(picture from https://au.news.yahoo.com/vic/a/25643733/victoria-election-2014-leaders-cast-votes-ahead-of-expected-tight-battle/)
So another election and another upper house where ‘micro parties’ have the balance of power. The Victorian Legislative Council seems will be controlled by representatives of parties such as the Shooters and Fishers Party, the Australian Country Alliance, Family First, and the Sex Party.
This replicates the situation in the Senate. Where someone like Ricky Muir, of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party, was elected with half of 1 per cent of first preferences; a record low primary vote. Muir was a vital vote for passing the Temporary Protection Visa legislation.
The reason why these parties with tiny votes get elected is because of wheeling and dealing on preference swaps. Calls are being made to reform the system that vote the upper houses.
On election night in Victoria, ABC analyst Antony Green stated that any government moved to another election under the current electoral system, they deserved “to be taken outside and flogged” The Victorian Legislative Council result, he said, was last year’s Senate election “writ large”. It was “a national joke” that elections were still run in this manner.
These preference deals can be quite complicated. However it seems that the way micro parties are able to do this is by seeking the help of people such as Glenn Druery dubbed the “preference whisperer” who advised the micro parties on how to make best use of their preferences through “preference harvesting”.
The problem for me with this is not only that it is inherently undemocratic, but that it seems to elect right wing people. Have a look at the Shooters and Fishers Party which is an political party based on gun rights, global warming skepticism and nationalism. Or The Country Alliance, anti Greens at heart, that wants to ‘restore the timber industry’ including thinning in catchment areas and mandatory sentencing. The views of Family First and the DLP on issues such as same sex marriage and abortion are well known (they are against it). At least the Sex Party seems to have progressive social policies. Although some have questioned its origin as as an exercise in political entrepreneurship by members of the adult industry lobby group the Eros Foundation and as such they are businesspeople whose interests are not necessarily those of their employees and in the past it has championed small business and has been critical of Green taxation policies.
So if we can get fringe groups parties, who are mostly conservative and right wing, elected with a miniscule vote – why can’t a real left wing party like a Socialist one do the same? Not that I necessarily agree with all the policies of a Socialist party, but if we have people in parliaments that have what can be described as off centre right wing views, then we should have also parliamentarians with off centre left wing ones. Such as overthrowing the capitalist system and replacing it with one where elements of the economy are socially owned.
The question is whether a Socialist party would be prepared to do preference deals with parties that may be an anathema to them to get a quota. We have seen the bickering back and forward between the Greens and the ALP about preferences.
— Victorian Greens (@VictorianGreens) November 16, 2014
— Martin Pakula (@MartinPakulaMP) November 22, 2014
As Socialist parties, such as Socialist Alliance, have been very critical of the ALP and even The Greens in the past, they would be open to accusations of hypocrisy if they were to engage someone such as the preference whisperer and do preference deals with parties such as Family First or the Shooters and Fishers Party. But also it seems that these right wing type micro parties are quite happy to exchange deals with each other. Whether the ALP or the Greens would be happy to be seen to exchange preferences to a Socialist party, considering the reaction of a fairly conservative media is also another consideration.
Unfortunately this is the system that we are dealing with. Small parties have to do deals with the devil to get a chance to do get a quota and get elected. So I guess we are stuck with the right wing loonies.