They’ve been going back and forth for a century… Why the #ALP should savage the #Greens #auspol

It must suck being the ALP.  Is it really a party which can handle the challenges of the future?  Is it the death rattle that we can hear?  Is it like a headless chook which is technically dead but the rest of its body doesn’t seem to realise?

The saddest part for the ALP is that it struggles philosophically to express its identity.  It used to be the worker’s party, but the shift in the right wing end of the spectrum stole most of that support.  It dabbled with being the wooly-headed humanitarian party, but that just pushed its traditional voter base further into the hands of the LNP.  And now it’s got the Greens stealing the wooly-headed, confused-about-the-world vote.

What to do?

There are two major parties in the Australian landscape: the LNP (which is technically two parties but the National Party is a complete non-entity these days) and the ALP.  Due to the weird way the Senate is elected, a third party is usually elected from the run-off preferences.  Previously, this spot went to the Democrats but they suffered electoral oblivion.  Now, it’s a role serviced by the Australian Greens.

Why do the preferences run-off like that?  Neither the LNP nor the ALP want to preference the other. You can usually spot which parties are completely repugnant by who sits lower on the preference list than the other major party.  Traditionally, both major parties would prefer to have their preferences go to the Greens than to the other major party.

In the last election, this spread to the Lower House.  See for example the result of the seat of Melbourne in the last Federal Election. The ALP came up short of 50% based on primary vote alone.  It needed about 7,000 votes to be directed to it from preferences.  Instead, the 14,000 people who voted for the LNP preferenced the Greens.  Thus, the seat was ‘won’ (I still hate that word for election results) by the Greens Party based on LNP support.

Since then, it’s been a nightmare for the ALP to deal with the Greens.  As it’s in a minority government, it relies on negotiation with the Greens.  For a variety of complicated reasons, compromise has not been received as a virtue by the Australian electorate.  Thus, every time the ALP works with the Greens, the ALP is criticised for watering down its policies to work with the Greens (‘Bob Brown is the real Prime Minister of Australia’, &c.).

On the other hand, every time the Greens frustrate the ALP’s plans, supporters of the Greens see this as a triumph.  Take, for example, the asylum seeker debate.  By siding with the LNP, the Greens were able to take credit for blocking the ALP’s scheme.

Both parties (but the ALP in particular) now have to face a new reality in Australian politics.  If they preference the Greens, they create an entity in Parliament who will make the larger parties appear weak both when they work with them (through compromise) and when they do not (through siding with the Opposition).  It is in neither the ALP’s nor the LNP’s interests to support the electoral success of the Greens.

It’s weird, really.  It is a better long term strategy to support the party which will block you outright if it has the chance rather than to support a party which will work with you sometimes.

Locked up with all of my people… A closer look at the #Greens’ #asylumseeker policies

Regardless of the side of the political spectrum, politics has become about appealing to the unexamined prejudices of the voters.  This is as true for the ‘Boat people should be shot’ crowd as it is for the ‘No boat person would ever make a fraudulent asylum claim crowd’.

Why is the debate so poor?  In this post, I said it was because the megaphones in the debate aren’t interested in actually debating anything.  You either agree completely, or you’re somehow intellectually/morally suspect.  That both sides of the debate demonise the public servant policy makers (i.e. the people with the most amount of information and have the most amount of time to research options) says something really telling about the discourse.

More worrying, from my perspective, is the way that the Greens have been able to brush off any scrutiny of their policies.  Glib one-liners from various media commentators shields them from scrutiny.  ‘Offshore processing is so they don’t die in our ocean but die in Southeast Asia.  LOL.  Here’s a picture of a cat.’

In the previous post, I noted that many people write off the problem completely.  ‘It’s a wicked problem and there are no solutions.  We know that because John Howard didn’t succeed and we’ve never tried the ALP’s approach.  Induction proves that if the former government didn’t succeed, no future government will.’

I didn’t note the other end of the same spectrum: the people who deny that there’s a problem at all.  So there’s an incentive for people to undertake a dangerous sea voyage.  According to the #auspol Lotus Eaters, this is perfectly fine and not a problem at all.  Why, just last year Europe had many more people risking their lives.  By applying the law of ‘If there’s a bigger problem somewhere else, there’s no problem here’, Australia doesn’t have a problem at all.

I’ve often complained that the Greens don’t really have policies, they sort of have vague position statements.  They got a lot better since the last election, but they’re still kind of garbage.  In theory, they’re supposed to be on their website here.

It’s a bit of a hunt, but under ‘Care for People’ (seriously? Whatever) we find ‘Immigration and Refugees‘.

The Australian Greens want:

  1. the elimination of the policies of mandatory detention, and other forms of harsh, punitive or discriminatory treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.
  2. asylum seekers who arrive without a valid visa to have their claims for asylum assessed while living in the community.

The Australian Greens will:

17.        abolish mandatory and indefinite detention of asylum seekers.

24.        house asylum seekers who arrive without a valid visa in publicly owned and managed open reception centres, where entry and exit to these centres are unrestricted except where prohibited for medical or security reasons specified in clause 28.

26.         grant asylum seekers an asylum application visa (AAV) and assist without delay their move into the community provided medical and security checks are satisfied or after 14 days has passed, whichever occurs first.

28.         deny an AAV if security checks demonstrate the person poses a serious criminal threat to the Australian community or if the person has not remained housed in the reception centre while the medical and security checks were completed.

31.         ensure that, if refugee status is refused and the person cannot be repatriated, the AAV will remain in force until he or she can be repatriated.

So they are going to ‘house’ asylum seekers in a centre until they’re given a visa?  And they don’t remain housed in the reception centre until they’re granted a visa, they will have their movement restricted?  Oh, so you mean you want mandatory detention?  But, wait.  Didn’t the Greens say that they didn’t want mandatory detention?  Oh, they mean they want mandatory detention but they don’t want to call it mandatory detention and they want it to look a bit more hip.

So if an asylum seeker comes to Australia and thinks that their case for refugee status isn’t certain, there is literally nothing stopping them from disappearing into the community.  And people with shady backgrounds (like the ones picked up by ASIO)?  And how would the Greens system deal with alleged people smugglers joining the asylum seeker processing processes?

What the Greens save in ‘harsh’ detention centres, they lose in these ‘urban houses’ (cough, detention centres, cough) and tracking down those who flee having their protection claims assessed.

All the while creating a reason for stateless people and the thousands of displaced people in Southeast Asia to move towards Australia.  All the while creating a reason to pay people smugglers.

How is this the humane approach again?  How is this more humane than supporting the UNHCR supported regional processing model?

I’m naked under all these clothes… What would Bob Brown do? (flowchart) #auspol #greens

It’s flowchart time…

Senator Brown’s decision to step down from leadership of the Greens has resulted in strange commentary from both sides of politics.  Declaring my hand early, I’ve never been a fan.  I’m not a fan of populist politicians.  The Greens as a whole are just the National Party of the Left: attention-seeking, pandering, quick to confect faux-outrage.  Senator Brown has been the Joss Whedon of Australian politics: a man with the fanatical support of his admirers who are quick to blame his shortcomings on anything other than him.

Those in the ‘mainstream’ right (i.e. the crazies who make me look bad) have been stuck with two contradictory opinions: Senator Brown was the most dangerous man in politics; Senator Brown was a failure.  It’s hard to know how much is genuine opinion and how much is pandering to the readership.

But a similar problem has arisen on the left.  Senator Brown and the Greens have had a lot of success painting themselves as a ‘different kind’ of politician/political party, despite the ample evidence to the contrary.

I have had the following conversation six times with six entirely different people:

Them: ‘Bob Brown wasn’t like other politicians.’

Me: ‘Sure he was.  He was populist, misrepresented issues, and, when challenged, denied facts.’

Them: ‘But all politicians do that.’

The Greens were the most successful of the emerging populist parties (Democrats, One Nation, Family First, &c.).  The Democrats fell due to internal stupidity.  Family First rose and fell due to external stupidity (spiteful direction of preferences).  One Nation was killed off by Howard becoming a born again populist, effectively slashing the appeal of Pauline Hanson.

In a non-crazy universe, the ALP would have absorbed the Greens’ electoral support.  Instead, internal tensions, strange politics, and an utter hatred of Howard (resulting in a need to compete with him at his own game).  With no natural predators, the Greens were able to grow all kinds of wackiness.  Senator Hanson-Young, for example.

This doesn’t fit the manifest destiny rhetoric of Greens supporters.  So Senator Brown’s decision to leave politics has initiated his apotheosis.  The success of the Greens has to be told in terms of unwavering conviction, integrity, and vision: the alternative is that it was merely a quirk of our senatorial election system and populist politics.

Stand in the place where you live, now face north… Cherry picking ‘facts’

In a debate about homosexual marriage, a friend of mine trumpeted: ‘Christians weren’t even interested in marriage until the 13th Century’.  When I noted that there were references to marriage in Ephesians, my friend was unaware that Ephesians was a book of the New Testament.

I find it increasingly strange that people will ‘know’ all kinds of wacky, obscure ‘facts’ which support their position, but won’t know basic, entry-level facts about the subject first.  My friend is lovely and I don’t think it’s a reflexion on her.  We see it far too often in public debates.

Consider people who deny climate change and anthropogenic climate change.  Holy crap, those people must be reading all of the journals published everywhere in order to find tiny ‘factoids’ which support their position.  Don’t worry that 98% of climate scientists agree with anthropogenic climate change; we’ve found the one crank who disagrees.  Mention very basic things about climate science and their jaws slack gape.

We are building an information landscape in which people never have to be confronted by anything which does not agree with their prejudices.  We’ve even got people arguing that children shouldn’t be exposed to things which disagree with their parents’ biases.  How did we get to this point?

This morning, I read more of George Orwell’s essays.  In an unused preface to Animal Farm, Orwell complained that:

If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion.  In this country intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face, and that fact does not seem to me to have had the discussion it deserves.  [Source: George Orwell, ‘Proposed Preface to Animal Farm’]

The newspapers, he noted, were ‘extremely centralised, and most of it is owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics.’

Instead of silencing ‘alternative’ viewpoints, there is money to be made in drowning them out.  It makes me cringe to think that I just referred to best available science as an ‘alternative’ viewpoint, but that’s what it’s become.  Just as in Orwell’s day, the publishers are frightened of public opinion.  Views which challenge readers will get overlooked if readers are able to shield themselves from challenging views.  If readers shield themselves, then they can’t look at the pretty adverts publishers are trying to sell.

But surely there are places for public debates in the media.  Doesn’t Andrew Bolt appear on Insiders every week or so to provide a contrasting view?

Not really.  Dissent is okay so long as it’s arena-style combat, providing a spectacle which will attract advert-reading viewers.  The point is not to challenge the reader: the point is to attract attention.  The reader has their champion in the field ready to use whatever rhetoric device is necessary to shield the viewer from being challenged.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think this is a right-wing/left-wing thing.  My Greens friends are generally more shielded from reality than my Nationals friends.  For every ‘Climate Change is Crap’ chanter on the right, there’s a Green blowhard on the left chanting similarly asinine mantras.  Post what you like to refute their arguments; they’re not going to listen (and try to justify why they’re not going to listen).

Infotainment killed news, but when did we all start thinking that it was okay to just cherry pick convenient ‘facts’?

When you sleep, where do your fingers go?… Election time again!

It’s election time in Victoria and the question of preferences is upon us again.  Some might remember that I complained about the Greens’ lie that giving preferences to the Greens could not possibly result in a Coalition victory.  While reading through some notes, I discovered that Lewis Carroll (the author of Alice in Wonderland) had already noted this problem.  Adopting his example (which he wrote in A Discussion of the Various Methods of Procedure in Conducting Elections):

Imagine there are eleven people in an electorate and four possible parties: Greens, ALP, Libs, Nationals.

1 Greens ALP Nats Libs

2 Greens ALP Libs Nats

3 Greens ALP Nats Libs

4 Libs ALP Greens Nats

5 Libs ALP Greens Nats

6 Libs ALP Greens Nats

7 Nats ALP Libs Greens

8 Nats ALP Libs Greens

9 Nats ALP Greens Libs

10 ALP Greens Nats Libs

11 ALP Libs Nats Greens

To paraphrase, Dodgson: ‘There seems to be no doubt that [ALP]’s election would be the most generally acceptable: and yet, by the [method of elimination whereby the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated], [they] would be excluded at once, and ultimately [the Liberal candidate] would be elected.’

Ipso facto. Using up your oxygen… things I forgot to say

A while back, I noted that the Greens were actively deceiving the public about the election result.  Since that post, I’ve been startled at how widespread the spin and deception about the election result has been.  If a party could find some way of misrepresenting the election figures in their favour, they did.  The Coalition used extremely odd interpretations of the data to claim that they should have won the election.  The ALP was equally quick to claim 2PP entailed their victory long before the 2PP outcome (as irrelevant as it is) was known.

But the Greens’ claim that they ought to have gained 17 seats remains the most outrageous of the lies.  The sheer audacity of the claim is boggling, as is the fact that otherwise sane people believe it completelyHis comments on the outing of Grog are interesting.

What the Greens refuse to acknowledge is that they, alone, were the only party to contest all 150 seats.  Proportional representation of the whole only makes sense if there’s consistency across the whole.

But there isn’t.  Even the major parties didn’t contest every single seat (further making the primary vote proportions irrelevant, btw).

Imagine two fishermen.  One goes out every day of the month.  The other goes out one day of the month.  The former catches 30 fish, the latter catches 10.  It would be laughable for the first fisherman to claim that they were the better fisher on the basis of the total number of fish.  Yet that’s exactly what the Greens did (and continues to do).  So consider the Australian Sex Party who only contested a few seats but got a strong number of primary votes in those seats.  What’s curious is that they, in their inaugural election appearance, performed better on a per-candidate basis than the Greens did when it established itself as a party.  The Greens, in comparison, fared rather poorly: their per-candidate outcome was less than they should have received if the votes were distributed at random.  Therefore, far from being a legitimate third voice in the parliament, the two major parties still represent the vast majority of people.

Using a basic rule that a party with a per-candidate vote should recieve twice the number of seats in the lower house, the Greens only scrapes through with eight seats.  ASP got two.  How refreshing that the Australian Sex Party — not wishing to lower itself to the stunt political party that the Greens is — hasn’t lowered itself to whining that it was robbed due to the system not being entirely different.

We are building a religion. We are building it better… No thanks to the Greens

Despite what some people have said, this election result is terrible.  Hung governments are impotent governments.  I had a lot of sympathy for the ALP; how could anybody achieve their reform agenda when they’ve got an irrationally hostile Senate?  Now they’re going to attempt their agenda with a hostile Senate and House of Representatives.

There were a few good points.  I’m yet to find a seat where the informal vote was lower than the primary vote for the Secular Party.  I’m an atheist and even I can’t stand them.

There were some surprising points.  Check out the distribution of votes for the ALP and the Greens in Melbourne.

ALP Primary: 27,771

Greens Primary: 25,387

ALP 2PP: 31,154

Greens Primary: 39,172

Notice how little the ALP vote changed after preferences?  There were 14 thousand people who voted for the Liberal Party, but the ALP vote doesn’t move nearly that much.  Therefore, the bulk of Liberal voters gave their preferences to the Greens over the ALP.  How extremely weird. Continue reading

Bum bum bum badee badee bum… Election Day!

So… I’m still not entirely sure how I’ll vote.

I feel like this is less of a choice between candidates and more a choice between voting formally or informally.  Given the lack of candidates in my electorate, I feel like an informal vote is entirely justified.  I don’t support the political options we have and voting informally is a valid form of protest.

At the same time, a lot of the things for which I detest the current government was largely a creation of the Coalition and Greens Party acting in concert.  We shouldn’t be limiting our immigration growth, but the C&G vandals in the upper house have forced us into rather a deplorable public debate.  The inability to act on climate change was similarly a result of their vandalism.  And so on and so forth.  Instead of giving the Greens the balance of power, I think a much better political situation would be ALP dominance in both houses for three years.  Unfortunately, we’ll get the usual unrepresentative swill we always get with the Senate.

I guess I’m in shock that an election between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott could possibly be described as a cliffhanger.

For those of you in Victoria, vote for the Sex Party.  At least they’ve got principles.

If you could make everybody poor just so you could be rich… Greens policy part 3!

Only three sections left to do!  Caveat: My head hurts like an absolute bastard.  Fortunately, I had a packet of Nurofen in the house and it’s working well.  Thumbs up, Nurofen. Okay, I’ve got my iTunes set to ‘Soft Awesome’: let’s roll!

Policy Category E: Human Rights and Democracy

This section is probably going to irritate me because it’s the section I care about the most.  Our conversations in the public space on this topic are woeful.  They lack the rich flavour of past debates.  We don’t have the epic speeches or inflamed pamphlets.  With that in mind, I’m not sure that my criticisms of the policies advocated by the Greens in this space won’t extend to a criticism of the discussion in general.  Thus, a lot of this isn’t going to be critical of the Greens’ position but the general lack in the debate.  Put simply, I don’t think other parties perform particularly well in this space either. Continue reading

“Just paint your face” the shadows smile… The policies of the Greens, part 2

Despite being informed by one of their supporters that the Greens don’t seriously advocate their stated policies, I will assume (forgive me, Jeremy) that the party actually does advocate its policies.  It is, after all, only charitable to believe that a political party supports its stated policies.

So this was the first part. Here’s the second: Continue reading