Wednesday, August 18, 2010

101 little boxes

I have just received my postal vote for the 2010 Australian Federal election (just in time! I need to have it in the post by 5 pm Friday for it to count). I have seven candidates to rank for my electorate in the House of Representatives and ninety-four to rank for my state in the Senate (of course I am going to vote below the line).
For those readers unfamiliar with a preferential voting system, you can read about how it works in the Australian House of Represenatives and the Senate. It is a superior to the commonly-used first past the post system, though it does mean we vote on a ballot paper the size of a tablecloth (pictured).

I would love to hear thoughts on what I ought to do. While being unwilling to align myself straightforwardly with either the left or right, I do have a variety of opinions on these matters (for instance, regular readers may be able to guess that I'm unlikely to give The Climate Sceptics party a high preference), but am always open to hearing good arguments. In other words, I have decided the basic shape of my preferences, but haven't yet filled in the boxes. So here's your chance to talk me out of it.

Jessica received her postal vote today as well, a lovely birthday present from the AEC.


byron smith said...

Hugh MacKay: "the world has caught up with the Greens."

Anonymous said...

I have a personal philosophy that women should be better represented in Parliament, so when in doubt on a ballot paper, I always preference the women ahead of the men (and yes I always number every single little box - I think one year there were around 140).
cheers, Varinia.

michael jensen said...

I am ordinarily a Labour voter, but I think the Rudd axing was a disgrace. I want the coalition to win.

However, in my seat, Sydney, the Liberals have NO chance of winning, and Tanya Plibersek has been an effective local member. The 'opposition' in this seat is the Greens candidate. The Liberals are evening sending preferences to the Greens in that seat I believe! Of all the parties, I least want the Greens to succeed. I just can't vote for a party that is repeatedly openly hostile to Christians on a variety of policy issues. I can't vote for a party that wishes I wasn't here.
So I am in the position of having to vote Labour even though I think I want them to lose. Weird, huh?

Mike W said...

I'd love to be in a position where I genuinely knew some of the candidates.
But I'm not.
I was chatting to a lady who does the vote counting last night. She said quite a few of the 'below the box' votes end up not being counted. The voters either mess up their counting and put a number twice, or a number is slightly obscure and the scrutineers jump on it.
So be careful.

Personally, I couldn't stand what the coalition did on my behalf and in my name last time. Iraq war, immigration, kyoto etc. When Rudd got in there was a wave of relief, I could feel good about being Australian again.

I'll probably be voting green-labour. My guess is that isn't going to change your vote much.
@Mike, politicians of all colours hate you, get used to it.
@Byron, thanks for all your reflections on christians and politics, I was able to use quite a bit last night at a party. People were genuinely shocked that the church didn't endorse a candidate, and that the professed faith of the leader wasn't the decisive issue.

michael jensen said...

It's not that I want or insist on a Christian politician. It's not that I have a narrow range of moral/social issues that i think are the Christian ones.

I am just not inclined to vote for a party that is going to pursue as a matter of policy the obliteration of my voice from the public square. Their candidates repeatedly point to Christians as being the problem, not the solution. I wish this was just hysterical rant on my part, but it is true. I'd love to pursue dialogue with them on this actually.

Whatever their 'green' credentials are, the 'green' party doesn't want me as a member, it seems to me!

My wife begs to differ, and I certainly don't insist that this is the only point of view.

Rob Taggart said...

Michael J,

I attended a Make Poverty History electoral forum last night. The leading ACT senate candidates (Greens, ALP, Liberal) each gave a 10 minute talk and answered questions. In my view the Greens candidate, Lin Hatfield Dodds, was the best of the three, though each candidate showed some genuine interest in the topic at hand. Lin was CEO of Uniting Care Australia and is actively involved in her local Uniting Church, as well as being awarded ACT Citizen of the Year in 2008 for her work among the disadvantaged in the Australian community. An anabaptist Anglican(!) friend of mine has known her for years and says she is a committed Christian. (I acknowledge that what you understand by that descriptor is unlikely to be identical to what he means by it).

Your comments seem to taint all the Greens with the same brush, but in view of their selection of Lin as their primary candidate in the ACT, I would be much more circumspect. I don't know what personal contact you've had with the Greens. Certainly if my judgment of Christians was based on the personal contact I had with them in my first year (and beyond) as an undergraduate, then I would most likely be as anti-Christian as you seem to be anti-green.

michael jensen said...

I am just going by the public statements of the green candidates running around in NSW. That's all. I found a nice paper by Lyn that explains why the Greens aren't anti-CHristian. But all it said was 'God doesn't belong to one of the political parties'. I know that. Didn't answer the question though.

byron smith said...

I'd love to pursue dialogue with them on this actually.
Have you? I have. The more the merrier.

I am just not inclined to vote for a party that is going to pursue as a matter of policy the obliteration of my voice from the public square.
And I'm not inclined to vote for a party that is going to pursue as a matter of policy the obliteration of a livable planet for the sake of short term gain. My voice in the public square can be persecuted and I'll just keep speaking.
(That said, can you provide evidence that the obliteration of a Christian voice from the public square is a primary policy objective of the Greens?)

Here is their policy that would seem to be relevant. First point: "the contribution of diverse groups to the political process is inherently valuable."

This set of policies could also be relevant.

byron smith said...

Can you link to public statements from Greens candidates that demonstrates your position? I've linked to their official policy and Rob has given anecdotal evidence.

Whatever their 'green' credentials are, the 'green' party doesn't want me as a member, it seems to me!
The Greens are quite happy to accept Christians as members and there are many Christians who are Greens members. If you're going to take this line, then Mike Wells is right to point out that basically every party hates you and is ideologically committed to anti-Christian positions (not necessarily equally so). Can you explain how the policies of the major parties are compatible with the gospel?

I've said this before, but I'm just a little confused as to why are you so caught up in identity politics. Isn't the true Christian self one that doesn't require or demand recognition by the political authorities (though who will accept it as a (mixed) blessing), but who continues to witness to Christ in season and out of season, whether welcomed into party membership or thrown amongst the lions?

michael jensen said...

Byron - I just don't believe that the Greens' belief in diversity stretches to my diversity. Repeatedly, Lee Rhiannon (senate candidate) and her colleagues in NSW parliament have repeatedly cited churches as the problem to be solved - for example, in the SRE debate. Remember, they aren't just an environmentalist party (and they scuttled the Rudd ETS plan on ECONOMIC, not environmental grounds).
I am not, like the ACL, demanding that the parties kowtow to me as if I was a lobby group. I am not lacking in appropriate cynicism towards the major parties. I am just not confident that the 'green' label isn't a screen for whole raft of other polices that I think stink. Other Christians don't agree, and I am fine with that. Can't I think that?

byron smith said...

Still waiting for a link to public statements that say that churches are the problem. Hey, I think churches are often very much part of the problem on a range of issues.

Of course they are not a purely environmental party and have never pretended to be (does the ALP pretend to only represent workers' interests?). I've read all their policies. Some of them do stink. But that's not what you're saying. You're singling out the Greens as the party you want least to succeed (less than One Nation?) and which is ruled out in principle, not merely on the balance of evidence. That's a much stronger claim. You're not picking least worst with that, you're starting with impossibilities and then picking least worst. I'm not saying that sometimes that approach might not be worthwhile, at least at a pragmatic level of simplifying the process of gathering information (it's more or less how I work with One Nation). So I'm still wondering: why identity politics as the central platform of your political deliberation?

byron smith said...

The Greens opposition to the ETS was both economic and ecological. It was not going to do very much (perhaps the least ambitious targets in the developed world - worse even than the US) and was going to reward the biggest players who are at the heart of the problem at the expense of everyone else. It rejected the detailed advice of ALP's own review from Prof Garnaut. Perhaps a case can be made that something is better than nothing and that once a system is implemented it can be scaled up later once the scale of the problem is more widely appreciated (though this didn't happen with the GFC, by the way. The Government was happy to take the advice of experts, act quickly and be vindicated later), but the Greens opposition to the ETS was quite coherent. They can't be blamed if it resulted in both major parties changing to even less inspiring leadership over the issue.

Also still waiting to hear why the most relevant difference between ALP and Libs is the dirty mechanics of party leadership (given that both parties have had messy spills since the last election).

michael jensen said...

The 'dirty mechanics of leadership' etc is for me a deciding factor, yes. You belittle the importance of this issue. I am outraged about it. I have written to my local member expressing this. It was an egregious abuse of our democratic system. The change of Liberal leadership doesn't compare at all. I am not a fan of Abbott especially, but I am confident in the general pragmatism of either major party over the idealism of other parties. Labor lost the right to a second chance in my view by stabbing Rudd in the back.

For evidence of Green anti-Church bias check John Kaye's blather of half-truths and scare-mongering on SRE
for starters. Lee Rhiannon talks about 'the religious lobby' as the great enemy in her press releases.
and here:

Granted, I didn't count One Nation as a serious contender in my 'least
wanted' list. And perhaps I should have included the Christian Democrats: I want them to succeed even less than anyone else.

byron smith said...

How was the ALP leadership change an abuse of our democratic system? That's pretty strong language. A party changed leadership while in government following all the relevant conventions and protocol. It has happened many times before both in Oz and elsewhere. Was there something that makes this particular leadership change more significant?

It is ugly and was perhaps poorly timed, and done cynically, and so on, but why is it more important than the inhumane treatment of refugees, denial of climate science (and so material contribution to a global failure of staggering proportions) and appeals to the hip pocket and base selfishness? (Just to pick a few other issues).

As for hating Christians, at least we have some examples now. The first article (by a NSW Green) indeed is a somewhat silly fear-based sensationalising of a State issue, though there is a genuine issue here about what kinds of organisations are appropriate to partner with state schools. I wouldn't want Pepsico to set up a school canteen, for instance. While I think churches are very different from private corporations, the ways in which churches (and other religious organisations) are given access to public schools matters. But is not really an issue in a federal election.

However, you're more concerned about the tone of the piece than the argument, and fair enough, it is an overblown rant, with language of "beachheads" and it is clear that Dr Kaye would also prefer no proselytising in schools. Yet it hardly justifies "they all hate me as a policy position".

I note in passing that the issue at stake in the SMH article (whose ability to accurately reflect the issue at stake I rate pretty poorly) is not the preaching of the gospel but the teaching of creationism as an alternative to evolution. I'm not sure I'd want children at a state school to have their experience of Christianity at the school dominated by creationists. But that is, perhaps, a distraction.

Second example, from Lee Rhiannon, speaks only of the "religious lobby" working against the anti-discrimination amendment. It is clear that the Greens have an understanding of discrimination that differs from that held by many Christians and so on this issue, there have been disputes over how to protect apparently competing goods. Again, this hardly shows that she sees the churches as her enemies. There are organisations that could be labelled as "religious lobbies" that I'm opposed to as well (and I know that you are, given your comments on the CDP). That she hasn't specified which lobby in this case doesn't mean that any Christian public voice is automatically her enemy.

Third example was LR again, this time in an address to the humanist society. I think I agree with very large parts of it. It was not attacking churches. It was discussing the rise of the religious right, its connexions to the prosperity gospel, the tactics of Family First and of anti-abortion campaigners. I'm pretty uncomfortable about many of the things that she mentions and while I would express them differently (and would have a radically different position to her on abortion), once again, she is not attacking churches or Christians per se. She is not arguing that Christians ought to be silenced in the public sphere, nor is she saying that she hates you Michael. She may be a passionate advocate of the legality of abortion, but I see here no evidence of being anti-Christian or being "a party that is going to pursue as a matter of policy the obliteration of my voice from the public square".

michael jensen said...

These examples could be multiplied. Rhiannon's fear-mongering about the religious right is typical, as is Kaye's blather. She vastly overstates the influence of Family First in this for her own rhetorical ends.
These are not isolated examples. Sorry.

And yes, the Rudd assassination IS that important in my opinion, especially when there is little to separate the two major parties. It was a terrible piece of skulduggery of the kind that has brought NSW to a standstill. The effects of that kind of thing on the political process are evident - and we all in the end suffer. All kinds of things may be 'legitimate' but still terrible.

michael jensen said...

And no, she is not saying that she hates me in so many words. That was my rhetoric. However, I have heard Green pollies enough on radio and read them in print enough to get the distinct impression that in their view I am part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

byron smith said...

I've just realised (having just filled in my vote) that there are only 84, not 94, candidates from NSW for the Senate, and when added to 7 House of Reps candidates, that's only 91 boxes, not 101. Oh well, the title looks better with my initial mistake so I'll leave it...

MPJ: You still haven't said why the Rudd removal was so heinous. I want to hear an argument, not mere emotional assertion. And I'm not defending the leadership change, nor saying that everything that is lawful is beneficial, simply pointing out that the Coalition's leadership process is hardly light-years ahead to justify switching on that basis alone. I think your claim that the two main parties are otherwise equal is hyperbole. If you are serious, then are we to assume you don't rate climate change (as one of numerous differences) as having any weight?

In the current Senate, Family First (with less than 2% of the vote) basically have as much say as the Greens (with 9%), so it's not particularly surprising that they are a particular target of Green ire, not least because Fielding is a climate sceptic (BTW, I just found out that Senator Fielding has also confirmed that he is a young earth creationist. I'd only heard it as a rumour before).

If you're so convinced that the Greens are out to get you and have let that determine the shape of your politics, then maybe you are a little bit on the problem side of the equation. ;-) (But then again, aren't we all part of the problem?)

michael jensen said...

I don't think it is hard to make the Rudd-as-decisive issue case.

The democratic political system runs on conventions as well as laws. It seems reasonable to insist that the people of Australia have the right to vote on the sitting Prime Minister's performance and that transitions of power ought to be smooth, transparently done and for good reasons. When this doesn't occur, people lose faith in the quality of the system - and that faith is precious. In fact, it is a trump on almost all other issues. For me.

I don't think either side will really make much of a difference to climate change policy in practice in any case.

byron smith said...

It seems reasonable to insist that the people of Australia have the right to vote on the sitting Prime Minister's performance and that transitions of power ought to be smooth, transparently done and for good reasons.
We don't elect our PM, or indeed any of our executive. Although the leadership and record of the PM will be one factor in people's voting intentions and deliberations, there is no way that ought to be the primary one. To say so misplaces the balance between executive and legislative branches. It also reduces the executive to a single figure. Although such ideas suit the media, who like to give simple stories, they undermine democracy in the long run.

Again, I'm not defending the move, I'm simply saying that it is far from central to the issues of this election. And if we're thinking about leadership transitions, then I'm just as worried about the Liberals own leadership transition, in which they dumped a man who was standing up for his principles and replaced him with a popularist. The ALP dumped a man who missed the chance to stand up for his promises and replaced him with a popularist.

Do you think that the replacement of Hawke by Keating, or of Blair by Brown were equally abhorrent? I'm still waiting for an argument why this one was particularly bad.

byron smith said...

Re climate change: what about other ecological issues?

michael jensen said...

It isn't necessarily the central issue, but it is (or could be) a decisive one. As it turns out, I am gonna have to vote Labor anyhow.

I know very well that we don't elect our PM, not technically. But we certainly do vote for the government who is presented to us as led by a certain person.

This instance was egregious because
1) the PM was not corrupt, immoral or incompetent. In fact, I think he did a very good job, by and large.
2) the alternative was not a change in policy
3) we were not, as the electorate, given a fair look at Gillard as PM. This election has been ridiculous because of it.

The Turnbull/Abbott change was a clear matter of policy choice (like it or not).

I wasn't much a fan of the Hawke/Keating switch either. Or the Gorton/McMahon switch.

byron smith said...

Michael - Thanks, that is much more helpful as you've now given some reasons to consider this most recent leadership change a worse abuse than previous ones.

I'm glad you didn't resort to the claim that we need to elect our PM (which would actually contradict your 3rd point, which seems to imply that if a party is going to change leadership, it ought to happen a long way from an election).

On (1) though those criteria are each sufficient reasons for the replacement of a party leader, I don't think that they are necessary ones. That is, there may be other legitimate reasons to remove a leader not included on your list, such as poor leadership (rather than gross incompetence). That certainly seems to have been one of the factors. He may have been a decent PM, but it seems like he was not the best party leader the ALP has ever had. The PM has four jobs (probably many more, actually): to represent his electorate, to represent and lead the party, to lead the cabinet and to represent and lead the nation. His performance on the final job may have been ok (and it is this that I assume you're referring to), but the middle two were cited as reasons for his deposition by some ALP figures and on that, we have little or no insight. Again, I'm not saying it was a good idea, simply that I don't think it was obviously a breach of public trust greater than some of the other pressing issues we face (such as the breach of public trust caused when Rudd backed down from his central promises about climate).

On (2), and acknowledge that the change of Coalition leadership did involve a matter of policy. However, it's also fairly clear that Gillard has changed ALP policy (a little) on mining tax, on climate, and on refugees. These changes were not as major as the Coalition about face on the ETS, but were not irrelevant. Major parties place a high premium on electability. That they were paying too much attention to the polls and not enough to smart policy seems to me to be a better critique of the leadership change. At least the Coalition's leadership change managed to ignore the fact that the vast majority of Australians support some kind of ETS (I'm not using that as an argument for, simply commending the Coalition for apparently not making their leadership decisions on the basis of polling data. That some of them may have had other (and worse) reasons for changing leadership, I'll leave for another day).

On (3) I agree that we haven't seen much of Gillard as PM, but then we haven't seen anything of Abbott as PM either. It's not as though Gillard has only recently arrived in Parliament or only recently held great responsibility. She has a significant track record as deputy on which she can be judged. Yes, PM is a different job to being deputy, but then, it's also quite different to being opposition leader.

So, I'm glad that this discussion is now "moving forward" with some specific arguments, but I think that in each case, to my mind you haven't yet shown that this was a decisive issue. I don't rate it as zero, or even low importance, but it was not in the top tier of my considerations.

byron smith said...

PS I've only recently heard more detailed accounts of the precise timeline of the leadership challenge, which included Gillard going back on her word within minutes of reaching an agreement with Rudd once she found that she had the numbers. If that report is accurate, then I think that is a significant breach of confidence and shows an opportunism and lack of integrity that are indeed concerning.