Sunday, June 26, 2016

Does The Coalition Need Far-Right Preferences To Win?

I had this bit in my Poll Roundup, but decided it was too long, so I moved it to a separate article and expanded it a bit.  It gets a bit ranty in places; beware.

Bill Shorten yesterday claimed the following:

“It is clear that if Mr Turnbull is any hope to retain a range of seats in the government column, he is going to rely upon the votes of more extreme views, which are not healthy for this Australian democracy.

The only formula whereby he can win this election is if parties like One Nation give him the preferences that allow him to govern, and the problem with Mr Turnbull getting another chance at government is we’ve already seen him surrender his values and his views on climate change, on marriage equality. We see that elements of the conservatives within his party giving him orders and instructions. What we see is a weak Prime Minister hostage to the right wing of his party, hostage to the political fortunes of even more right-wing parties outside his government.”

This was part of a general theme of trying to liken Malcolm Turnbull to David Cameron that Shorten had going, and I have to say that Shorten has been much more inventive, combative and spirited in trying to turn Brexit to his advantage than I expected.  Whether this culture-warring works anywhere outside Labor-vs-Green seats, we will soon see.

Let's leave aside Labor's frequent past preference liaisons with the anti-gay Family First party (it's alright though, they've only caused two of them and nearly a third to win Senate seats so far) and the way Julia Gillard's Labor was so hostage to the Shoppie wing of her government over same-sex marriage that she herself voted against it.  Let's also leave aside (until the end bit) Labor's puerile, paranoid and ultimately unintelligible opposition to Senate reform, which puts it in no place to say what is "healthy for this Australian democracy" for a number of hundreds of years.

Taking a sober psephological look at the facts of the matter, in 2013 the Coalition's edge over Labor on the lower house preferences of right wing micros was worth 0.36% 2PP.  Here I define right wing micros on the 2013 Reps ballots as: Family First, Christian Democrats, Australian Christians, One Nation, Rise Up Australia, Australia First.  I could include the DLP, but their preferences actually helped Labor! Defining a seat as won on right-wing preferences if the Coalition would have lost the seat had the right-micro preferences split evenly, I find the Coalition won just one seat on the preferences of parties "to the right of it" in 2013, and that was Barton.  (Capricornia was close).

Looking at that 0.36% margin over time, I find that usually the Coalition wins either no seats or one seat by less than that, though in 2007 it was five seats.  With the implosion of Palmer United, the launch of the Australian Liberty Alliance and some inconclusive signs of a large increase in One Nation support, it's plausible the Coalition's leg-up from the right could rise to, say, 0.6%.  That would be worth an average of three seats based on past elections, and might be worth four or five all else being equal at this one.  But the difference would probably fall largely in the Queensland portion of the few (11) seats One Nation is contesting, only four seats of which are really marginal.  That means it might actually be only worth a seat or two, even if One Nation polls say 10% where it contests.

Still, whether it's one seat or five, it's hardly to be sneezed at, and could make all the difference - on current projections perhaps between majority government and a hung parliament.  But to say that getting preferences from right micros is Turnbull's only plausible path to victory is a very silly statement which assumes that if he wins at all it can only be by a handful of seats.  It's almost as arrogant as Turnbull saying he would win.  Quite aside from this, One Nation (voters for which historically prefer the Coalition only weakly - about 55:45) don't appear to be preferencing either major party (let me know if you see a Reps HTV for them otherwise, they're not preferencing either party in the Senate or on their how-to-vote section on their website.)

Also, the idea that the Coalition's chances would bob up and down based on the size of right-wing party votes is threadbare.  If a given right-wing party's vote goes down, and a voter for that party would otherwise have preferenced the Coalition, chances are they'll be preferencing the Coalition anyway, and perhaps even voting for it.

Extreme Views On The Left

Labor too get preferences from voters for some parties that get called extreme, and some of them actually are.

I'll ignore the Greens, because if they're extreme then so is half the Coalition.  I'll ignore the Socialist Alliance, because they have seldom influenced anything. But we should consider the potential influence on Labor of the Animal Justice Party, whose preferences decided the Victorian seat of Prahran for the Greens (and would have almost done so for Labor instead, had they not put the Greens over Labor).  The AJP, doubtless encouraged by its win in New South Wales, is increasing its efforts this election from two seats in 2013 to 41 seats (including 19 ALP-Coalition marginals and various ALP-Green contests).  AJP preferences flow strongly to Labor and even based on 2013 results Labor might expect a 0.2% legup from them in each seat if AJP can poll just 1% per seat.

That's not to say AJP always preference Labor, and they are getting all kinds of flak for preferencing the Liberals in LaTrobe (and they have form on this sometimes - see comments). But on the whole their supporters probably won't follow the card much anyway, and will mostly be left-wing, even if one of their candidates seems to be an Orlando truther and another has some strange views about nature.

The Animal Justice Party are extreme.  I don't say that in the sense that they are irate, hateful, violent or disruptive, nor that being "extreme" is always a bad thing.  I'm quite extreme on a few things myself.   It's simply that they're not just live-animal-export and battery-hen protest people.  Their philosophical views are much more off the scale than almost anyone has noticed.  This is a party that clearly doesn't believe in killing introduced animals for environmental control reasons (apparently not even if the exotic species' advantage in an environment that has evolved without it goes on to inflict cruel harm or even extinction to native species), and that promotes unscientific hysteria like the view that kangaroos are at risk of extinction because of culling.

As a scientist who is concerned about exotic species influxes and the risk they pose to native species, I find views like the AJP's frustrating.  To give one example, indian mynas pose a dire risk to Tasmanian birdlife, should they ever get established here.  Some influxes of the odd nest or two have been taken out with telescopic rifles, a method that I totally support. If only very cruel and painful methods of control were available for keeping out this pest then I would alas have to support them.  The AJP would not support such methods, and have a fundamentalist-like faith that there's always some kind of effective cruelty-free alternative to lethal pest control. From their opposition to lethal feral animal control it's clear they'd let the mynas live to round them up humanely later and then set about "restoring eco-systems via methods harmonious to nature such a rewilding."  Whatever the hell that means in whatever language it is written in.

The AJP also supports (among many other things) a long term transition to a world with no animal farming, ending fishing and fish farming, phasing out the sale of pets except from rescuers or shelters, radically transforming zoos so that they're hardly zoos anymore, and moving to a 100% animal-product-free human diet. It's a vision the traditional ALP base would find extremely strange.

Now of course I would never suggest that Labor would swap preferences for policy outcomes with an extreme party given Mr Shorten's own concerns about this being bad for Australian democracy.  That would be to imply hypocrisy by Labor over preferencing and I try hard not to do that more than seven times per article, plus I'm not sure if it's true.  But in the very week when Labor received HTV preferences from the AJP for the Senate (alongside the Greens, various left micros and the deplorable "Health Australia Party") the AJP announces an alleged agreement with Labor to increase plant-based food production. This came soon after AJP members attended a meeting with Mark Butler to pressure him on their pet (pun intended) issues.

The details are extremely vague, but increasing plant-based food production is code for AJP's long-term goal to phase out animal farming altogether.  I can find no confirmation of the supposed arrangement from Labor and it may well just be the AJP chest-beating or getting ahead of themselves, but nor can I find any Labor denial of a release that purports to quote Mark Butler.    Even if it is all fictitious, the AJP is still one of a few extreme left parties that would like to influence Labor policy, and from which Labor (often) receives preferences.  The AJP is a minor presence now, but it is growing, as part of a trend for left-wing voters to look outside the Greens.

While parties to the left of the Greens have less potential to assist Labor than parties to the right of the Coalition have to assist the Coalition, it is still the case that Labor too benefits from the preferences of extreme parties.


Ultimately though, the implied idea that the Coalition moves to the right to harvest scraps of preferences from right-wing micros is weak. The religious Right of the Coalition needs no such encouragement, it is already there.  Bill Shorten is right about that bit, and he is right that Turnbull, while still having the great asset of simply not being Tony Abbott, so far lacks either the inclination or the ability to fix it.  The Coalition is much too full of powerful religious deniers of basic liberty and equality, who belong in Fred Nile's party or something resembling it. It has been that way for a very long time, and it would cause me to endorse Labor as the better major party choice with relish - if only Labor were not themselves so often so painfully stupid.

After the Coalition's increasingly confused stonewalling on same-sex marriage, and Labor's atrocious performance on Senate reform, both major parties are in my view about equally unworthy of election. Neither can be trusted to navigate the basics of intelligent or evidence-based liberal-democratic policy.   One doesn't care about the liberal side, the other failed this term's biggest democratic test.  That is not to say we should flood the place with any old alternative, since a lot of the alternatives are even worse!


  1. Didn't the AJP affect stuff in Canberra last time around by micro preferences and then not preferencing the Greens?
    Like the Pirate Party doing the similar thing last time in WA.

    At least they've only got a mildly misleading name - the old man preferenced the Sustainable Australia Party.......
    The sooner these parties go in the bin the better

  2. The AJP are notorious for once preferencing the Liberals ahead of the Greens in the ACT Senate to punish the Greens for supporting environmental kangaroo culling. It was believed that this was going to cause the Greens to miss out on a chance to beat the Liberals but when the figures were finalised it turned out that the Greens would not have won the seat anyway.

    1. Would have won anyway, but not by much.

      The AJP "dummy spit" ALMOST had the tragic impact electing hard-right Liberal candidate Zed Seselja instead of somebody who might actually give a fig about animal rights.

      Textbook example of why Senate preferences needed to be taken out of the hands of parties and put explicitly in the hands of voters.

  3. Isn't it all a bit unhinged for anyone (Shorten, Turnbull – who was doing it today at the Liberal Campaign Launch) to suggest that a vote for anyone else is a vote for the other side?

    I'm a voter. I decide where my preferences go. Not Labor. Not the Coalition. Sure, they can make suggestions. But when it comes down to it, it's my choice whether to follow those suggestions or not. I'll follow a HTV card if I want to, or I won't if I don't (I don't). I will preference the parties (and candidates) in the order that I want to see them elected.

    If for instance I was to vote 1 for the Greens and then 2 for the Coalition, Turbull's reduction today seems to insist this is a vote for Labor. I contend that would be a vote for the Greens. Similarly, if I were to vote one for NXT and 2 for the Coalition that would be a vote for NXT!

    The suggestion that voting for anyone else is a vote for another specific party is stupid. What's even more ridiculous is for the Coalition to say that a vote for anyone else other than the Coalition is a vote for Labor, and then preference Labor ahead of the Nationals in WA. The WA Nat sat in the Coalition party room last time didn't they? (Rhetorical question.)

    The sooner party leaders stop telling us who our vote is for, and instead campaign for our vote, or failing that our preference, the better off we'll be IMO.

    1. I was listening to that bit but struggling to keep my attention level high enough to pay complete attention. I thought at the time he was trying to say that a vote for anyone but the Coalition may actually directly elect that person and cause a hung parliament in which Labor forms government, or may cause an obstructive Labor-dominated Senate. I wasn't clear that he was referring to preferences.

      Even if what he was saying is what I thought, it doesn't actually stack up. If one vote in one seat causes the Coalition to lose its majority, then the result would be a Coalition minority government propped up by one of the crossbench, not an ALP-led mess. If one vote in one seat changes the government, then that would be the difference between a Coalition-led minority government mess and a Labor-led one.

      There has indeed been way too much of the usual "X preferences Y so a vote for X is a vote for Y" nonsense at this election, especially given that the voter now directs all preferences. A vote for X is a vote for X and the voter decides if it is also potentially a vote for Y.

  4. Sorry, but how is Sustainable Australia Party misleading? We're the most sustainability-focused party of all.


    Well, have you read them?

    Sustainability is about more than wishful thinking, it's about tackling all three key issues:

    1. For one thing, the logo you are using here is NOT the logo you have registered with the AEC, the one that will appear on ballot papers:

      What kind of demographic are you looking for with a logo that says "LOWER IMMIGRATION"?

    2. It's a conversation that is almost impossible to have in this country any more.

      Being in favor of a stable population (by means of lower immigration and natural fertility) doesn't necessarily make one a racist.

      There are many sensible mainstream people who agree that the BIG AUSTRALIA consensus is placing unsustainable demands on our society, economy and ecology.

      Retiring ALP member for Wills, Kelvin Thompson published his thoughts on exactly this topic. "The Witches Hat theory of government: How increasing population is making the task of government harder"

  5. I think the Animal Justice Party could be more accurately named the Militant Vegan Party.

    Apparently, Greens leader Richard Di Natale is on their "Dirty Dozen" politicians list because ... he owns a farm and slaughters his own animals for food! The meme says "This is not consistent with the Greens principles of non-violence".

    Presumably it's ok to eat animals if they die of old age.

  6. So the Animal Justice Party is extreme? Compared to the ruling LNP or the ALP? Or as I call them, 'Turn the Other Cheek' parties. Jokes and digs about vegans have been around for yonks. So people who do not want to eat meat or support those 'industries' should be ridiculed? Shows how out of touch some people are. Get a few young people on facebook and see how many vegans there are! The younger generation are changing the way they interact with the world and many will vote for the AJP on Saturday. The food industry is going to change enormously over the next decade. Why all the pork and lamb ads on Australian TV? Marianne Thiemme helped found the Party For the Animals in the Netherlands and this extraordinary party has begun politically what will become one of the biggest movements of this century. First MP's voted in Portugal and in NSW. New parties starting worldwide. The rights of others species and putting homo sapiens back in it's place before the planet is destroyed. I was taken to an abattoir when I was a child by my father. The terror of the animals and the screaming of those being killed has never left me. Maybe that was what it was like in Auschwitz. Attack the evil ones, not those who care intensely for living things and are fighting against the destruction of nature from the planet. Yes, there are issues in regard to feral animals and the breeding of endangered species. Humans have made one huge mess. There are many different views in the animal political movement but it is good to have them because the old parties do nothing, even basic laws in regards to domestic animals are totally lacking. As a person in the LGBTI community whom has been waiting for over 60 years for equality in this country, then you can imagine how the rights for animals are totally neglected and ignored. By the way, the founding of the AJP has certainly got the Greens increasing their concerns for animal welfare and the AJP are mainly preferencing the Greens Australia wide. The ACT situation was over a particular animal issue and let's face it every individual should organise their own prefereneces and not follow ANY party line of preferencing.

  7. I have no ability to edit comments here, I can only publish or delete in full. A comment was sent by poster Gweilo that employed unnecessary vulgarity. Future such comments will be rejected in full. The comment was:


    "Fixing [Bill Shorten's] comment to make it truthful"

    “It is clear that if Mr Shorten is any hope to regain a range of seats in the government column, he is going to rely upon the votes of more extreme views, which are not healthy for this Australian democracy.
    The only formula whereby he can win this election is if parties like the Greens give him the preferences that allow him to govern."

    And the only rebuttal is:

    "I'll ignore the Greens, because if they're extreme then so is half the Coalition"


    1. What I said. The Greens hold some political views that are strident and that are not even remotely reflective of mainstream or majority community sentiment, and in the process propose radical solutions. But the same is true of the Abbott-conservative wing of the Liberal Party on a wide range of social issues. People can if they like argue about whether the Greens are slightly more or less extreme than hardline Liberals, or whether it is really more or less than half the party that is like that. The point is that the Coalition cannot dismiss the Greens as extreme without focusing attention on how far away from the mainstream many of their own MPs are. That is why I went straight for a better example.

      Based on your previous posts I expect you to now conclude I am a Greens supporter. Suggest you do your homework on that one first.

  8. Gweilo, in case you haven't noticed from the other thread, you're banned. Stop posting now; your posts will not be published.


The comment system is unreliable. If you cannot submit comments you can email me a comment (via email link in profile) - email must be entitled: Comment for publication, followed by the name of the article you wish to comment on. Comments are accepted in full or not at all. Comments will be published under the name the email is sent from unless an alias is clearly requested and stated. If you submit a comment which is not accepted within a few days you can also email me and I will check if it has been received.