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Policies & Commentary
Susan Benedyka and Christine Richards are running for the Victorian Senate on a campaign basically in line with that of Helen Haines in Indi, who Susan agrees with on a number of points, in whose electorate she lives and with whom she has worked in the Voices for Indi campaign. Susan has a well-designed website and well-thought out policy offerings. Christine, on the other hand, is a ghost. She may or may not have a web presence, but if so, it does not mention this election. And speaking of not mentioning things, Christine is mentioned not even once on Susan’s site, despite being (according the Senate Ballot for Victoria) her running mate. So that’s a little odd.
Susan’s policies are grouped into four areas, of which the first is Climate Change. Susan supports Zali Steggall’s Climate Change Act, and wants to see it become law. She also wants “action and accountability on drought measures, rural water theft, and natural disaster responses” as well as increased funding for the CSIRO, along with more support for local and renewable energy.
She also supports Helen Haine’s version of the ICAC and a small suite of other anti-corruption laws.
Under the general heading of fairness, she’s calling for an increase in Centrelink payments, support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart , and the adoption of the Seven Pillars of Inclusion as a framework for all Parliamentary decision making. She’s generally in favour of increasing unity among Australians and making our politics less divisive.
Finally, there’s building resilience, at a national level. Benedyka would like to see more emphasis on planning for the future, both in terms of mitigating the effects of climate change and improving our disaster responses.
There is honestly nothing here I object to. My only criticism is that there is not a broader policy framework on offer. I wouldn’t suggest voting for Group T above the line, but Susan Benedyka is going to be high in my preferences. Christine Richards, on the other hand, will be lower down, unless more information emerges as to why we should vote for her.
EDIT: More information has emerged!
Thanks to diligent reader DS, Susan has provided us with some information about Christine, which you can see in the comment below. Given this, I would have little hesitation in ranking Christine quite highly on the ballot as well. In addition, Something for Cate extends its deepest sympathies to Susan Benedyka and her family, and all others grieving the loss of Susan’s mother. We can all too well imagine how you must be feeling.
Just a reminder that Maz and I lack the necessary Eurovision knowledge to choose the songs that Catherine liked to include, but we’d love to see what you suggest in the comments below 🙂
I sent Susan a PM on facebook and received this response:
“[Chris] was former Mayor of Frankston, one of the founders of Committee for Frankston, former Law Reform Commissioner for both Victoria, then Queensland, presenter of ABC RN Law Report and international journalist and editor. We will put up her profile on my website. But please excuse the delay. My mum passed away last weekend and I am family time with her life celebration tomorrow. I have taken time out of the campaigning but will return on Tuesday [10 May]. Thank you for your research (and understanding).”
I mean, I’m not unsympathetic to that, but it’s still weird that Christine doesn’t seem to be campaigning in her own right and goes unmentioned on Susan’s site. A lack of detail is one thing, but a complete absence is quite another.
That said, I will be modifying this page to include some more information about her.
I gather that she was a running mate for electoral reasons, so Susan would get an above the line vote. But would make sense to include more info about her, maybe that will get to that soon.
What a thoughtful legacy this website creates for Cate. Thanks for your inclusion of Group T in the information your are providing to voters. As there’s been some questions about why I’m standing for the Victorian Senate, I’ve posted an article on Susan Benedyka’s website to explain. I’m attaching the article below. All the best… Christine Richards
Losing to win
When 99 year old environmental advocate Warwick Exton told a group of Frankston environmentalists to get off their bums and do something, he probably didn’t mean stand for the Senate. But by the end of the day, that’s what former Frankston mayor, Christine Richards, had agreed to do.
Whilst Ms Richards has no chance of winning, she is putting her name forward to give someone she believes will be an excellent Senate candidate a better chance.
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in April when a group of 15 Frankston community leaders gathered to consider how governments could be made more responsive to the people that they represent. Senate candidate Susan Benedyka had been invited to share her experiences about successfully creating a system of political representation in the Victorian electorate of Indi that is more accountable to voters.
Christine Richards asked the group how many Victorian senators they could name. ‘I was shocked. These were well-connected people who’d been advocating across governments for our region for decades. With one exception, no-one could name any. It spoke volumes about how little sitting Senators visit our region and listen to the people that they are supposed to be representing’, said Ms Richards.
‘And there was Susan, who had travelled three hours away from her home near Wangaratta to listen to and work with Frankston people. Here was a Senate candidate worth supporting.’
The group heard how nine years ago 440 people in the Victorian electorate of Indi (a huge electorate which extends from Kinglake in the south to Wondonga in the north) had wide-ranging discussions around kitchen tables, lounge rooms, and club rooms to compile their views into an action plan of political policies and priorities for their community. They became the Voices for Indi. When the sitting member — who enjoyed a whopping ten per cent margin — wouldn’t read their report, they stood a candidate against her.
That candidate — Cathy McGowan — won. She and the parliamentarian who followed her in to office (Helen Haines) entrenched a model of parliamentary representation that most Australians dream about but never experience: a representative who is not locked into party voting lines but who instead takes her cue from her electorate by careful listening and consultation — consulting with her electorate on how they would like her to vote on significant pieces of legislation, budget priorities for their region and issues such as where more mobile phone towers should be built.
In the current Federal election, the Indi model has now been embraced to varying degrees by over 20 Teal candidates across Australia. Susan Benedyka wants to introduce this model into the Senate.
But as one individual, Ms Benedyka faces a voting system for the Senate with an inbuilt bias towards the major parties. In both funding their campaigns and attracting votes on the ballot paper, the bigger the grouping, the greater the advantage.
The two major parties are likely to receive between $3 and $4 million dollars for their Senate campaigns. By contrast there are 26 groups standing in the Federal election — two thirds of them groups of two people that may be eligible for $10,656. That gives the major parties overwhelmingly more spending money to get their message out.
The Senate ballot paper, too, favours the bigger parties. People are more likely to vote for a group rather than a person. Of course that’s partly because some groups have greater appeal to voters. But disincentives to vote for individuals must also have an effect. Voting is easier and less time consuming when you vote for a group. For a vote to be effective, you can number six groups above the line or twelve people below the line. In other words, a vote for an individual will require you to fill in double the boxes, and therefore require more time and care.
‘Without a running candidate to stand with her, Susan would have been listed as an ungrouped individual in the last column of the ballot paper,’ says Ms Richards. ‘In the 2019 Federal election for Victorian Senators, the four candidate listed in the last column received only 2,595 of the 3,739,443 first preference votes successfully cast. That’s why the overwhelming majority of people who stand do so in groups, with the majority of groups — this year two thirds — containing two people. For Susan, I’m that second person.’
‘Many of the Teal candidates are unproved. Susan isn’t. As a founding member at the forefront of creating the Indi model, she is now hoping to bring the Indi model directly to the Australian Senate. That’s a revolution I’m going to put my name to,’ says Ms Richards.
To vote for Susan Benedyka and Christine Richards, vote 1 for Group T above the line on the Senate ballot paper.
Background on funding:
Senate candidates can be reimbursed for the costs of running their campaigns provided that they are eligible. And to be eligible, an individual candidate or group must obtain at least four percent of first preference votes. That might not sound like much, but in Victoria — where the eligible voting population now tips $4.32 million people — in this election that could be as any at 172,800 votes. In the last Federal election, only three groups — The Liberal/Nationals, the Labor Party and the Greens — achieved four percent or more of the first preference vote. If they achieved the same number of votes in this election, they would be eligible for significant sums: the Liberal/ Nationals nearly $3.9 million, the ALP over $3.3 million and the Greens $1.134 million. That gives the major parties far more spending money to get their message out.
Read more on the Australian Electoral Commission website — https:// http://www.aec.gov.au/Elections/candidates/
Read more about Susan Benedyka at her website: https://susanbenedyka.com
Christine, great to hear from you, and thank you for taking the time to let us know about this. Best of luck next Saturday.
Thanks so much for this, Christine, and also thanks to Loki and Maz for the very informative (and oftentimes entertaining) website.
I have been researching and researching (we always vote below the line), and this has helped enormously.
So much respect for you, Christine, and for Susan, trying to change our political landscape. You’re definitely featuring prominently below MY line on Saturday 🙂