Election 2016 is firmly on, with 44 days left until polling day on July 2. You've seen a stack of candidates on the TV or in the newspaper, talking up their policies and outlining their vision for your electorate, state or country -- but you're not convinced. You think you could do better.
Well, you can!
Pretty much anyone in Australia can run for office, and you don't need the backing of the Liberals, Labor, the Greens, or any political party at all, for that matter. John Smith from down the road can put up his hand and run for office, so long as he is at least 18 years old and an Australian citizen, and is not:
- a member of a State or Territory parliament, unless they have resigned before lodging a nomination;
- a citizen or subject of a foreign power;
- serving a prison sentence of 12 months or more;
- is an undischarged bankrupt or insolvent;
- holding an office of profit under the Crown (e.g. Public Servant); or
- a permanent member of the Australian Defence Force
That comes from the Australian Electoral Commission, whose webpage 'Standing as a candidate' gives you everything you need to know about throwing your hat in the ring for political office. Nominations for the election are open now, and close on June 9, so if you're interested, get moving quick. More than 1700 people across Australia ran for office at the 2013 election.
"But!" we hear you say, "what are the perks? The pay packet?" Well, in exchange for the early mornings, late nights, fortnightly trips to Canberra for parliamentary sitting weeks and all the other electorate business, you'll receive around $199,000. That's the starting package for an MP or Senator. If you rise up to a more senior position, your salary keeps climbing, until you reach the Prime Minister on around $517,000. Not too bad.
So, let's get down to it. How do you apply? The AEC has published a 51-page Candidate's Handbook, which sets out all the things you need to know. Further to the dot-point disqualifications above, Section 44 of the Australian constitution sets out more factors that could stop someone from standing for office, which includes "allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power." You also can't be a public servant, which includes teachers, government employees and a range of other professions; if you hold one of these jobs, you have to resign before you can run for office.
It also costs a bit. Senate candidates must pay a $2000 deposit, while House of Representatives candidates must pay a $1000 deposit. This is returned if the candidate is elected to office or receive more than four percent of the vote, seemingly to discourage people from running for office for less than serious reasons.
The application forms are on the AEC's 'Standing as a candidate' page. They are relatively short and simple. If you are not backed by a political party, you can tick a box and have "independent" listed next to your name on the ballot paper; but, your application must be "supported by 100 eligible electors who are entitled to vote in the election in the state or territory (for Senate candidates) or the division (for House of Representatives candidates) for which you are nominating" -- again, seemingly to discourage stunt campaigns.
We asked the AEC if they had any tips or warnings for people running for office. A spokesperson said there were few specific rules that new candidates needed to be wary of, but gave a few tips.
"On advertising, the Commonwealth Electoral Act says advertisements need to be endorsed by candidates, so they need to make sure the authorisation is correct," the AEC spokesperson told The Huffington Post Australia.
"Also, on polling day, if they're distributing how-to-vote cards, they need to be at least six metres from the entrance to the polling place."
For more information, see the AEC's website. Nominations close on June 9 at midday. Good luck!