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Back on air

July 17th, 2010

The final proofs of Zombie Economics went off to the typesetter this morning, and you’ve all seen this evening’s news. So, I guess it’s time for me to end my hiatus, and make whatever contribution I can to the marvel of democracy. Not to keep anyone in suspense, I’ll be advocating a vote for the Greens.

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  1. July 17th, 2010 at 23:06 | #1

    And so will I, though the more important question is après les Greens, qui?.

    I am putting the majors equal last.

  2. July 17th, 2010 at 23:14 | #2

    Correct me, but isn’t there no ‘equal last’? Don’t you have to decide?

  3. July 17th, 2010 at 23:24 | #3

    No, you don’t. If you put the last two equal, the returning officer can deem the vote exhausted but valid up until then. That is what happened in the Bradfield by-election where I scrutineered for the Greens.

    Not all ROs might see it that way, but IMO that is better than voting for harsher policies on refugees.

  4. Alister
    July 17th, 2010 at 23:51 | #4

    Fran, don’t count on it. Some ROs would rule that vote invalid.

  5. July 17th, 2010 at 23:55 | #5

    A risk I am willing to take Alister. Giving support to:

    cracking down on refugees
    easing up on mining companies
    forgetting about climate change

    is the greater evil.

  6. July 18th, 2010 at 00:07 | #6

    What about parking some preferences with acceptable independents, if such people are running, just so the orchestraters behind the political curtain do not take the two party outcome for granted. Get em a bit of heart burn.

  7. July 18th, 2010 at 09:00 | #7

    Well wmmbb, if you put ALP and Coalition equal last, you are by definition “parking preferences” with less unacceptable independents.

    The situation is complicated becasue it is likely in many electorates (mine for example, Bennelong) that Australians Against Further Immigration and the Christian Democrat Part will run. We might even get Shooters’ Party. They will all be placed after the Coalition-ALP equal value on my ballot.

    The trouble is that because of the strong primary to APL-Coalition, if you give them a valid preference, even if they run near last in a Melbourne Cup field, they will get it, eventually as those above them are eliminated. The only way to stop them is to number them as equal making it impossible for the RO to determine your preference at that point.

    The same applies in the senate.

  8. JennieL
    July 18th, 2010 at 10:42 | #8

    Good to see the site’s up and running again!

    Re. equal-last preferencing: my understanding is that, after changes to the electoral act in 1998, such ballots are deemed to be informal. The AEC says “The Act has amended the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 so that, while it is no longer an offence to encourage a ‘Langer-style’ vote (e.g.1,2,3,3,3… etc), such votes for the House of Representatives will no longer be counted as formal votes.” See also Antony Green on this.

    I don’t think the system ought to be like this, by the way; I would very much like to have the opportunity to vote in a way that reflects my true opinion of relative merits of the major parties. However, I don’t see any prospect for having this changed anytime soon.

  9. July 18th, 2010 at 11:22 | #9

    Well I expect Andrew Leigh will be my new member of parliament. I do favor voting Green as first preference as a signal to the major parties. That’s what I usually do. The question is could Greens have a chance to get an ACT Senate seat? I expect we’re stuck with one Liberal, one Labor there too.

  10. July 18th, 2010 at 11:40 | #10

    Eithr way though JennieL, my point stands.

  11. Grim
    July 18th, 2010 at 14:21 | #11

    Fran,

    So you’re saying that, in the vast majority of Australia electorates (as distinct from the Senate) where the Greens have zero chance of being elected, you are abdicating your duty to choose between the lesser of two evils (ALP/Coalition).

    That’s ok, it’s my feeling too in many cases, but we do have to face the fact that one of the two Weevils will form government, and the Greens will not hold the balance of power in the lower house. So, no gratuitous complaining later about the evil nature of whoever does win government, yes ?

  12. July 18th, 2010 at 14:32 | #12

    Grim

    My vote not counting is the lesser evil, because the failure of the government to get votes does not translate into the opposition getting them by iterating more outlandish attempts to realise the above.

    If the government wanted my vote it would have come out explicitly in favour of humane policies towards asylum seekers, in favour of rational action on climate change and have slapped down the greedy mining thugs. Of course, they figure they can have the votes of people like me, since we see the coalition as subjectively even more in favour of such policies. They see us as captive voters.

    But I am sitting on the cross benches on this one, even if that means everybody deems me irrelevant. Objectively, that is already how I am seen by the majors, so I have lost nothing and gained a bit of personal integrity. I can say “Don’t blame me, because I didn’t vote for the government”, whoever it turns out to be. I can hold others to blame for whatever bad happens. So I will feel absolutely entitled to complain about the quality of governance. I ahve refused in advance to endorse it. I am not responsible if “something else” was not on the menu. That is entirely their fault, and indeed, their wish.

    Ultimately of course, the system we have for composing government is a caricature of democracy, and nothing this side of it being torn up and redesigned with inclusive governance in mind will allow the public to author rational policy.

  13. July 18th, 2010 at 14:36 | #13

    Also, self-evidently, it is not within my power to prevent a government being elected on the basis of the reactionary policies above. That is a very great evil, and though I can scarcely prevent it, it is one in which I wish to take no part. If have no choice, then I am relieved of responsibility.

  14. JennieL
    July 18th, 2010 at 15:16 | #14

    Hi Fran,
    I was just pointing out that the most likely outcome of equal-numbering the ballot is that it will be counted as informal. Your point still stands as long as you consider an informal vote to be a better option than preferencing one of the major parties.

    I have some sympathy for this point of view; I also think it’s a good idea to vote against incumbents on general principle. Since neither governments or oppositions bother responding to the opinions of voters they believe they already have in their pocket, and care only about trying to pick up the swing voters, we’re more likely to be listened to if we become swing voters.

    On the other hand, in this election, even sharing your outrage at the government, I feel I will not have done my democratic duty if I do not vote against the Mad Monk and his merry band of denialists.

  15. July 18th, 2010 at 15:41 | #15

    Hmmm…. Some things never change. First post back on air & Seven of Fourteen comments are by Fran Barlow.

  16. Grim
    July 18th, 2010 at 16:00 | #16

    Fran,

    I have spent almost my entire life voting ‘against’ instead of voting ‘for’ either of the two Great Weevils. And to pick up on JennieL’s point, that usually meant voting informal in the lower house because of the ‘Langer imprisonment’ and voting the Democrats ticket in the Senate. [My only case of voting 'for' was the two elections that Goofy Whittle'em won, and look how that turned out.]

    But the simple reality is that your, or my, vote does not win government – to win government a party must get, generally, a little more than 50% of the total vote (except for Howard who beat Kim Beazley with a little less than 50% as you doubtless recall).

    So, does the ALP want your vote if gaining it costs them the votes of two other electors ? Are those of us who want “humane policies towards asylum seekers”, “rational action on climate change” and to “have slapped down the greedy mining thugs” a majority ? Or even a substantial minority ?

    Nonetheless, one of the Great Weevils WILL win government, with or without our votes, and so we WILL be governed by one of them. And whoever wins government won’t be entirely consumed by those three ‘big issues’ – they will also be taking a plethora of smaller decisions that will individually, and collectively, give me the willies. Yet I won’t be devoting my life to overturning those decisions, or even coherently complaining about them, because there’s just so much I can do in each 24 hour/365 day period.

    How about you: just how far will you take your “[entitlement] to complain about the quality of governance” ? Just how far are you prepared to take your determination to “have no choice” and then claim that you are “relieved of responsibility” ?

    Personally, I second JennieL’s view: “I feel I will not have done my democratic duty if I do not vote against the Mad Monk and his merry band of denialists.” Though yes, I will put the Greens first, specially in the Senate.

  17. Grim
    July 18th, 2010 at 16:06 | #17

    Steve at the Pub,

    Yes, it’s great to have someone displaying some passionate conviction so that we all have something to argue about, isn’t it.

  18. JennieL
    July 18th, 2010 at 17:09 | #18

    #15:
    It’s a good thing, then, that we have someone else turning up and offering substantive contributions to the conversation.

  19. July 18th, 2010 at 17:56 | #19

    Fran Barlow could not be more wrong than she is at 7 when stating: “The only way to stop them is to number them (the candidates for the major parties) as equal making it impossible for the RO to determine your preference at that point.
    “The same applies in the senate.”
    The Australian Electoral Commission website says under “Voting – House of Representatives”:
    “A House of Representatives ballot paper is informal if:
    * it is unmarked
    * it has not received the official mark of the presiding officer and is not considered authentic
    * ticks or crosses have been used
    * it has writing on it which identifies the voter
    * a number is repeated
    * the voter’s intention is not clear
    “Note that if a House of Representatives ballot paper has all squares numbered but one then it is assumed that the unmarked square constitutes the last preference and the ballot paper will be deemed formal.”
    Repeating a number is specifically mentioned as making a vote informal. If, for example, the Labor and Liberal candidate in Bennelong in a field of 10 were both marked 9, the vote would be informal because a number is repeated and because even though the last preference is unmarked, the voter’s intention is not clear as to which of these two candidates will receive any preferences.

  20. Salient Green
    July 18th, 2010 at 18:01 | #20

    Fran, I think it’s important to make your vote for the Greens formal. If informal votes are ever looked at by the political parties we don’t want them thinking we Greens can’t count. If they aren’t looked at then your Greens vote and the trend it contributes to is lost.

    I have never written to a politician in my electorate but this looks like being a good time to explain to my local Labour and Liberal candidates in writing why I put them next to last and last.

    I appreciate your frustration as I live in a very safe Liberal seat. Bring on Proportional Representation for house of reps.

  21. Grim
    July 18th, 2010 at 18:21 | #21

    Salient Green,

    And even more importantly, every valid ‘formal’ vote for the Greens improves their Federal Election funding handout. Which, since they don’t have access to nearly the same amount of corporate or union funding as Labor and the Coallition, is very important to minor parties.

  22. July 18th, 2010 at 18:22 | #22

    Grim asked:

    How about you: just how far will you take your “[entitlement] to complain about the quality of governance” ? Just how far are you prepared to take your determination to “have no choice” and then claim that you are “relieved of responsibility” ?

    I’ve not cast a valid vote in any council, state or federal election since 1977 and I see no reason to start now. Call me old fashioned, but IMO, one should only vote for a party if they are distinguished in some positive way from all of the others, or one has an adequate basis for inferring that their rule would be less pernicious than that of any other. The ALP-Coalition fails these tests. The victory of one of these parties will institute a very great wrong and do it by means that are an insult to those of us who care about public policy. I just can’t be part of that.

    I don’t endorse their policies or their methods or any part of their paradigm. We have two parties expressly endorsing policies inimical to the public interest and boasting about it. I know my vote is almost purely symbolic, but that makes the importance of its symbolic value all the greater. What is my wish a symbol of? Concentration camps? Trashing the planet? The rule of the super rich? The occupation of foreign countries? Massive military spending? Surely not.

  23. Grim
    July 18th, 2010 at 19:36 | #23

    Fran,

    Back in 1963, when I was still a year short of being able to vote (at age 21 back then), I worked with a colleague who lived in Sir Robert Menzies electorate. Despite being Labor through and through (an ex-NZedder, you see), he always voted Communist because, as he said: “Menzies was going to win anyhow, so adding to a losing ALP vote was futile, but the thing that would annoy Menzies the most was a high Communist vote”. A viewpoint I more or less subscribed to – with the possible exception of not agreeing those in Moreton in 1961 who voted Communist and then gave their second preferences to Jim Killen.

    However, if exercising your vote troubles you, then how about your economic productivity, and in particular, your taxes, which go to pay for those policies that you, rightly IMHO, rail against ? What is the point of withholding your vote, but granting your taxes ?

  24. Ernestine Gross
    July 18th, 2010 at 20:31 | #24

    Fran’s preferences, stated on several past posts on JQ’s blogsite, on an element of a climate change policy is in direct conflict with the Greens’ policy on the same issue.

    I can’t name the policy because our host has put a ban on the topic and I am definitely not asking to have the ban removed.

  25. July 18th, 2010 at 22:01 | #25

    Grim

    However, if exercising your vote troubles you, then how about your economic productivity, and in particular, your taxes, which go to pay for those policies that you, rightly IMHO, rail against ? What is the point of withholding your vote, but granting your taxes ?

    Choice. I have no legal right to withhold taxes. I have no say at all in how they are spent. Taxes and their disbursement are not my call and in all probability, never will be.

    I can however, withhold my symbolic assent.

  26. Aslam
    July 18th, 2010 at 22:10 | #26

    I am looking forward to reading Zombie Economics and hopefully I can understand about economics well in the future and follow the ‘correct path’

  27. Grim
    July 18th, 2010 at 23:29 | #27

    Fran @ #25

    Indeed, thanks to Mr Langer’s sojourn in prison, it is now not an offence to vote infomal, nor to encourage others to vote informal (it’s only an offence to mislead voters into voting informal when they didn’t intend to).

    However, casting one’s vote – or threatening to withhold it, or vote for the opposition – has been known to change party policy, and even Government action. As an age pensioner, I know that we ‘Grey Power’ commandoes have indeed altered the amount of the Age Pension (and especially for single pensioners).

    But I don’t see how casting a vote entails symbolic (or actual) assent or otherwise to party (or Government) policy, even if politiciane are wont to claim that they have a ‘mandate’ forwhatever they intended to do anyway. Since I live in Australia, and won’t be migrating, the elected Australian government will do what it will, with or without any ‘assent’ from me. Nonetheless I can, at least in combination with other Australian voting citizens, register dissent from what politicians are doing and threaten them with withdrawal of our votes.

    Or are you suggesting that, for instance, those Americans who voted for Al Gore were, ipso facto, giving their ‘symbolic assent’ to the actions of G W Bush ? Or are you suggesting that even more Americans that might otherwise have voted for Al Gore should have refrained from voting altogether in order to not give ‘symbolic assent’ to G W Bush ?

  28. Jim Rose
    July 18th, 2010 at 23:37 | #28

    @Grim

    in a close election, not voting or risking voting informal can help that people you want to help least.

    take Florida in 2000. 97,000 voted Green. of these 38% would have voted for Gore if there was no green candidate, 25% would have voted Bush, and the rest would have stayed home.

    Not voting for a major party gave the presidential election to the party most of the Greens wanted least.

    Both the house and senate will be very close on the 21st.

  29. paul walter
    July 18th, 2010 at 23:41 | #29

    Fran, take no notice of them.
    One of your posts is usually worth seven of theirs anyway.

  30. gerard
    July 19th, 2010 at 01:38 | #30

    John good you’re back earlier than you said. it really was bad-timing for the blog to be down – but who could have predicted all that…

  31. July 19th, 2010 at 04:50 | #31

    It is very straightforward Grim@27

    Both parties advocate the same key policies. They have thus deprived us all of a choice on these matters. One cannot cast one’s vote against concentration camps, or against trashing the planet, or against occupying other countries or against the rule of the mining thugs because ultimately you will be compelled to vote for at least one of the parties supporting such policies merely to make your vote formal. That was not true in the US. In the US you could vote Green and stop there.

    The current system is calculated to coerce support for at least one of the parties of the privileged elite while preserving the forms of choice. This is a form of political blackmail, and one should never reward a blackmailer. From there, the slippery slope to personal ruin is hard to avoid.

    Better that by far that amidst the depravity planned or contemplated by the major parties to be visited on the most vulnerable people on the planet, that I come to the aid of these marginalised, explaining to them that these things were neither authored by my hand nor done in my name. Let me not shrink from them in shame for being amongst those who knew better but did these things to them anyway. Let me instead express to them my genuine and innocent sorrow at the enduring rule of the boss class and my solidarity with the struggle of the dispossessed for their full humanity.

  32. Jim Rose
    July 19th, 2010 at 08:18 | #32

    @Fran Barlow
    The overlap of key policies which you decry is a product of the chase for the median voter – the swinging voter. Both parties want to win and to win they must win a majority.

    You decry the greatest advantage of democracy, which is public policies tend to have majority support, and the parties that stray too far from the majority viewpoint lose office. You have plenty of political choice if you are a swinging voter!

    One way to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority is to require super-majorities for laws to pass. A super-majority is requiring more than a 51% majority for laws to pass.

    There are super-majority requirements in feisty two house parliaments and functioning federal states. A more than a 51 per cent majority is required in these constitutional architectures because each federal house of parliament is elected by different electoral systems and the different state parliaments are elected by geographically divided and politically heterogeneous electorates at different times. Rotation of power is common in electoral systems such as these so many viewpoints get their day in the sun.

    Over the last 25 years or more, both political parties have been chasing the Green vote, and the Green parties now has two senators from most states, state parliament representation, and even cabinet seats in my home state.

    Remember, about 20 per cent of green voters’ second preference the liberals, and politicians have this undying habit of chasing every vote they can get. Labour is much more interested in these green liberals too than in the votes of the watermelons because they will vote ALP no matter what.

    Richo was instrumental in the ALP chasing the green vote in the late 1980s. As cunning as a rat as he was, Richo would chase the green liberal vote because he is not the type of guy to spend time on winning votes he already had in the bag.

  33. Alice
    July 22nd, 2010 at 21:56 | #33

    Im voting green too – Im determined to bust the senate so neither main party gets a majority until they both take a step (two steps three steps) away from the right. Ive had enough of market mumbo jumbo to last me (the rest) of my life!
    This time Im really a swinging voter. Id even vote for a tree with a sign on it.

  34. Alice
    July 22nd, 2010 at 22:07 | #34

    Frankly – it was Julia’s fault Im voting green. She tried to play the boat people issue…. and it was at that moment (actually it was when I read about ot on the daily bludge) I realised she is just another politician on the make…

    They just dont get it – its like watching old sitcom repeats…and now ladies and gentlemen…read all about it…we have, for your entertainment in Australia…live this evening on mastermischef…

    “politician speaks out about boat people”!

  35. Jill Rush
    July 24th, 2010 at 22:27 | #35

    Welcome back from hiatus Prof Q. Not bad work for less than a month.

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