The compulsory voting argument cropped up again last week, playing out in its usual way. One group of people arguing that ignorant people are ruining democracy by voting even if they don’t know enough or care enough; the other group of people arguing something about democracy and duty and collectivism or something. Both sides are wrong: compulsory voting is good because the people who reckon they’re informed voters are the worst voters of all and need to be kept in check by the people who know that they don’t know anything.
And this gets me neatly to the core argument of this post: stop talking about policies during election periods.
For complex mathematical reasons, it’s easier for minor parties to get elected during a double dissolution. Ordinarily, that would mean we’d be flooded with information about the minor parties and for what they stand and why you might consider voting for them. Instead, we’ve been talking about which of the major parties is the most criminal. It’s not particularly edifying.
I had considered putting up a Kickstarter or something to fund me to go interview key people in minor parties, to see what they’re about, and to see if they’d put up good senators. But I am time poor and really ought to have organised myself a month earlier.
It’s been an interesting week for psephologists and election nerds. The Australian Electoral Commission has been formally declaring the Senate results, with perhaps the most interesting result being in Western Australia. Where it was previously believed that the Australian Sports Party and the Greens’ Senator Scott Ludlam would take the fifth and sixth Senate seats, it now looks like Palmer United Party and the Australian Labor Party will take them instead.
Prima facie, Ludlam looks like he has a point. In the updated count, all of the votes cast for the Wikileaks Party ended up with the Greens Party in Western Australia.
On closer look of the results, Ludlam is incorrect. To work out why, you have to come to grips with one question: ‘Why is it that Senator Ludlam gets a seat when Wikileaks preferences go to another party (Australian Sports Party) but he loses his seat when Wikileaks preferences go to him?’
I promise that my answer does not reduce to ‘Because Wikileaks is freaking cursed.’
A number of my friends linked to this video this morning:
For the TL;DR crowd, GetUp has found a collection of Tony Abbott‘s more obnoxious quotes and filmed a diverse group of people reading them out to the sound of a slowly played piano. The message is that people should judge Tony Abbott by his words.
Leaving to the side that I dislike GetUp, this video shows that there’s something wrong with the Left’s strategy in this election campaign.
I’m usually the first to tut-tut when Twitter bursts into manic glee over political gaffes and stuff ups. It’s unseemly and undignified. We should endeavour to analyse policies and not occupy ourselves with the trivial nonsense of the sideshow.
I am, despite being a staunch conservative, not a fan of the Senate, the House of Party Hacks. Party officials and MP staffers are bequeathed plump spots on senate tickets in recognition for not stuffing up so hideously that the media noticed. I’m hard pressed to spot a single senator that I’d trust with sharp scissors.
But while most of them are merely mediocre in their quasi-harmless crankery and kookery, few cultivate their inner bonsai of malevolent mendaciloquence like South Australia’s Cory Bernardi.
Although I went hammer and tongs after Senator Bernardi (and his support for the notoriously racist Geert Wilders), I could easily have turned my invective towards the entire system. Senate ballots use a form of proportional voting with a single transferable vote. Candidates require a quota of votes (rather than a majority) in order to be elected. As a result, preferences become hideously important. The ballot uses block voting, meaning an elector can either choose to number each candidate individually or — far more commonly — an elector can simply nominate which party it trusts with its vote. The Senate Group Voting Ticket indicates how the party will allocate that vote if (more usually when) the party fails to secure enough votes to reach the next round of selection.
This becomes important down in the minor party end of the system. There aren’t enough people drinking paint thinners to cause, for example, the Socialist Alliance Party to enter parliament. When they come last in the first round, their votes are redistributed amongst the existing parties. The party who then holds the fewest votes is eliminated and so on and so forth. The GVT shows the pathway that the votes take through the system. If your party is eliminated, the votes you received will go to their second preference. If the second preference has already been eliminated, it will go to the third. And so on and so on.
In effect, the votes usually end up back with the major parties for seats 1 through 5. The sixth seat is usually the most interesting, often causing unusual results as a result of preference flow (for example, the Family First candidate, Steven Fielding, who entered parliament due to a preference deal to exclude the Greens).
Today’s drama all started when we discovered that the Wikileaks Party (founded by Julian Assange) had decided to preference lunar right parties over the mainstream parties, including the Greens. This browser-destroying picture covers the main ideas:
The ABC launched Vote Compass this week, a tool which allows you to declare your position various policy issues and see where your position aligns with major parties. Far from being interesting or informative, Vote Compass highlights something that has gone terribly, terribly wrong in modern political discourse.
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.
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.