Opinion and Analysis

The latest Essential Research poll has pegged the two-party preferred result at 51-49 in the Coalition's favour, where it has remained steady for the better part of a month. Roy Morgan's latest polling, which to date has credited the Coalition with its biggest leads since Malcolm Turnbull took the Liberal leadership, has seen the Coalition's lead slashed from 55-45 to 52.5-47.5; with both Labor and the Greens moving up on the primary vote. 7 News' ReachTEL polling has only recorded a slight drop in support for the Coalition, 54-46 in the Coalition's favour, down from 55-45, but nonetheless see's a continuation of the same trend, which is all but confirmed in the latest Ipsos poll.

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It looks like the system used to elect Senators will be reformed after the government, the Greens and Nick Xenophon have agreed on legislation that has now passed the Senate. Unfortunately, the above linked report in the Guardian is somewhat misleading. The changes are expected to be as follows:

  • Group voting tickets will be done away with, which means that parties will no longer be able to dictate where preferences go for those who choose to vote above the line. Instead, voters will be able to direct their own preferences above the line by numbering at least six boxes, which will be the directions on the Senate ballot paper. A savings provision will exist whereby a vote is still valid if a voter only marks "1" in a single box. A vote will exhaust if none of a voter's preferred choices are successful.
     
  • The legislation also stipulates that an individual must not be a registered officer of more than one political party.
     
  • A Greens amendment, and government agreement, mean that voters will be able to number from 1 to at least 12 below the line; a position that has always been consistent with what the Greens were wanting.
     
  • In an interesting twist, the proposal states that party logos must be included on the ballot papers; likely to alleviate confusion between similarly named parties; for example, the Liberal Democratic Party and the Liberal Party. This change is in line with many other nations around the world which show party logos on the ballot paper.
     
  • The Greens don't want party registration requirements to change or become more stringent, which means under the proposal, if passed, parties will still only need 500 members to register as a party. This is stated to be the Greens' line in the sand.

Despite these changes, voters will still have to direct preferences to other parties and as such, minor parties will still have a voice in the Senate and still have a good chance of being elected. It just means that those same minor parties, such as the Liberal Democratic Party, won't be able to set up front parties to funnel preferences to them. Likewise, single-issue candidates and microparties that attract a negligible amount of the vote won't get elected on preference flows dictated purely by the parties, either.

Ultimately, candidates and microparties parties having to attract a greater share of the vote to get elected means they have more legitimacy and credibility when elected, and legitimacy and credibility is a good thing. Putting voters in control of preferencing and out of control of the parties greatly enhances this legitimacy and credibility too.

Update Feb 13, 2016: Senator Lee Rhiannon's press release, on behalf of The Greens, on the matter of senate voting reform confirms this, in particular, the last point above: The Greens do not want to disadvantage small parties by upping membership requirements, and as such, will not support this.

“A vote Above the Line of 1 – 6 rather than just 1 will ensure more voters are able to indicate their preference for parties and groups including minor parties. We have indicated to the government that our bottom line is that the Greens will not support any changes to party membership that makes it harder for small and emerging parties to obtain registration."

Update Feb 18, 2016: Claims made within the last few days that the Coalition would win an majority of Senate seats in a double dissolution are also completely and utterly false. Election analyst Antony Green has more to say on the matter:

"To elect six Senators at a double dissolution, the Coalition would need to reach 46.2% of the first preference vote. If they poll more than 46.2%, they have a candidate in the race for a seventh seat, but realistically the Coalition would need close to 50% of the first preference vote to elect seven Senators..

But if the Coalition poll less than 46.2% of the vote, it would be impossible for it to elect seven members from a single ticket. For Breen to claim the Coalition will win seven seats in NSW, Queensland and WA is to say the party will poll more than 46.2% of the vote.

How often has  the Coalition done that at Senate elections? Here's the list of first preference Coalition votes above 46.2% since 1990.

Queensland 1996 - 50.3%
Western Australia 1990 - 46.2%
Western Australia 1993 - 50.1%
Western Australia 1996 - 47.5%
Western Australia 2004 - 50.2%
Western Australia 2007 - 47.7%
Western Australia 2010 - 46.4%
South Australia 2004 - 47.5%

The above cases are the only instances in the last quarter century where the Coalition could have won seven seats at a double dissolution, yet Breen and Askey are claiming it will happen in three states in 2016, including NSW and Victoria."

Update Feb 24, 2016: Updated the details of the proposal now that the legislation has been introduced into parliament.

Update Mar 7, 2016: I've been getting a few emails and Facebook messages asking me: "Why would the government support these changes, if they thought the changes wouldn't advantage them?"

My response to this is simple: Malcolm Turnbull is arrogant enough to believe anything will advantage him, even in the face of mounting evidence and a number of factors that strongly indicates that the opposite will be true. You only need to look at how Turnbull waves the double dissolution card around in the face of falling poll numbers.

As for whether the Greens will be advantaged (or disadvantaged): they might, they might not. If they are, it would leave them in a higher chance of holding the balance of power and being in a position to negotiate or block the most atrocious legislation that comes before the Senate, regardless of who is in government.

Numbers indicate, however, that had the proposed changes been in place at the 2013 Federal Election, the Greens would have won a Senate seat in New South Wales while losing one in South Australia. That indicates no net gain or loss for the Greens. In 2016, the Greens vote is likely to increase regardless of Senate voting changes.

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Keeping this one short: Pauline Hanson is now batting for the anti-vaxxer movement, something which was once considered pretty far left, and incredibly loopy if not ignorant.

For those of you who are unaware or if you need your memory jogged: Pauline Hanson is the one who claimed that immigration from South Africa would bring about an AIDS epidemic, that Australia would be "swamped by Asians", and has done a whole host of other things over the years to put her ignorance on full display - some of them bizarre, most to incite hatred.

One has to say, when your movement has someone like Pauline Hanson batting for it - as a 'free thinking progressive thinker'; if the medical research with regards to vaccines being safe, controlling and eradicating disease and not causing autism wasn't enough for you to reconsider your stance against vaccines, you should probably be re-evaluating just where you stand.

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We had Peter Dutton's calling a female journalist a 'mad f--king witch', Before that, we had Jamie Briggs share a photo he had taken of a young female public servant after she had made a complaint against him; which ultimately led to his resignation as a minister.

We had Chris Gayle's sleezy behaviour during a sideline interview with Mel McLaughlin (needless to say, she did not look too impressed by his propositioning).

We have Senator David Leyonhjelm doing what he does best and stirring up trouble on Twitter.

But if the above examples aren't proof that sexism is still alive and well in our society - it's the apologists that come out in their droves to defend this behaviour when it is called out, and pinning blame on those 'damn feminists':

Then of course we have the inevitable playing the victim mentality, and the hoards of 'men's rights' activists that come along with them.

...And that's just a small sample of the comments here.

Here's a hint, guys, and it is a pretty big one: When sexism towards women is being discussed, it is not the place for you to barge in and complain about how 'men have it so hard' or about how 'men experience this too'.

By all means, bring those issues up and discuss them where appropriate. But bring these issues up separately; not in response to an article that is dealing with sexism and sexual harassment by men towards women.

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It seems to be a thing from within some sections of the Labor Party - attack the Greens, instead of the Government. It is merely masking their own lack of credibility or spine when it comes to certain political issues. The flavour of the month, for the Labor Party, seems to be attacking the Greens on the issue of multinational tax avoidance, and as alluded to previously, they are spending it up big time on (presumably) prominent billboard advertising - attempting to give the impression that Richard Di Natale is somehow in bed with Malcolm Turnbull; and that the Greens voted against measures to increase tax transparency.

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Labor doesn't seem to learn
30 December 2015

...Or at least. Senator Sam Dastyari doesn't seem to learn.

Senator Dastyari decided that it would be a good idea, yet again, to bang on about the issue of tax transparency and about how the Greens are apparently 'treacherous scum' for voting in favour of legislation that improves tax transparency. Of course, this is despite the fact that 95% of those, Labor voters, who called the Greens to complain about this are now voting Greens at the next federal election.

But Senator Dastyari isn't only banging on about this on social media; he is spending it up big time on a billboard campaign:

God forbid the Greens vote against something that Labor refused to negotiate with them on; that was watered down by the Liberals to the point of being utterly ineffective; to something that compensates polluters rather than taxes them.

God forbid that the Greens vote in support of increased tax transparency, while Labor, spitting the dummy because the Greens got something done, are being openly hostile against this legislation.

It is also a bit rich for Labor to be criticising the Greens for voting in support of government legislation; when Labor have voted in support of some of the most draconian legislation that has been put forward by the current government (which I'll compile a list of in a future post). Nevertheless, though, the Young Greens have hit the nail on the head with their response, and their edited version of Labor's billboard:

Given the backlash Sam Dastyari is receiving on his Facebook page over his mudslinging against the Greens, he isn't winning over anybody. He (and indeed Labor too) has opened himself up to a lot of ridicule and quite frankly, he deserves it.

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Greens leader Richard Di Natale wants to be included in the federal election debates leading up to the next election. So he should, I say.

Senator di Natale said the Greens presented an alternative set of policies on climate change and refugees that challenged both Labor and the Coalition.

“Absolutely, I think the time has come to include the Greens in a televised leaders debate,” the Deans Marsh-based senator said.

“When you have the level of representation that we have in the Federal Parliament with 10 senators and a presence in the House of Representative, it’s important that our view be heard.

“One of the great challenges for us is lack of awareness and a leadership debate is one of those times when there’s more focus.”

Aside from this, here is why I think that the Greens deserve to be thrown in with the 'grown ups', per se.

  • The Greens represent more than a million voters. This is compared to the five million voters who voted for the Coalition parties, and over four million who voted for the Labor Party, at the last federal election.
     
  • They have a clear and coherent set of policy positions on a whole range of issues.
     
  • They have been represented in the Australian Senate, and have had its representatives consistently elected into the senate, for more than two decades. They have also been represented in the House of Representatives for nearly two terms, likely to go onto a third following the next election. No other minor party has ever been able to achieve this.
     
  • They are represented in the lower and upper houses of many state parliaments, and have been instrumental in forming governments in Tasmania and the ACT, and have held considerable sway elsewhere holding the balance of power in many state upper houses, as well as federally in the Senate. Again, no other minor party has ever achieved this feat.
     
  • They have been instrumental in forming government at the federal level - the only minor independent non-Coalition party that has been able to achieve this feat.

So yes, if the Greens are to have considerable sway as far as government policy is concerned, and in the event that they do regain the balance of power following the next federal election, they should very well be included in the debates leading up to the election so that more people can know what they are about. A lack of knowledge of what the Greens are about being a common argument used by people who speak against them.

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Looks like there will be some outstanding Greens candidates contesting the two Geelong-based seats of Corangamite and Corio at the next Federal Election. The Greens have announced Patchouli Paterson as its Corangamite candidate:

The casual academic has been preselected as the Corangamite Greens candidate ahead of next year’s federal election, the second time she has stood for public office.

Ms Paterson said Greens leader Richard di Natale and former Greens candidate Lloyd Davies influenced her decision to run.

The Geelong resident was the only contestant for the party’s preselection process, which wrapped up earlier this month.

“I think coal seam gas will be a big issue, particularly with the grassroots groups like Lock the Gate that are active in the electorate,” Ms Paterson said.

“With Richard (di Natale) living locally, it’s a great opportunity to increase our vote.

“More people are starting to understand our views on climate change and refugees, that we’re different to Liberal and Labor and offer a fresh perspective.”

Ms Paterson has worked as a casual academic at Deakin University and has also worked as a migrant support officer.

Some rather impressive credentials there, and a rather good write-up by the Geelong Advertiser too. Needless to say, this bodes well for seeing an outstanding Greens candidate in the neighbouring seat of Corio too.

What's more: Corangamite is going to be a three-woman race at the next election between Labor, Liberals and Greens. Likely the only seat in Victoria where this will be the case.

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There is a serious argument for reform when it comes to parliamentary entitlements, and when it comes to our elected representatives claiming expenses on taxpayers. The recent scandal involving now resigned speaker of the House of Representatives, Bronwyn Bishop, concerning helicopter flights, limousines, private chauffeurs and other such travel expenses, many to private functions and Liberal Party fundraisers, highlights that these scandals are merely a product of a broken system, a system that is in serious need of reform.

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There is often talk among advocates of electoral reform in Australia in favour of reforming Australia's electoral system. The case, when it comes to the House of Representatives, is often to replace the preferential voting system with a first past the post electoral system or, to a lesser extent, replacing the current single-member constituency system with some form of proportional representation. When it comes to the Senate, advocates for electoral reform almost always universally speak of replacing group voting tickets with optional above or below-the-line preferential voting.

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