The second election: who will control the Senate?

Balance the SenateHopping on to my hobby horse again, but there’s been a development this week: there’s actually corporate media coverage of the Senate balance issue. Bob Brown posted a video about the Senate election last week;

There are really two elections this year: one to decide who will be Prime Minister and one to decide who will control the Senate.

the Democrats are also keeping up their online video release efforts, and it appears that finally the punditariat is deigning to take note.

Christian Kerr has a rant against the Australian Greens in yesterday’s Crikey! (subscription content, but you can read it if you’re eligible for the two weeks free trial and willing to sign up for it). Apparently Crikey! has refused a right of reply to the Greens, but Senator Christine Milne has a thorough response over at Greensblog.

Milne ends with:

Of course, governments who’ve had to deal with us complained loudly. They don’t want to share power with those who have a different agenda. But surely that only proves our effectiveness!

The punditariat’s pressure for Labor to preference Family First ahead of the Greens is building. In today’s Australian we see this heading: Family First is Howard’s choice (quotes from Howard, and FF Senator Steven Fielding asks Rudd to also preference Family First ahead of the “extreme” “obstructionist” Greens.)

There’s also sniping at the Greens from Democrat leader Lyn Allison at Online Opinion which I find disappointing. I’m perfectly willing to believe that there may well be sniping going the other way as well, it just hasn’t happened to drop into my inbox as part of a news-alert email.

We were ringing the warning bells on climate change before the Greens got into the Parliament but the critical difference between us and the other parties is that we are not bankrolled by anybody – not the environmentalists, not business, not unions, not religious fundamentalists.

You have a problem – you come to us because we listen to your argument based on merit, not in which tribe you happen to inhabit. We are not shackled by extreme left or right wing ideology. We fight simply for what is just and fair. That is the proud history of the Democrats and what Australia needs more than ever.

No doubt as someone not belonging to a party I am somewhat naive as to the various reasons that the Democrats and the Greens are not more closely aligned. But as an outsider looking in they seem to have more in common than what divides them, so why take stances that will split votes and mean that neither a Green nor a Democrat gets that Senate place? Would either party really rather see a seat they lose go to Family First or one of the majors?

I understand the Realpolitik of preference deals and why those are important for ensuring the best result for a minor party from those who vote a straight party ticket. But for those of us who vote below the line in Senate ballots anyway, the best way as I see it to cast our vote is for whichever non-major candidate in our State most impresses us, and then ensure that we give our second-tier preferences to the other non-major party before we move on through the other 100 or so boxes on the ballot. Tedious perhaps, but crucial.

It makes it harder to persuade the below the line voters that this is worthwhile if sniping on the hustings makes it look as though the Dems and Greens couldn’t work together if they actually get the seats.



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2 replies

  1. Christine Milne’s response, along with a couple of other Greens responses, was published the day after Christian’s foolish flailing rant. Crikey’s nothing if not punctilious about allowing right of reply – and a good thing too, because Milne’s response is fantastic reading.
    I too wonder why the Democrats aren’t closer to the Greens, but I guess it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there in politics-land. I never understood why Labor effectively conspired with the Libs (and the Democrats too I believe) to the advantage of Family First last time. This isn’t the USA – you don’t have to be afraid of the minor parties of the left…

  2. Yeah, the whole two elections thing has me in a bit of a quandary this year. I live in Bennelong, and while I personally plan to vote 1 Green, 2 Labor, I think that handing out How-to-Votes for Maxine McKew is probably the best way of getting rid of Howard, because the usually Liberal-voting centre-right middle class who have been disillusioned by Work Choices are more likely to be convinced to swing to McKew rather than to the Greens.
    On the other hand, I REALLY REALLY want Kerry Nettle returned to the Senate… and O how sweet it would be if there was another Greens Senator. If I hand out How to Votes for McKew, then I’m helping Labor get above the line Senate votes.
    Ack.

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