New posts on Australia (and environs)

Four new posts are up today, each of them by either Alan or Henry. They are part of a series that begins now on the upcoming election in Australia (plus an update on Bougainville).

So scroll down, and enjoy. Thank you, Alan and Henry, for being F&V’s correspondents Down Under!

7 thoughts on “New posts on Australia (and environs)

  1. Here’s an interesting development:

    ‘Tasmanian Labor Senator Lisa Singh is distributing her own personalised flyers in her home state, asking to “re-elect Lisa Singh to the Senate.” It is highly unusual for a senator to ask to be re-elected in this way, as parties usually campaign for above-the-line votes for the party, with the order of the candidates decided by the party. Singh was relegated to the unwinnable sixth place by the Labor Party in May this year, after being demoted to fourth place last year before a double dissolution election was announced. Last year Singh blamed factional deals for her low place on the Senate ballot paper. She is an unaligned member of the Left faction…’

    – “Lisa Singh campaigns to stay in Senate: The Federal Labor Senator was relegated to an unwinnable position, but is seeking below the line votes.” Crikey (20 June 2016). URL:

    See also

    • It’s not uncommon for parties themselves to personalise election campaign material around the Spitzenkandidat of their Senate team, especially where their vote is only likely to return the top candidate. The DLP distributed leaflets saying “Vote Mac Back” for their Victorian Senator Frank McManus in 1970 and a decade ago the Nationals in Queensland made an unlikely star of Ron Boswell with “He’s Not Pretty, But He’s Pretty Effective.”

      But this is the first time I can recall that a candidate lower than the number #1 spot on her party’s Senate ticket has produced personalised campaign material. It’s safe to assume that the new Senate electoral rules make this much easier to organise. From 1948 to 2013, if you tried this, the necessity of appealing for below-the-line votes would have inevitably meant a substantial number of those who responded to your appeal would have ended up inadvertently spoiling their ballots, quite possibly numerous enough to deprive your party of a seat (even if all those who responded dutifully tried to preference the rest of the party’s candidates in order). Now, it’s much easier for Tasmanian Labor voters to put [1] for Singh, [2] to [6] for the other Labor candidates, and then spray around their [7] to [12] preferences in whatever order they see fit.

      (I once read-ed – in Christopher Hughes, perhaps – that voting for individual candidates in Switzerland increased markedly over time when the voting method was altered to make it easier to vary the order on the party lists).

      It’s no doubt significant that this occurred in Tasmania, which historically had higher rates of voters deciding their own preferences for individual candidates (eg, departing from the party ticket order since 1948, and voting below the line since 1984), although the difference is usually a whopping 10% compared to only 5% on the mainland.

      Query whether Singh might get herself in trouble with Labor Party rules which typically mandate automatic expulsion for anyone who stands as, or campaigns for, a candidate against an officially endorsed Labor candidate. Given that Singh is herself a officially-endorsed Labor candidate, too, this would be an odd interpretation of the party rules, but Labor’s internal culture has a congenital fear/ hatred of unwashed voters messing with the painfully-negotiated order of “the ticket” (they even tried in 1982 to run an ordered “how to vote” ticket in a Hare-Clark election – the very hopelessness of this attempt showing how desperate they felt). So it’s not unthinkable that someone may try to argue that by soliciting first-preference voters for herself, ahead of whatever political giant the party machine has chosen to head its ticket, Singh has breached the spirit of the rule. Watch this space.

      • Here’s Kevin Bonham (who’s actually on the ground in Tasmania):

        ‘… The Lisa Singh push is mainly a Hobart thing and especially a Denison thing. She was former state member for Denison and her left-wing views appeal to the Denison electorate. […] Lisa Singh has strong support from Greens voters. They will probably vote below the line in large numbers and preference her strongly. However the Greens are unlikely to have much influence on Singh’s fate, because they will probably either fall short of two quotas or clear two quotas by not much. In the first case those preferences will not reach Singh and in the second they will not be worth a lot…’

      • Tasmania’s Senate race has another one of these cases, with the Liberal ticket being criticised for placing Senator Richard Colbeck, the Tourism Minister, in fifth place. This is believed to be revenge for Colbeck’s support of Malcolm Turnbull in the leadership spill. One Tasmanian Liberal MHR has encouraged people dissatisfied with the ticket to ‘start from the bottom’, and I have heard rumours that Colbeck is running advertising encouraging a BTL vote for himself. Colbeck has a somewhat more comfortable position than Singh, as a fifth seat is certainly winnable for the Liberals.

        One thing about this race is that, if one party or another receives an advantage from their vote being more evenly spread between candidates (which is certainly possible), such intraparty races could become more common, as the major parties might see that the advantages of a more even spread of votes outweigh the disadvantages of losing some control over candidates.

      • “Start from the bottom” is a clever approach, a sort of reverse donkey-voting (and not necessarily any more complicated than donkey-voting from the top).
        Back in the Whitlam era, when Labor viewed compulsory numbering of preferences as a trick devised by the BA Santamaria, the CIA and the Melbourne Club to cruelly frustrate The People’s wishes as expressed at the ballot-box (this was some years before Labor came to realise, after much deep deliberation and philosophizing, that compulsory marking of preferences is actually essential to democracy), one would see ALP HTV leaflets that would have a huge [1] next to the Labor candidate, then [2], [3], [4]… etc down the list of candidates, then starting again at (say) [5], [6], [7] down from the top again. This would sometimes mean the ALP would look like it was “preferencing” the Liberals or the far right ahead of the Democrats, but since Labor preferences are almost never counted, this didn’t matter in practice, and it wasn’t intended.
        (As far as I can make out, the old jibe that Robert Menzies hung on in 1961 only because of Communist Party preferences is sort of kind of true inasmuch as the Coalition held on to power by one seat and its most precarious win, in Moreton, saw Jim Killen beat Labor due to preferences from the Communist candidate. Since Killen had a ballot position – alphabetical at that time – higher than the Labor opponent, and the Communists had an even higher place, this was almost certainly donkey-voters rather than Leninists reasoning that “worse is better”. I should explain that Menzies had tried in 1951 to ban the Communist Party and, when the High Court threw his Act out on federalism grounds, proposed but lost a referendum to change the Constitution to give the federal Parliament that power).

  2. Re a more even spread of votes advantaging a party (as long as it is likely to win two or more seats, ie as long as its vote is split only N ways, and relatively equally, where N is one more than its likely number of full quotas):
    Parties in Ireland expend enormous amounts of effort trying to organise their supporters to divide their votes equally among candidates of the party’s team. (As do parties competing under SNTV in Taiwan and, before 1993, japan. Not sure if parties in Afghanistan are that organised yet).
    In Australia, in the jurisdictions that use Robson rotation (Tasmania and the ACT), the government printer performs this service free for the parties, at public expense.
    But are the parties grateful? Not at all. Two decades ago, in the ACT, the then Labor Party Secretary wrote a letter to the editor explaining how Labor wanted party-ranked groups and voting tickets “to maximize the number of seats won by the Party”. Forehead-thump. Once you realize that these sorts of people are the ones hidden away at head office pulling the strings, decisions like “Hey! Let’s preference Steve Fielding!” and “Hey! Let’s dump the NSW premier and replace them with someone the voters have never heard of!” become explicable, if not justifiable. (and one’s reverence for Group Voting Tickets as a reliable proxy for What Voters Want drops accordingly).
    It is significant that the only case since 1984 where one political bloc has won 4 seats out of 6 was Queensland in 2004, when the Liberals and Nationals ran separate Senate tickets.

  3. Hold on to your hats, people: it turns out that professedly Christian politicians might not practice what they preach 100% of the time:

    ‘… Bob Day has conceded that preferences on his how-to-vote card will be exhausted if he is not elected to the Senate, as he engages in the practice he has called “undemocratic, unconstitutional and un-Australian” when challenging government voting reforms in the High Court. The Family First senator from South Australia said that his decision to allocate preferences to micro-parties — likely to be ­excluded from the count before him — would only be a problem if his bid for re-election to the Senate was not successful. “They (their preferences) will come to me and they will elect me. My preferences won’t be allocated. If I didn’t get elected and then my preferences went to (the minor parties) then yes, they would exhaust, that is true. But because they are coming to me, then they will ensure that I will get elected.”…’

    – Sarah Martin, “Federal election 2016: Senator uses votes in way he damned,” The Australian (29 June 2016)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s