SOMETIMES, the Liberal/National Party candidate being offered to the electorate is worse than the Labor Party candidate in the same electorate. But coalition supporters who blindly vote for, donate to and volunteer for their preferred party’s candidate – no matter how terrible they are – do far more damage to their party than they would by simply supporting a better candidate, even a Labor one.

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One of the predictable questions I get at conferences during Q&A segments is, “But don’t Labor MPs have to vote the way their party tells them to?” But the answer isn’t straightforward, as this week’s news of Labor Senator Fatima Payman crossing the floor to vote against her party on a motion related to Palestinian recognition reveals.

It’s important to first set the context for the question.

I teach that a Christian’s highest moral authority is our Lord Jesus Christ, and that in the word “Lord” is the implication of complete loyalty to His every law and teaching. It should therefore be impossible for us to give blind and unquestioning loyalty to any person, politician or party (and shame on them if they demand it).

It was political sedition in 1st Century Judea for the Christians to be baptised with the confession that Jesus is Lord, as that was a tribute reserved for Caesar, who considered himself a deity.

Political party leaders these days are a little more subtle, and may begrudgingly allow some members who are at least a little independent in their opinions and convictions. There is, however, a growing popularity for Christophobic outrage when a Christian fails to amputate his conscience before wading into the muck of the public square.

I teach that a Christian should sincerly decide to become an undecided voter before every election. Even party members are entitled to a secret ballot, and on election day we all must honestly, in the sight of Almighty God alone, vote for the best person for the job and not vote out of blind partisanship.

Therefore we must obtain sufficient information about every candidate seeking our primary vote or subsequent preferences to be able to rank and order them accordingly.

If you’ve ever bought a fridge, you probably didn’t just buy your favourite brand, but did at least some research to compare prices, size, style of doors, colours to match your kitchen, energy efficiency and manufacturer’s warranty. It’s a big choice, and one you and your family will have to live with for perhaps a decade or more.

Every election is the same, if not weightier in importance and consequences for not only your family, but your city, state and nation. As people who love our neighbours, we should put at least the same effort into choosing a Member of Parliament as we do a fridge.

Party comparisons are next to useless, as the ecclectic mix of candidates across a state or nation can vary enormously. The Liberal and National parties can just as easily offer a candidate who is a Bible-believing, pro-life conservative as a God-mocking, baby killing “moderate”. If you follow a guide comparing the parties, you will be relying on a report which says such candidates are equally suited to represent your family.

The damage you do to your preferred party by voting for the worst candidates they preselect is by teaching them that you will reward them when they abandon their own values and yours, ensuring they repeat that vandalism of values. The short term pain of a party you don’t prefer in government is a much cheaper problem then the generational pain of a increasingly aneamic, cumulatively compromised party which is eventually unwilling to represent its own members.

Vote for the person, not the party – always.

I detest the arguments for party comparisons which assume voters are lazy, stupid and disinclined to learn. I instead dare to believe that continuous education is empowering and uplifting, whereas commercially catering to voters who don’t care instead perpetuates ignorance and apathy.

Gathering necessary, helpful information about the candidates in your electorate is essential, and there are varying qualities of sources to get it from.

A diverse range of independent media and political commentary (such as The Good Sauce) is essential. Don’t furnish your echo chamber: consider the best of sincere arguments for and against your own ideas and normally-preferred party.

Subscribe to email updates from advocates for the issues you believe are breaking God’s heart, such as Australian Christian Lobby, Australian Family Coalition, and Family Voice Australia, and prayerfully digest the research they do for us all.

Register for the next Church And State conference in a city near you!

One of the most effective sources of information about your candidates is the candidates themselves. The more personal and direct you can make your conversation with them, the better.

Another benefit of personally surveying all candidates on offer is amplified when many more of us get mobilised in this way. The candidates, however they feel about parental rights, the sanctity of life and other justice issues not considered “an election issue”, will begin to see the importance of such issues to the electorate you’re in, and will begin to better represent the constituencies sincerely offering their support in exchange for better representation.

But whether in person, via the phone or email, the answers they give you to the questions you ask will be extremely important to helping you finally decide how to rank your preferences on election day.

And this is where I get asked about Labor politicians being compelled to vote with the party.

They know their conscience and its constraints better than you do, and we must at least give every candidate the courtesy of speaking for themselves if any source of information is to be given any weight.

The fact is that Labor MPs, as well as Coalition MPs, sometimes do defy their own party and “cross the floor” of Parliament to vote against them. It’s true that the Coalition is far more tolerant of this than Labor, but you just may be presented with one of those rare candidates whose conscience is stronger than the desire to preserve their career.

Such courage in convictions was displayed by Labor senator Fatima Payman this week who voted against Labor on an antisemitic Greens motion to recognise the “State” of Palestine.

A Labor Party spokesman explained:

There is “no mandated sanction in these circumstances and previous caucus members have crossed the floor without facing expulsion”.

To be fair, it’s the first time that has happened while Labor was in power since 1988, but proves it has always been possible.

Perhaps it rarely happens because Labor MPs have correctly assumed they’ll never get support from right thinking people, just as Liberal MPs assume no matter how convictionless they are they’ll always get our support by way of at least being preferenced above Labor.

A conviction candidate with your values is gold, and deserves strong support and encouragment, even if in a party you normally wouldn’t prefer. Combine one of them with the increasingly likely chance of a Liberal candidate whose “values” are cheaply sold for the sake of another term in parliament, and it becomes hard to justify voting for the Liberal.

My final piece of advice on choosing your preferences afresh every election is to compare notes and discuss with people you respect and share common values with, being comfortable if you don’t exactly agree.

Both major parties play to win undecided voters. They are mostly driven by careerism and winning elections, as opposed to moral convictions and fighting for what’s right at any cost. Whilever Christians and other voters of good conscience remain blindly loyal to avoiding a Labor government at any cost, both Liberal and Labor candidates will consider our votes not worth fighting for.

No, a Labor government will not bring the sky crashing down and whatever other hysterics some may suggest will surely result. The alternating of parties in power is both historical and inevitable, as sure as night follows day.

What you can have more control over is the person representing your electorate, and  ending the lack of consequences for right of centre parties preselecting pro-abortion, anti-family, illiberal candidates.

A generation of “anybody but Labor” shortsightedness on election day has made the Liberals “basically Labor”.

Yes, it is worth asking Labor candidates how they will vote in parliament if given the chance to support the issues you think are most important in the next election. They know the answer, and you don’t have to be a decoding genius to tell if they give you a sincere or misleading answer. Zero response means they know you won’t like their answer, so take that as basically a negative response.

Refuse to be a disinterested, passive voter, going through the motions because you have to, but effectively making room for amoral people to rule over us unresisted.

Decide to be an undecided voter after every election, do your own candidate research and discuss with like-minded friends, then rank the options accordingly. Decline everyone‘s “how-to-vote” cards on election day (including mine, only made for stubbornly lazy people): choose your own preferences, and vote for the person, not the party.

The Unlucky Country - Zimmermann & Moens

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Dave Pellowe is a Christian writer & commentator, founder of The Good Sauce, convener of the annual Australian Church And State Summit and host of Good Sauce's weekly The Church And State Show, also syndicated on ADH TV. Since 2016 Dave has undertaken the mission of arming Christians to influence culture through events from Perth to Auckland, videos, podcasts and articles published in multiple journals across Australia and New Zealand. [more]

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