Why aren’t you “grateful” we let you have far less representation than you earned?

An absolutely cutting response by Tobias over at Pure Poison to a fatuous line of reasoning that the Greens should be “grateful” for being “allowed” by the Liberals to win Melbourne.

The line is that because the Greens didn’t get a majority in their own right, and had to rely on preferences, their single seat is illegitimate. That, somehow, despite receiving 12% of the vote around the country – 12% of 150 seats being 17 – they should be counting their lucky stars they were benevolently granted one. As if preference flows are only legitimate when they win seats for the big parties.


Doesn’t matter how many votes you win, there’s always a reason why we should discount them.

I’ve even heard the Nationals gloating that the Greens are irrelevant because the Nationals, with much less of the vote, received so many more seats than the Greens. As if that’s some kind of boon to their legitimacy, rather than a rather damning indictment on the quality of democracy in the lower house of our parliament.

Once the numbers are finalised, I’m going to do a post as to what the result would’ve been if we had multi-member electorates (say, one five-member electorate for every five one-member electorates today), and how much closer it would’ve been to giving us a parliament that represents Australian voters. (The idea being a compromise between full proportional representation and the benefits of having some local aspect to representation.)

But in the meantime, let’s be real – the Greens have, once again, greatly increased their vote, and the fact that they are so badly under-represented in the House of Representatives despite this is something that should embarrass big party supporters of the present system.

They’d do well not to snigger about ripping off so many Australian voters.

ELSEWHERE: Guy Rundle in Crikey on demands by the established media for us to return to the way things were, the blessed “stability” of the former status quo:

The mere process over the last three days has done more to make visible the invisible structures of power, and their potential (if not straightforward) transformability, than a hundred civics lessons. Other gains, such as an increased role for private members bills, would serve to bang the wedge a little further into the old tree dead.

Stability is not the issue, nor is it the danger. The danger is a politics so deadened that only the most demented and monomaniacal, the Feeneys, Shortens, and Bitars, can stand it, and everyone else retires to their private lives. The more the commentariat shriek in fear, the more interesting the ride.

The independents and minor parties should push this process until the rivets are popping.

Quite.

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11 responses to “Why aren’t you “grateful” we let you have far less representation than you earned?

  1. Splatterbottom

    Multi-member electorates? Depends if you want effective government or a mass debating society. If we do go down the latter route, then we should have a true separation of powers with an independent executive, so someone at least is empowered to lead.

    Did you see Swan bowing to Katter? It was like Obama and the Saudi monarch. I doubt Australians will appreciate that kind of supine stupidity. And surely Katter knows that the flattery craven vassals is irrelevant in ALP politics. He needs the imprimatur of Bitar and Howes and the gang before he has a deal.

  2. re: Katter – Yeah, that’s the meme over at Bolt’s place SB.

    The reality is that Swan was sitting down and was in the act of standing up as he shook Katter’s hand.

    Yet another demonstration of the utterly trivial stupidity of the far-right blog-atariat.

  3. Although I don’t disagree that the Greens had more than enough of the vote to deserve seats in parliament, it is one of life’s little ironies that they got there on the preferences of the party that is furthest away from them.

    At the moment, the Greens are causing more problems for Labor, but if the Liberals start seeing the Greens as a threat to them, they could decide that preferencing Labor is a better idea, which would see the end of any Greens in the lower house.

  4. jordanrastrick

    Five member seats seems rather arbitrary. It basically ensures that (in the current environtment) the ALP, Coalition, Local independents and Greens would do well, as opposed to the current situation which is more geared toward the first two.

    Why should the the 1% of people who want to vote Family First or Shooters or Communist be denied their lone representative in Parliament, anymore than the Greens should be denied their 15? If 5-member seats are “more democratic” than 1-member seats, surely a fully proportional system – 150-members in a single seat – is “maximally democratic”?

    Your argument to be honest seems to rest largely on the middle-ground fallacy – single member seats have pros and cons, propotional systems have pros and cons, therefore the straightforward hybrid model of the two has… all of the pros, and none of the cons… for no obvious reasons? Of course I look forward to you perhaps making a seperate detailed post justifying your preference for the system.

    Now having said that, I’m actually in favour of some sort of compromise, because I do think its possible to achieve a fair bit of the “best of both worlds.” Personally I prefer something like Germany’s MMR. Such systems have their own issues of course, but they have the distinct advantage of being a lot less arbitrary – representation thresholds are (like Senate quotas) more or less a function of the number of seats contested.

    Of course our own model is already a compromise one, since the legislature conists of one single member house and one proportional house, not withstanding the higher representation for smaller States. The Greens will soon have Senators more or less in proportion to their vote, so for the purposes of law making (as opposed to Cabinet formation) they are already fairly represented.

    Splatterbottom’s point (suitably extracted from his usual low level partisan trolling :P) is a good one – it is easier to have a more robust parliament if you directly elect the executive. Unfotunatley, the executive and legistlature do not seperate from one another nearly as cleanly as they do from the judiciary, at least under any of the existing forms of democracy in the world.

  5. SB; he wasn’t bowing, he was getting up froma chair when the photo was taken.

    It never fails to amaze me that people with enough brains to log on to the internet and type a comment on a blog fall for the bullshit that Bolt writes.

  6. Splatterbottom

    Of course he wasn’t bowing, Phil. Just as Obama says he wasn’t bowing to the Saudi potentate either.

    The Swan snapshot is emblematic of the posture of the government towards Catter. No doubt the postural climax of their intimate understanding will be seen when the government assumes the doggy position to demonstrate that it is on all fours with Catter.

  7. At the moment, the Greens are causing more problems for Labor, but if the Liberals start seeing the Greens as a threat to them, they could decide that preferencing Labor is a better idea, which would see the end of any Greens in the lower house

    Except that parties don’t get to set preferences in the lower house, the voter does.

  8. jordanrastrick

    Except that parties don’t get to set preferences in the lower house, the voter does.

    Except that the overwhelmingly majority of voters follow the how to vote cards issued by the candidate they intend to vote for – indeed a signifcant number are not even aware that they are allowed to decide their own preferences.

  9. I don’t agree that we need an independent executive to have good, stable government – parliament can easily vote on who should run various ministries – and I fundamentally disagree with the notion that to have stability you need a party that can completely ignore parliament. I mean, yes, that’s more stable – but that doesn’t mean that decision-making actually reflects the will of the people.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – we should have main parties covering at least each of the four quadrants of political philosophy – social conservative, economic right; social conservative, economic left; social progressive, economic right; social progressive, economic left – and then the decisions on these sorts of issues won’t be undermined by voters’ perspectives on unrelated issues. It makes no sense that economic rightwingers are buoyed by anti-abortion votes, or that Labor has to sacrifice marriage equality to get enough votes to keep WorkChoices out.

    In a multi-member parliament the parties band together differently depending on the issue – and that would give us far better and more representative outcomes.

  10. Splatterbottom

    Jeremy: “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – we should have main parties covering at least each of the four quadrants of political philosophy – social conservative, economic right; social conservative, economic left; social progressive, economic right; social progressive, economic left – and then the decisions on these sorts of issues won’t be undermined by voters’ perspectives on unrelated issues.

    There are parties that exist in each of those quadrants, but some of them aren’t all that popular. Are you suggesting some anti-mix’n’match rule so that parties be limited in their views to one particular quadrant? What are non-ideological people who actually think for themselves going to do then?

    Also, I can see the point of compromise when setting the rules through legislation, but compromise makes less sense once the rules are agreed and they need to be implemented. The idea of separation of powers is to allow for checks and balances, which is a good thing.

  11. “There are parties that exist in each of those quadrants, but some of them aren’t all that popular. Are you suggesting some anti-mix’n’match rule so that parties be limited in their views to one particular quadrant? What are non-ideological people who actually think for themselves going to do then?”

    No, I’m suggesting that people choose a party that represents their actual perspective, and vote accordingly. Of course, if there’s a party that represents their views better, then they should vote for that.

    I’m not suggesting anyone be “forced” to vote for anyone – I’m saying this should happen if we actually had a democracy where people’s choice wasn’t limited by a system that largely rules out any lower house representation but big established parties or the occasional local hero.

    “Also, I can see the point of compromise when setting the rules through legislation, but compromise makes less sense once the rules are agreed and they need to be implemented. “

    I have no problem with parliament electing ministers to implement its legislation.

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