Laugh with me, hyena… Was Wikileaks to blame for @SenatorLudlam losing his seat? #auspol

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.

The question that erupted on Twitter was: ‘To what extent was the Wikileaks Party’s insanely lunatic preference-swapping strategy to blame?’

Senator Ludlam hit Twitter to declare Wikileaks blameless:

[tweet https://twitter.com/SenatorLudlam/status/385388333536251904]

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.’

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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?