I’m finding very amusing all the triumphalism from hardline rightwingers that the Greens’ small increase in vote in NSW means that THEY’RE FINISHED. That THEY’VE PEAKED. That they “will die on the vine without Liberal help”. That >insert attempt to persuade the progressive voters they despise to abandon the main progressive party here<.
Yes, the 3rd party that gets little coverage during the campaign – except from The Australian (that has pledged to “destroy” it) when it can beat up a mis-statement at a forum by one candidate, subsequently corrected, into a sledge of “anti-Semitism” against the party as a whole – apparently failed to win any lower house seats in a system stacked against any broad-based 3rd party doing just that.
Big deal. Did any Greens supporters really think the party was going to do particularly well on Saturday? I don’t even live in NSW and it was still obvious to me that they wouldn’t.
Clearly many NSW voters are pretty disengaged with politics – you can tell this by the fact that many of the right-wing parties actually campaigned on the “carbon tax” as if the state parliament could do anything about it. And clearly many voters believe that (a) only big parties can win elections, and therefore if you want to hurt one big party you must vote for the other and (b) that “a vote for the Greens is a vote for Labor” – rather than what it is, a vote for the bloody Greens.
But the point is most Labor voters would just have thought “I want to punish Labor, and the only way I can safely do that is to vote Liberal”. Of course they didn’t go to the Greens. To go to the Greens they’d have had to understand that (a) they could preference who they like (many don’t) and (b) that if the Greens plus Labor formed a majority it would not be anything like the Labor government they were turfing out. Without the hubris that comes from being able to treat Parliament with contempt, which is what Labor did and the Liberals are about to do, because you don’t have to worry about a Parliament you completely dominate, a Labor-Green government would be a very different beast to the previous government. It certainly wouldn’t be privatising electricity, for example.
But how many voters wanting to punish Labor would be thinking about the distinction between a minority and a majority Labor government? It’s hardly surprising they lunged en masse to the other big party.
The other factor is how much money Labor threw into the few seats in which the Greens were competitive. They could do that this time, with the resources you get as incumbents. But next time… well, next time they’ll have much less to draw on. The Greens vs Labor contest will be very interesting in 2015. Labor will really want to hope for News Ltd to pull something very special out of the bag if it’s going to fend off a genuinely progressive party in progressive seats. (Not that there are too many of those in NSW.)
As for the line that the Greens need the Liberals’ preferences – that’s about as damning an indictment on our electoral system as you can get. To win a single seat, any “left” party needs to get the approval of the right-wing party? How absurd is that!
But that’s what you get with single member electorates – a system in which, by definition, in each electorate some 30-70% of people are actually unrepresented. A system in which a party can get 14% of the vote and one seat; a system in which you can get over a million votes and win NO seats. It’s a long way from genuine democracy.
So – laugh it up, those gloating about how the system they’ve maintained keeps out genuine competition. Thrill to the benefits you get from making the barriers to entry so high that alternatives can never get to the point where they seriously threaten you. Giggle over your unassailable position. Congratulate yourselves on how little you have to care what the people actually think.
It’s not like we can do anything about it, after all.