Waiting for Government

Australian federal politics is in a bit of a “Waiting for Godot” situation at the moment, where we have a very unusual situation of a “hung parliament” (for the first time since 1940). I haven’t made any comment yet, because there has seemed to be little to comment about. But a few observations:

1) I know that in many parts of the world the system of election (contrary to our Westminster system) is one of proportional representation. We have a “kind” of proportional system in our Senate (which is why the Senate situation after the election is very different from that in our lower house), but I do prefer the fact that as our system currently stands, we actually get to vote for a particular person, rather than a particular party, to represent us in our local seats. This does help to keep politics local. For instance, I am very impressed with our sitting State MP, James Merlino, and this might very well lead to me voting for the Labor candidate for the first time in my life at the November election, even though I am not personally a supportor of the State Labor Party.

2) I am personally impressed with at least two of the independants who seem set to hold the balance of power, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor. The former was on ABC TV Lateline last night and spoke very well, and the latter on QandA just before that and was also impressive. I had heard Windsor on the radio a couple of times just before the election and he seems a very decent bloke.

3) The success of a Greens candidate for the Seat of Melbourne and now 10 Green seats in the Senate is also a bit of a worry. It seems to me that the Green vote is largely a young vote (I might be wrong) and the general “trendiness” of voting Green without any in depth consideration of their overall policies. The Democrats used to say that they were in the Parliament to “Keep the Barstards Honest”, but the Greens were saying on the radio yesterday that their aim is to “Get RID of the Barstards”! Anyway, now that we finally will have a chance to see how the Greens really act in the government of this country, their supporters may get a bit of a reality check on them. We will wait and see.

4) There have been some pleasant surprises in this election, such as our youngest MP ever at the age of 20 being elected (shades of “Pitt the Younger”? Or, as Black Adder would have it: “Pitt the Embryo”?) and the possibility of our first Indigenous lower house MP in Hasluck – and a Liberal candidate at that! It would be a pity if, as looks likely, he in fact loses his very small current majority and fails in his bid for his seat.

5) Finally, I am a bit surprised at how things have panned out in the Senate for Victoria. An article in the paper yesterday listed the way in which the votes went initially before reshuffling the deck:

Labor 323,868
Liberal 181,099
Family First 85,916
DLP 71,544
Sex Party 71,244
Lib Dems 52,700
Shooters 42,160
Others 83,673

The high rating of the “Sex Party” is a real shocker. Was this just some sort of “dummy vote”? According to the article, after the first reshuffle, the votes went:

Labor 329,084
Liberal 228,475
Sex Party 152,028
DLP 102,630
Family First 99,967

On this breakdown, Senator Fielding misses out – but only narrowly – and the bulk of his votes go to the DLP. That makes the score:

Labor 329,084
Liberal 228,475
DLP 197,807
Sex Party 156,818

The Sex Party goes out, and its preferences go to Labor. But those of the Liberal Democrats now go to the DLP, making the score:

Labor 428,412
DLP 253,062
Liberal 230,710

Senator McGauran then goes out, and his preferences too go the DLP, making the final outcome:

DLP 478,556
Labor 433,628

I am happy for the DLP, that their candidate got up, but to see FF disappear from the list when it was the third highest polling party in the primary vote in favour of the Sex Party (which finally, thank God, got dropped in the process) was a real shame and is a real reminder about how unpredictable this whole process is, and how easy it is for a “dummy vote” to get skewed into a real life result.

I hate the current system where you have to fill out either a “1” only above the line or number all 60 sequentially below the line. I always fill out all the boxes below the line, because I want my preferences to go in the direction I want them too, not in the way the parties have predetermined. (I personally voted FF first, then DLP, then Liberal, then the rest in declining order). Why can’t we have the option of numbering all the parties in our own choice of preference ABOVE the line?

We are still waiting to see how this all pans out. If the Labor Party manages to hold on to both Hasluck and Denison, they could still – with the cooperation of the Green MP from Melbourne – have a very real chance (and probably just the slimmest “mandate”) to form goverment on the basis of having the most seats of any party in the House (but it would still only give them 75 seats, ie. exactly half, unless one of the three rural independants also supports a Gillard Government). In the meantime (with apologies to Samuel Beckett):

ESTRAGON: Let’s go.
VLADIMIR: We can’t.
ESTRAGON: Why not?
VLADIMIR: We’re waiting for Government.

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43 Comments

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43 responses to “Waiting for Government

  1. Kyle

    David, you and I must both frequent Melbourne fairly regularly. The Greens obviously had a stronger, more visible campaign. Everyday up Swanston st I saw boards for the Greens candidate, yet I can’t recall seeing any other candidate. You are right that many youth support the Greens — indeed, Greens supporters took up camp around all the major buildings at Melbourne University for the past two weeks. But the Greens are also very popular among “more senior” generations.

    I think however that there were significant policy areas that made Greens popular. It is unfair to say that Melbournians simply cast their vote unreflectively. Adam Bandt wants free childcare, which is something very many Melbournains support. He also opposes $2 transaction fees, which is, I think, universally popular. Obviously also Melbourne tends to be progressive and Bandt’s unequivocal support for same-sex marriage was a key campaign issue (and, face it, Melbourne does have a strong gay-lesbian community.)

    It certainly will be interesting to see the Greens in action. There already seems to be some tension. Adam Bandt unambiguously supports a Labor government but Bob Brown wants discussion with Liberal as well. The Greens has not yet had to face the problem of internal party conflict; no one has ever had to cross the floor before. It will be interesting to see how this pans out in the long run.

    • I read something yesterday about how the Greens policies had not been costed – reading what you say, Kyle, about free child care makes me see what they were talking about!

      • Peregrinus

        Treasury only provides costings of the policies of the Government of the day, and the official opposition (and, for the latter, only during the caretaker period). The Greens are not entitled to have their policies costed by Treasury.

        In any event, while Bandt may favour free childcare, that’s not Green policy. Green policy is for affordable childcare, and they propose to do this through a restructuring of Child Care Benefit and Family Tax Benefit, plus a restructuring of the subsidies paid directly to child care providers.

        And, for the record, if Adam Bandt does favour free childcare, it’s certainly not a central plank of his campaign. His own website talks about the need for an expansion of childcare places, but says nothing about making them free.

  2. Peregrinus

    I know that in many parts of the world the system of election (contrary to our Westminster system) is one of proportional representation . . . I do prefer the fact that as our system currently stands, we actually get to vote for a particular person, rather than a particular party, to represent us in our local seats.

    It is possible to combine both of these features, and in fact the Irish electoral system does this. Each electorate returns between 3 and 5 members, depending on population, and the voter (as in Australia) numbers the candidates in order of preference. In general, within the limits of what is possible in a 5-seat constituency, party representation is proportional to first-preference voting support – and, nationally, the overall ratio of seats to votes is usually very close.

    The major parties, if they are to have any hope of a majority in the house, must nominate 2, 3 or 4 candidates in each electorate, and the voters get to choose which they prefer. Thus the parties can never foist an unpopular candidate on a “safe seat”, and rely on party loyalty to get him into Parliament; the voters can always prefer other candidates from the same party. And the voters don’t have to be party loyalists at all; I can vote the candidates in any order that I like, so there is nothing to stop me given the three candidates from Party A, say, my first, fourth and seventh preferences, with candidates from other parties in between. I like it!

    The high rating of the “Sex Party” is a real shocker.

    I think it’s a protest vote. Both of the main parties ran appallingly negative campaigns, offering little reason why you should vote for them, and plenty of reason why you should not vote for the other. The likely outcome of such campaigns is a large chunk of voters who are disinclined to vote for either. However alternatives like the Greens, FF, etc come with a well-established ideological profile, and they are unlikely to attract protest voters who don’t find that profile appealing. The Sex Party does in fact have an ideological stance, but it’s much less strongly defined and less well-known (because the party isn’t taken seriously), and there is something cheeky about the whole idea of a Sex Party. Ever since they were launched I’ve thought they were well-positioned to pick up a fair chunk of any browned-off protest vote, and the two major parties have co-operated effectively to maximise the browned-off protest vote, to the advantage of the Sex Party.

    Finally, I am a bit surprised at how things have panned out in the Senate for Victoria . . .

    You shouldn’t be. The Senate system is designed to keep power out of the hands of voters and put it in the hands of the party machines. While the voter is free to number 80 or more candidates in the order of his choice, the bizarre rule that he must express a preference for every single candidate, even if in truth he has no preference to express, makes this burdensome. Very few voters do – so few, in fact, that they haven’t bothered to count their votes yet. Look at the figures for the distribution of the FF votes; not a single vote goes from FF to either Labor or the Coalition. That’s because they are counting and distributing only the “above the line” votes, transferred by preference deal. The below-the-line votes are so few that they will not affect the outcome of the election. They’ll get counted in the end and include in the final tally, but that will only happen after the result has been declared. (Sorry, David.)

    The result is that the DLP gets up, not because it is the actual next preference of FF voters, but because it has done a preference deal with the FF organisation, and indeed with other organisations, which is what enabled it to pull ahead of FF in the first place. No criticism of the DLP; they are playing the game, and that’s what the game requires. But there is no way we can present this as the will of the people. It’s the result of a deal between the parties – a deal which is effective only because the system is set up to discourage the people from expressing their will.

    This, of course, also helps to explain the success of the Sex Party. You’ll notice that they leap-frogged both the DLP and FF with a single bound, this was entirely because they had done the right preference deals.

    We are still waiting to see how this all pans out.

    The Greens are the key factor. Whatever happens in the lower house, they will hold the balance of power in the Senate from next July. Anybody seeking to do a deal with one or more Independents in the lower house needs to come to some kind of arrangement with the Greens; otherwise there’s a sporting chance that they won’t be able to deliver on the deal, and the Independents will be acutely aware of this. They are not often in a situation to get a good deal, and they won’t want to waste it. Hence the Independents will prefer to do a deal with the party that has done a deal with the Greens. On the one hand, that seems to me to favour Labour. On the other hand, it seems to me to favour the party with the best dealmaking skills, and I don’t know which party that is.

    • Alexander

      I don’t think exchanging preferences is as bad as Peregrinus make it out to sound. If you trust Family First enough to ask them to represent you in parliament, surely you trust them enough to suggest that if they can’t, perhaps the DLP can. And if you don’t accept that suggestion, you’re still free to vote below the line. Sure, it can be tedious, but in practice you only need to care about two or three parties, and can just do the rest in order (albeit I would always put both major parties before “the rest”, no matter my opinion on their policies or lack thereof). I also think a result where voters for FFP and the DLP get one representative rather than none is the better—at around 5%, they’re a significant minority.

      Also, if I recall correctly, in the 2006 Victorian legislative council election, the DLP missed out on a second seat in the Northern Metropolitan region on the basis of below the line preferences. I think their Western Victorian seat was a surprise too, so it might’ve been on the basis of below the line preferences, or just votes counted late.

      What I find interesting is the fact that the DLP got 2.2%, almost as many as FFP. This 2.2% is towards the top end of their normal vote, but it’s by no means an extraordinary preformance for them. Why did they get almost the same vote as a party who competed in every seat and had presence at a great many polling booths? Family First didn’t take a single vote away from the DLP this election (although in 2007 they did: the DLP polled 1.03%).

      I don’t accept the common thesis it’s because of confusion caused by the including the name “Labor”; the Queensland DLP got a mere 0.44%—and it seems they put a lot more effort into Queensland (e.g. there was a weekly panel with the candidates from the Greens, Family First and the DLP, and sat seven candidates in the lower house) than Victoria. In 2007, it was 0.3% in Qld.

      Who is voting for the DLP, and why?

      (Concerning who becomes government, I think it has to be the Labor Party. It sounds like there’s too much bad blood between the independents and the (eastern) Nationals, and the WA National sounds like he wants to flex his wings. Far safer for him to with a Labor government he can’t bring down. With at least one independent (Tony Windsor) turning down the speakership last night, I think a Labor government with the WA Nat as speaker is the safest option—and makes it look like Labor is trying to compromise with an unhappy nation. An unlikely possibility is the Green as speaker; he might feel confident enough that his concerns can be adequately dealt with in the Senate. But what do I know? I’ve never negotiated a government before.)

      • Peregrinus

        If you trust Family First enough to ask them to represent you in parliament, surely you trust them enough to suggest that if they can’t, perhaps the DLP can.

        No, I don’t trust them to do that. I vote for somebody to represent me; not to choose someone else, from another party, to represent me. My second preference is a decision I can make for myself, thanks. A seat in parlaiment is not a personal possession, to be passed on by one pollie to another whom he happens to like. The same goes for my vote. It makes little sense to have a compulsory voting system, and at the same time to set up a mechanism to encourage the voter to hand his vote over to someone else to dispose of on his behalf.

        If the party of my first preference can successfully encourage me to transfer my vote to a particular second party, well and good; if they can’t, to my mind that argues very strongly for their not being allowed to direct my vote to that second party anyway.

        And if you don’t accept that suggestion, you’re still free to vote below the line. Sure, it can be tedious, but in practice you only need to care about two or three parties, and can just do the rest in order (albeit I would always put both major parties before “the rest”, no matter my opinion on their policies or lack thereof).

        No; lower-order preferences do matter in a six-seat electorate, a great deal – as, indeed, the figures given by David above show very clearly. If they didn’t matter, there would be no point in the parties doing preference deals, would there? Yet we know that they do do preference deals, and that these do determine some of the seats in the Senate.

        We can’t defend the current system on the basis that it encourages voters to scatter meaningful and effective lower-order preferences randomly; I don’t see that as any better than handing them over to party strategists to allocate.

        There is no reason why, as David suggests, the voter should not be allowed to number the party lists above the line in order of preference, if he wants to. And there is no reason why he should not be allowed to number individual candidates below the line, but to stop when he has exhausted the limit of his preference. These are both forbidden, so far as I can see, for no other reason than to maximise the power of the party at the expense of the voter; I honestly can’t think of a single good reason for this rule.

        I also think a result where voters for FFP and the DLP get one representative rather than none is the better—at around 5%, they’re a significant minority.

        I agree. I don’t have a problem with minor parties being represented; the whole point of a six-seat electorate is to facilitate that. I think it’s a good thing. But I think that the successful parties should be chosen on the basis that they succeed in attracting the support (first-preference and lower-order preference) of voters, not on the basis of deals done with officials of other parties. And, based on experience in other countries, minor parties do get representation in multi-seat electorates even when the electoral system requires them to attract preferences in order to do so.

        As you point out, the FF/DLP vote comes to almost 5% of the total. The truth is that FF was well ahead of the DLP until quite late in the game, when a transfer deal with One Nation put the DLP ahead, leaving them as the last man standing when FF was eliminated. What this effectively means is that the FF/DLP seat has been allocated between those parties, not by those parties, or by their voters, or even by One Nation supporters and voters, but by the party officials of One Nation. I struggle to see that as satisfactory.

        Interestingly, the combined Sex Party/Liberal Democrat/Shooter’s Party vote comes to slightly more than the combined FF/DLP vote, and these three parties oppose government intervention/regulation in matters which they consider to be private concerns. They have a core social/economic libertarianism in common. Under the current system, with the right preference deals it would have been no more surprising for the sixth seat to have gone to one of them – probably the Sex Party – than it has been for the seat to go to the DLP (or FF).

        Clearly it makes a difference which of them gets representation, and I can’t help feeling that whichever it is should have to do so by attracting voters’ preferences than by doing a backroom deal with unelected officials of an unelected party.

        • Alexander

          My second preference is a decision I can make for myself, thanks.

          No-one’s stopping you from doing that. But not everyone has the time or inclination to check up the policies of every party and is content to let the party they support do it for them.

          No; lower-order preferences do matter in a six-seat electorate, a great deal – as, indeed, the figures given by David above show very clearly. If they didn’t matter, there would be no point in the parties doing preference deals, would there?

          Of course; I was just referring to the situation in practice. Most people will only care about one or two parties before they honestly reach one of the majors. Once your preference has gone through a party who gets a seat (as the major parties do), it’s worth a tiny fraction of what it was before it elected anyone. Once it’s gone through both majors, as I recommend, it’s value is insignificant. And I believe fractional votes are rounded down, so unless there’s enough like-minded soles, it’ll become worth zero. Of course preferences before the vote has elected anyone are important, but afterwards they only do anything in bulk, and that’s when the major parties’ above-the-line votes count.

          There is no reason why, as David suggests, the voter should not be allowed to number the party lists above the line in order of preference, if he wants to. And there is no reason why he should not be allowed to number individual candidates below the line, but to stop when he has exhausted the limit of his preference.

          Completely true, and if I sat in Parliament, and it came up, I would vote for either option. My point is the current system isn’t as bad as too many people believe. “transfer

          when a transfer deal with One Nation put the DLP ahead

          One Nation has an obligation, I would think to rank FFP and DLP. But if they didn’t care, they could’ve split their vote equally between the two. Maybe it was just a transfer deal rather than an honest ranking, but since 2004 there’s been rather less importance placed on transfer deals as more groups recognise you can’t game STV safely. I don’t think there’s any way for the choice between FFP and the DLP to be done impartially and fairly but by letting the parties and the voters make their choice, as is currently done, even when the result is suboptimal.

          As for the Sex Party/LDP/Shooters and Fishers, no system is perfect. I think STV is better than the European multiple member election systems, especially with only six seats. If I recall correctly (and for technical reasons I can’t check until after I’ve posted so forgive me if I’m wrong), it was Liberal preferences[1] that put the FFP/DLP style voters above the Sex Party/LDP/SFP groups. I would at the very least credit the Liberal party with having thought about their preferences ideologically, after 2004. At the moment, I believe it’s the conservative (Howard-Abbott) branch of the Liberal Party that has the upper hand so the preference is what I would’ve expected and is, I think, honest.

          [1]: This doesn’t contradict what I said earlier. They only worked en masse; I can hardly imagine that if every single below the line Liberal voter preferenced the Sex Party before the DLP that it would’ve made a difference. I won’t speculate about what would’ve happened if there hadn’t’ve been “above the line” votes in the first place.

          (Incidentally, I took a look at the regional results in the 2006 Victorian Legislative Council election, and it turns out the people voting for the DLP come from the Northern Metropolitan Region: around 5% compared with around 1% in most other districts.)

          • Peregrinus

            If I recall correctly (and for technical reasons I can’t check until after I’ve posted so forgive me if I’m wrong), it was Liberal preferences that put the FFP/DLP style voters above the Sex Party/LDP/SFP groups.

            No. By the time the Liberal preferences were distributed, FF had already been eliminated. FF were actually higher up on the Liberal preference distribution ticket so, if Liberal preferences had decided the matter, FF would have won.

            As between FF, the DLP and the Sex Party, on the first count FF were at the top and the Sex Party were at the bottom. That remaining the running order until count 17, when the DLP moved into first place on the back of transfers from the Christian Democrats and One Nation. On count 19 the DLP extended their lead with transfers from the Socialist Equality Party. Then, on count 20, the Sex Party leap-frogged into first place with transfers from the Australian Democrats, the Secular Party, the Group B Independents and a modest surplus from the Green vote.

            The Sex Party picked up more votes on count 22 when the Liberal Democrats were eliminated, while FF picked up a few from Senator Online – but not enough to overtake the DLP.

            The result was that it was FF that was next eliminated, not the DLP, and of course the combined FF/DLP vote was sufficient to overtake the Sex Party, so it was the DLP who eventually took the last seat.

            I don’t have a problem, as I say, with the FF/DLP “bloc” taking the last seat. It could just as easily have been the Sex Party/Liberal Democrat/Shooters Party interest which took it; I wouldn’t have had a problem with that either.

            My point is that, although FF had more first preference votes than the DLP, it was DLP who took the seat, not as a result of voters’ preferences – which I’d have no problem with – but as a result of decisions made by unelected officials of the unelectable Christian Democrats and One Nation and the even more unelectable Socialist Equality Party.

            While it’s not unreasonable to think that Christian Democrat voters – as opposed to officials – might have favoured the DLP, it’s equally not unreasonable to think that they might have favoured FF. One Nation Voters might have favoured either FF or the DLP, but I suspect many of them would actually have favoured the Coalition. And the Socialist Equality Party are doctrinaire Trotskyites, members of the Fourth International. How they did a preference deal with the DLP is beyond me, but it almost certainly does not represent the wishes of their voters.

            Democracy, it ain’t.

            • Looking at the result it appears that the electorate did win out.
              Three like minded candidates fighting it out for the final seat.

              If the Sex party had won then it would have been a tragedy but it didnt.

              The One Nation deal came about after the Queensland branch had relied on Rosa Lee Long (A great christian member of One Nation for many years) supporting us up there in the State parliament before losing her seat in 2009. The more radical have moved out of that party to Australia First.

              The reason why Queensland ran a number of house of representatives was to increase the awareness of the party up there. After all its re-constitution was only in 2008 so this was the first opportunity they had.

              This was also the first time the DLP had run Federally to win and preferenced to allow all candidates to have the best chance of gaining a Senate Seat.

        • No, I don’t trust them to do that. I vote for somebody to represent me; not to choose someone else, from another party, to represent me. My second preference is a decision I can make for myself, thanks. A seat in parlaiment is not a personal possession, to be passed on by one pollie to another whom he happens to like. The same goes for my vote.

          Amen to that, Perry.

      • Sure, it can be tedious

        It IS tedious, which is why, as Perry points out, so few bother to do it. But I am surprised to find that I am in such a small minority as Perry says I am in that I do fill out all the numbers below the line. Which is why I ask why we can’t have a numbering system above the line?

        Perry’s account of the proportional voting system in Ireland sounds very much like our Senate system. I don’t think I really like it…

        • Peregrinus

          It differs from the Australian Senate system in important ways.

          1. There’s no above-the-line voting. You vote for candidates, not parties. Even if you are a party loyalist and are going to vote Party A’s candidates before all others, or to vote Party A’s candidates and then express no further preference, you get to decide which of Party A’s candidates gets your first preference, not the party officials.

          2. You don’t have to exhaust all possible preferences. You only indicate a preference for the candidates that you actually have a preference for. You can vote for just one candidate, if you wish, with no second preference. And, if you don’t indicate a preference, the parties don’t get to indicate one for you. If Party A wants the votes of Party A loyalists to transfer to the candidates of Party B, the only way to achieve this is to persuade those loyalists to mark that preference themselves. (And the political culture requires that this be done very sensitively; in Ireland we tell our pollies what to do, not the other way around. How-to-vote cards on the Australian model are unknown; people would react very badly to the idea.) Because of this, we don’t have the plethora of single-issue shooters parties and sex parties and such which exist in Australia because the preference deal system gives then an opportunity for influence that the popular vote will never give them.

          3. It is electorally disadvantageous for parties to run more candidates than they can optimistically hope to have elected. The only result of doing this is to split the party support between more candidates, resulting in lower individual votes for the candidates, and a greater likelihood of their being eliminated earlier in the count. In a five-seat electorate, the two main parties will normally run 3 candidates each, and other parties 1 or 2. Even with independent candidates, it’s unusual to have much more than 10 or 12 names on the ballot, with correspondingly fewer names on the ballot in 3- and 4-seat electorates. (The ballot, in fact, looks a lot like an Australian lower-house ballot, and is filled out in the same way, except that you stop numbering the candidates once you have no further preference to express.) With a slate of this size, coupled with the rule that you only have to express as many preferences as you actually have, it’s entirely feasible for the voter to form and express rational preferences.

  3. Paul G

    Hi David,
    the gory details of the distribution of preferences in the Senate are detailed here:http://www.abc.net.au/elections/federal/2010/guide/svic-results.htm

    On a more general level, what are you guys doing down there in Victoria? The rest of the country swung heavily against Labor, but Victoria goes the other way, yet also elects the first DLP senator for decades. Is the Labor “split” still going on???

    My guess is that Labor will form a government with the support of the Green, and Windsor and Oakeschott. From what I read, these 2 independents support a mining tax, broadband and action on climate change, so they should fit in.

    However, that means we have a government implementing unpopular policies with a majority of 1. How long can that last?

    • Gareth

      Whatever happened to Brian Harradine’s legacy?

      • Paul G

        with disarming honesty, Andrew Wilkie said on Saturday that a lady told him “I don’t know anything about you, but I voted for you, just in case you are another Brian Harradine”. Of course, as Wilkie would admit, he is very different to Harradine, but it shows the desire of the voters for someone who actually believes what they are saying.

      • Peregrinus

        Good question.

        When Brian Harradine last stood for election, in 1998, he got just under 8% of the first preference vote.

        In 2001 he was not up for re-election, so that 8% was up for grabs. Nationally, in 2001, in the Senate vote there was a swing to the Coalition of 4%, and to the Greens of 2%. This was at the expense of Labour (down 3%), One Nation (down 3.5%) and the Democrats (down 1%).

        In Tasmania, though, the swing to the Coalition was 5%, and the swing against Labour was also 5%. The big outlier, though, was the Greens, who acheived a swing of 8%. Since the One Nation and Democrat votes held reasonably steady, it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that the main beneficiaries of Harradine’s absence from the ballot was the Greens.

        In 2004, when Harradine stood down, the Greens held on to their share of the vote in Tasmania. The Labour party suffered a 3% fall, as did the Democrats, while the Coalition picked up 7%.

        On the figures, the Greens picked up much of Harradine’s vote in 2001, and held on to it when he stood down in 2004. It’s unlikely, though, that Harradine voters simply switched to Green. More probably they switched to the Coalition, while Labour/Democrat voters switched to the Greens.

        The truth is, though, that Harradine’s vote had been declining for years. He was first elected in 1975 with more than 13% of the first preference vote; by 1998, the last occasion on which he stood, that was down to under 8%. It’s thought that his appeal was always to older voters. Consequently his support didn’t so much drift to other parties as, um, leave the electoral roll altogether. In so far as there was a socially conservative vote looking for a new home, Family First might have hoped to gather it in, but that never happened. In the election just gone by, they got just 1.2% of the first preference Senate vote in Tasmania.

        So, what happened to Brian Harradine’s legacy? Some went to the Coalition, but I think most just faded away.

        • Gareth

          could it be also part of the equation that as more and more Catholics (including my own family) moved from a working class background to a more middle-class one, there was less and less need for a Catholic working-class socially conservative vote.

          Although there will always be somesort of need for the capture this part of the population’s voting needs.

          Could it also be the irresponsibility of our Bishops or Catholic lay leaders to actively support a force in politics that supports a certain economic position that protects the workers combined with traditional family values.

    • Tony

      Paul,

      As I read it, ‘The rest of the country swung heavily against Labor’ is not true. The most uniform swing, nation-wide, was towards the Greens. Significant regions in NSW and QLD swung away from Labor and towards the Greens or Liberals. In SA, Victoria and other seats dotted throughout the country Labor suffered small swings or even gained votes.

      On many levels, winning this ‘battle’ could result in a great prize. State Labor governments in SA and Vic not only survived minority governments but prospered in following elections.

      In a sense the electorate has done its ‘punishing’ of Labor and if they can govern competently in a minority government, it will be very hard to dislodge them next time.

      The Opposition will not only be in ‘opposition’ to the Labor Party, but also the Independents and the Greens.

      Out of adversity comes opportunity.

      • Peregrinus

        Very true. Our current obsession is with who will form the next government, but that distracts from other points of interest which emerge from this election.

        The big winners are the Greens. For every three votes which the government lost, the opposition picked up only one. The Greens picked up two. (There’s a lesson there about the limitations of negative campaigning, Mr Abbott.) They end up with their first lower-house member returned in a general election, at least one senator from every state, and – with 9 senators – an iron grip on the balance of power in the Senate. Whichever of the two majors wants to do a deal with independents in the lower house has to persuade them than it can also come to some arrangement with the Greens; a deal with a government which can’t get its legislation through the Senate won’t deliver very much.

        But it’s more than that. The lower-house independents find themselves currently in a happy position, but it will almost certainly pass at the next election. The Greens, however, have a firm lock on the Senate for at least the next six years, and quite possibly longer. For the foreseeable future, any prospective government is going to have to deal with the Greens, even if it has a majority in the lower house. It’s not impossible that this state of affairs will prevail for several parliaments.

        Paul G is right to point out elsewhere in this thread that Rudd’s ETS policy was not popular. But, on that, as with the mining tax, I think this is at least partly because the Labor Government put no effort into explaining the policies, or building public support for them. On ETS, all the effort was put into building parliamentary support – effort which was wasted when the Liberals turned on Turnbull. While, with the mining tax, my impression was that the government wanted to get it through in a kind of surprise attack on the mining industry. A bit like the invasion of Russia; when it didn’t succeed in the first push there was going to be hell to pay.

        I wouldn’t assume that a future government – ALP or Coalition – couldn’t take a more measured run at these issues and bring at least a section of the public along with them. Not necessarily for those precise policies, of course, but for meaningful policies in the area of climate change and resource taxation. And I think the position of the Greens in the Senate is going to give the major parties a powerful incentive to try this.

        I think dealing with the Greens is not just a matter of finding a sufficient shared policy agenda. Personal relationships are important in parliamentary politics. The Greens will want to be satisfied not just that a government agrees to policy X or policy Y, but that they will have a good working relationship with the government through the life of the parliament, that they will be listened to, that there will be give and take, and some degree of mutual trust and respect.

        Any prospective Prime Minister will need to be a “people person”. (By all accounts, that doesn’t bode well for a Rudd comeback!)

        • Tony

          Additionally, Pere, the Greens were for the stimulus package (with modifications) and the NBN, as well as being unambigously for the mining tax and, of course, action on climate change.

          (Ironically, those ‘faceless men’ in the Liberal camp who engineered Turnbull’s demise could be ‘facing’ a Parliament that will pass a much ‘greener’ CPRS and will be able to do nothing about it — Labour will not have to even bother negotiating with them.)

          In this limbo period it seems to me that Gillard is handling the situation better if only because she, and the Government, is keeping a low profile. The empty chair on QandA the other night was not a good look, but I think it was the right thing to do strategically.

          Meanwhile Abbott is talking (very unconvincingly, in my view) about a more cooperative approach and following it up with putting the boot, in good old fashioned style, to Labor and the Greens. It’s as if he’s fought the good fight and doesn’t realise a different tactic is required now. Perhaps he should listen to The Gambler. 😉

          So, even if the final count has the Coalition in front, Labor is probably best placed to convince those that need convincing, that it can deliver stability.

          Ultimately the Indies will have to determine if stability is too high a price to pay for a Parliament where The Greens will have much greater say.

          If history’s a guide, Katter’s world view is very antithetical to the Greens (eg, climate change skeptic and anti mining tax), but the others may be more accommodating.

          Labor’s tricky task, if it succeeds, will be to manage the tensions between the conservative side of the Indies and the ‘progressive’ side of the Greens. Essentially, the Coalition will be marginalised until (and if) there’s a big-time stuff up.

          State Labor has successful history here. I’m not sure the Libs in particular and the Coalition in general can pull it off.

          The big BUT here is that many have underestimated Tony Abbott and have only just cleaned the egg off their faces.

  4. Gareth

    I was looking at the electoral map last night and analysing which seats were ‘blue’ and ‘red’ and it appears that more and more Australia is becoming like the U.S in terms of electoral carve ups.

    Country regions have a strong National/conservative vote and are often blue seats.

    Inner suburban upper-class metropolitian seats (think Toorak in Victoria or Bennelong in Sydney) are almost always Liberal progressive blue seats.

    Suburban middle-class metropolitian seats (think the whole of eastern and western Melbourne and Syndey) are often always Labor and are red seats.

    Outer suburban middle to upper-class (think outer Sydney) are often Liberal seats or too close to call.

    And the cbd seats (Melbourne and Deninson) are inronically Greens – ironic considering that the Greens support base appears to come from those less likely to be effected by their policies.

    So the Greens attract the super-rich and cbd hippies.

    Liberals/National attract the inner city snobs, outer suburb growing families and regional vote

    Labor attract mainly the inner to middle suburb metropoltian vote.

    • Alexander

      I was looking at the electoral map last night and analysing which seats were ‘blue’ and ‘red’ and it appears that more and more Australia is becoming like the U.S in terms of electoral carve ups.

      I don’t think this is a reasonable assessment. It’s been the case for a long time that rural seats have been more conservative, provincial and working-class metropolitan seats more Labor, and inner metropolitan seats more progressive: voting Liberal if they’re old money, Labor if they’re poor, and Green if they’re new money. Of course, average mortgage-belters will flip between the major options.

      I don’t even think this election was unique in terms of how the mining states swung one way, and the southern states the other. (NSW has certainly done what it always does and votes the way the nation does. The NSW seats favor Labor, but the 2PP is nigh-on 50-50.) Western Australia and Tasmania, for instance, are often rogue states. In reality, I think everyone always votes on local concerns,[1] and the mining tax and climate change have different local implications in the mining and southern states.

      The next election will be “back to normal”. I certainly doubt it’ll be the end of Australia as we know it (even though I think government would be improved by being smaller and closer).

      [1]: This isn’t selfish, it’s common sense, possibly altruistic and probably all we can do. Because should we not vote to help our neighbor? And who is our neighbor, but someone near by? If Australia is one nation, it only makes common sense to assume that the whole nation is similar to what’s around, what we see and know.

    • I haven’t spoken to my father since election night, but I am rather sure that he is rubbing his hands with glee as finally the “country people” seem to be in control of the show over the “city people” who usually are. This country/city divide has existed for a very, very long time, Gareth, although most urbanites have never realised the depth of animosity that is felt by some rural communities towards them. The problem is there are simply far, far more people living in the cities, who get the bulk of the benefits that come from all Australian citizens paying taxes. It is easier and cheaper per captita to provide infrastructure in the urban areas than it is in rural areas. The rural areas, as a result, are under resourced and therefore continue to depopulate. One of the things that Tony Windsor was saying on QandA last night was that a really effective broadband network for rural areas would make rural communities possible as places of business on so many levels that it was the very key to rejuvenating the rural communities. Possibly he is overestimating things – possibly not.

  5. Marcel

    Of the three Independents the only ‘impressive’ one is Bob Katter. 100% pro-life and a man of great conviction. The other two Independents are on the wrong side of the pro-life issue. I am so grateful that Bob Katter is integral to the negotiations as he has a fundamentally Catholic worldview (his father was DLP).

    • The other two Independents are on the wrong side of the pro-life issue.

      Are they? I didn’t know that. Can you refer us to any statements they have made (links to reports on the internet?)

      • Henrietta

        Hi David,
        According to the Family Life International website Rob Oakshotte is a member of PGPD which stands for “Parliamentary Group on Population and Development”.

        This group has a goal of this group is to reduce population and increased government funding of anti-life measures such as abortion and birth control especially in third world countries.

        As for Tony Windsor, he voted in favour of RU486.

        The link to this information is here http://www.fli.org.au/ and once you’re there click on the link for the House of Representatives.

        It is a sad state of affairs when peoples views on the life issues hardly rates a mention any more.

  6. Matthias

    I thought Bob Katter senior was National party and that young Bob took over from him.
    Like you Schutz i voted prolife and put ALP and the Greens last. I remember Canadian Christian rock singer Bruce cockburn being out here in the 1984 election when Garrett exercised his integrity and founded the NUCLEAR DISARMANENT PARTY. Cockburn said that Christians should vote prolife -putting either Christian Democratc- then known as the Call to Australia party- or the DLP first and the NDP next .I largely followed that .I still have reservations about the Greens despite Senator Brown’s policy officer ,telling me that the candidate in the ACT was a Christian and quoted her response to Cardinal pell’s statement on the Greens being antichristian

    • A Christian aquaintance for whom I have a reasonable amount of respect (http://jimreiher.com/) was the lower house Greens candidate for our local area. I have asked him how as an Evangelical Christian he could possibly belong to the Greens, but his answer was that on balance he thought their policies were more in tune with the Gospel… Umm. Anyway. There you have it.

  7. Paul G

    This public horse trading between the independents and the parties is exciting, but there is something fantastical about it. The EFT/Carbon tax policy was very unpopular, and I suppose it still is. The mining tax was unpopular, and Twiggy Forrest is still in the background, and is presumably just as ready to fight against it.
    So how is a Labor/Green/Windsor/Oakeshott party going to implement both of these and still be popular?
    The Green’s soul and existence depends on climate change action, so they won’t want to compromise on that policy, but I believe there are Labor membors who agree with Tony Abbott about climate change science.
    Meanwhile, have you noticed the economies in the US and Europe having the wobbles while we are busy navel gazing?

  8. Paul G

    I see that Germaine Greer says Tony Abbott is a clown, and the Julia Gillard was targeted by the media because she is a woman:
    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-election/greer-takes-swipe-at-clown-abbott-20100825-13qqn.html

    Wouldn’t it be nice if she took the time to live here for a while, instead of forming her opinions via Googling from England?

    • Matthias

      In agree .Greer is a bitter ,barren old woman ,one of the swill of unrepresentative elite ,along with Geoffrey Robinson,who offer pontifications from afar and yet really have no feeling or care for Australia-despite their activities

    • Louise

      Julia Gillard was targeted by the media because she is a woman

      *yawn*

  9. Pax

    The high vote for the Sex Party reflects a frivolous attitude to the right to vote as does the high informal vote.
    We are so spoilt in our country enjoying a freedom that is rare in many parts of the world.
    I wasn’t impressed by Robert Oakshott’s remarks.I suspect some of those who voted him in are already regretting it-consensus politics? I worked many years in an institution big on consensu decision making In reality it meant the big talkers wore down people and through sheer boredom and /or fatigue they won the day with many foolish time wasting and inevitably failed programs foisted upon the remaining staff!
    Robust honest and constructive debate based on facts is what a healthy Parliament needs.

    • Paul G

      @Pax: the sex party candidate in my electorate was comedian Austen Tayshus, who had a policy of replacing a motor traffic bridge with a gondola cable car. He got 1,700 votes (2.5%). Pathetic.

      I agree with your opinion of the drivel Oakeshott is talking at the moment. I bet he would have loved to have been invited to the 20/20 summit.
      My money is still on another election in a year. By then, there will be a lot of ex NSW Labor politicians eager to go to Canberra.

  10. Matthias

    the latest galaxy polls in the Independents electorates says 52% of their constituents want these MPs’ to back the Coalition. wonder if the Mad katter will go along with that

    • Katter would know that if it wasn’t for him and his father, his electorate would probably be a Labor seat … it was before Katter Senior and between Katter Senior and Katter Junior.

      Notwithstanding that, I’m suprised that it’s only 52% and given the margin for error in polls, it’s probably about as decisive as the ‘only poll that counts’.

  11. Peter

    “The high vote for the Sex Party reflects a frivolous attitude to the right to vote as does the high informal vote”

    I agree. Except that you said it much more charitably than I would have. As Winston Churchill once said, “The strongest argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.”

    Democracy is the WORST form of government… except for all the others.

    • Tony

      Democracy is the WORST form of government… except for all the others.

      Very pithy, Peter.

    • Gareth

      Sounds like something out of first year political science studies

    • Peregrinus

      Not necessarily a frivolous attitude. You may wish to use your vote to register a protest against feeling alienated by the political mainstream, and this could involve either voting for the Sex Party, in the belief that it is basically a joke, or an informal vote.

      The “right to vote” after all, means little if it is not the right to vote for a candidate or policy position that you are happy to support. This time round, both of the majors ran very negative campaigns and, if we assume (as the parties themselves clearly believe) that voters’ intentions are in fact influenced by these campaigns, the foreseeable result of this is a cohort of voters who are reluctant to vote for either of the majors, because their opinion of each has been adversely affected by the campaigning of the other. Basically, if I really believe that the best thing that can be said about Tony Abbott is that he isn’t Julia Gillard, and the best thing that can be said about Julia Gillard is that she isn’t Tony Abbott, why would I consider voting for either of them? This election saw an overall swing of 3.5% away from the combined vote for the two majors and towards minor parties and independents, and that’s before counting the rise in informal votes. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

      I think the Greens, as I suggested above, have been the big winners from this strategy; they picked up three-quarters of the 3.5% swing away from the majors. But the Greens have a strongly-identified policy/ideological character, so they are not an alternative for all of the voters alienated by the majors. The same is true of the FF/DLP/CDP parties (who, incidentally, picked up virtually none of the swing away from the majors; a rise in the CDP vote was balanced by a fall in the FF vote). Where are these voters going to go on polling day?

      One of my concerns about compulsory voting is that it conceals the true extent of voter alienation or disengagement, and so absolves the political establishment of having to do anything about it. Voting for obviously fringe parties, or voting informally, is pretty much the only way the voter can use his vote to signal to the political establishment that he is alienated by the choices which it offers him. That’s not frivolous, and dismissing it as such compounds the problem that it highlights.

  12. Peter

    Peregrinus has a point. If the major parties persist with the “don’t vote for the other guys” they should expect that the net result of two such campaigns is that people go looking for a third (or fourth, fifth etc) option. I don’t have a problem with this. My problem is that people don’t actually THINK about their options and have effectively allowed a minor party with an agenda that is impractical, too expensive to impliment and frightening on the moral front. This si frustrating because I nwould love a genuine option that advocated for a more humanitarian based immigration policy and a genuine look at reducing pollution without the extreme left (a)morals that go with the Green label. I don’t mind Family First and the other ‘moral’ groups getting critical medial scrutiny, they need to mature before they deserve a serious shot at power, but the lack of serious media focus on the extreme lunacy of the Greens is astounding. Hopefully they can be exposed this election cycle.