Now we’re getting closer to an election day on which the Greens could finally win a lower house seat, the national media are working hard to publicise (but not give the Greens a chance to respond to) some of the more ill-informed reasons for potential Greens voters to abandon the party.
1. Too “risky”: what if it put Tony Abbott in the Lodge?
“I’m a bit torn,” [Liam Clancy] said. “I would love to vote for the Greens but it would be a really bad move in a seat where your vote might make a difference.”
Why not Greens?
“If they were to win that might mean Tony Abbott would be in charge of the country. I will certainly be voting for the Greens in the Senate,” he said.
So, you’re voting very tactically then?
That doesn’t make even the slightest amount of sense. What does Mr Clancy envisage happening if Adam Bandt wins the seat and it’s the seat that chooses the Prime Minister? The Greens forming a Coalition with the Liberals and Nationals? Really? Does he really think that is in any way a possibility? What does he base that theory on?
Has Mr Clancy ever actually met a Greens party member?
“Tactical voting” indeed. This isn’t the US, mate.
We’ve already discussed how it’s actually slightly more likely, in terms of preferences (but still extremely unlikely), that voting ALP could get a Liberal candidate over the line (and really help Abbott), but that’s not Mr Clancy’s concern. His concern is that a Greens MP would somehow put Tony Abbott in the Lodge, despite everything they’ve ever said or done. If anyone shares Mr Clancy’s theory, I’d love to hear them explain how it works in their heads. Because it is the complete opposite of what would happen.
In summary: voting Green and preferencing Labor is the strongest anti-Abbott vote.
2. Not enough chance of them getting into power:
“I have voted Greens in the past,” Nathan said, “but they don’t really seem to get anywhere. I normally vote for them because I don’t like the others
Well, they’re not going to get into power if people don’t vote for them, Nathan. If you “don’t like the others” but vote for them anyway, why would they ever change?
People who vote for the big old parties regardless of what they actually do are the people who are to blame for the big old parties being the way they are.
And if you’re worried about your vote being “wasted” – well, as we’ve discussed, it’s actually a much stronger progressive anti-Abbott vote than a straight Labor vote. If the Greens candidate is elected, then you have a progressive representative in Canberra who has a vote in parliament (as opposed to an ALP member who votes the way their party tells them). If the Greens candidate isn’t, then your second preference vote goes to whichever party you put next, AT FULL VALUE.
3. Their candidate in Melbourne is not a woman.
I think some Australians are a bit narrow-minded when it comes to change. I know a lot do prefer a man in power. I will vote for the ALP on the grounds that it’s a woman.”
Well, Adam Bandt isn’t a woman, it’s true, and the ALP has preselected a woman in the seat. But so what? The Greens have been a stronger voice for women in parliament than either of the two major parties, and a much higher proportion of their MPs are women. The vast majority of the ALP and Liberal parties are men, not women.
4. “They preference their votes to Labor”
Natalie had considered voting Green but decided not to. “They campaign for teen rights,” she said. “I read something about it in the paper and disagreed with that – and I also realised they preferenced their votes to Labor.”
I don’t understand the preference thing as a reason to vote for or against a party at all – you can choose your own bloody preferences – except inasmuch as it tells you something about that party’s principles. The Liberals and Nationals are preferencing Family First above everyone – that’s right, a party whose lead Senate candidate in Queensland thinks “legitimising gay marriage is like legalising child abuse”. Sure, you don’t have to follow the LNP preferences either, but it tells you something about their attitudes that they’d rather put those people above anyone else.
Meanwhile, with the Greens and Labor – who else does Natalie think they should preference? The Liberals? Family First? 80% of Greens voters preference Labor anyway, so why shouldn’t the default (and, crucially, entirely optional for voters) ticket represent that?
I don’t understand what Natalie’s issue with the preferences really is, and I suspect she doesn’t either. Is she a conservative who wishes they’d help Tony Abbott? Is she a progressive who wishes they’d keep “pure”, not issue a ticket and thereby not win any seats whatsoever because the vast majority of Australians are not willing to vote below the line? What exactly does Natalie want?
(Nor do I know what she means about the “teen rights” thing and why she “disagreed” with it, but I’d bet fairly good money the paper that confused her was the Herald Sun.)
5. The Greens “don’t really stand for anything”
This is a strange charge, since the Greens are usually attacked for standing for too much. (Can’t you people just be satisfied with the way things are?) But the saddest thing about this gentleman is that all the issues he says are important – processing asylum seekers humanely here, better funding of education and healthcare, more funding for TAFE and practical education – these are all Greens priorities, much more than Labor’s.
I suggest he goes to http://greens.org.au/policies – I suspect he’ll find that the Greens are much better advocates for his views than any of the alternatives. (Hopefully someone who knows Simon Carter will by now have pointed this out to him.)
Why this matters
It’s fairly frustrating seeing people who, if they were voting on their principles, would appear to be best represented by the Greens, being scared off by concerns that are really easily contradicted and resolved – if only they actually get to talk to a Green.
Which I suppose is the point of this post (I doubt Liam, Natalie and Simon are reading political blogs like this one): please, all of you who’d like to see progressive policies in parliament, get out there and talk to people. The Greens are a growing but presently comparatively underfunded smaller party that relies heavily on volunteers going out there and being a point of contact for wavering voters. Door-knocking. Delivering leaflets. Handing out HTVs at pre-polling stations and on election day. Just talking with your friends, particularly the ones you know hold progressive values, and seeing if they’ve been deterred from voting for the Greens by some kind of misunderstanding, like the people above, and either answering their queries or directing them to someone who can.
Because it’s important. If the people who believe we can do better are successfully hoodwinked into voting for the status quo, then how will anything ever change?
UPDATE 12/8: I should’ve known! The anti-Greens quote in the snippet above was, apparently, a mis-quote of young Mr Cooper by the Herald Sun, who reportedly said no such thing.