Opinion and Analysis

Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam

Victoria is the most progressive state in the country, no question about that. It has also been the most electorally successful state for the Greens in recent state and federal elections. They have held the federal seat of Melbourne since the 2010 Federal Election, added the state seat of Melbourne as well as Prahran to their lower house representation in state parliament at the 2014 State Election, and recently gained Northcote in a by-election in 2017. The party is close to gaining at least two others; Brunswick and Richmond.

However, could the fire that delivered them these significant wins be starting to smoulder?

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Colleen Bolger, Stephen Jolly and Sue Bolton The 2018 Victorian State Election is fast approaching and candidates are being actively preselected by all of the main parties. However, it is the formation of the Victorian Socialists, which comprises of City of Yarra Councillor Stephen Jolly, City of Moreland Councillor Sue Bolton and lawyer Colleen Bolger - an unlikely alliance of Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative - to contest the Northern Metropolitan Region in the Victorian upper house that has roused some serious attention from the Left. 

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The Batman by-election, triggered by the resignation of often controversial, often clumsy Labor MP David Feeney over doubts about his citizenship status and eligibility to sit in Parliament, was an election that pitted Labor and the Greens against each other in a two way contest. For the Greens, it was a question as to whether the party could cement its status as a significant political force in the once safe Labor strongholds in the inner city of Melbourne. It was also a test for Labor and whether they could potentially hold off the Greens, or whether these once safe seats falling to the Greens is an eventual inevitability.

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There is no denying it. Unemployment is a social burden, and a major driver of inequality in our society. There are a few countries now flirting with the idea of giving everyone cash payments with no obligations as one way of resolving this. The Greens platform advocates for a UBI, and it’s time for our Government to seriously look at the idea as well.

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In the event of a marriage equality plebiscite, all supporters of equal marriage in Australia must fight tooth and nail for the yes cause. It does not matter if you, like me, are opposed to the whole idea of a plebiscite. It does not matter on what grounds you are opposed to a plebiscite; whether it be on monitory grounds or on the grounds that equal rights should not be subject to a popular vote. It does not matter. We must all fight and campaign for the yes cause.

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It is easy to dismiss Pauline Hanson supporters as simply a bunch of redneck racist troglodytes; indeed, the most vocal of her support base fall very well into this category, and browsing her echo chamber on social media also makes it incredibly easy to get this impression. However, more than 4% of all voters across the country put a '1' in the box next One Nation, in the Senate, at this year's federal election, including more than 9% of Queenslanders. A few hundred vocal people on Facebook is not representative of the hundreds of thousands of others who voted the way they did.

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A battle between the Greens, Liberal Party and Labor is playing out in the seat of Melbourne Ports, with the Greens only a couple of percent behind the sitting Labor MP, who are both well behind the Coalition candidate. This seat will be a repeat of the state seat of Prahran in the 2014 Victorian State Election, whereby preferences from minor party and independent candidates allowed the Greens candidate to leapfrog from third into second place ahead of Labor, allowing the Greens to take the seat on the back of Labor preferences.

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There has been a lot of talk in recent months about the electability of Nick Xenophon, or more specifically, his new party that he is now leading, and that is standing candidates in a number of seats around the country. But is the Nick Xenophon Team really a good alternative for progressive voters who are tired of the major parties? I'm not so sure. I may be biased in assessing this, but there are some serious issues when it comes to Xenophon that need to be addressed.

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I have been seeing a lot of nonsense claims in recent weeks that claim that the Greens support for Senate voting reform will send them the 'the way of the Democrats', or that Richard Di Natale is the 'Meg Lees of the Greens', among other similar lines. Not only is it ridiculous (and a borderline fallacy) to compare the implementation of voting reform with the implementation of a regressive tax (it's like comparing apples and oranges), it is also a ridiculous argument that the Democrats' support of the GST was the sole instigator of their downfall. Fact is, there were a number of factors that led to the downfall of the Democrats that don't apply to the Greens at all.

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I've been getting a few people saying that the Senate voting changes will cause 'vote splitting'. I think this is better addressed as a separate post rather than in the post about the Senate voting reform.

First of all, for those who don't know - vote splitting occurs whereby there are two or more ideologically aligned candidates in an election, causing the vote to be split between them. This ultimately results in the candidate of the opposing ideology being successful. It is often talked about that the Labor and the Greens vote splits between each other in House of Representative seats, resulting in lower primary votes for the Labor Party when compared to the Liberal Party/National Party. However, because of full-preferential voting (and even in states that use optional preferential voting), this doesn't result in the final outcome favouring the Coalition, as it would in a first-past-the-post system.

Because of the potential for vote splitting in a first-past-the-post system; this has people ultimately gravitating towards two major parties (one on the Left, the other on the Right) and see's those who would normally vote for minor parties, vote for the corresponding major party in the form of tactical voting, generally out of fear that the candidate they oppose the most will otherwise win the seat. This ultimately sees two major parties dominate, and smaller parties fall. Look at the United States as an example, in particular.

Now, with that out of the way: claims that Senate voting changes to abolish group voting tickets and moving to part-preferential voting above and below the line would result in the progressive vote being split is absolute hog-wash.

  1. Vote splitting, as mentioned above, can only really occur in a first-past-the-post system, and can only really occur where people are elected into single-member constituencies. The only situation where vote splitting can occur in a multi-member constituency is if the winner takes all system is used.
     
  2. Senators are elected proportionately, into multi-member constituencies (being, the states), not into single member constituencies, and this isn't changing.
     
  3. Because voters will still have to direct preferences regardless of whether they vote above the line or below the line; the vote won't be split between progressive parties because votes to unsuccessful progressive parties and candidates will still flow according to voters choice.
     
  4. The savings provision for above the line voting very likely won't factor in because, believe it or not, a vast majority of voters actually read the instructions on the ballot paper (which will instruct them to number at least six boxes above the line) when they vote. If they didn't, there would be an alarmingly high rate of informal voting in the House of Representatives.

In fact, a vast majority of proportional systems around the developed world don't use preferential voting at all, and these systems still see considerable political diversity. Claims that vote splitting will occur as a result of giving individual voters more power simply doesn't stack up to fact.

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