The fact that some people preferenced parties or people who I feel have ‘dangerous’ views doesn’t make their choice any less valid than mine. That’s democracy in action.
I was having a chat to a colleague the other day who was disappointed with the way preference votes had meant that their preferred candidate for our electorate of Macquarie didn’t get in in spite of receiving more primary votes.
Louise Markus 38.38% Vs Susan Templeman 35.94%
Susan Templeman 52.38% Vs Louise Markus 47.62%
Louise picked up 9.24% in preferences VS Susan Templeman’s 16.44%
I checked back over the last election results to see how that played out and gain a bit of perspective.
Louise Markus 47.36% Vs Susan Templeman 31%
Louise Markus 54.48% Vs Susan Templeman 45.52%
Louise gained 7.12% with preferences and took a convincing lead. Templeman gained 14.52% preferences but remained well behind.
What I have found interesting in comparing these two election results is that in our marginal seat preferences are important and without them neither party gets over the line. So with that in mind the reality is both of the major parties have to accept that whomever wins does so on the understanding that they owe those that preferenced them the courtesy of being heard. These preference numbers are not insignificant!
Looking at the ballot papers from this time and last we also notice the rise in share of the minor party vote:
2016 Lib/Lab/Green = 85.21%
2013 Lib/Lab/Green = 89.46%
So a 4.25% move away from the three largest parties between 2013-2016 on first preferences may not seem like much but as everyone in Australia now knows it’s that sort of thing that has played out across Australia and resulted in our present situation where the result of the election is yet to be known – maybe that will be cleared up later today.
But back to preferences.
Preference deals were a massive source of suspicion for me when I first learned about the Australian voting system but now I understand it better (and now the senate rules have changed) I see it for the gloriously amazing thing it is!
While it is up to the individual to see their preference as either ‘Well I hate them a little less than I hate that other person’ or ‘I LOVE these guys but I like still really like those too’ the net result is powerful – two votes in one! I have learned that preferences allow us to express very clearly where our aspirational vote lies, especially if it lies outside of the major parties, or with a particular issue that we wish to see represented. This year the Animal Justice Party did quite well in our electorate picking up 2.7% of the primary vote. As a new and tiny party I doubt anyone thought they would end up winning the election but the election result does give some form and prominence to the parties main goals – the ethical treatment of animals, ban on live exports and investment in plant-based food production. Also polling strongly were the Hunters, Farmers and Fishers with 3.78% of the vote and bringing issues such as water security, farm sell off (to foreign owners) and a fair go for farmers. The Australian Liberty Alliance ran on a platform of ‘stopping the Islamification of Australia’ and picked up 1.84% of the vote in our electorate while another far right party the Christian Democrats grew their vote to 3.95% mainly on the back of an anti-marriage equality and ‘safe school’ program platform. So that’s where 12.27% of the electorate I live in put their primary vote with another 2.51% going to the Derryn Hinch Justice Party and the Liberal Democratic party. Quite significant when all told!
I see preference votes as a window into the real feelings of people. These minor parties spring up to feed an unmet need, a point of view drowned out by the mainstream. Now you may well feel that some of these views SHOULD stay hidden but I disagree. Feelings don’t go away by being hidden, they tend to go underground and fester, pushing people to validate their own ideas in more extreme ways. By airing them in a fair and open way like an election we can all see how many people REALLY think like us, we can start conversations, listen and be heard. What I have learned by talking to people who do think and vote differently to me is that there is often much more common ground than difference once all is said and done. Of course, there are always the odd one or two people who set up parties or seek election with no intent on listening to anyone else or challenging their own world view but that’s the same in any sphere of life. Equally there are always the voters that turn up and vote to ‘stir the pot’, deliberately voting for something they are not quite sure about but know it will cause a stir. Just as there are people who really don’t understand what they are voting for when they tick that box but again that’s all part of the system we have.
What worried me most about this election was that in the lead up, the Liberal party were going crazy with an add campaign warning of the dangers of voting for anyone but them – Chaos, More Votes, Fewer Jobs and blah, blah, blah. Well we all know how that plan ended don’t we……..
So why didn’t we listen to the liberal message?
I don’t think it was BECAUSE it was from the liberals that we didn’t listen although for some, that would be part of it. I feel that we didn’t listen for many reasons including the very real fact that to be told that voting the way we WANT to vote is WRONG, DANGEROUS or WRECKLESS really pissed us off. Towards the end of the campaign I got the feeling that Turnbull was really wanting to fill out our ballot papers for us like one of those crazy art teachers who rubs out your drawing of a tree and draws one for you ‘because trees don’t look like clouds on a stick’. You get where I’m coming from?
Preferences happened and preference voting is not going to get any less important while we have the option to use it.
Now if only our politicians would all just grow up and take some lessons from those of us who, like me thought very carefully about which box we gave our number one, two and three vote to as rather than it being a problem it was actually a gift.