The Importance and Precariousness of Freedom

Everyone talks about freedom but often it is not thought through very carefully. It is a tremendous good, if properly understood and rightly made use of. But if not, it can be a real trap and lead to some very bad outcomes. It can be a two-edged sword, depending on how it is used.

Back in 1958 the Russian-British philosopher Isaiah Berlin delivered a lecture in which he spoke about two kinds of freedom: negative freedom, or freedom from (law, authorities, etc.) and positive freedom, or freedom for (doing what is right, or what we ought to do).

Both are vitally important and depend on each other, but sadly most folks only think about and run with freedom from. They want complete liberty from all restraints and all restrictions. But that is a recipe for disaster. As Lord Acton reminded us long ago, freedom is “not the power of doing what we like but the right of being able to do what we ought.”

The American Founding Father Daniel Webster said this: “Liberty exists in proportion to wholesome restraint.” Or as Edmund Burke once said, “But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.”

If individuals need to handle liberty carefully, so too do nations. Most of the Founding Fathers were well aware of this truth. Consider just a few quotes:

“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” -Benjamin Franklin

“Without virtue, there can be no political liberty.” -President John Adams

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” -George Washington

Or as I just read moments ago, “All freedom requires restraint, and the greater the freedom the greater the restraint and the stronger the accountability it requires” (Os Guinness). More on him in a moment, but let me mention a few more vital points to keep in mind.

While freedom is one of the defining and most important characteristics of our successful and prosperous nations, it never comes about by accident, and there is always a price to pay to achieve real freedom. The American experiment in political and religious liberty was a very costly one indeed.

And it is also quite costly to maintain freedom. Freedoms can easily be lost, so it takes much effort to preserve our freedoms. Without diligence, perseverance, and watchfulness, we can easily and quickly see our liberties recede and/or be taken away from us.

As Ronald Reagan once put it: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children what it was once like in the United States when men were free.”

And freedoms tend to be of a piece – they tend to stand or fall together. If we chip away at freedom of speech, we also chip away at things like freedom of conscience or freedom of religion. So we need to be vigilant about all of our freedoms.

Of course there will always be the need for some limitations here, and in a democracy there will always be trade-offs so that both majorities and minorities can enjoy liberty. While there can be no absolutes to freedom (we can’t shout “fire” in a crowded theatre), it is still vitally important and well worth defending.

Another key truth here is that a strong case can be made that the Judeo-Christian worldview really helped to lay the foundation for freedom in the West. And as that foundation erodes, so too does freedom. We see examples of this everywhere. As various activist groups and militant secular organisations push their agendas, the freedoms of ordinary Australians are being peeled away.

And it is worse when the State gets into the act. All over the West we see secular left governments aggressively pursuing progressive policies – policies which also mean the curtailment and limitation of freedoms for many. Usually special rights for various minority groups come at the expense of liberties for the majority.

Whither freedom?

Image of Last Call for Liberty: How America's Genius for Freedom Has Become Its Greatest Threat
Last Call for Liberty: How America's Genius for Freedom Has Become Its Greatest Threat by Guinness, Os (Author) Amazon logo

We need to go back to some basics here, including taking a closer look at just what we mean by freedom and how it is becoming undermined in the West. Plenty has been said on this topic over the millennia, but let me draw upon just one resource, the brand-new book by Christian thinker Os Guinness, Last Call for Liberty (IVP, 2018).

While I hope to do a proper book review of this real soon, let me just highlight a few aspects of this important volume. In it he asks ten crucial questions about the situation in America, and whether freedom still has a future there. These questions include:
-Do you know where your freedom comes from?
-Are there enough Americans who care about freedom?
-How do you plan to sustain freedom?
-How do you justify your vision of a free and open society?

His third question, “What do you mean by freedom?” is worth exploring a bit further. In it he offers various definitions of freedom, and looks at seven components of it. The third component is the fact that “freedom includes the notion of human responsibility”.

He says, “In an age obsessed with entitlement and rights, the responsibility and duties at the heart of freedom often get selective attention. . . . In sum, freedom and responsibility are inseparable and at the heart of growing into adult life and citizenship.”

As in some of his previous books, he also draws upon Berlin’s distinction between positive and negative liberty: “Negative freedom is still only half the story. By itself, negative freedom leads only to license and would end in either chaos or tyranny. No one achieves full and genuine freedom unless they go on to experience positive freedom.”

This involves two dimensions:

“First, freedom is not the permission to do what you want, but the power to do what you ought. And second, such freedom is not individual only. Each person’s freedom is free only to the extent that each one respects the equal freedom of all others too.”

Of course that is where things get difficult, and often the freedoms of the few will conflict with the freedoms of the many – or vice versa. How we may try to resolve such dilemmas is looked at by Guinness, but I cannot cover it here – stay tuned for my fuller review.

The truth is, as Guinness acknowledges, the move by leftist governments to strip away real choice and freedom from various groups simply to maintain a radical secular left ideology at all costs is getting worse by the month. Our freedoms really are under threat. We must work to ensure that our freedoms are not continually being stripped away.

As General Douglas Macarthur once said, “No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation.” Or as we find on the outside of Anzac House on a busy street corner in Perth: “They only deserve freedom who are prepared to defend it”.

Or as Guinness asks, “America, America. Do you know what time it is? Do you understand the meaning of this moment? Freedom is at stake…” It sure is.

(Australians can get the new Guinness volume at Koorong: )

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24 Replies to “The Importance and Precariousness of Freedom”

  1. The greatest danger for Christians in Australia in 2019 is institutionalised religious persecution under the name of “religious freedom”.

    When Parliament comes back next month Mr Morrison will introduce a Bill for a Religious Freedom Act including a Religious Freedom Commissioner.

    This Bill will be sent to “Committee” and won’t become Law before the next election.

    Bill Shorten will be under pressure to promise to protect religious freedom during the election. He will promise to do that.

    If Labor wins the election, they will pass Mr Morrison’s Bill but with amendments for homosexual students AND teachers, and there will be no protection for people who believe marriage in between one man and one woman only.

    Prime Minister Bill Shorten will then appoint a MUSLIM as the one and only “Religious Freedom Commissioner” and he will weaponise the Religious Freedom Act against Christians who speak the truth about Islam.

    What can we do to stop this?

    Mr Morrison’s Government is a lost cause. Our only hope is a Senate cross bench full of Biblical Christians. So please Vote [1] in the Senate for Australian Conservatives, Christian Democratic Party (NSW), Australian Christians (except NSW), or Fraser Anning’s Conservative National Party (Qld).

    If there are any others I have missed please let us know. Don’t be deceived into voting One Nation or Liberal Democrats. Those parties have some policies attractive to Christians but aren’t Christian at heart. They won’t be reliable in this our most important battle for the next decade. Pauline Hanson has a homosexual Chief of Staff and David Leyonhjelm was a lifelong agitator for homosexual marriage.

    If Christians hold the Balance of Power in the Senate we can ensure that the Religious Freedom Bill that passes through Parliament will guarantee that only a Bible-believing Christian can be appointed the Religious Freedom Commission (this can be done by making the law say the Religious Freedom Commissioner must be recommended by both the Catholic and Anglican Archbishops of Sydney), OR like the I.C.A.C. in NSW there must be three Commissioner picked to represent Australia’s religious beliefs (so two Christians and one “other”) and complaints can only be dealt with if two of the three Commissioners agree.

  2. Michael and all, it is ESSENTIAL to not just Vote1 for a good Christian Party. And please, PLEASE, do NOT just vote 1 to 6 above the line. That is very dangerous to freedom as your vote could easily ‘exhaust’ and become useless in choosing the last one or two senators in your State – and those last couple of Senators per State are the ones most likely to hold the balance of power.

    It is VITALLY important to number every square above the line in the order of the Parties’ commitment to Christian values. OK you can leave one square blank if you must – that makes no difference, but best not leave two blank.

    This required work and discipline to rate: all the Parties above the line; or, all the Candidates below the line. Hopefully there will be suitable Christian guidelines and suggestions for all States soon after the nominations close. We need people in all States to make sure this happens.

  3. “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” -Benjamin Franklin We in America have lost this virtue. None of this will be resolved with talk but sadly on with a revolution of violence.

    Ecclesiastes 3:8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

    Jeremiah 46:16 They will stumble repeatedly; they will fall over each other. They will say, ‘Get up, let us go back to our own people and our native lands, away from the sword of the oppressor.’

    Using the Bible to justify the sin of abortion and homosexuality is wrong but somehow is justified by culture! I fear the future for my Grandkids and my children!

    Life is precious but life without freedomis slavery!

    Charles Love

  4. Dear Peter,

    I am hoping a Christian group will survey all candidates and publish a list of candidates who respond YES to both these questions:

    1) Do you support a Religious Freedom Act in principle?


    2) If so, will you only ever vote to pass a Religious Freedom Act that states the Religious Freedom Commissioner MUST be a Biblical Christian ?

    Our worst nightmare would be Bill Shorten making a Muslim the Religious Freedom Commissioner! Our second worst nightmare would be if he made “Father” Rod Bowers the RF Commissioner!!

    I’m even telling everyone I know don’t even think about voting Below The Line for General Molan. He’s a good man but he’s controlled by the Liberal Party and if the Leader tells him to vote for a Religious Freedom Act with no requirement for a Biblical Christian to fill the RF Commissioner role he will do like he’s told.

    Both parties support a Religious Freedom Act in principle so we should be thinking now about who we want as Religious Freedom Commissioner. I think either the former Anglican or Catholic Archbishops of Sydney would be a great RF Commissioner. Maybe it could be Cardinal Pell for 5 years and then Dr Jensen for the next 5 years?

    Another question I get asked is why should the Religious Freedom Commissioner be a Bible-believing Christian? We must all be prepared to answer this question and the answer is the same as why scripture classes in schools must be taught by Bible-believing Christians. Because only a Biblical Christian can defend the religious freedom of the majority of Australians who are Christian.

  5. We cede much of our freedom away when we allow the publicly funded media to constantly get away with virtually unending humanist/socialist/atheistic propaganda. They are constantly getting away with rewriting history, ignoring truth and matters which don’t support their agenda, slandering Christianity and Christians, misrepresenting facts for their own purposes and shutting down virtually all opposing views. We have clear and obvious evidence of them doing this and while they are allowed to get away with it the public will be continually misguided and denied access to the truth. What they do is not only blatantly opposed to Christianity, it is opposed to even basic, fundamental secularist principles and their legal requirements. Make no mistake, they are forcing, to the best of their ability, atheistic/pagan religious beliefs onto people through overwhelming deception, misrepresentation and pornography. These are what the Bible describes as fundamental Satanic devices. They allow almost no access for the truth to be revealed yet we are supposed to support them in their wicked agenda with our taxes.

  6. >>Michael Taouk, Peter Newland,
    The reason to not vote for a Labour government is since labour is normally socialist, it is in the UK anyway and socialism is immoral.

    I find it odd that we think we need laws to practice our Christian traditions and practices. I am not saying it wouldn’t be really nice to live in Christendom, it would be great, however, if we can’t have Christendom then we have individual Christendom and even family Christendom (our church family). I think you will find out how many Christians there are (even in your church) when your once Christian nation turns against you.

    A society that is predominantly secular atheistic that gives Christendom something is simply exercising its authority over the church. If there are no Christian men who are willing to stand (politically) then we should not expect anything from the secular atheists. If there are men willing and able to stand then they should do so honestly and openly and that would express itself in them making it clear they intend reasserting Christian values, traditions and practices.

    If the Christian standing loses, then your nation doesn’t want our God. If they do not lose, then you have the much harder task and that is behaving like Christians not socially but politically. Schools would have to not only teach Christian values and traditions but act them out. Marriage would have to be defined as one man to one woman. If this sounds like an impossibility it isn’t it’s simple as the MSM would be Christian and you just need a soap running nightly that portrayed heterosexual marriages as cool and fun and same-sex marriage as not and job done. All mosques will be closed, of course, we would have to understand that there are some devote Muslims so we would have to point them to the nearest country to practice their religion. What we shouldn’t do is “love” so much we compromise our God. if that sounds harsh the alternative is persecution. Historically Christians are much better at being persecuted than acting out Christendom. I am not sure why this is, but I think it has to do with IQ, the higher the IQ the more self-critical you become. That is why you see Christian nations apologising for slavery and being critical of Christianity. Slavery was much more extensive in the Muslim world and much more brutal too, for instance, boy slaves were castrated many, many bleeding to death, have you ever heard of a Muslim nation apologise for its part in slavery, have you ever heard your media commenting on that particular slavery? no, you probably haven’t.

    It seems a nation has to go all the way down before realising what it once had. before starting the cycle over again.

    I think we need to ask some very difficult questions of our application of Christianity in the past and if we did so I don’t think it would be the case we weren’t accommodating and reasonable. I think it would be the opposite we forgot our task wasn’t to be accommodating and reasonable (which we expect in return now, best of luck with that) but we should have been utterly non-compromising as we were just the ambassador, not the new lawmaker.

    Do not think I am being critical of any of you guys, as I am not, it’s just it’s easier to look from afar and see the errors being repeated that occurred where I am.

  7. Freedom requires discipline. National freedom requires national discipline. Education in my day imposed discipline. The cubs and scouts and sporting clubs imposed discipline. The dictionary defines discipline as mental and moral training, obedience to rules, etc. Came the sixties, and moral training has been ebbing away ever since. Turning the immoral tide around is essential if we are to regain the national discipline to achieve national freedom. Where is the national Christian leadership to lead this crusade? Or do we wait for Islam to take the lead? –
    Tom Lovett

  8. The fact that we see people’s freedom being overridden like this, plus freedom of speech and things such as in the U.S. and U.K. and in Australia, where belief in sexual morality is being used as a ploy by atheistic/socialist/humanist regimes to exclude decent, honest and honorable people from the government and the judiciary, is proof and among a wealth of other evidence, that God was correct in saying that not only does homosexuality defile the individual, it defiles the entire nation. The idea that homosexual “marriage” does not affect other people could not be further from the truth.

  9. I have a tremendous love for the Australian people. While I’m not sure why I think it goes back to a bunch of Aussies I met at a Fishnet Christian event in Front Royal, VA, back in 1978 when I first understood and believed the gospel. I felt such a wonderful bond with them.

    I keep getting my heart broken with all the craziness going on by the gov’t of Australia. Not being a citizen there, so having no say in your internal affairs, all I can do is pray fervently for your country. Bill…for my fellow brethren there and that your government officials will have their spiritual eyes and understanding open. Praying for you always!

  10. Dear Michael Taouk,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the upcoming election, especially about the Religious Freedom Commissioner.
    Lets hope Christians can have the Balance of Power in the Senate.

  11. We need to choose our battle. Defending Religious Freedom is an underdog position against the top-dog media and secular left claiming political correctness and holding public attention. Rather, we must defend Freedom – freedom for all.

    Yes Christianity is under attack. But the solution is revival and evangelism rather than trying to protect our own little niche via politics. However, we must also fight politically – choosing the right battle: the battle to protect Freedom of Conscience, Speech and Assembly. Without such freedoms we lose religious and other freedoms.

    Freedom itself is the battle where we can claim and more easily defend the high ground – with a better chance of swaying public opinion with valid arguments for defending democracy – arguing without majoring on our own religious freedom.

    Many of the current and proposed anti-discrimination, ‘hate’, ridicule, offence and vilification laws attack freedom of speech, conscience and assembly. We must argue that case to the public.

    Consider actual and likely results of such laws:
    * A Judge ruled: “Truth is irrelevant”;
    * An accused is effectively guilty of ‘hate’ if an opponent chooses to be offended;
    * Bernard Gaynor is being persecuted for trying to live and speak his conscience;
    * Green-Labor promises to deny private schools the right to reject staff opposed to the ethos of the school community;
    * Green-Labor wants schools to assist children to change sex without the knowledge and consent of their parents. Isn’t that ‘trans’ conversion therapy?
    * Green-Labor wants it to be an offence to assist adults to change unwanted same-sex attraction. But why should straight>trans assistance be legal but gay>straight assistance be illegal?
    * Women and girls being forced to allow XY males, identifying as women, to play their sports and use their communal clubs, associations, gyms, shower and locker rooms.

    All these issues can bring the public on side as a whole rather than religious people asking permission to discriminate. If everyone has freedom rights that protect against repressive anti-discrimination laws, we won’t need or want exemptions.

    We must not repeat mistakes made in losing the Same-Sex “Marriage” debate. We lost because the major thrust of our arguments studiously avoided facing a truth the media suppressed: – the fact that the overall evidence is that same sex relationships and parenting give inferior results compared with traditional marriages, on all measures, giving worse results for children and adults involved, as well as for society as a whole. So while avoiding the truth, and failing to advocate for at-risk children and adults, we concentrated on how it would affect US and OUR Religious Freedom – and our arguments were rejected.

    Focussing on religious freedom focuses on self and is more likely to worsen persecution. Focussing on freedom for all is more likely to resonate with the public. Whatever the outcome, we need to repent and strengthen what remains.

  12. Michael, a Religious Freedom Act and a Religious Freedom Commissioner Act risks detail that could be used against us. And it would be legislation that can be easily repealed or amended. Rather I think Freedom of Speech, Conscience and Assembly (on which freedom of religion depends) are fundamental human (God ordained) rights that should be protected by the Constitution and by international agreements.

    Sarah, some trivia: I’m with you in spelling ‘labour’ with a ‘u’, but we have the Australian Labor Party (ALP = Democrats – with no ‘u’) so I really struggled with the Democratic Labour Party (DLP spelt with a ‘u’) where the DLP is a Catholic split away from the ALP much closer to the Australian Liberals or Republican equivalent.

  13. A vacuum cannot remain a vacuum, it will be promptly filled by whatever is around and the most vociferous. The Christian leadership vacuum is being filled by the most disgusting minds with the most evil intents that will shackle our nation in chains of deceit in the name of ‘liberty’ and ‘justice’. While we still retain some of the residue of Christian discipline and law and governance, these also are being eroded in the name of ‘equality’ and ‘freedom’. As a nation we must repent.

  14. Dear Peter,

    Mr Morrison has proposed and will introduce a bill for a Religious Freedom Act and he challenged Bill Shorten to support it.

    It looks like Shorten will agree to support it but an election in May means it won’t get passed until the next parliament.

    So BS’s strategy is pass Mr Morrison’s bill but then weaponise it against Christians by appointing a Religious Freedom Commissioner who will go after Bible-believing Christians. The leftists never pass up an opportunity to turn laws meant to protect us against us.

    So if we are going to get a Religious Freedom Act anyway (you can blame Mr Morrison for that) why shouldn’t we try to make it part of the law that the Religious Freedom Commissioner must be a Christian?

    How can you defend the religious beliefs of the majority of Australians if you’re not from that religion?

    If we’re going to get a Religious Freedom Act no matter what, Christians in control of the balance of power is the Senate is the only way to make sure we get an RF Act that protects us instead of one that will be used to persecute us.

  15. Michael T, you are spot on that: “BS’s strategy is pass Mr Morrison’s bill but then weaponise it against Christians by appointing a Religious Freedom Commissioner who will go after Bible-believing Christians.”

    BUT: there’s NO WAY, even with Christians in control of the balance of power in the Senate, that we can mandate a Christian Religious Freedom Commissioner because that sets a religious test for an office of the crown – which violates the principle of separation of church and state.
    Correct me if I’m wrong.

    The key issue is that a battle couched in terms of ‘religion’ is a battle we are likely to lose. It’s a battle where the media delight to claim that we have no right to privileged protection, and where most of the population and politicians will probably agree.

    That’s why we should actively encourage and promote candidates who guarantee to vote for freedom of speech, conscience and association – secular non-religious grounds that allows robust democracy and true freedom. Such freedom includes freedom to practice and promote any religious belief from atheism to Zoroasterism, provided it does not infringe the freedom of speech, conscience or association of others.

    I think we have that right and that most of the population and politicians will agree, if we make the case logically and diligently. We need to start now.

    Such neutral freedom law will protect democracy and the peace by preventing vexatious ‘lawfare’ harassment against: welfare and adoption agencies; single-sex schools, clubs, sports, showers and toilet facilities; church schools, clubs, individuals, etc.

    In contrast, inappropriate anti-discrimination laws weaponise lawfare against anyone who dares debate or cross the religious or gender extremist views of the identity warriors who claim victimhood but wage unrelenting war until they control all.

    Finally, please get involved and don’t risk a wasted vote by voting only 1-6 above the line or 1-12 below the line. It is vital to have your full say on the balance of power in the Senate by numbering EVERY square above (or below) the line.

  16. Thanks John C.
    The Christian Values Check list is good but it needs to cover all parties – a tall order. But first some background.

    Australia has a preferential voting system where voters must number candidates in order of preferences. If any candidate receives over 50% of first preference votes, they are declared elected. If no candidate receives over 50%, then votes for Candidates with the lowest number of first preferences are ‘distributed’ to the 2nd or subsequent candidate preferenced by those votes, until eventually one candidate accumulates more than 50% to be declared ‘elected on preferences’.

    In a large State such as New South Wales, voters can be faced with a large ballot paper with 40 Parties or Groups listed “Above the Line” and 150 Candidates listed “Below The Line”. But listing 150 candidates (or 40 Parties) in order of preference is a formidable task. Hence, voters are required to EITHER: mark at least 6 PARTIES in order of preference; OR, mark at least 12 CANDIDATES in order of preference. Why 6 and 12? Because most Senate Elections are to choose six senators.

    Sounds easy and good? Easy yes. Good, NO! The big parties know that this system is biased in their favour if voters take the easy way out and only vote 1-6 or 1-12 and risk wasting the value of their vote. How is a vote wasted? Unless you vote for the six most popular Parties, or the 12 most popular Candidates, your vote will probably “Exhaust” and have zero say in choosing the last one or two Senators. That means you have reduced your say in who holds the balance of power.

    Hence we need to upgrade the Christian Values Check List so that it rates all 40 Parties or Groups in order of preferences. This needs to be done soon after the candidate list is finalised and will require hard work and good cooperation between conservative groups.

    We also need to lobby for a more just voting system. There is no better system than the Australian Preferential Voting system but, like all other systems, it has serious flaws. For more detail of those flaws and how they can be reduced, see for a 1-page summary, and/or a 4 page explanation with 8 sample Ballot Papers.

  17. Thanks Peter. Since I am a part of the CVC team, and have been for quite some time, let me say a few words in response if I may. The ideal would be to cover every single party there is, and all the independents. But we do not live in an ideal world. We try very hard to make sure our list is as accurate and thorough as possible, given our limitations. Thus a handful of people may spend as much as a hundred man hours on each checklist, doing a heap of careful research, which tends to cover only around 6 or 7 of the main parties. If we tried to cover every party, and add in all the various independents, it would likely take us thousands of hours for each election. Um, a handful of us who are already extremely busy doing so many other things just are not able to do that, sorry! And we all contribute our time and effort to this on a purely voluntary basis.

    If you and some friends have a spare thousand hours or two for every election we have in Australia, yes we would love to see such an extensive checklist. And of course our rather limited checklist can at least fit on one sheet of paper for widescale circulation. A list you are suggesting could end up being the size of a small magazine!

    So as I say, your proposal is the ideal, but we are NOT in such an ideal situation. If you and others want to give it a try, we would certainly look forward to seeing your results! In the meantime, keep us in prayer as we seek to do the best we can with very little time and manpower.

  18. Dear Bill
    Agree. People don’t get that 90% of people can barely look at a one page Checklist let alone a long magazine.
    Warwick Marsh

  19. Thanks Bill, and Warwick

    Agreed: we don’t have the resources to rate every Party on all CVC issues as it would “end up being the size of a small magazine”, and people will rarely read even one page.

    That’s why we need a simple Christian Values How To Vote (HTV) Guide for each State or Territory. Each HTV Guide will list all Parties and Groups in Ballot Paper Order with preference numbers filled in.

    It’s not simple to do, but working alone for the last Federal election I produced How To Vote Guides for all States and Territories. Unfortunately, they were way too late to be effectively distributed.

    But with a few people in Each State it should be well within our resources to generate a timely HTV for each State. They won’t be perfect, but it will be more useful and safer than the current CVC format which can be a liability with the new Vote 1-6 Above The Line system.

    Under the old system (Vote-1 “Above The Line” for the Party of your choice) the Party chosen filled in all “Below The Line” preferences registered by that Party for all other Parties. That system was easy – although easily rorted by corrupt preference-swapping deals. But it had the advantage that Voters’ preferences never “exhausted” and hence it was reasonably safe to use the CVC to choose your Vote-1 Party.

    However under the new system (Vote 1-6 Above, or 1-12 Below, The Line) it is quite likely that many Christian voters’ votes will exhaust and be useless in deciding the all-important last one or two Senators – who often hold the “balance of power’. Hence it is NOT SAFE to vote only for the top 6 parties on the CVC.

    I suggest that we take this off-line and discuss it with the CVC team and other interested people. I’m also keen to find a mathematician/programmer to calculate how and when voters are disenfranchised by their votes “exhausting” before each of the last two or three Senators are elected. I suspect we will be shocked at the undemocratic nature of vote 1-6 above the line.

  20. Hello Bill/Warwick/Peter,
    One further thought on this – for the Victorian election last year, the VEC had a downloadable PDF made up of the Upper House preferences (both above and below the line) for all the parties.
    This allowed me to work out beforehand some order of below-the-line preferences, based on each party’s preferences for all the other parties.

    I don’t know if the AEC will be doing something similar for the Federal election or not, though.


  21. Hello Gentlemen,
    However you vote 1 to 6, or 1 to 20, whatever you do don’t leave any blank spaces but rather draw a line through the box so that nobody else can capture your last number. Certainly don’t believe the ‘system’ is honest or cannot be manipulated; at least make it as hard as possible for someone else to alter your ballot paper.
    If you ‘stuff’ this election then it is a four year wait to make amends!

  22. Louis,
    There is no problem if voters number every box.
    There is no point in leaving only the last box blank because that makes ABSOLUTELY zero difference.
    But it’s a good point that if you do leave one or more boxes blank your vote is more vulnerable to dishonest counters etc.

    If you really can’t decide who the worst several candidates or parties are , I’m not sure what the rules are, but I presume its ok to put a line through a box you don’t want to use.

    Leaving boxes blank is actually much worse that risking someone just capturing your last number. A cheat can easily make your whole vote informal. Steal it entirely.

    An unscrupulous counter or scrutineer who gets the chance could simply write even a single 1 in any empty box and make your vote informal.

    Decades ago at a Polling Place in Melbourne’s Western suburbs for a Victorian State election: I was aghast to see a Polling Worker counting votes while holding a pencil in hand; I objected immediately, but not until the Electoral Officer in Charge finally backed me up did the Polling Worker agree to put the pencil down. At another election, I saw Senate ballot papers stored in a plastic rubbish bin awaiting the OIC’s decision re whether they were formal or not.

    Sadly there is opportunity for corruption by Polling workers and even by Scrutineers to fraudulently manipulate votes by making a formal vote informal, or filling out an informal vote paper that was blank. Scutineers are forbidden to touch ballot papers, but it happens.

    OFTEN, I was the ONLY scrutineer left in the counting room at a polling place when they did the preliminary count of Senate Votes (all the others usually leave when the lower-house is finished). So the system is vulnerable to crooked electoral officials.

  23. John Cleverdon,
    the system you describe, where PDFs (called “Group Voting Ticket” PDFs) gave the result of “Voting 1 Above the Line”, is no longer used for Federal Senate elections.

    While I’m pleased that the old corrupt system is gone, the new system (where we can make a preferential vote either Above The Line , at Party level, or Below the Line, at Candidate level) makes it harder to work out your own preferences. The problem is that the parties often only tell you to “Vote 1 for us and number at least 5 other boxes”. It’s uncommon for parties to tell you more that their first 6 preferences unless you really press them – and sometimes you get no info at all.

    And those problems means that many people only vote 1-6 above the line oblivious to the fact that has a very high risk of their vote ‘exhausting’ and being of zero value in deciding who the last Senator will be – yet the last Senators per State often hold the ‘balance of power’.

    Hence it is best to number every box above the line in your order of party preference.
    There is no point in voting below the line unless you want to support an “Ungrouped Candidate” or you want to support a Candidate you think is especially worthy but who is No3 on Labor or Liberal. In reality, short of a miracle, in a half-Senate election, candidates 4th or lower in a big party list, and Ungrouped Candidates have essentially zero chance of election. Similarly Candidates 3rd or lower on a medium size party list have zero chance of election. So the only point in voting below the line is to make a symbolic gesture of support.

    You might be interested in other information re elections at

    3rd on the lsi

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