off a tic nothing will. For the past two months that's all we've heard from the blue bloods that run our country. Traditionally known as the economically savvy of the two major parties, less socially progressive than their red tie-wearing major opponents.
Policies include an initial $26 million in funding for mental health support, tackling mobile black spots, delivering company tax cuts and negotiating more free-trade agreements, among others.
Political position: Centre-right
The verdict: PM Turnbull appears hamstrung by the far right party players who will not enjoy any socially progressive policy he tries to push through. Favourites for this election and control of the Senate is to the LNP what the ring was to Gollum. Precious, invaluable and desperately sought.
- GROUP H: Animal Justice Party
NOT A Marvel comic, I repeat, not a Marvel comic. Formed in response to growing public concern for the neglect of animals, the party's mission is to provide a dedicated voice for the animals in Australia's political system.
Surprisingly not led by Doctors Harry or Dolittle, the party's policies include providing support to farmers to transition from animal product to plant-based farming, giving total protection to sharks in Australian waters and to immediately ban animals in circuses or marine theme parks, among other policies.
Political position: Strong left wingers. A valuable rugby league commodity...
The verdict: Totally agree with opposing animal cruelty and native species protection, but can't see how directing funding out of the racing industry to education about the cruelty of the industry is going to fly.
- GROUP I: Katter's Australian Party
WE ALL know about Bob Katter. The man with the giant hat who shoots the ALP and LNP dead (technically the lads from the Betoota Advocate) in a television ad.
The party is all about progressing the nation while protecting the nation. Policies include monitoring of refugees granted temporary visas until they are 'deemed safe', providing authority to indigenous community leaders to establish their own governance and implement regular, random, independent audits of the public service sector, among other policies.
Political position: Generally to the right, but can swing back when it suits
The verdict: The wild west came to Canberra and they're all about keeping things in Australia. Depends whether you like the wildcards or not, but they certainly add some colour.
- GROUP J: Marriage Equality
THE Australian Equality Party aims to promote fairness, human rights and equality for all.
Policies include establishment of a Federal LGBTIQ rights council, Australian opposition to all global LGBTIQ discrimination and the inclusion of age-appropriate, LGBTIQ content in a national education and curriculum strategy.
Political position: Left of centre
The verdict: Will ruffle the feathers of conservative voters but admirable in their dedication to the cause.
- GROUP K: Mature Australia
FORMED out of fears for rights of mature aged people and their rights living in private residential parks and over-50s villages, the party is dedicated to giving electors a "more direct voice".
Policies include migrant intakes "to bolster Australia's best interests", the establishment of and operation of a National Superannuation Fund for all Australians, creation of a joint-funded national trauma counselling program aimed at reducing suicides.
Political position: Right leaning
The verdict: Calling for less spending might be unpalatable for those expected to lose services to look after the elderly. Immigration stance is expectedly conservative and looks a softened up version of some more extreme sentiments that are being thrown around.
- GROUP L: Nick Xenophon Team
NEVER about left or right, about right or wrong. Focused on a crackdown on predatory gambling and corporate accountability, the South Australian Independent's party is probably most famous for its anti-pokies stance.
Policy principles include reducing maximum pokies bets from $10 a spin to $1 spin and $1200 hourly losses to $120, increasing transparency in plea bargaining process and supporting the lifting of the small business tax threshold from $2 million to $10 million.
Political position: Pretty central, populist position
The verdict: Opportunist party whose leader will never knock back an opportunity to grab a headline. Pretty safe, popular policies, not the worst option when you look around.
- GROUP M: Pirate Party Australia
ARRRRREE you kidding me? Some of the loosest units on our political landscape, these lefties are all about looking after the lot of us.
Policies include support for a basic income for all and fierce opposition to piracy laws and data retention. A redirection of funds from asset recycling to science and education another goal.
Political position: Left wingers
The verdict: Pirates appear more like Robin Hood, looking to steal back civil liberties and share the riches around. If you're picking parties based on name alone the Pirates must be near number one.
- GROUP N: Australian Liberty Alliance
GRAB your rifles, stock up the doomsday shelters and get ready for war. It's the war on Islam, the Australian way and our freedom and the ALA are our only hope. Or so they'd have you believe.
Policies include freezes on Muslim immigration. They stand against apartheid and racism, oh, and full face coverings in public spaces. #notracist
Political position: Any further right and they'd be wrong
The verdict: Whipping up the masses into a frothy, frenzy of fear is still a political tactic it appears, even if from the Dark Ages.
- GROUP O: Derryn Hinch's Justice Party
AS IF Dancing with the Stars wasn't enough Derryn, now he's having a crack at the Senate with his merry band behind him. A fervent campaigner for tougher penalties against paedophiles, Hinch's party will be bringing the long arm of the law back in action.
Policies include removing the right to bail for indictable offences, a public sex offender database and supporting equal rights.
Political position: Leans comfortably to the right
The verdict: Some may call them opportunists but one can't question Hinch's dedication to the cause, he's been fighting against sex offenders for three decades. Whether the public warms to the hardline stance is the question.
- GROUP P: Citizens Electoral Council
ESTABLISHED in 1988, full of economic theories and guided by American economist Lyndon H LaRouche Jr, these wildcards are all for electoral reform and call man-made global warming "a fraud".
Policies include withdrawing measures to reduce energy use, Australia's withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol and establishing an Austalian National Resources Company to control, protect and develop wealth in our energy and raw materials.
Political position: Right wing
The verdict: Nuttier than squirrel poo.
- GROUP Q: Shooters, Fishers and Farmers
FORMED in reaction to the 1992 Firearms Amendment Act, these guys love their guns.
Policies include tabling a Bill outlawing animal liberation based hate campaigning and terrorism, expanding recreational fishing within Commonwealth waters and support offshore processing of illegal immigrants.
Political position: Right wingers from the bush
The verdict: On the surface, some policies that will resonate with lovers of the great outdoors but scratch the surface and there's some hard-line social policies and a very, very strong fondness for firearms.
SPEED of the election caught these guys on the hop, hence the unnamed, unendorsed ticket. Led by former ALP member in Sal Rivas, the party is aiming to increase the ethnicity count in Federal Parliament.
Policy positions include support for needs-based education funding plans outlined in Gonski, making improvements to Medicare and firm support for trade unionism.
Political position: Left leaning
The verdict: Sound like an extended branch of the ALP in many aspects. Lack of name association could hurt. Strong position in support of and dedicated to continuing Australia's proud multicultural history.
- GROUP S: Democratic Labour Party
HOPEFULLY they can govern better than they spell. "Putting the YOU back into Labour" screams the website, granted there is a U, but not sold on the slogan.
Claims to be central, untied to unions or big business, but any association with Labor seems to disappear when you drill into social issues. Policies include support for traditional marriage, support of life from conception until death and opposition to palliative care being used as a means of euthanasia.
Political position: Centre-to-mid right
The verdict: Conservatives with some very traditional views of marriage but their foreign ownership suggestions may appeal to some unhappy with the current situation.
- GROUP T: Family First
FAMILIES are under pressure, values are deteriorating, Australia is getting weaker not stronger. The Family First team sure paint a pretty picture. The conservative party reject political correctness and the nanny state and say carbon dioxide is plant food, not a pollutant.
Policies include support for current State ban on X-rated pornography be extended into NT and ACT, opposition to emissions trading scheme or 'carbon tax', opposition to legalised prostitution, Medicare-funded abortion, selective immigration for skilled migrants and persecuted refugees who will integrate and respect and support Australia's Christian heritage and values.
Political position: Strong right-leaning
The verdict: A number of conservative pastors are being parachuted in to contest seats from the party looking to add to its one South Australian Senator in Bob Day. Yet another of a rising number of religiously-linked political parties.
- GROUP U: Renewable Energy Party
SICK of the dependence on coal and gas, the party has been formed with the aim of trying to force what it says is $23 billion in taxpayer-funded, annual subsidies to oil, gas and coal companies to the renewable energy sector.
Policies include support for independent government bodies in the CSIRO, ARENA and CEFC, a national renewable energy target of 100% by 2030, remove fossil fuel subsidies and increase ARENA's 2016-22 budget from $1.2 billion to $2 billion.
Political position: Left wing
The verdict: Sounds like the Greens, smells like the Greens, but they aren't the Greens. Passionate climate warriors keen to see a turn away from fossil fuels. Question is, does the public share the same sentiment?
WHAT a combo! Sex and hemp, sure to win the hearts of many Australians based on that potent mixture alone. Left leaning but liberal in many views and policies put forward, these parties aren't actually as crazy as they may sound.
Policies include, you guessed it, legalising, regulating and taxing cannabis, while the Australian Sex Party are pushing for a number of policies including taxing the church, doubling Australia's UNHCR refugee/asylum seeker intake and subsidising the development of renewable energy industries.
Political position: Lefties with a healthy dose of civil libertarian thrown in
The verdict: Forget the nanny state. These guys want legal weed, nude beaches and taxation for the church. Would shake the foundations of our conservative Parliamentary corridors.
- GROUP W: VOTEFLUX.ORG Upgrade Democracy
SIMILAR to the Online Direct Democracy crew, this party is making a valid argument that you wouldn't use the same operating system in a computer or car for 400 years, so why do the same with Parliament, with technology set to drive the political process.
The system provides voters with one vote per issue. On issues they don't care for, votes can be traded for credits to keep for issues they do care about. The party believe it's a system that counters corruption and empowers the voters.
Political position: Apolitical, pending the decision of the majority
The verdict: Driven by frustration at the current system and the technological advances being made, will Gen Y get on board with a technological shake-up of the system?
- GROUP X: Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party
STOP hitting yourself. Seriously. Stop! This is the beauty of democracy, Pauline rises again. And again. And again. The ultimate political opportunist/bigot is back and is on fire. Committed to Australian sovereignty, the One Nation Party will be looking to capitalise on the increase in ethnic division of late.
Policies include imposing a five-year wait for new migrants to become Australian citizens, with passing of an English test a requirement to qualifying for citizenship. A people's bank would also be pushed for to be returned while Australian and non-Australian companies operating in Australia would be banned from paying a Halal certification tax.
Political position: Far, far right
The verdict: Nup. Seriously. I don't like it...see what I did there?
- GROUP Y: Rise Up Australia Party
DO YOU love this country the way it is? Did we love it before your party leader was appearing at race-driven riots? He apparently loves the Muslim people, just opposes Islam. A Muslim is a follower of Islam, by definition, so it's unclear exactly how that works, but this party along with other notable political groups rose to notoriety with their opposition to Islam and Sharia Law and dedication to the protection of the Australian culture.
Policies include would-be immigrants integrating into our legal system and culture or being sent back to where they came from, introducing a flat-rate debit tax of 2% and as for climate change, the party's position is clear, "it doesn't exist".
Political position: See Pauline Hanson wayyyy over there on the right? That party next to her, that's these guys
The verdict: Would be a win for bigotry but they'll gleefully accept whatever traction they can get.
- GROUP Z: Socialist Equality Party
STEMMING from a movement started by Leon Trotsky and Lenin in the 1930s to continue the fight for internationalism, the team is pushing to see its socialist, anti-capitalist, anti-war program take charge.
Election platforms include opposing militarism and war, supporting a vast redistribution of wealth and pushing for anti-democratic legislation to be abolished.
Political position: Very far left
The verdict: It's hip, it's new-age, it's something different and it's all about people looking after people. Imagine these guys working alongside the Sex/Hemp Party! Not sure it's going to have the legs it needs to break the two-party stranglehold.
THE CLEAN-living, gospel-spouting, backwards-minded leader and chief homophobe Fred Nile's gang are always worth a headline or 10. The only registered, national Christian political party in the nation, official word is the party operates on non-party political lines.
Policies include rejecting any future plans to redefine what a family is, encourage Australian ownership of enterprise, oppose euthanasia and defend freedom of speech.
Political position: Far right
The verdict: Google some of Nile's greatest hits on Google, ask yourself some deep questions, then make up your mind.
- GROUP AB: Palmer United Party
SPEAKING of religion. Many thought PUP were dead after the rapid decline of the party but they are resurrected, with ex-Clive Palmer chief of staff James McDonald leading the charge for a Queensland Senate seat. Questions marks over whether Mr Palmer is in fact still the party leader. One only hopes if successful, these guys have better Parliamentary attendance records than the human headline's dismal showings.
National policies include revision of the current refugee policy, cracking down on paid political lobbyists and creating mineral wealth.
Political position: Right of centre
The verdict: Can anyone predict what we'd be in for if they were successful in claiming Senate seats? It was a rollercoaster three years with twerking, dinosaurs and more. Hard to see voters giving them another crack though.
- GROUP AC: Glenn Lazarus Team
THE BRICK with eyes has been relentless this election campaign, flying in and out to wherever he senses a vote. Having left the Palmer United Party and forging his own career, Lazarus has recruited Kerrod Walters, no doubt appealing to Broncos voters throughout the state.
Policies include removing the family home from the pension assets test, overhaul of food labelling in Australia, reinstatement of landholder's rights to reject coal seam gas mining, opposition to university fee deregulation and support for Gonski funding.
Political position: The Glenn Lazarus Team are a bit of a swinging pendulum. Just right of centre but swing to the left on a number of issues.
The verdict: The latest odds are swinging back against leader Glenn Lazarus to be re-elected, having been favoured to retain his Senate seat earlier in the campaign. Will the Broncos star factor of Walters be enough?
- GROUP AD: Jacqui Lambie Network
EQUAL parts horrifying and fascinating, leader Lambie is another graduate of the Palmer United Party. Strong on all things military, her plan is to "keep the bastards honest" in the Senate.
Policies include support to withdraw troops currently deployed in the Middle East, support for the creation of financial transactions tax, support for dedicated Indigenous seats in Parliament and halving of the foreign aid budget among others.
Political position: Firmly to the right
The verdict: Quality policy platforms when it comes to veterans and military issues but not sure the credentials are there when it comes to other key areas. Lambie has grown to be somewhat of a cult figure so that may be enough for her Queensland hopefuls.
- GROUP AE: Australian Progressives
THE EMPATHETIC party is the line being sold. Not wishing to leave anything to the free market, the Australian Progressives want to advance society through laws, services and infrastructure.
Policies include increasing super contributions to 12%, legally define marriage as between two consenting adults, increase refugee intake to 26,000 per year and reforms to current university fee systems.
Political position: Left of centre
The verdict: Classic social policies from a left-leaning party with some clear plans for a number of key reforms. The only questions are, would they work and would voters take the gamble? Sure to be rubbed out by the far right.
- GROUP AF: Australian Christians
NOT SURE if the core values link being broken on the website is a bad omen or not. A national charter to advance the glory of God through the institution of Parliament sounds wonderfully noble.
Policies include opposition to same sex marriage, support for adoption policy that places children with heterosexual parents, support for an inquiry into possible benefits of raising the legal drinking age to 21, opposition to mooted changes to the age pension and support for better palliative care over euthanasia.
Political position: Not quite Fred Nile leagues, but still clearly right
The verdict: Another party with deep religious roots. Clearer policies in relation to economic issues would help them appeal to the more progressive of the right.
- GROUP AG: Drug Law Reform
THE NAME says it all really. The party is pushing to have illicit drug laws changed and drug use treated as a social and health issue rather than a criminal matter.
Policies include establishing a Royal Commission of enquiry into health, social and economic costs associated with the criminalisation of recreational drug use, a conscience vote for all parliamentarians on drug policy and decriminalisation of possession and use of drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy.
Political position: Left of centre
The verdict: A single-issue party will probably struggle to gain traction with a broad cross-section of the community. May pick up a few protest votes and if they can drag some of their supporters off the couch could also score some votes from a cult following of recreational drug users.
- GROUP AH: Health Australia Party
SELLING themselves as a truly centre party looking to forge a new middle ground for Australians. Strong subscribers to natural medicines, they say the answer to managing long-term health costs is to make people healthier rather than spend more money. Identified as an anti-vaccination party by some, the party rejects that label. They are opposed to fluoride in public water supplies though.
Policies include not supporting a GST increase until all cost-saving and revenue-raising options have been explored, retirement of fossil fuel generators over the next 15 years to be replaced with sustainable energy systems and support of marriage equality.
Political position: Left leaning
The verdict: These natural medicine renegades will be battling to convince a conservative voting public their policies can deliver the nation a clean bill of health.
- GROUP AI: CountryMinded
MORE evidence of the deep fractures within the Liberal-National partnership, the Country Minded crew are a throwback to the Nationals. Frustrated with the current setup, the party is seeking to re-establish old political values and provide a voice for rural Australia.
Policies include supporting and extending the mandatory renewable energy target, promote construction of new dams, pursue the abolition of state-based payroll tax, phase out negative gearing and look to deploy refugees on temporary visas in work for the dole-type programs, particularly in construction of their own housing and infrastructure needs.
Political position: Right of centre
The verdict: Good, old-fashioned country values. This is a throwback to real, rural representation, with preservation of natural resources and common sense policy the strong flavour. Interesting to see how they poll, strong results could place more pressure on the Coalition.
- GROUP AJ: Veterans Party
REPRESENTING all Australians with a focus on the ageing and those who've served community or country in Australia and abroad. That's the mission for the Veterans Party, who pledge not to engage in political point scoring or time wasting.
Policies include, among others, imposing a time limit for insurance companies to process claims for first responder personnel and the payment of compensation, oppose uranium exports to India until India signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, support for broadening of ASIC's remit and powers.
Political position: Fairly central, aligns with Coalition on a lot of economic policy, socially progressive, particularly strong when it comes to rights for returned servicemen and women.
The verdict: They're not afraid of an outspoken press release or two and are more than willing to call a spade for what it is. Conservative in a lot of economic areas but some strong policies in their extensive handbook. Will be interesting to see if they've been able to cut through the level of disinterest in this election.
- GROUP AK: The Greens
THE THIRD major party in Australia but in terms of political clout still a fair way behind both the ALP and LNP. Sense the Greens beast has been building of late, as major party discontentment grows. A party based on four key principles: ecological sustainability, grassroots democracy, social justice and peace and non-violence.
Policies include a push for a global ban on scientific and commercial whaling, superannuation tax reform, wrapping up negative gearing and the GST, increasing humanitarian intake to 50,000 people per year and a renewed push to ban sports betting ads.
Political position: Left wing
The verdict: Will be an acid test for just how fed up voters are with the two major parties by seeing how well the Greens poll. The introduction of Di Natale as leader has given them more credibility and younger voters tend to lean green.
- GROUP AL: Sustainable Australia
ESTABLISHED in 2010 and self-proclaimed centre-lying. Boast a comprehensive plan that lowers immigration, claiming our roads, public transport, schools and hospitals are overcrowded, that young Australians can't afford a house or get secure jobs and the environment is being degraded.
Policies include reducing immigration from 200,000 per annum down to 70,000, while maintaining humanitarian intakes at 14,000 per year, target manufacturing to make up 10% of nation's economic activity, conduct an enquiry into feasibility of a majority Australian-owned, energy efficient car company and push for a ban on junk food advertising during children's television hours.
Political position: Fairly central, elements of both major parties in policy platforms
The verdict: Big cuts to immigration means potential for big cuts in skilled workers but could appeal to some. Fairly conservative style so not a huge leap for a lot of centre, centre-right leaning voters.
AND FINALLY, the ungrouped, Independent Senate candidates:
Here's the list of those standing alone for a shot at a Queensland seat in the nation's upper house.
Shyamal Reddy, Greg McMahon, David Bundy, Kim Vuga, Jim Savage, Tony Moore, Josephine Potter, Paul Joseph Stevenson, Marshal Anderson, Ian Eugarde, Julie Boyd, Leeanne Hanna-McGuffie, Zoemaree Harris, Michael Kaff, Terry Jorgensen, Gary James Pead, John Gibson, Belinda Marriage, Greg Beattie
SO, there it is. Still clueless? Try this AEC Senate voting practice site out and see if that clears it up.