Pick a line, any line

Not content with merely portraying voting Green as being “infected” by a “virus”, the Australian yesterday published a shamelessly fanciful bit of deliberately misleading guff from a former (and forgotten) ALP Senator named John Black suggesting, fatuously, that Greens voters are “wealthy” and “are siphoning the votes of angry Labor voters to the Liberals via preferences”.

Black presents no evidence whatsoever for that last assertion apart from the fatuous assumption that if Labor loses 8% of the vote and the Greens gain 8% of the vote then those votes must all have come from Labor, and therefore if any of them go back to the Liberals via preferences (which obviously some do, because people can direct their preferences how they like) then it means that effectively the Greens are taking votes from Labor and giving them to the Liberals. His maths depends on 100% of those Green votes coming from the ALP. Obviously Black can’t back that up at all: the fact that not all of those votes go back to Labor via preferences suggests that at least some of them are coming from Liberal voters sick of Tony Abbott, but who would never preference Labor. His analysis falls apart when you consider the much more likely scenario that the ALP is losing votes to both the Greens and the Coalition, and the Coalition is also losing votes (probably those of small l liberals like the Georgiou or Fraser types) to the Greens.

(In fact, if one wants to consider the best way to maximise the “progressive” vote, then voting Green actually helps to lock those ex-Coalition votes away from the Coalition.)

Black’s second clearly absurd line from this is that if Greens voters are wealthy, then they’ll start standing for the interests of the rich instead of the poor. Yes, the Greens are often attacked for being too left wing, too much in favour of taxing the rich and providing public services for the poor: now they’re being attacked for the reverse. There’s no evidence whatsoever the Greens have any interest in reducing tax for the rich like the ALP or Liberals, or cutting services for the poor, again like the ALP and Liberals. If the upper middle class is voting Green, it’s not doing it because it thinks they’re the party that’s going to be maximising their super at the expense of the poor.

It’s going to be interesting watching the anti-Green smear campaign as it ramps up – they’re going to be portrayed to right-wingers as communists; to left-wingers as conservatives in disguise; to Christians as satanist muslim-lovers; to Muslims immoral gay abortionists; to the poor they’ll be condemned as rich people looking to screw over the poor; to the rich they’ll be portrayed as revolutionaries looking to tear down their houses.

The question is – will the inconsistent smears build into a cacophony of noise so impenetrable voters are successfully scared off, or will their contradictions mean they cancel each other out?

ELSEWHERE: Ben Raue tears John Black’s cynical garbage apart

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17 responses to “Pick a line, any line

  1. “Pointing out that their votes will be wasted doesn’t seem to bother these latter-day refuseniks.”
    Seriously? Sure, the lower-house votes might be wasted (if federal elections don’t have sensible ticket rules like SA does), but how the hell is a Party Line vote wasted?

    You’re right about the contradictions, that whole attack on “do-gooder libertarian totalitarianism” reminds me of nothing more than Glenn Beck’s terrified speeches about “Communist Marxist Anarchist Maoist Revolutionaries!”

    And it seems a bit rich to attack a political party on the basis of what an academic philosopher wrote on morality (which any idiot can tell you won’t translate directly into law or policy). I suppose if the Greens called for a high speed rail network she’d be attacking it because of all the utilitarian arguements about people getting stuck on railroad tracks.

  2. “Sure, the lower-house votes might be wasted (if federal elections don’t have sensible ticket rules like SA does), but how the hell is a Party Line vote wasted?”

    I don’t get how any vote for the Greens is “wasted”. For one, it gives them funding instead of a big old party. For two, it tells the big old parties that you’re a lefty voter whose concerns they should probably listen to instead of ignoring. And finally there is always a chance, if others do likewise, that the Greens could beat the incumbent.

  3. It’s amazing just how effective the “wasted vote” line has been for decades. Perhaps a campaign targeted at those people who just go along and vote informally to avoid a fine – “Waste your vote with purpose!” or “Seeing as you’re going to waste your vote anyway – Vote Green”.

  4. confessions

    I don’t get how any vote for the Greens is “wasted”.

    The Greens are unlikely to ever form government in their own right in my life time. Yes they get the primary vote funding, but I don’t vote for a candidate on the basis that my vote delivers money to their party. I vote so as to give the party I want in government, that with the more likely chance of actually *winning* government, the best chance of doing so – I don’t see the point of voting first and foremost for a party that has no chance of ever implementing their policy agenda. I’m quite comfortable sending a message about philosophical alignments through my preferences.

    The Senate however is a different story; I’ve in the past been quite happy to vote Greens first in the Senate because there is a realistic chance they can get sufficient numbers to actually impose their agenda on legislation and subsequently make a difference. But I’m still considering how I vote in the upper house this year after the goings on of the past 2.

    Btw here’s the firmness of voting intention tables from yesterday’s Essential.

  5. I’m so looking forward to exercising the optional preferential system in the NSW state elections: Greens 1 and that’s it!

  6. “The Greens are unlikely to ever form government in their own right in my life time.”

    They’d get there a lot quicker if people would stop voting for the big old parties that maintain this undemocratic system in their favour.

    “I vote so as to give the party I want in government,”

    Which is of course the point of your vote. Vote 1 the party you’d like to see representing you in Parliament.

    “that with the more likely chance of actually *winning* government, the best chance of doing so “

    Hang on, if you confine yourself to voting for the big old parties then you’re supporting them staying in power. If that’s what you want, fine, but don’t object to those two being the only parties with a chance of forming government in their own right in the shot term.

    The only way that is ever going to change is if people stop voting for them.

    If you vote for them, then insofar as those two parties’ strangehold on our democracy is a problem (and I think it is), then you’re part of that problem.

    “I don’t see the point of voting first and foremost for a party that has no chance of ever implementing their policy agenda.”

    The only point of voting first for a party is if it’s the closest to your views. If that’s the Greens, then presumably you want them to grow: and the only way of that happening is for people like you to vote for them.

    “I’m quite comfortable sending a message about philosophical alignments through my preferences.”

    That doesn’t really work. Voting ALP and preferencing Greens tells them very little. The only way your preferences will get looked at is if your first preference is eliminated, then your vote goes straight to your second preference. If all things being equal the Greens represent your views better than the ALP, then I do not understand why you wouldn’t just vote 1 Greens and preference the ALP second.

    You don’t still think that this could somehow help the Liberals, do you?

  7. confessions

    Vote 1 the party you’d like to see representing you in Parliament.

    Well, yes. I do that already. And as for Labor staying in power, I’d be happy with that, even more so if they didn’t have rightwing fundies or AGW denying cranks as the check and balance in the upper house. If that means having a lefty independent Senator holding the BoP (like Harradine did for the other mob), or the Greens or some other progressive party combination, that would suit me fine.

    You don’t still think that this could somehow help the Liberals, do you?

    What people do with their 2nd preferences having voted 1 Greens does worry me, I have to admit. If Neilsen is correct (and admittedly Newspoll and Essential cast some doubt on its validity), then we are seeing less preference flows to labor and more the the coalition. As I said before, if enough people, in enough marginal seats are voting 1 Greens and 2 Liberal, then we could see a change of government.

    And Dotty Daphon reminds me there is OPV in NSW. If the Greens are determining preferences on a seat by seat basis rather than national or statewide, then preferences at the ballot box (or lack of in NSW case) become even more critical!!!

  8. “If Neilsen is correct (and admittedly Newspoll and Essential cast some doubt on its validity), then we are seeing less preference flows to labor and more the the coalition.”

    Almost certainly because there are more ex-Coalition voters voting Green and continuing to preference the Coalition ahead of the ALP than there were previously.

    It is no reason whatsoever that your vote for the Greens instead of the ALP could conceivably help the Liberals, so long as you remember not to put the latter above the former.

    “As I said before, if enough people, in enough marginal seats are voting 1 Greens and 2 Liberal, then we could see a change of government.”

    That would only make a difference if they were ex-ALP voters who’d decided not just to give their first preference to the Greens, but ALSO to preference the Liberals ahead of them.

    Incredibly unlikely, I’d have thought.

    But look, the problem here is people thinking they have to change their votes based on what they think other people might do with theirs. The beauty of our preference voting system is that we don’t have to concern ourselves with garbage like “tactical voting”.

    We can each vote our preferences directly and be confident that our votes will give the party we like the best the greatest chance of representing us in parliament, and not help the parties we dislike the most.

  9. citrustickle

    Those Australian articles are extraordinary. The sheer number of words they allot to something like Black’s seemingly endless piece is mind-boggling in itself.

    “I’m quite comfortable sending a message about philosophical alignments through my preferences.”

    This is one more sentiment I recall hearing regularly on election days in my capacity as The-person-with-the-Greens-HTV-cards. People who on the way in are quite verbal in their enthusiasm for voting Green would later report “I put you guys at #2 behind my Labor first preference” or similar, seemingly oblivious to the utter invisibility of this gesture in almost every lower house seat in the country.

    “But look, the problem here is people thinking they have to change their votes based on what they think other people might do with theirs.”

    Exactly. Tactical voting is silly in Aus. It’s alarming also how many genuinely seem to think a Vote-for-Nader-is-a-vote-for-Bush situation applies.

    Whoever it was that once said Australia had one of the best electoral systems in the world, but an electorate who have precious little idea how to utilise it properly was pretty much on the money.

    Although given that most of the misconceptions tend to work in the major parties’ favour, combating them is unlikely to be a high priority…

  10. Splatterbottom

    I thought this quote from David Bradbury (ALP member for Lindsay) makes an interesting point:

    “When the voters are sending you a message, when members of your community are sending you a message, then if you choose to ignore that you do that at your peril.”

    Greens on the other hand are less interested in any messages the community may send them, than they are in holding fast to their ideological positions.

    Which is more democratic?

  11. The Greens representing what they said they’d represent is more democratic.

    Voters can choose to vote for or against them, but at least they know what they’ll do in Parliament.

  12. Splatterbottom

    So if circumstances change, as they always do, or if things don’t work out as expected, you just keep plowing ahead with the party line?

  13. Those are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.

  14. “So if circumstances change, as they always do, or if things don’t work out as expected, you just keep plowing ahead with the party line?”

    Example.

  15. Splatterbottom

    A war breaks out, making delivery on a promise extremely reckless. Do you deliver anyway?

    Or you promise a great big new carbon tax. It becomes clear that the rest of the world is not going to be conned into similar measures, thus making Australia acting alone an exercise in futility. Do you wait for the rest of the world to formulate a new plan, or leap over the cliff?

    Or take the case where you state during the election campaign that people can’t vote for the sitting PM because he might retire and voters will end up with a PM they didn’t elect, whereas if your candidate is elected this will not happen. Then when you win the election your PM becomes deeply unpopular. Do you leave him in and lose the next election, so that many of your promises will not be able to be implemented, or do you stab him in the back?

  16. “A war breaks out, making delivery on a promise extremely reckless. Do you deliver anyway?”

    What kind of promise, and what kind of war?

    I trust the Greens to act reasonably and consistently with their principles – obviously protecting Australia is one of those.

    “Or you promise a great big new carbon tax.”

    “Great big new” – what is it with conservatives and the need to keep their rhetoric at a primary school level?

    “It becomes clear that the rest of the world is not going to be conned into similar measures, thus making Australia acting alone an exercise in futility. “

    You enact policies that mean we’re at least acting with clean hands ourselves, and that enable us to get a head start on developing the alternative technologies that everyone’s going to need to adopt eventually – the world will run out of oil sooner or later.

    “Or take the case where you state during the election campaign that people can’t vote for the sitting PM because he might retire and voters will end up with a PM they didn’t elect, whereas if your candidate is elected this will not happen. Then when you win the election your PM becomes deeply unpopular. Do you leave him in and lose the next election, so that many of your promises will not be able to be implemented, or do you stab him in the back?”

    People vote for local MPs to, in turn, vote for the policies they say they’ll support. In our system we don’t vote for the Prime Minister – and that’s because, technically, whoever is the present leader is irrelevant. It’s how the party, how your MP votes that matters.

    I don’t really care which Greens MP leads the Greens provided that they stand up for progressive principles in the legislation they propose and support in parliament.

  17. Splatterbottom

    I trust the Greens to act reasonably and consistently with their principles

    Exactly the point I was trying to make. this is what a government should do, not doggedly hanging onto promises when changed circumstances make keeping them futile.

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