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Three cheers for Senate Micro’s

Posted By Joanne Nova On September 13, 2013 @ 1:21 pm In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

We have discussed this issue at length on The Senate-Rage! post. I’ve taken those thoughts a bit further in an Op-Ed in The Australian today. There are no comments allowed there so here is a thread for further thoughts and feedback on our new Senate and whether we need to revamp the system. This is my first purely political op-Ed. I find it surprising that almost no one, on any side of politics, is speaking out for the little guys and the disaffected voter. Bob Brown (former Greens senator) calls it a “scandal” of “legally induced frauding”, that “must” change, so I know I am onto something. He thinks Liberal voters don’t know the difference between “liberals” and “liberal dems” and that “Stop The Greens” might fool Green supporters. How stupid are the voters. Really?  — Jo

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Three cheers for micros

UNLEASH the sanctimony! Practically everyone on all sides of mainstream politics is not pleased with the success of the micro-parties in the Senate election. For goodness’ sake, car-loving, sports-crazy Australians may have elected car-loving, sports-mad senators. Is that so bad?

The not-quite-elected souls have barely uttered a word in public, but apparently this is such a disaster we need to remake the Senate voting system. Not so fast, I say. This is a beautiful representative democracy at work.

There are cries that no one should be elected on 0.22 per cent of first preferences – but if only first preferences count, why do we number the rest?

About 23 per cent of Australians placed a mini or micro-party first in the Senate list. Does it matter that they peppered their first vote across the board, and it gradually coalesced into a quota? Shouldn’t they have some representation?

Those with God-like insight say ignorant voters “accidentally” voted the wrong people in. How arrogant. Possibly many of those 23 per cent would prefer any of the candidates in the top half of their list to the standard political players. A guy that rebuilds cars for a hobby is probably better connected to their reality than a Monash graduate in Marx and Evgeny Pashukanis such as Adam Bandt. Parliament was once full of people without doctorates in international politics. Somehow it worked.

How about some respect for citizens who want a senator more like them than a suited lifelong career apparatchik? The 23 per cent vote for non-mainstream parties translates to about seven seats out of 40. Where is the injustice?

The choice of anyone-but-a-major party is still a choice, and most are conservative, right-leaning or libertarian, which matches the swing at this election. It hardly looks random. The commentariat patronisingly complains that above-the-line voters had no idea where their preferences went, but the minor parties were more likely to preference parties with similar policies.

People choosing a “sports” or “motoring” or “liberal dem” ticket probably made a calculated bet that their votes would end up with a non-major, non-politically-correct candidate, which appears to have paid off.

Perhaps the problem is not with the Senate system but with the four major parties that seemingly don’t cater to nearly a quarter of the population.

The media complains that the voters couldn’t know who they were voting for. Whose fault is that? It practically excluded the micro-parties before the election, when voters were looking for information. Yet after they won, the ad hominem attacks began in prime time almost before the candidates had spoken. In comparison, the ABC has still hardly covered aspects of Julia Gillard’s past under investigation by police.

The ABC’s priorities speak volumes. We see Ricky Muir camping in an old YouTube video after the election – but were never told before the election that that the Motoring Enthusiast Party promotes civil liberties and personal responsibility and dislikes the nanny state.

When like-minded people split into many one-issue parties, they are competing the only way they can – effectively advertising their policies through the ballot paper. What chance have they got, – unless they are sponsored by a billionaire? Is it so bad that they cluster into groups that preference each other? If the media gave them half a chance, disaffected citizens wouldn’t need to do a calculated punt.

As for claims that the small players are gaming the system, the large players get tax funds, donations and free media access, and they set the rules. They can work to keep the smaller players out. Aren’t they the gamers?

For real gaming, if a minor party called themselves, say, the Small Tax Party, then funnelled votes to the Greens, that would be dishonest. But if the media were doing its job, this trick would be exposed.

As it happens, the Australian Sports Party wasn’t far behind the Democrats in Western Australia on first preferences. Would anyone be whining if the Democrats had won a Senate seat?

It remains to be seen how these Senators perform, but let’s judge them by their performance and their popularity. People who call it a lottery ignore that voters may well have got what they wanted, unlike the voters of Lyne and New England in 2010.

The outrage is out of proportion. None of these micro-parties will hold the balance of power by itself. They will have to compete, and that will limit the wheeling and dealing.

Shame on all the Liberal commentators who want to keep out the competition. How unliberal.

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