Polity by Rob Salmond

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Polity: Australian election: Dust and Diesel

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  • william blake,

    Election slogan perhaps "the only thing missing from Labor is U".

    Since Mar 2010 • 367 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    One contribution to this pattern is the effect of continuing urbanisation: electorate boundaries (however regularly they are redrawn) will always lag behind the actual population figures, in such a way that urban voters will be systematically underrepresented by seats, and rural voters systematically overrepresented. Rural areas tend to be conservative/right-leaning, whereas large urban centres tend to be left-leaning, leading to an unavoidable systematic bias towards the representation of rural (conservative) voters in parliament.

    In this (as in so many other things), the Left simply has to be better than the Right in order to win...

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1806 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    Here's a brief rundown of the various electoral systems operative within Australian federal, state and territory catchments:

    [This is ] an opportunity to compare Australia's single transferable vote electoral system with New Zealand's MMP.

    In Australia, federalism complicates the picture somewhat. However, the situation is broadly this at the level of state and territorial governments, except for Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania. In Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, there are two houses of state parliament, a legislative assembly and a Legislative Council. The two are selected through two different electoral systems- the barely proportional preferential voting system elects their legislative assembly lower houses, as well as Queensland's single state parliamentary chamber, and Tasmania's Legislative Council upper house and the federal Australian House of Representatives. The more proportional Single Transferable Vote electoral system is used to elect upper houses in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, as well as Tasmania's Lower House Legislative Assembly and the Australian Capital Territory's single-chamber territorial legislative assembly. It is also used to elect the Australian federal Senate.

    As to how it works, the Single Transferable Vote electoral system provides a voter with a single vote which is initially given to their chief preferred candidate, and as the count proceeds and successive candidates are eliminated or elected, their vote is redistributed to others according to the voters stated preferences on the ballot paper in proportion to surplus or discarded votes. It's a complex process and takes somewhat longer to accomplish than MMP. Our own system relies on a fifty-fifty split of electorate results and party list allocation according to total voter share. As a result, STV election procedures may not deliver a result for several days.

    http://www.gaynz.com/articles/publish/31/article_18491.php

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 481 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    Was that Midnight Oil reference deliberate, Rob? :)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 481 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell, in reply to Craig Young,

    As a result, STV election procedures may not deliver a result for several days.

    In NZ we use STV for many local body elections - it takes a long time to type the ballots into the computers, but seconds to run the program. It also makes being a scrutineer somewhat moot (Dunedin's council 'vote counting' is done 300km away over a period of weeks, a 'recount' consists of running the program again, not looking for errors in typing the ballots)

    STV is a great way to elect multi-member councils, or for a single person for a particular position (mayor for example). MMP is better for electing parties to a body.

    The big downside of STV voting (at least here in Dunedin) is having to rank 40 names 1-40

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2586 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    So why do Labour parties (in the UK and Australia) oppose fair votes?

    Do they prefer an occasional chance at exclusive office when the pendulum swings their way to the ability to share power more often?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I think the big parties are invested in FPP, it discourages fragmentation among their supporters

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2586 posts Report Reply

  • Hugh Wilson,

    A couple of quick thoughts …

    Firstly the Coalition has secured a majority, so they are not hanging on to independents – they’re important yes, but not crucial at this point in time
    I also ‘get’ the bias you write of, but have to admit I’m not overly convinced by the analysis. Redistributions occur after every election, and the fact that both parties have been a situation of winning the popular vote but not the election casts doubt on the idea this is systematic or deeply engrained (which is what the term bias implies).

    Given democratic ideals are evoked, the biggest gap to my eyes seems to be the outcome for the Greens, who got nearly 10% of the lower house vote for one seat. There’s clearly a segue to voting systems here (not my area of specialisation), but blind Freddy could see the current outcome is not overly representative. Further, before the election we had both major parties predicting the sky would fall in were they forced into a minority government situation (the term ‘caravan of chaos’ comes to mind), but the tune quickly changed come election night and the day after.

    My sense is that there little to no outrage about the possibility of Labour getting more TPP vote than the Coalition – it’s not the metric which determines the outcome, and people know this. There is some degree of exasperation though about the banal childish nature of many Australian politicians - some of them were seen off at the election (Clive Palmer, Jamie Briggs etc) but others have held on ..

    Melbourne • Since Feb 2013 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    it takes a long time to type the ballots into the computers

    I think most councils use a scanner which is run twice to find discrepancies.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Hugh Wilson,

    Hopefully this GIF embeds (if not click through) … a clever visual of how first preference vote patterns have changed (and remained the same) in Melbourne across the last three elections.


    http://www.smh.com.au/cqstatic/gq1atp/Melb_1stPref_HigherRes.gif

    Melbourne • Since Feb 2013 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    Aha the new clarion call of the conservatives rings out...
    We only have to fool... oohh... about 50% of the people at election time.
    The Bias will take care of the rest...
    And thusly they rode off, disappearing up their posterior mistaking it for a sunset.
    The Bias mockingly looks on

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1715 posts Report Reply

  • Australopithecus, in reply to andin,

    You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you need only fool half the people election time.

    Te Pahu • Since Apr 2014 • 13 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    Automating voting is a whole different topic, and one which Australian voting is almost uniquely unsuited to (because final results may depend on the order in which votes are counted proving that software produces the same result is ... best left as an exercise for the reader). It's also worth noting that Australia uses at least 8 different voting systems, and any given voter is likely to see five of them (council, state lower house, state upper house, federal lower house, federal upper house). Territory voters may not get as many, but they also get different systems.

    Having scruted and handed out "how to vote" cards at almost every election since I arrived here, I still think the Australian system is great, in theory. But in practice it's awful. Not just because of the above sensitivity to counting order, but specifically because it's complicated and a great many voters don't want to, or can't, understand it. The change this year to requiring more than one box be numbered caused an increase in the number of invalid votes.

    So while I personally like and enjoy the ranking system, and find the enormous ballot paper amusing (135 candidates to rank!), for most people it's annoying and stupid. My preferred extension of making every electorate multi-member would make that worse, not better, for most voters.

    This is where proportional systems win, hands down. MMP where you tick two boxes, party and MP, the end. One of the few political choices I think Israel got right is their voting system, where there is no local member, it's purely one of the folk casting one vote for one party. Having the threshold be one MP would be even better.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1118 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    FWIW I'm not happy that we elected multiple competing groups of explicit racists, several theocrats and a great many extremely unpleasant people (what do want? More torture! Where do we want it? Offshore!), as well as re-affirming that 85% of the voters want more climate change, sooner. It's the old problem - 60% of voters tell pollsters they think AGW is real and someone should do something about it. When it came to actually *DO* something, 85% of voters did not think it worth changing their vote to make that possible.

    My analysis goes like this: on issues like climate change, refugees, aboriginal Australians, mining, inequality, economics, housing, etc etc et bloody cetera there is almost 100% bipartisanshp. On the importance of parents beating their children even The Greens agree! I disagree with all major policies of at least 90% of the 30+ parties who ran for senate seats in NSW, including the three who have won power (Liberal, National, and LiberalNational - yes, really, the two have combined in Queensland to form one party so now "The Coalition" has three members) and the ALP.

    So my voting choices were very, very constrained. In the end I voted just on climate, because otherwise finding even 6 parties to preference in the senate would have been impossible (that's the minimum). For my local member I had to rank all of them, even the racist nutbags.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1118 posts Report Reply

  • mpledger,

    Moz said
    This is where proportional systems win, hands down. MMP where you tick two boxes, party and MP, the end.
    ~~~~~~~
    The worst thing about MMP is that the parties select their party list. (I am assuming that) in Australia if I dislike A and like B from the same party I can rank B high and A low but with NZ's party list it's either vote neither or both via the party vote.

    And some pretty awful people get put high on the list...

    Since Oct 2012 • 92 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to mpledger,

    If your chosen part in NZ is the Greens, then you can join the party and rank the list candidates. If you choose to vote for a less democratic party, you can't.

    (I don't think Labour gives its members much of a say in list rankings? Obviously the Nats and NZ First don't).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    The article I wrote for Gaynz.Com was entitled STV versus MMP, and it canvassed the merits and defects of the two most proportional forms of electoral representation, as well as noting where they're used in Australia and New Zealand.

    As you may have guessed already, I was actually one of those mavericks who voted for STV in the 1992 electoral reform referendum. I think STV voters were disenfranchised by the 1993 referendum, given that STV came second in 1992. However, I then voted for MMP in 1993. I also worked for the local Campaign for MMP in 2011.

    LGBT voters are concerned about the possibility of religious social conservatives and other extremists getting into Parliament on the basis of
    (a) mere demographic concentration (STV, South Australia and New South Wales, the Australian Senate and NSW Legislative Council, Family First Party and Fred Nile's Christian Democratic Party);
    (b) getting over five percent under MMP's party list only representation rules under our Election Act 1993 (United Future, 2002-2005).
    (c) MMP's sub-threshold party list top-up if a party has a bolthole constituency seat (United Future, 2005-2008: New Zealand First, 1999-2002)

    I oppose any reduction of the five percent threshold on the basis that it might let such extremist elements into our Parliament. For example, I found the Conservative Party's anti-Treaty stance and climate change denialism as reprehensible as their concealment of their stealth fundamentalist identity and political agenda. I can't stand Winston either, but happily, he's getting older.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 481 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Craig Young,

    I oppose any reduction of the five percent threshold on the basis that it might let such extremist elements into our Parliament. For example, I found the Conservative Party's anti-Treaty stance and climate change denialism

    Yeah, like I said, in Australia that isn't an issue because those policies have both major parties backing them. The threshold only works if you keep changing it depending on which way the wind blows. In NZ if you think climate change denialism is kept out by the 5% threshold I invite you to look at the National Party.

    Democracy has to include all the voices. That's what differentiates it from even more awful systems. I remain convinced that two of the best things about NZ are MMP and allowing permanent residents to vote.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1118 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to mpledger,

    (I am assuming that) in Australia if I dislike A and like B from the same party I can rank B high and A low

    In the senate you can, but then you're committed to voting below the line and realistically you will probably need to number way more than the minimum 12 boxes to avoid the "exhausted votes are a vote for whatever everyone else wants" problem, because the excess distribution rules mean that even stopping at the first major party isn't enough. It's not impossible, just work, and if you follow politics enough to have that sort of opinion it's very likely something you're willing to do (and more likely absolutely committed to doing). It's when you suggest that everyone else should have to do it just so you can that I think you're being unreasonable. Join the party, change it to be more democratic, vote for what you want. Don't make everyone else suffer.

    There's some amusing reporting going on of The Greens NSW post-election analysis (New Matilda) where some people are complaining that the NSW Greens are "too democratic" and really need a firm guiding hand from a dominant central committee, the way Victoria has. I can see both sides, and I definitely think a few more permanent campaign staff would be useful, but I really, really, want them to be firmly bottled up in the "you work for us" cage, rather than running the show. It's worth noting that I support the "pull the greens greenwards" efforts of microparties like "Save the Planet", rather than the Di Natale push to claim the small centre role from The Democrats (remember them? Why you'd want to emulate them is beyond me).

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1118 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    The Conversation on "how proportional is it" , with the conclusion that for the two major groupings it's not too bad, but if you scale that graph to include The Greens getting one lower house seat (0.66%) from 10% of the vote it looks dodgy as. Hence my call for multi-member electorates if we can't just have PR.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1118 posts Report Reply

  • Hugh Wilson, in reply to Moz,

    The Greens getting one lower house seat (0.66%) from 10% of the vote it looks dodgy as.

    Yes, this is the point I made above. Further, I think its reasonable to believe that the Greens would get a higher first preference vote if voters were aware that would have more meaningful translation - i.e. proportional representation.

    Melbourne • Since Feb 2013 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Craig Young,

    I oppose any reduction of the five percent threshold on the basis that it might let such extremist elements into our Parliament.

    And so what if it does? It might let more progressive elements into our Parliament too. (Mana, for example.) It certainly will lead to a greater diversity of views being represented. Additionally, if there’s more chance of some tangible result from voting for minor parties that actually represent voters’ views, more voters will be engaged. Overall, I think lowering the threshold – to the same level as required to win one electorate, thus also removing the so-called coattailing discrepancy – is well worth any attendant risk of bringing in some people you happen to fundamentally disagree with.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1806 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Todd, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    <<< The big downside of STV voting (at least here in Dunedin) is having to rank 40 names 1-40[.] >>>

    No you don't, Paul. A single '1' is all you need to mark against one candidate, for your vote to be valid. You can, of course, go further and just rank-order only those candidates who appeal to you (say, 1 to 8), to give your vote more chance of being effective in helping to elect one or more candidates.

    NZ STV is greatly superior to Australian STV. For one thing, the final results do not "depend on the order in which votes are counted" - they're all counted, and re-counted, together, through as many iterations as are necessary to find the required number of winners. As you say, it takes just seconds, although you're also correct in saying it takes time to input the votes, but that is done as they're received - hardly a problem.

    In my opinion, the people of Dunedin and Palmerston North have the very best electoral system in the world at their disposal - 14 and 15 councillors, respectively, elected citywide in both cases, using the very best version of STV (Meek's method) yet devised.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2013 • 125 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Todd,

    People can read about NZ STV here: http://www.prsa.org.au/2010-08-26_todd_stephen_stv_meek_new_zealand.html.

    To view the 2004 Cargil Ward count paper, you may need to click on 'Edit document' to get the proper layout.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2013 • 125 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Todd,

    Wellington • Since Jul 2013 • 125 posts Report Reply

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