As you roll your Senate ballot paper up the cardboard sides of the polling booth, drawing the magnifying sheet to your face to read it, you’ll be spoiled for choice. The Australian Electoral Commission told Crikey 54 parties were registered for the election at the issuing of the writs last night — more than double the number from 2010, and a record high.

But the term “parties” is being kind to some. Like the Australian Sovereignty Party, for example. The Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party. The Smokers Rights Party. Or the Coke in the Bubblers Party (“a group of young Australians with a sugar-headache”).

Not that they don’t deserve their chance for a bit of political grandstanding — that’s the beauty of democracy. But few of Australia’s minor parties are well organised, most of them care about just one issue, and few of them are in a position to contribute meaningfully to any government. It’s no wonder Tony Abbott says he won’t work with any of them in the lower house.

It’s not a lack of choice that will face voters, it’s the difficulty to identify any party outside of the two or three majors worthy of your preference. If we really are as disgruntled and disengaged from mainstream politics as ever, that doesn’t add up. And if the Greens — for their many faults, now the only “minor” party capable of shaping the agenda — can’t lift their vote to the double-figure trend of past years, that’s an indictment.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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