Prahran: Upper house dilemma

Accepting for a moment that Bracks will be returned, albeit with a reduced majority (although one campaigner working at Liberal HQ suggested that the battle was far from over), our attention now rightly turns to the vexing question of who ought control the balance of power in the Legislative Council.

Democrats candidate (and incidentally a former campaign manager of AOTW) from Southern Metro region John Mathieson sent out this email to the true believers... and me as well, for some reason:

In 2006 the voting system has been changed for the Victorian Upper House. Instead of the old system where 22 members were each elected for 2 terms in single member electorates, we now have a senate style voting system where 8 electorates will each elect 5 members. This means for the first time that smaller parties are likely to win seats in the Victorian Upper House. In fact it is more than likely that smaller parties will hold the balance of power in the Upper House. This could maybe be The Greens, or Family First or some of the new dodgy outfits with an unproven track record.

Or it could be a party with a 25 year proven track record of mediation and forward thinking in the Australian Senate such as the Australian Democrats. This year... I am standing, along with my friend, the extraordinarily passionate and dedicated Paul Kavanagh, for the seat of Southern Metropolitan in the Victorian Upper House. Southern Metropolitan covers most of the prosperous areas where you people are likely to be living – from Beaumaris to Port Melbourne to Balwyn to Oakleigh...

I have seen how John Howard has handled his Senate majority “soberly, sensibly and wisely” since he got control of both Houses of Parliament and I’m not too sure he owns the same dictionary as me. Mine is from Oxford, his I think may have been penned by Alan Jones. Howard’s not the first to think that controlling both houses of parliament is a licence to shut down the Democratic process and he won’t be the last. I want to be involved in ensuring that Upper Houses around Australia remain serious Houses of Review and not rubber stamps and that fellows like Howard and his kind don’t get the opportunity to unleash their worst instincts on the Australian public in the future. At the end of the day, why have an Upper House if it is not able or prepared to scrutinize legislation thoroughly and objectively?

It's a fine questions that John poses. It seems most likely that the balance of power will be held by some or all of People Power, Family First and the Greens. Sorry, not the Democrats.

Two of those three prospects are alarming. The thought of a government needing to rely on the support on ideological zealots on either the left or the right in order to pass legislation is a scary one. The Greens and Family First both represent a victory of fundamentalist principles over moderation and compromise.

Which leaves those of us who value a rigourous but functional upper house in a quandry. At best, the Democrats will be a preference funnel for someone else, picking up a percent or two only the have themselves knocked out of the race just a little after the DLP. Perhaps the way out is the great unknown, People Power, who see to have sprung up from nothing, and have taken what can best be described as a scattergun approach to policy? At the moment I'm leaning in that direction, but not with much confidence.

What's a moderate voter to do?

UPDATE 22/11, 11:10AM: One emailer has queried whether my leaning toward People Power was for my first preference. It's not: instead it's my highest preference out of the three in contention for the balance of power. With respect to my primary vote, well, old habits die hard!

Thanks to an anonymous commenter who has pointed me toward UpperHouse.Info, a site to which I've become quite a fan, especially with its election calculators. For the psephologist nerd in us all.


Anonymous said…
As a fellow former true believer like yourself Ari, I've been pondering who to vote for myself. I can't really bring myself to vote for Andy Landy's mates, and neither do the Greens float my boat. So, for the Upper House at least, it'll be Dems, then probably People Power, Greens, ALP, DLP, Liberals, FF.

What's a moderate voter to do?

Vote Democrat of course!

There is no such thing as a wasted vote in our electoral long as you vote below the line and number all the boxes.

And I'm not saying this is probably, or even likely, but if someone gave me 50/1 I'd probably place $10 on the Dems winning the last Eastern metro spot - they could do it with less than 4% of the vote, if things go their way, according to (which is mildly addictive by the way).
Polly said…
Ari, obviously I'm biased, but the Dems have done reasonably well with preferences this time, which makes us an outside chance (but still a chance) in Eastern metro, to a lesser extent Southern metro, and with a smaller chance in South Eastern.
A recent Roy Morgan poll of the senate had us on 5.5% in Victoria, and a recent Roy Morgan poll of the Vic upperhouse had us on 2% in Victoria (and People Power on 1% and the DLP on 1%). Now, we are only standing in the 5 metro regions - so it's highly unlikely that the 2% figure is uniform across the whole of Victoria. Our strongest branches are in the Eastern metro and Southern metro regions, so we should have respectable polling booth coverage, and I'd expect us to poll better than 2% in these regions.
Our candidate, Paul Kavanagh in Southern metro has been campaigning for a year, and will have strong booth coverage, so I think he's a shot to outpoll People Power and pick up the ALP overfllow. This may not be enough to get him ahead of the 3rd Liberal candidate or the Greens - and it's possible the Greens may get the quota in Southern metro.
IT would not surprise me if People Power does better in Eastern metro than in Southern - their candidate Karin Orpen is a former mayor of Knox, and is an experienced and credible candidate - however it's hard to say if she will bring a personal vote outside the City of Knox, so she may get 3% instead of the 1% People Power are polling. If Craig Beale can get 4-4.5% for the Dems then he is in with a real chance.
South Eastern will almost certainly go 3 ALP, 2 LIB, but the ALP vote there last time was inflated by the Robert Dean fiasco, and there could be an anti-tolls backlash. If this is the case, then who knows what will happen with the last seat.
It's still more likely than not that we won't win a seat this time, but an improvement on the 2002 and 2004 vote will show we're heading in the right direction, and give a morale boost to the party as a whole.
Anonymous said…
Ari, the Dems are the only answer - and Antony Green gives them an outside chance!

The Greens have some odd Education policy proposals - from a moderate point of view.

And the People Power justice policy has been written from Herald Sun articles, and has so many gaps and inconsistencies in it, even Kim Beazley could look credible in pointing out how hopeless it is. It also proposes mandatory sentencing for drug users. In any case, I emailed Vern Hughes with a series of specific questions and he has not felt it necessary to answer them, nor has any other People Power candidate to whom I cc-ed the email (questions such as will you abolish the Dandenong Drug Court? Will you abolish the CREDIT program? etc etc etc).

Indeed, the People Power policies resemble nothing more than populist chardonnay wishlists, with no actual substance at all.

As the Libs have now floated manadatory minimum sentencing - which is now being abolished in England by the not very tocuhy-feely UK Home Secretary John 'Lock Up All Muslims' Reid after only three years of existence because it has been a failure, the Libs have lost any moderate pretence (or sense).

This leaves the Dems and the Dems only - with the real fun being how you deal with the issue of preferencing Freeman (ALP), Southwick (Lib) and Pennicuik (GRN).
Alex said…
If you want moderation, you could always vote Labor...
Ben said…
Dear anonymous,
You do not need to number all the boxes on the Council ballot paper. Just number at least 5.

The Legislative Council can do no more than raise bills and delay legislation now anyway. It can't block anything. So I wouldn't worry too much, it's more about who you wnat to reward with a nice office and expense account.

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