A Senate preference deal to celebrate

Balance the SenateIn Queensland, the Australian Greens and the Australian Democrats have agreed to a preference swap deal, to maximise the chance that at least one non-major Senate candidate will win a seat.

I’m so glad to hear this. Good on Andrew Bartlett (incumbent Senator for the Dems) [his blog] and Larissa Waters (Senate aspirant for the Greens) [her official Greens page]. It’s always made logical sense, but on more than one occasion there has been some point-scoring at the others’ expense from both parties, and all that does is make it easier for the major parties to scoop up the seats.

The polling numbers mean that it’s really only possible for one of them to scrape in, if they can convince enough people that having non-majors hold the balance of power in the Senate is essential. I wish it could be both, but it’s really unlikely. Best of luck to both of them anyway.

Crossposted with addendums at Larvatus Prodeo



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19 replies

  1. Best of luck to both of them anyway.

    Absolutely. And yay for the deal. Much easier to respect than a deal with Family First or their ilk.

  2. I disagree, Tigtog.
    A preference deal with Family First would have made more sense for the Greens than a deal with the Democrats, if the aim was simply to maximise the election of a minor Party candidate. Even better, one of the minor Parties should have dealt with the major Party they expected to come closest to but not fulfilling quota; as I read it, a Green-Liberal preference deal would have pretty much guaranteed the election of a Greens QLD Senator.
    The deal makes political sense, not arithmetical sense.

  3. [ahem] I meant a deal between the Greens and the Nationals, not the Liberals.
    I’m assuming that as in 2004, the Liberals and Labor will each take an easy two Senators, and the remaining two will be fought out in a huge Queensland polygonal scrum.

  4. Well, I’ve only just begun to dip my toes into the murky waters of psephology, Liam, so for the moment at least I’ll accept that a different deal would have made more arithmetical sense.
    How likely is it that the Nationals would actually make a deal with the Greens? Wouldn’t that be politically too difficult for them?

  5. Perhaps in combination with the mooted deal with Labor it all makes more arithmetical sense for the Greens, Liam?

    ”We’re working very hard and we’re coming very close to getting a preference arrangement for a swap with the Labor Party,” Senator Brown said.
    “That will be marginal seats on the mainland. In the Lower House, the Greens’ preferences will be directed to Labor in return for the states and territories Labor preferences going to the Greens (in the Senate).
    Family First leader Steve Fielding said Labor’s “grubby” deal with was a complete sell-out on Australian families.
    “It virtually hands the Greens the balance of power in the Senate and control of everything that happens in Australia, which is horrifying,” he said.
    Senator Fielding said Family First was willing to do a preference deal with the major parties, but Labor walked away from negotiations because they preferred the Greens.
    “Family First stands for balance and common sense yet Labor has instead opted for the extreme Greens who will hold the Government to ransom to dictate their dangerous agenda.”

    Fielding’s spluttering is getting all too predictable. The Greens won’t get anything too “extreme” through the Senate while they’re only holding the balance of power – Labor can always combine with the Coalition to outvote the Greens on anything that veers too far from a centrist agenda, and they will.

  6. Oh, I agree, the actual likelihood is dot.
    I’m just saying that a preference deal being politically appealing and a preference deal being effective at achieving a result are two very different things.
    Looking at the 2004 results, assuming no bizarrely politically unlikely deals (ie. Greens and One Nation), and assuming an overall swing to Labor and a swing away from the Liberal and National Parties, the election of a Green or Democratic candidate would certainly be more likely achieved through one of them dealing with the Labor, to the exclusion of the other left minor Party.
    If the Greens and Democrats receive no preferences but the ones they give themselves, they’ve most likely dealt themselves out of Queensland.

  7. TT, I’ve just read your second comment, and that’s exactly right, the preferences have to come from somewhere.
    I can’t imagine the Democrats being any more pleased with such a deal than FF.

  8. Looks like our last two comments crossed, Liam.

  9. It looks like Bob Brown’s announcement that the preference swap deal with Labor is all-but-sealed was timed to go ahead of the joint announcement from Waters and Bartlett, so presumably the Dems at least knew this was on the cards before going ahead with this preference swap deal in Queensland.
    Still, as you say, I can’t imagine that they are best pleased. Although they still have their own Lower House preference allocation deals to negotiate that aren’t affected by any Upper House swap deals.

  10. The Democrat-Green Senate preference agreement still allows some other preference deals to be done.
    It would be very difficult for either the Greens or Democrats in Qld to win a seat if they did not get preferences from the other, so it would be pretty silly for either of those minor parties to do a deal with a major party which led to them losing the preferences of the other minor party.
    Assuming a swing of at least 5% to Labor from the 2004 result (a very reasonable assumption), it is not overly likely that Labor preferences will even be being distributed until one of either the Greens or Democrats have been excluded (unless the Labor swing is so huge (i.e. 12% ) that they get over three quotas, which is fairly unlikely although not impossible). It always nicer to get a party’s preferences than not because things can never be predicted with certainty, but the chances of Labor’s preferences being relevant in the Democrat-Green contest in Qld is fairly low. The main hope for a Democrat win in Qld is to be above the Greens in primary votes, something which will not be easy but is certainly possible based on some polls.
    It may make arithmetical sense for the Greens if they did a deal to get National preferences, but I suggest it may have damaged their primary vote due to the damage it would have done to their credibility.
    Similarly, a deal between Greens and Family First would probably have delivered FF preferences to the Greens, as FF may well poll under 4%, but it would seriously damage the Greens primary vote (not to mention annihilate one of their own key campaign messages). A deal between Greens and One Nation would probably be more likely than one with Family First (not that either will happen of course).

  11. That jibes with my impressions, Andrew. I realise that the likelihood of any non-major candidate getting up in Qld is not all that high. Still, I hope it happens.

  12. Oh, it’s not that remote a possibility for a non-major candidate to get up. I just want to make sure people realise its far from a certainty.

  13. One of the major problems I see is that far too many people still don’t understand how preferences work, so that they regretfully decide not to vote for who would otherwise be their first choice candidate if they have doubts about their capability to win, because they are worried about wasting their vote. I had a recent conversation about exactly that at a BBQ with someone who generally appeared quite well educated, and they didn’t realised how preferences get distributed.
    SO I’m glad to see some articles about it in the press regardless.

  14. A deal between Greens and One Nation would probably be more likely than one with Family First (not that either will happen of course).

    Heh, double heh. I’ve always liked your style, AB.

    I had a recent conversation about exactly that at a BBQ with someone who generally appeared quite well educated, and they didn’t realised how preferences get distributed.

    Yeah, I’m baffled too at people who can establish the run rate from the score and target in a Test match, figure out periodical mortgage payments from variable interest rates, and work out their hourly pay at any given time with penalties and allowances, all relatively complicated arithmetical operations, but can’t get their heads around preferential voting.
    *It’s just counting, people*.
    Really, given the importance of the secret preferential ballot in Australian history, State Governments should make voting and scrutineering a competitive school activity, up there with debating and athletics.

  15. GetUp’s new campaign is interesting, raising funds to air a 3-party ad endorsed by Greens, Dems and Labor, aimed at getting people to vote against the Coalition in the Senate.

    The Senate holds the key to action on the most pressing issues of our time. For instance, as the Senate stands now, the Coalition will have total veto power over any and all climate change legislation for the next three years. And what about “ripping up WorkChoices”? Sorry, but even if Kevin Rudd wins, a Coalition-controlled Senate could veto that too. […] One party control of the Senate – whether Liberal or Labor – is bad for democracy. And remember, this election it’s pretty much impossible for Labor to win majority control in the Senate.

  16. I. Am. So. Loving. The. Exploding. Heads. Over. The. GetUp. Ad.

    The three-party advertisement, which starts in the ACT tonight, was brokered by independent activist organisation GetUp. Greens leader Senator Bob Brown, Democrats leader Lyn Allison and ACT Labor Senator Kate Lundy feature in the ad.
    Switching between the three, they say: “We’ve never done this before, but this election, whether you vote for her party, or his party, or her party, make sure you vote to end the Coalition’s absolute control of the Senate “¦ we can’t do the great job we need to and make laws better while one side calls all the shots.”

    (SMH story)
    Heehee. The blustering from the Government is extraordinary. How dare the leftist parties form any sort of joint campaign when the LibNats have had the advantage of Coalition preference deals etc etc all these years?

    Government Senate leader Nick Minchin asserted the alliance would impose a “frightening reality” on the country’s policy agenda, raising the spectre of legalised euthanasia and heroin injecting rooms.
    It would be the first time in Australia that a radical left-wing party was poised to gain such unprecedented power, he warned yesterday. It would act “in cahoots” with Labor’s Left to block or abolish key reforms.
    A vote for Labor in the Senate was a vote for the Greens, which would “damage the fabric of our society and our economic prosperity”, he said.

    Hysteria reigns! Steve Fielding is probably the most entertaining: losing it totally.

    Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile kicked off the hysteria on Friday by asserting that parents should fear Labor would secretly agree to support the Greens’ policy of relaxing regulations on X-rated videos. Family First Senator Steve Fielding – facing defeat without Labor preferences – screamed louder, slamming the “grubby deal” that would deliver “drug shooting galleries in your street”.

    Stoking up fears about the Greens being extremist won’t help the Coalition, as holding the balance of power is not at all the same as having control, and most people realise that. The average punter certainly realises all too well that giving the Senate to the Coalition in 2004 was a big mistake, and they are not going to do it again. At least one expert argues that the Senate is the major reason that the polls have essentially been stable against the Government since February.

  17. *dies*

    Needles! Poison! And did we mention Needles! And Drugs! The left wing is joining forces to kill your children and grandmas! OMGfaint!

    Love it.

  18. Run, children, run! There are Greens hiding under your beds!

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