By: Charlotte Lever
Even if you live in a safe seat (an electorate that has been repeatedly won by a particular candidate or party), your vote still affects the outcome in the Federal Senate and many of the upper houses of the State parliaments (Australian Parliament follows a two-house or bi-cameral system).
In the Federal Senate, senators are elected a little differently. Each state receives 12 senators to represent them, while each territory receives 2 senators. To be elected, senators only need to receive a proportion or set number of votes from their state or territory to win a seat. This essentially means that a multitude of candidates will secure a senate seat, as long as they have received a certain portion of votes.
This often results in independent candidates or candidates from smaller parties winning seats, and therefore a diversity of political views in Parliament’s upper house. These senators then have the ability to debate and block Government legislation when it passes from the House of Representatives for approval into law.
When you hear about major parties having to negotiate with independents like Clive Palmer, Jacqui Lambi and Nick Xenophon in the Senate, this is exactly what is taking place.
Recent examples include:
The Federal Senate blocking changes to the Racial Discrimination Act in 2017, and
During the Abbott Prime Ministership, the Senate stopped the proposed deregulation of university fees.
So your vote is still influential in this way – even if you live in a safe seat, the party you vote for could get someone elected in the upper house. If you don’t agree with the political leadership of the day in Federal or State politics, you can vote for representatives with different views and they have a greater chance of getting elected. They can then challenge legislation on your behalf.