Thursday, August 19, 2010

So this election I'm voting Greens 1, Labor 2, and I'm putting the COALition last

Only two more sleeps until the federal election and I'll be glad when it's done; it's been a most dispiriting and depressing campaign. If Australia used an electoral system like the US or the UK, I would have no hesitation in saying vote Labor. Indeed on any comparison between Labor and the Liberal/National COALition, Labor deserves to win. On Health, for example, Labor has a plan involving all but one of the States (and the recalcitrant WA will come on board in time) to revamp the health system. It doesn't address mental health or dental health but it's a start. And Julia Gillard has released a small scale mental health policy focussed on suicide prevention. Tony Abbott has released a large scale mental health policy but it's being funded by cuts to Labor's other health initiaitives including axing the new Superclinics. The COALition want to put funding into existing private GP clinics instead. However as Jennifer Doggett points out

Overall, this system has provided convenient and accessible care to many Australians much of the time. It is well designed to cope with acute and episodic care for people living in the cities who don’t have complex health or social problems.

However, there are large groups of Australians for whom this system is not working.

For example, rural, regional and remote communities frequently experience shortages of doctors as most GPs prefer to work in cities.

She also observes that people with chronic and complex conditions likewise aren't serviced well by private GPs.

Abbott is also planning further cuts to the Pharmaceutial Benefits Scheme and the privatisation of Medibank Private to boot. Furthermore the COALition's past record on health under Howard does not give me any confidence that an Abbott gov't has any idea of what to do on health except to outsource and privatise and maximise doctors' incomes.

Housing and homelessness is another area Labor has really made a difference in office. Tanya Plibersek, the relevant minister, has by all accounts done a superb job here. The COALition in office really ran down Australia's public housing stock and Abbott himself can only misquote Jesus to put the blame on the homeless themselves for their homelessness and explain away the need for any gov't action to address the issue. I should also point out that in office Labor did mitigate some of the worst aspects of Howard's brutopia, his use of welfare as a weapon of class war against the poor and vulnerable. Abbott for what I can see promises more of the same.

The National Broadband Network. This project alone is reason enough for Labor to be returned. It's a crucial piece of infrastructure that brings Australia into the 21st century. Tony Abbott proposes to axe it and proposes a half baked wireless scheme that shows he's still looking back to the past. But it highlights the whole problem with the COALition's approach to infrastructure, which as Grog's Gamut points out is a matter of 'Can't someone else do it?' The Libs/Nats are fundamentally lazy and prefer it if someone else does the heavy lifting.

Which brings me to the stimulus. If you listen to Abbott, Hockey and co Labor's stimulus package was a disaster for the country and they have done nothing but carp and whinge and lie about very aspect of the stimulus. And they keep going on and on about debt. The fact is that there was a global financial crisis and most of the industrialised world is still in a pretty bad way. Australia stands out for its success story. Mining didn't save us from recession when it came to the crunch; it was Labor's stimulus instead. As well as saving jobs, the stimulus package also provided valuable infrastructure (there's that word again) in schools and elsewhere. And given the global financial system is still shaky, the way that Abbott and Co harp and whinge and lie about the stimulus package does not give me much confidence in their ability to effectively handle another global financial crisis if things got rocky again, which they could given the state of the US.

Climate change. Tony Abbott is only Opposition Leader because the climate sceptics in the Liberal Party rebelled against the deal stitched between Labor and Malcolm Turnbull to implement an emissions trading scheme. Granted it was not the world's best scheme and gave out heaps of handouts to polluters, but even this was too much for the climate sceptics in the COALition who appear to be the majority and, if we can believe him, includes Tony Abbott himself. They certainly include Andrew Robb, touted as the Liberal smart man, and who played a key part in the overthrow of Turnbull and failure of the ETS. Lets face it any party that doesn't accept the facts of climate change is just not fit to govern.

Asylum seekers. Labor did get rid of the worst aspects of the Howard govt's treatment of asylum seekers, including ending the so-called Pacific Solution. Not only does Abbott promise to bring it back but the COALition jumped at every opportunity to lie and whip up xenophobic hysteria about asylum seekers coming here on boats. And it did so, playing to the most negative and mean spirited aspects of the collective pysche purely for political gain. These people are cruel but their cruelty is completely calculated. You just have to look at Phillip Ruddock who sold his soul for the perqs of office and literally died as a human being. He's still in Parliament, a moral husk, a zombie, cadaverous now. This sort of stuff is poison, spiritual poison and I say people who want to promote and drink that sort of Kool Aid are not fit for government.

Mention of Ruddock also highlights the degree of talent in the Opposition or should I say lack of talent. When I look at their front bench, the vacuous Julie Bishop, the preposterous Bronwyn Bishop, the ludicrous Christopher Pyne, the ridiculous Barnaby Joyce, the thoroughly toxic Kevin Andrews, the lazy Jo Hockey, the ruthless Andrew Robb, I mean really could anyone put government in their hands? And I could go one with Peter Dutton, Warren Truss, the totally venomous Sophie Mirabella. Is it any wonder that Malcolm Fraser, apart from Howard the only other living Liberal Prime Minister, left the party earlier this year because of its direction?

Labor on the other hand does have talented people and caring people, too, many of them. I've already mentioned Tanya Plibesek.

Now as I said, if we had a US or UK style electoral system, I would have no hesitation in voting Labor. But I would have to hold my nose too. Unfortunately Labor has decided that to win office it needs to play down or even forget its record and instead follow Tony Abbott in the race to the bottom. It's done so on asylum seekers and it has behaved disgracefully on climate change and ETS. Julia Gillard's policy of holding a citizens assembly to reach a consensus on the facts of climate change is a disgrace, especially as both sides went to the polls in 2007 with policies to establish an ETS. Both sides. The COALition have dumped theirs completely and Labor doesn't want to do anything without a consensus, at least for now. The irony is the majority of Australian want an ETS. In part Labor has been cowed by the media. And that's the other factor in this mess. The Australian media have in the main behaved disgracefully. Certainly over the last 8 months I don't think I've seen anything so bad since the days of the Whitlam gov't in the 70s when the newspapers turned a full blitzkrieg on Labor with the intent, especially in the Murdoch camp, to bring it down. That's happened this time too. Constant attack and lies, even giving major space to the most bizarre climate change sceptics.

And then there is Labor's proposed internet filter. I don't know why they are so doggedly pursuing it. Perhaps originally it might have been to win support off the Family First senator and serial fool, Steve Fielding. But he'll be gone after this election well when his term expires middle of next year. Let the filter go with him!

Luckily Australia has two electoral systems federally. In the lower House, we have a preferentially determined electorate system. I get to number the candidates standing or my electorate in order of preference and the candidate who gets the majority of preferential votes wins the seat. In the Senate we have a preferential list system, a little like some European systems I think. There are 6 Senate positions for Qld (and in each of the other states too). The Senate voting system especially favors minor parties getting up.

Once upon a time the Australian Democrats held the balance of power in the Senate which meant that the government of the day had to negotiate with them to get legislation through if it didn't have Opposition support. This process actually worked a lot of the time. The Democrats were centre left which also helped for a range of progressive concerns. There was a tie when it seemed that every second gay boy was a member of the Democrats.

The Democrats self-destructed badly in the Howard years but now we have The Greens. They're fairly progressive and as the name indicates are strong on environmental issues and policy. They are opposed to the demonising of asylum seekers, they are opposed to the internet filter and they strongly support action on climate change including establishing an ETS. They're in the Senate already and this time around they will probably get a senator elected from Qld. The COALition have 4 senators up for re-election, which would be a miracle, and Labor 2. So I'll be giving my first preference to the Greens and then, voting below the line, to Labor and down to the Liberal National party (luckily in Qld they amalgamated) last. That way I can send a a message to Labor too that I do not approve of the shift to the Right they've taken and ensure a progressive presence in the Senate that's not subject to ALP discipline.

In the lower House, I'm in the Labor held seat of Brisbane. Changing demographics mean that the incumbent. Arch Bevis, has a tough fight on his hand. This year the Greens are running Andrew Bartlett, former Democrat senator for Qld, as their candidate. I have a bit of time for Andrew and so I'm giving him my first preference with Labor's Arch at number 2. If Arch has to rely on Green preferences to get back, all the better. It once again sends a message to the ALP powers that be that the direction they've been taking the party is the wrong one and they need to change course.

I think it was Paul Keating who said, change the government and you change the country, and it's quite true. Whitlam changed this country immeasurably for the better, Hawke and Keating brought in major changes some good, some not so. Howard took this country down some very disturbing paths and we're still trying to rid ourselves of the most noxious aspects of the Howard years. Tony Abbott was groomed by Howard. He heads a group of people outstanding for their shortsightedness, complacency, nastiness and laziness. Furthermore, Abbott is promising a renewed class war on the poor and vulnerable (including further cuts in higher education on programs that support poorer students) plus complete refusal to acknowledge the reality of climate change. In other words, he will extend class war to the biosphere and to future generations too. On all those accounts he and his crowd do not deserve government at all.

On the other hand while Labor does deserve govt simply on its handling of the global financial crisis it also needs a serious kick up the backside. For that reason I will be voting Greens 1, Labor 2, and I will be doing my best to contribute to an Opposition loss by putting them last.

UPDATE Grog's Gamut on the election campaign and polling on day 34 of the campaign

And the 'psychic' croc calls it for Julia

FURTHER UPDATE 10 Reasons Not to Vote for Tony Abbott


  1. Michael, you are far too idealistic about Labor, since they too form part of the political sub-class, or rather, one faction of the pro-capitalist party that includes the Libs and Nats etc. Thankfully I was out of internet contact for 8 weeks so I missed the campaign.

  2. While I have to agree Michael is a bit too idealistic about Labour, and I think we need not just a party but a different mode of representation in the house, it's a pretty good summary all the same.

    He omits the interesting point astrologers had forecast voter confusion weeks ago due to holding election day the day Mercury turned apparent retrograde. That was a promise of what's happened. Indecision, recounts, possibly a new election needed, delays till nearer Merc goes direct to have whatever they will be able to manage.

    Though he was a taskmaster, Rudd shouldn't have been dismissed just before an election. Gillard was besides given her various beliefs like the atheism a divisive figure and there were people on TV saying they couldn't vote for such a person (as though we are now running presidential type personality based elections, but we pretty well are, like it or not)

  3. Roland, show me a party that isn't part of the political sub-class. I don't think I'm idealistic but realistic. They might all be part of the political sub-class but that doesn't mean they are the same. When I vote I vote strategically with the aim of at least ensuring the least harm. While I might hold my nose with Labor, they will cause a lot less harm and maybe some good, unlike Abbott's mob who have already declared their intention to come a hunting for the weak and vulnerable. On that basis alone, the COALiton deserved to go last. I put the Greens first to pressure Labor and in the SEnate to ensure a strong progressive voice to keep pressure on Labor. I don't have illusions abotu the Greens either,; I worry particualrly that many I have met don;t have a clear social democratic consciousness or awareness of class issues. I am encouraged by the ETU support for them in Vic

    Rollan I think the one thing about the election is how Gillard's religious beliefs, really weren't that much of an issue for most people. Fortunately Australia is not the US where uncritical adherence to religious platitudes carries weight. On that basis Abbott would have gotten up and that man represents the worst aspects of religious belief. Even worse, he and that toxic Kevin Andrews are Catholic but show no adherence in any way to traditional Catholic social justice teachings

    I think overall the result has turned out quite well. A slap in the face for the political class and a chance for a Labor minority govt with both Greens and Independents. Labor will be kept in its toes and might even govern more social democratically. We might even get a decent emissions trading scheme out of it. Astrologically it augurs well for Pluto's transit across Australia's Sun in 2013, which happens to be the next election year.

    As for Rudd, while I thought it was stupid to dump him and go to an election so soon, I had no illusions about him either,especially given his history in Qld, including on LGBT issues and also stuff I experienced with his office in 2007. I'm grateful he got up then and he did a lot of good but I was partisan for Rudd.

  4. "but I was partisan for Rudd." should read 'but I was never a partisan for Rudd.'