The declining progressive vote

Given some of the attacks I’ve copped on this Blog about preferences, it is worth giving some further analysis about the actual impact of those preference decisions on the results.

I do this not just to address some of the myths floating around but also to highlight what I think is more important, which is that the overall progressive minor party vote has now dropped so low that it can no longer be assumed that a Senate seat in each state is a probability. That reality has to be acknowledged by all those who feel that reducing the dominance of the two major parties is a key part of strengthening our democracy and Parliaments.

NSW is the most complex, so it is worth more explanation. I should note that I am contradicting Antony Green here, which I do with some trepidation, but Vie studied these figures fairly closely (in part using his ABC website for validation). Antony says that Had Democrat preferences flown to the Greens rather than Liberals for Forests and the Christian Democrats, then the final vacancy would have been won by the Greens. I don’t think this is correct. It is true that if Democrat preferences had gone to the Greens earlier, it would have prevented them dropping out at the last count, with the Christian Democrats Party being excluded instead. However, out of all the other parties whose preferences rested with the CDP, only those from the Liberals, No GST and Group K Independents would have gone to the Greens rather than the ALP. 9 other parties (including the CDP) would have flowed to Labor, putting them well over the quota.

Despite the complaints about Liberals For Forests soaking up preferences it is also worth noting that LFF had been excluded from the count before the Greens and so any preferences that were going to the Greens did get to them anyway. LFF had preferences from 16 other parties (which is quite extraordinary) before they got excluded. Of the 17 preference tickets distributed (16 + LFFs own ticket) only 2 went to the Greens, 8 went to CDP and 6 went to the ALP, plus Hemp’s ticket which was split two-thirds to Greens and one-third to Labor. Of the 8 that then went to the CDP, only two (the Democrats and no GST) would have flowed on to the Greens ahead of Labor.

In Victoria, the Family First victory in place of the Greens rested almost solely with the preference decision of the ALP to preference Family First first. Whilst the ALP has copped some flack for this, Id have to say it is unprecedented for someone with a primary vote of under 2% to get elected in a half-Senate election. The lowest previously was The Greens win in NSW in 2001 on a bit over 4%. Both the Democrats and the DLP outpolled Family First on primary votes in Victoria.

In Queensland, Democrat preferences ended up with the Greens, as did preferences from the Socialist Alliance, Group G Independents, the Great Australians, HEMP, Citizens Electoral Council, Australian Progressive Alliance, Hetty Johnston and the ALP surplus. They were still 33 000 votes short of a quota.

In SA, the seat went to Labor instead of the Greens as a result of the Democrats preference decision.

In WA the Greens won the seat with the help of Democrat preferences. The Greens would not have won the seat without these preferences.

In Tasmania the Greens won the seat. The large below the line vote (common in Tasmania) favouring the Greens over Family First enabled them to win the seat.

Having said all this, I believe the Senate Group Voting Ticket should be scrapped. The proliferation of micro parties and the inability of the Electoral Act to ensure these are genuine political parties have started to deliver perverse results. The Democrats have had cause for complaint more than once over the years and 2001 saw it getting worse. However, when people start getting elected with less than 2 per cent of the primary vote, it is beyond a joke. (That is no reflection on the person who was elected, but just on the system itself.)

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10 Comments

  1. My analysis is the same as yours. Democrat preferences were immaterial to the NSW senate result as Fred Nile and One Nation preferences would have elected Labor if Democrats preferences had come to the Greens instead of Nile.
    The Greens will just have to keep on increasing their primary vote in order to win seats…
    As for South Australia, surely a mea culpa is in order there (if not also in Tasmania and Victoria). Wasn’t the whole Democrat rationale supposedly about restricting major party seats?

  2. Scrapping the Group Voting Tickets is now way overdue. Glenn Druery proved that in the 1999 NSW state election.
    There’s also a critical need to regulate the formation, operation and naming of political parties. There needs to be a better balance between people’s right to participate in politics vs the right not to be deceived by stooges and blowhards.

  3. A reminder to people if they have views about this stuff that there will be an inquiry conducted by the Electoral Matters Committee. More people agitating about registration requirements for genuine political parties, as well as things like Voting Tickets, would be helpful.
    I don’t mind giving a mea culpa (or a ‘whoops’ to give a more downmarket version) about SA. It’s one of the glitches of preference systems. The Dems prefernced Greens ahead of ALP, but our prefernces got locked up with FF along the way. Similar to the Greens decision to preference Labor in Wentworth allowed the Liberals to win the seat instead of the independent Peter King, even though the Greens put King ahead of the Libs.

  4. You said, ‘it can no longer be assumed that a Senate seat in each state is a probability. That reality has to be acknowledged by all those who feel that reducing the dominance of the two major parties is a key part of strengthening our democracy and Parliaments.’
    Surely then you would do what you could to ensure that good strong minor parties get your preferences so that at least one of them gets a seat… Instead of preferencing to keep each other out, out of ear or jealousy or what-have-you.
    It’s all very well to speak about it, but to do it in political reality seems a very different thing.

  5. As I said, it was only in SA that this preference arrangement caused a problem. Getting a Senate seat for a minor party was a goal, but so was reducing the power of the major parties, especially the Libs. The two goals required slightly conflicting approaches and the attempt to balance it didn’t work. If we were deliberately trying to keep the Greens out, it would be simple to just put them after one of the majors, as a range of other minor parties did to the Dems.

  6. Similar to the Greens decision to preference Labor in Wentworth allowed the Liberals to win the seat instead of the independent Peter King, even though the Greens put King ahead of the Libs.
    Andrew, there is so much wrong with this statement that I hardly know where to start. Ultimately what cost King the seat was that he got only 18% of the primary vote.
    Even if the Greens had been decided to advise a preference for King ahead of the ALP he would have needed over 80% of Greens voters to go along with that advice – both were always improbable. How-to-vote cards are not like group voting tickets after all…
    Then consider the effect on the Greens vote for the party to advise a preference to King, the former Liberal incumbent.

  7. I read this blog because I’m interested in the views of a political leader and like that he is so damned accesible. It’s irritating having to wade through the constant Greens carping about preferences.
    I dont care what the Greens think. If that changes I’ll go visit Bob Brown’s Blog – oh that’s right he doesn’t have one. Figures.
    Andrew how will the Democrats manage with a reduced presence in the Senate? Will you be able to cover all the portfolios like you have been doing?

  8. I read this blog because I’m interested in the views of a political leader […]. It’s irritating having to wade through the constant Greens carping about preferences.
    Poor diddums. Solution – don’t read the comments if you are only interested in Andrew’s view of the world. If you want to engage instead of just whinge, feel free…

  9. duh! I make one observation and I’m ‘whinging’, you endlessly repeat the same carping criticisms in a vain attempt to prove how right you are and your ‘engaging’… how very green of you Chris.

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