As we enter the final week of the 2010 federal election campaign many voters are still trying to make up their mind who to vote for or even who the candidates are in their electorate or state.

And while we are being inundated with mindless campaign advertising, there are some great online resources for doing personal research.

For some voters, the main concern is to discover the policies of the various parties on the issues that matter to them, and there is a wealth of material available.

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PICTURE: © Alexey Khlobystov (www.istockphoto.com)

 

"For some voters, the main concern is to discover the policies of the various parties on the issues that matter to them, and there is a wealth of material available."

The Australian Christian Lobby has published a checklist on 24 key issues affecting Christians and this can be found on the Australia Votes website. Each party can be checked out individually or compared in various combinations covering broad topics such as public Christianity, international justice, poverty, family or indigenous issues. The ACL also provides candidates forums in a range of electorates across Australia. 

Another checklist has been released by the Australian Christian Values Institute with input from Christian groups such as SaltShakers. This one page document addresses mainly moral and family issues, and specifically doesn’t cover social justice. There are also lengthy supporting documents on this checklist providing further interpretation, all available at the Christian Values  website.

For voters who want to go directly to party policy statements, these are available on all party websites and a list will be provided at the end of this article.

Many voters of faith wrestle with the question of what it means to cast a Christian vote. Does it mean eschewing the major parties and voting for one of the three parties that align themselves more specifically with Christians – the Christian Democratic Party, Family First and Democratic Labor Party? Or should Christian voters be looking for politicians who have the best grasp of leadership and policy to benefit the nation as a whole, regardless of their religious beliefs?

Good sources of discussion on these issues are available from the Centre for Public Christianity, the Evangelical Alliance’s Ethos site, and  the ABC’s Religion and Ethics online portal.

Two of the best mainstream sources of election information are the ABC’s Antony Green and his election blog and the now well-known Crikey blog.

Antony Green is an election addict and his blog is amazingly comprehensive and up-to-date. Crikey prides itself on its independent, quirky and progressive view of politics and its offerings range from the poll bludger (latest poll results) to the election tracker which covers every move of political leaders on the campaign trail, down to how many kilometres they have travelled.  

Spending long hours comparing the policies of parties and debating the philosophical fine-points of Christian voting is one way to approach and election, but  many voters would simply like to know which candidates will be on their ballot papers as well as where and how to vote. 

Apart from checking your letterbox regularly for political junk-mail, there are some very nifty websites available.

An excellent source of information for every electorate in Australia is The Tally Room which provides a summary and map for all 150 House of Representatives electorates including sitting member, candidates, history and voting trends. It also provides summaries of the Senate in each state and postings on the latest poll results.

A popular resource at the Tally Room is the pendulum which lists electorates based on their margins which allows you to see where an electorate rates in terms of being marginal or safe.

As voting in the Senate usually involves a table-cloth sized ballot paper, and the choice of voting one above the line or the mind-boggling task of listing all your preferences below the line, the Below the Line website is a brilliant resource.

When arriving at Below the Line, choose the relevant state and then the fun begins. Bedazzled voters can scroll through a replica of the ballot paper they will encounter on election day and, under list view, even do a trial run of selecting preferences which can be printed as a guide for election day. Given that to vote below the line in the Senate may require the accurate preferencing of more than 100 candidates, having a personal guide could be very handy.

Or, switch to ballot view, and place a vote above the line to be shown exactly how each party or candidate has arranged for their preference flow. There may be some surprises. For example in NSW, a vote above the line for Family First or Christian Democratic Party shows preferences flowing to the Liberal/Nationals, before getting to other Christian-aligned parties

Finally, for the mechanics of voting, the Australian Electoral Commission website is the place to head. Would-be voters can check their enrolment details, where the nearest polling booth is and which electorate they belong to. There is also information about how to cast a postal or pre-poll vote and assistance for the sight-impaired and disabled.

Of course, enjoying the atmosphere of election day is a big attraction for many and apart from getting out and voting, saying hello to hopeful candidates and picking up a sausage sandwich from the local school, election groupies can join the crowd at The National Tally Room in Canberra.

Run by the Australian Electoral Commission, the tally room is open to the public from 6pm on election night, with free entry and is located in the Budawang Building of Exhibition Park, Flemington Road, Mitchell, ACT.

Or to watch the election results from home, a good rundown of what will be showing on Saturday evening, August 21 is available at television blog, throng. And for those who have had enough election by then, the AFL will dominate Channel 10’s evening viewing…

If anyone is still breathing after all this election fever, the Australian Prayer Network has been encouraging Christians to pray for the nation and the election outcome. It has provided daily prayer points to help place the outcome of election day in God’s hands.

As promised, here’s an alphabetical listing of links for checking political party policies:
• Christian Democratic Party
• Democratic Labor Party
• Family First
• Greens
• Labor
• Liberal
• Nationals

Peter Hallett is a pastor and freelance journalist publishing the blogs, Australian Christian Voter and Utterance.