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Australia votes for ‘least worst’

August 16, 2010

Some thoughts on Australia’s voting choices …

To vote or not to vote? – The Latham question.

Political pariah turned journalistic side-show Mark Latham, at the close of his 60-minutes‘ train-wreck of bitterness, suggested that Australian voters submit blank ballot papers as a form of protest. No doubt if the number of these ‘protest votes’ was to increase beyond the average one-in-a-hundred, Latham would take it as a sign of some perverse endorsement. Anti-Latham sentiment however is not my argument to exercise a real and considered vote. The real reason is simple: Australian’s are lucky to live in a wonderful and largely free country with sometimes representative, and sometimes effective Government. Many, many millions have fought and are fighting for similar rights elsewhere in the world. It is not only disrespectful to waste our freedom, there is also no guarantee of keeping it without continued individual involvement. It is when you are disenfranchised that your vote is at its most important. A protest vote is no protest – it is a voice lost!

Voting Green.

I do not know enough about climate change to jump personally into aggressive environmental action. I do however believe that taking action even if it proves that there is no great risk is a far better choice than taking no action and discovering catastrophic risk. So I guess that makes me a reluctant Green. Even if you would rather make no political or commercial change, it is hard to argue against the view that environmental action has been a great driver of contemporary innovation, invention and some damn good policy to reduce archaic and selfish behavior. We should all think more ‘Green’ and support well-conceived sustainable action.

This is not the same thing as voting Green, at least for the House of Representatives. The Green party has matured and holds many highly qualified politicians. It is not however ready to Govern in anywhere near all areas of policy, and will not win Government in this election or the next. It is also a party at war, containing a dysfunctional mix of extreme environmentalists, moderate environmentalists and an extreme left-wing contingent without a home anywhere else. The Greens will most likely hold the balance of power in the upper house – The Senate – and will have policy impact as a result. If you feel like voting Green, give them your Senate vote and as the Democrats used to say “keep the bastards honest”. A vote for the Greens in the lower house – House of Representatives – in most electorates will mean effectively giving your vote to the Labor party as a result of back-room deals on preferences in our complex ‘two-party’ preference system. I would suggest if the Greens are your choice, that you Vote Green on the White Ballot Paper but do not vote Green on the Green Ballot Paper (unless you actually mean Labor – then just vote Labor).

Voting for a Leader – Least Worst of Gillard or Abbott.

There is a good chance that you aren’t much of a fan of either leader. After all, they spend most of the time rallying against each other, rather than building a strong, visionary and likable persona and platform of their own. They are also not their own party’s first choice. Both are in their current role because their party power-brokers  were scared of you, the electorate, and fears induced by past opinion polls. Abbott defeated Turnbull in a party ballot by a single vote. Gillard similarly replaced Rudd due to support from a scared party backroom – the faceless men! You can be sure of one thing, fear based choices are unstable and fear will bring them undone yet again. In both parties, politicians will convert moments of fear into triggers for change. We are yet to see a true ‘leader’ emerge and yet the campaign is built around their personalities – many voters will not know their local representative and will choose as a result of blind party loyalty, a particular resonating policy and in many cases perception from the constructed ‘brand’ of Abbott or Gillard. Our system may not put the choice of Prime Minister in the hands of voters but our media, our political parties and the public make much of the process a popularity contest. That is why Labor’s removal of Kevin Rudd as a first-term elected Prime Minister still upsets many voters and why polls use the ‘preferred PM’ question as a major benchmark.

Making a Policy Choice.

The mercenary policy making of an election campaign is insanity in action. Populist policy launched for how many votes it may gain and not how many people it may help. Policy that is poorly conceived – Liberal boat phones and an atheist Labor leader putting more religious education into state schools are two standout cases. This poor policy is not costed, analyzed or even put to other senior politicians before it springs from the forked-tongues of the leaders. Leaders out on the campaign trail with high-pressure, no sleep, and scrambling for positive media coverage and your vote. Will they keep their promises? With all the good intentions in the world – of course not! Make a choice on the policy directions of the last few years by all means, however making your choice based on ‘campaign policy’ is a risky proposition. I only hear more cliches and no true vision or personal passion.

Filling Out the Ballot

Gillard is an ambitious liar who goes against her own views to gather enough votes to be Australia’s first ‘elected’ Female Prime Minister. Abbott is a relic with an anachronistic view on Women, technology and immigration and will lie for this political long shot. Brown is a smart operator leading a fractured party into the ‘gatekeeper’ role of the Senate but nothing more. Everyone else is a sideshow.

Rather than being disenfranchised, I am going back to old representative politics. I am going to speak to the representatives in my electorate and vote for the one that I think has passion, leadership, credentials and a vision I can sign up to – then reassess in three-years!

Good luck with your choice. Australia Votes 2010!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 16, 2010 1:14 PM

    “A vote for the Greens in the lower house – House of Representatives – in most electorates will mean effectively giving your vote to the Labor party as a result of back-room deals on preferences in our complex ‘two-party’ preference system. I would suggest if the Greens are your choice, that you Vote Green on the White Ballot Paper but do not vote Green on the Green Ballot Paper (unless you actually mean Labor – then just vote Labor).”

    Um what?

    A vote for any party in the lower house is a vote for that party. You can then preference whatever other party you like. The only “preference deal” relevance in the lower house is the HTV cards, but you can ignore them with impunity anyway.

    Vote for the party that closest matches your views, then the next best, then the next best. Or, if you’re negative about everything, put the party you hate most last, then the next least worst second-last, etc.

    It makes no sense to say “a vote for the Greens is a vote for Labor” any more than it does to say “a vote for the Liberals is a vote for Family First” or “a vote for your first preference is a vote for your second preference”.

    Even if the lower house seat ends up being between Labor and Liberal (and the only way to change that is to not vote Labor or Liberal) then it’s still important to vote Green because
    – the funding goes to the Greens, not Labor;
    – it tells Labor that to win your vote back they have to start considering progressive issues.
    – it challenges the two-party system that locks the unrepresentative ALP and Liberal parties in power.

    Basically, if you’re sick of the system as is, then vote for someone other than the big two parties. It’s the only way to get change.

    And if you’re going to do that, I’d suggest the Greens are by far the best choice.

  2. August 16, 2010 1:38 PM

    Great post David. However there’s an inaccuracy in your suggestion about how to vote on thd two ballot papers. The preference deals you refer to can only direct your vote if you vote above thd line on the Senate ballot paper. If you vote below the line for the Senate you can number thd squares yourself, directing the vote wherever you choose.

    For the House of Reps, the preference desks are reflected in the how-to-vote cards handed out by thd parties at thd polling booths but you have to number the squares yourself, and they determines your preference. For example, if you want to vote for the Democrats, also like the Greens but ultimately would prefer the Libs to Labor in government, you can go ahead and vote 1 Dem, 2 Green, 3 Lib, 4 whoever else. This means that, if the seat (like most) comes down in the end to a battle between Lib and Labor, your vote will end up counting for Lib. If, surprisingly, Dem or Green end up with more votes than Lib or Labor, your vote will go that way. Take control of your preferences! Thd preferential system is one if the things that makes our electoral system better than most other democracies. (In the UK, where they don’t have preferential voting, they refer to it as “the Australian system”)

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