As I write this post, nominations for both houses are closed. There are 540 candidates for the lower house (an average of 6 per seat) and 394 candidates in the upper house. The latter figure is a record, and it is mostly due to the rather onerous requirements for parties in the Upper House.
After the 1999 election, which used Single Transferable Voting with Group Tickets and which resulted in both an enormous number of candidates and the election of certain candidates with extremely low shares of the primary vote, a number of reforms were introduced. For a start, party registration fees were increased, and party membership requirements were increased.
However, another big change was introduced. Above-the-line voting was retained, but under the new rules, an above-the-line vote counted only for the candidates in the group that was below it. So, if you voted for the Liberal Party 1 above the line, your vote would go 1 for the first Liberal, 2 for the second, and so on until you got to the end of the Liberals, at which point your vote would exhaust.
However, you could also use preferences above the line. So, if you voted Liberal 1 and Christian Democrats 2 above the line, when your vote got to the end of the Liberals, it would go to the number 1 candidate of the Christian Democrats, and the number 2 candidate, and so on.
Why did this system make fielding candidates harder for small parties? Well, under the NSW Constitution, a voter must cast fifteen preferences in order to cast a formal vote. As a result, in order to secure an above-the-line box, a party needs to nominate fifteen candidates, compared to only two under the previous system. This means that they need to pay $5000, a significant sum which is only returned if a candidate is elected or the group gets 4%, and get fifteen people on the ballot paper.
Anyway, this is why there are so many candidates on the ballot paper. But, there is another oddity on the NSW Legislative Council ballot paper. There are eight ballot groups with no party affiliation. Six of them have above-the-line boxes; for some reason, the other two have only two candidates, and voters for them will be required to vote below the line (voters below the line only have to mark 15 boxes).
Most parties at least give you a basic idea of what they stand for in the name. One would assume that the No Land Tax party, for instance, stood for abolishing the land tax (although, given the recent troubles for the Palmer United Party, that name may not be an accurate description of the party). However, these ballot groups provide no information for the voter on the ballot.
Below, I will try to give NSW voters a vague guide to the policies of these candidates, or at least try to .
As you will no doubt know, on NSW Legislative Council ballot papers, groups are ordered left to right, and are given letters based on their draw. The closest group to the left is A, the second closest is B, and so on. In this post, I will identify groups by their letters. For full group listings, the ABC site is here.
Group DGroup D is headed by former Palmer United Party candidate for Chifley Christopher Buttel. Buttel won 4% at that particular electoral outing. According to his Facebook account, he lives in Penrith.
Whether or not he is the official candidate of the Palmer United Party (which is not registered in NSW) is unclear. The official PUP website makes no mention of Group D, and self-described National Treasure Clive Palmer makes no comment as to his intentions regarding the NSW election.
None of the other Group D candidates are findable on Google. Without Palmer support, or Palmer money, or even the Palmer name, this wannabe Palmer team looks unlikely to get anywhere.
I emailed the Palmer United Party to ask whether they endorsed or had any affilation with this group. They replied that "they were not standing any candidates" in the election, which was somewhat irrelevant.
Apparently, this is something called the Strata Party. This seems to have something to do with this. It seems to be about legal rights for people who live in apartments. It's a single issue party, and the issue is fleshed out more on the website. Their third candidate, John Hutchinson, was a One Nation candidate in 1999 (I think), but there are no other indications of their political affilations. Their second preference group is the Future Party, or Group M.
This one is headed by James Liu, and appears to be aimed at the Chinese community. Liu ran as an ungrouped Independent for the Legislative Council, recieving 0.03%. Quite good for an ungrouped Independent. There is little information regarding Liu, however he is mentioned in a speech of former ALP Legislative Councillor Henry Tsang as a member of his campaign team. Maybe a Labor man?
Finally, a simple one! This group is headed by James Jansson, a member of the Future Party. The party's policies include the building of a new city called 'Turing' between Sydney and Canberra, researching nuclear energy, republicanism, and building high-speed rail and driverless cars. If that's your kind of thing, the Future Party is for you.
Group P seems to be a vague collection of independents, rather than a political party. Their number one candidate Andrew Thaler has a website here, but little policy. Kate Schwager, the number 2 candidate also has a site, which is a bit heavier on policy. She seems to be focusing on rural issues. The only other candidate with a website is Venica Wilson, who is number 6 on the ticket
Jennifer Stefanac, a self-described "Advocate for Social and Political Change", leads this team of two, which has no above-the-line box (good luck with that). She was a Palmer United Party candidate for the Newcastle by-election, and during that campaign wrote a sort of statement of values. If you like that, by all means vote for her ticket, but remember that you must vote for 13 other candidates.
This is another easy one. Ron Pike is a water consultant, and appears to be running in this election to support rural issues. Apparently, he has the support of the 'Country Party of Australia', some outfit running on rural issues. Here is the party website.
Ticket leader Warwick Erwin is apparently a 'rail trail enthusiast' here, and appears to be campaigning for that sort of thing. His number 2 candidate, Ray Robinson, is apparently this guy, who is opposed to coal seam gas mining. Anyway, again, if you like the look of this pair and you know another 13 candidates, go ahead.
Running as a candidate in the NSW election is an expensive process, and it is in the best interest of someone who has spent that money to promote themselves in order to get their deposit back. However, the tickets I have written about are clearly neglecting this; certain candidates, including Group W and Group J have virtually no information on their platforms and policies. It seems unlikely that these candidates will win; whether they would win with adequate self-promotion is unclear.
If any of these candidates wish to add anything, please leave a comment or send me an email.