Tuesday, August 24, 2010

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.


At Wednesday, August 25, 2010 12:03:00 am , Anonymous Paul G said...

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?

At Wednesday, August 25, 2010 12:51:00 am , Anonymous Gareth said...

Whatever happened to Brian Harradine's legacy?

At Wednesday, August 25, 2010 1:29:00 am , Anonymous Paul G said...

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.

At Wednesday, August 25, 2010 1:42:00 am , Anonymous Gareth said...

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.

At Wednesday, August 25, 2010 1:52:00 am , Anonymous Alexander said...

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.)

At Wednesday, August 25, 2010 2:17:00 am , Anonymous Alexander said...

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.

At Wednesday, August 25, 2010 2:52:00 am , Anonymous Marcel said...

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).

At Wednesday, August 25, 2010 4:01:00 am , Anonymous Matthias said...

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

At Wednesday, August 25, 2010 8:27:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

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!

At Wednesday, August 25, 2010 8:33:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

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.

At Wednesday, August 25, 2010 8:39:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

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.

At Wednesday, August 25, 2010 8:44:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

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.

At Wednesday, August 25, 2010 7:23:00 pm , Anonymous Paul G said...

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?

At Wednesday, August 25, 2010 8:16:00 pm , Anonymous Paul G said...

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:

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?

At Wednesday, August 25, 2010 8:24:00 pm , Anonymous Pax said...

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.

At Wednesday, August 25, 2010 8:24:00 pm , Anonymous Matthias said...

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

At Thursday, August 26, 2010 2:42:00 am , Anonymous Tony said...

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.

At Thursday, August 26, 2010 3:01:00 am , Anonymous Peter Golding said...

The obvious question David is the gospel according to whom?

At Thursday, August 26, 2010 5:39:00 am , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

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.

At Thursday, August 26, 2010 6:54:00 pm , Anonymous Matthias said...

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

At Saturday, August 28, 2010 3:06:00 am , Anonymous Peter said...

"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.

At Saturday, August 28, 2010 4:22:00 am , Anonymous Gareth said...

Sounds like something out of first year political science studies

At Sunday, August 29, 2010 12:58:00 am , Anonymous Peter said...

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.

At Saturday, September 04, 2010 1:53:00 am , Anonymous Tony Zegenhagen said...

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.


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