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!

20 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: https://www.crikey.com.au/2016/06/20/lisa-singh-campaigns-solo/

    See also http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-12/labor-senator-lisa-singh-relegated-to-bottom-of-senate-ticket/7410076

    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 https://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_McManus_(Australian_politician)#Political_life 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.

  2. 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: https://www.crikey.com.au/2016/06/20/lisa-singh-campaigns-solo/

    See also http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-12/labor-senator-lisa-singh-relegated-to-bottom-of-senate-ticket/7410076

    • 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 https://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_McManus_(Australian_politician)#Political_life 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…’

        http://kevinbonham.blogspot.com.au/2016/06/reachtel-says-lyons-going-north-in-doubt.html

      • 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).

  3. 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.

  4. 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)
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/federal-election-2016/federal-election-2016-senator-uses-votes-in-way-he-damned/news-story/acf489589506bccf21a5422970fa6303

  5. ‘… Often after an election, the cliché that “history has been made” is overused and mostly misused. But over the weekend, Premier [Gladys] Berejiklian has truly made NSW Liberal Party history. By the time this parliamentary term ends in 2023 the NSW Liberals will have been in government for their longest period since the party’s formation in the mid-1940s. Indeed the 12 years will be the longest period of non-Labor government since the rise of political parties in the decade or so before Federation.

    While it is true that Berejiklian has only won a third term for the Liberals and Bob Askin won four consecutive elections from 1965 to 1973, parliamentary terms in the old days were a maximum of three years and often shorter. Askin’s four wins delivered the Liberals state government for precisely 11 years, so the weekend win for the Liberals (barring a constitutional crisis in the next four years and the governor dissolving Parliament early) has truly made party history.

    Winning a fourth term in 2023 is more than conceivable. The most impressive part of the Liberal win was that it was in the shadow of a federal Liberal government with the wobbles. Notwithstanding this weekend’s result, it is almost unprecedented in recent decades for a party to win any state election if the same party is in Canberra and on the nose. This is why, when Paul Keating lost in 1996, every state and territory (bar NSW) was Liberal and, when John Howard’s 12 years ended in 2007, every state and territory government was Labor…’

    – John Ruddick, “How Gladys made history — and will likely make more,” NineMSN News (Monday 25 March 2019), https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/how-gladys-made-history-and-will-likely-make-more/ar-BBVa1zW

  6. More on Our Gladys:

    ‘[…] Of all Australian cities, Sydney is the one most segregated by income and race, so it has few marginal seats. […]
    For the Coalition, it was a landmark result in two ways. Gladys Berejiklian was already the first woman to lead a Coalition state government (indeed, she and Kate Carnell, as ACT chief minister in the 1990s, are the only women to have ever led a Coalition government in Australia — while Labor has had ten of them, in every parliament in the nation).

    Now she has been the first premier outside Queensland to be re-elected — something that was not remotely possible for Kristina Keneally when Labor elected her as NSW premier in late 2009 to try to salvage what she could from the impending wreckage. The Coalition is moving into the twenty-first century, sometimes at glacial pace.

    It is also the first time in almost forty years that a state or territory Coalition government has won a third term anywhere in Australia. The Howard government did so at federal level, but the last state or territory leader to win a third term was Sir Charles Court, in Western Australia in 1980. Since then, eight Coalition governments had sought a third term, but every one was thrown out by the voters. […]’

    – Tim Colebatch, “Raking through the embers of Labor’s loss: Two different elections took place on Saturday, and the opposition won neither of them,” Inside Story (25 March 2019)
    https://www.insidestory.org.au/raking-through-the-embers-of-labors-loss/

    (NB: “in every parliament” is not strictly true, since as far as I can see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premier_of_South_Australia South Australia hasn’t yet had a female Premier. True, Don Dunstan did his bit to challenge traditional blokey Australian gender norms, and Lynn Arnold has an androgynous name, but… Alan, am I missing something?)

    • Nope, South Australia has never had a woman as premier. 4 of the women first ministers have come from STV parliaments in Tasmania and the ACT.

      PS Consider the trauma of voting in the NSW electoral district of Barwon, where the likely final two candidates were National and Shooters Fishers and Farmers. I may be in therapy for years.

      • Poor Alan. But don’t tell No2AV about your voting dilemma. They’re already gleaning enough pro-plurality propaganda from the smooth actioning of the Brexit straight vote…

  7. Meanwhile, in other news from our cousins beyond the seas in the Dominion of North America, Royal Commissioner Robert Mueller today delivered his report on alleged Russian collusion to Her Excellency the Governor-General, Dame Oprah Winfrey. The royal commission involved 43 days of public hearings, including the appearance of Prime Minister Trump. The royal commission simultaneously released a public version of his report that is redacted for national security and criminal investigation information. Both houses of congress immediately scheduled hearings on the report, including the redacted material. Government House also released a statement that Her Excellency has declined to proclaim martial law and, in her capacity of commander-in-chief, has ordered the military to disregard Prime Minister Trump’s orders to arrest all members of both houses.

    • This page needs a like button.

      Though I would point out that Trump would probably have a hard time being prime minister in any Commonwealth realm. Only in Canada could he really challenge for the party leadership without any political experience. If he did, how long would he survive as opposition leader without any ability to deal with facts during question periods?

  8. “Gladys Berejiklian’s recently re-elected Coalition government faced its first parliamentary sitting this week, armed with a narrow majority in the Legislative Assembly but well short of controlling the Legislative Council. Many observers are predicting that the fragmented upper house will wreak havoc, but their fears say more about the Senate’s behaviour in recent years than how its state counterpart works. Although no NSW government has had a majority in the upper house since the March 1988 election, the chamber hasn’t been dysfunctional and the government’s program hasn’t generally been frustrated — and there’s no particular reason to expect this to change dramatically. […] Incoming crossbench senators in Canberra might also heed the lessons of the NSW upper house experience.”
    – David Clune, “The art of the deal: New South Wales has some lessons for the Senate”, Inside Story (8 May 2019)
    https://insidestory.org.au/the-art-of-the-deal/

    • An interesting read, but I am not a fan of the idea that the government’s program can become “frustrated.” That terminology implies that the government has a right to get its program through. That may, and possibly should, be the case in Canada or the United Kingdom, but should not be the starting point in Australia. Austrlia’s upper houses are not merely houses of review, but are houses of more broad democratic representation where the government’s lack of a majority should be considered a feature and not a bug.

      • Agreed, Mark. I find it interesting that NSW has a (generally agreed to be) “workable”, “constructive”, “cooperative” upper house when its STV election quota is only 4.5% – two-seventh that of the Senate (and the WA Legislative Council), half that in South Australia, barely a quarter of that in Victoria.
        This suggests that what makes upper houses “unworkable” or “obstructive” is less their district magnitude or degree of PR and more their other institutional incentives.
        In particular, NSW has a much more rational method of resolving deadlocks than the Federal Senate has (indeed, more rational than nearly any other polity I know about besides Ireland and Switzerland):
        (a) budget bills cannot be blocked up the upper house at all, but instead can be re-passed unilaterally by the Assembly after a month (modelled on the UK Parliament Act 1911), but
        (b) other Bills that are deadlocked, and/or that seek to change the entrenched clauses in the State’s Constitution Act, go to a referendum.
        So whereas at Federal level “double dissolution and joint sitting, after a protracted deadlock” are both necessary and disputed to pass any Bill, whether the Supply (No 2) or the Electoral (Banning of Hurtful Political Parties) Bill, in NSW an election plus joint sitting would be unnecessary to pass a disputed budget bill and insufficient to pass a disputed bill to change the ordinary law.
        In fact, the sec57 double dissolution procedure used at Federal level would be useless for resolving a 1911-style budget deadlock. Supply would long have run out before the High Court would allow a dissolution to occur, and there could well be too little money left in the Treasury to fund the elections when they fell due. (We don’t, AFAIK, have Canadian-style special warrants. Sir John Kerr was only able to resolve the budget deadlock in November 1975 because there happened to be other disputed bills sitting around that were ripe enough to qualify).
        Australia’s constitutional conservatives, who trumpet 1975 as an example of the Constitution working perfectly as designed (which is rather like trumpeting Chief Justice Carl Vinson’s death in 1954 as all part of Lincoln’s and Thaddeus Stevens’ genius master plan from 1865 to ensure racial desegregation), also argue that it is not possible to devise a workable legal test separating budget measures from ordinary legislation. This goes against 80 years of experience in NSW (and 108 years in the UK, albeit there the test is not judiciable but rests on conclusive rulings by the Speaker), and in other Commonwealth nations like India and Ireland. To give some credit, there appears to be a widespread belief that it could be abused by hiding substantive legislative changes inside budget bills to bypass the Senate: even Janine Haines, former leader of the centrist Australian Democrats (our local Bloombergs), shared this fear. But the Constitutional Commission in its 1988 report offered a simple safeguard: that any non-budget-related provisions in a bill passed via the expedited procedure should be void and of no effect.
        In any event, our existing Constitution already distinguished budget bills from the rest by requiring that they must originate in the House of Reps. Nor is this an aspirational goal, breaches of which can be validated as waived by Senate approval; instead it can be and has been invoked to strike down Acts on the statute books on the ground they originated in the wrong House.
        So, I think this may be one reason why the NSW Legislative Council has contained fewer “obstructionists” than its federal counterpart.
        In any event, the really big deadlocks – the sort that blow up into constitutional crises – occur not when cross-benchers hold the balance of power but when the opposition holds an upper house majority. (See, again, 1975, and also Victoria in the 1950s and early 1990s).

      • I know I am a sort of oddball because I view keeping bicameral approval of the budget even if it becomes no more than a de facto vote of confidence.

        I must be really out there if my suggested solution for a deadlock between houses is to “campaign on it next time.”

      • Australian experience shows that other aspects of an STV system – especially (a) rule for determining candidates’ ballot-order (party-ranked vs rotated) and (b) extent of ticket-voting (no provision vs “number 1 box to preference every single candidate” vs “number N boxes to preference all and only the candidates in those N team groups” – are at least as determinative as district magnitude in determining party outcomes and fragmentation.
        ‘Twas not always so. In the early 1980s, some public interest (to the extent there can ever BE public interest…) in STV was kicked off when Arthur Gietzelt, a veteran Labor Senator from the Left faction, published a discussion paper calling for STV with 3-, 4- or 5-seat districts for the House. (Preferences would be semi-optional – at least one more candidate than seats to be filled – with [party-ranking within groups. Didn’t mention group ticket voting because that wasn’t “a thing” in 1981.) Bill Hayden, then the Labor opposition leader, made some vague expressions of sympathy with Gietzelt’s model.
        In response, the Proportional Representation produced an alternative STV model with larger district magnitudes (the “Sheena Easton” model, ie 9 to 5) and fully optional preferences. Political scientists like Prof Colin Hughes compared the two and it was widely assumed that the PRSA’s version would seat many more minors and Independents than Gietzelt’s, making it harder to secure a government majority.
        And when the Senate was changed from five to six seats per regular election in 1983-84, some pundits assumed that lowering the quota by 2.5% would let in a flood of eccentrics. (Others argued it might have the opposite effect and lock them out, since a Labor-LNP-minors split of, say, 44 – 44 – 12% would now divide the quotas 3.08 – 3.08 – 0.84 on party first preferences with six seats, leading to a 3-3-0 result, as opposed to 2.64 – 2.64 – 0.72 quotas, and likely 2-2-1 split, with five seats).
        What no one seems to have predicted was that group ticket voting would allow sustained preference cascades that could see candidates reach a quota after starting with 1% or so of the primary votes. Robert Wood managed it in 1987, which raised some eyebrows but was widely blamed on the halved quota for a double dissolution. It wasn’t until Christabelle Chamarette repeated the feat in 1990, then Steve Fielding in 2004, and Ricky Muir in 2013 that it really sank in that this could happen even with just six seats.

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