18 Jul 2012
John Francis’ letter is among several published in The Australian recently which make the erroneous claim that “minorities such as the Greens…exploit the senate’s electoral system”. The Greens are represented there in direct proportion to the votes they received, and they are grossly under-represented in the Lower House by virtue of their widely-spread support.
On the other hand, The Nationals, with about 4% of the vote, have an exaggerated presence in Parliament due to the narrow geography of their support, and have used this to ensure the victory of almost every conservative government in living memory. Now that’s exploiting the system.
John Kidd’s arithmetic is sorely awry in his claim that “the voting system prevailing in the Senate gives the Greens a much higher profile and influence than justified by their direct votes” (Letters, 16/7). Given that the Senate has 76 seats and the Greens polled over 13%, they actually deserve one more than the nine seats they hold.
Robert Carling pretends to read the minds of the millions of Green voters in asserting that they did not know the economic policies they were supporting (“Tax policy devised by party that is green with envy”, The Australian, September 3).
It is equally possible that they fully support tax reforms with a goal of fairness, rather than the ideological propertarianism fashionable at the Centre for Independent Studies. To describe this as “envy” is ad hominem and does not address the tax facts.
Australia remains one of the lowest income-taxing countries on Earth, and our company tax rate is well below that in the United States, Japan, Germany, France and Canada. The Greens’ modest tax proposals would not change this.
Why the cries of hypocrisy at a Greens-Labor deal between the two progressive parties, when the other side is a coalition of opposites: free-market Liberals and rural-welfare Nationals?
“…Labor has lost its mandate, so the Coalition should govern…” (Dennis Robertson, Talking Point, The Australian, September 2). Hold it right there! This argument for mandate-by-default shall henceforth be known as the Abbott Fallacy.
In his desperation to paint the Greens as a threat to our way of life (“Green populism no way to gain office”, The Australian, August 31), Michael Stutchbury resorts to dredging up ancient remarks from Adam Bandt’s student days, hinting at sinister union donations (perfectly legitimate, and chickenfeed by major party standards) and worst of all, the use of gratuitous quotation marks. We are told of “economic rationalist” policies, “biosecurity”, a “green car”, “dumped” imports, all parenthesised as if from a mysterious source, or as if the punctuation marks themselves were marks of derision.
The sources he does name, however, make his bias very clear: Alan Oxley, who is described only as a a “trade expert”, but who is actually a hard-line climate-change denier on the Australia Institute’s “Dirty Dozen” list and currently working as a lobbyist for the palm-oil industry, and some apparatchik from the Institute of Public Affairs, a right-wing think-tank with close links to the Liberal Party. Both predictably bag the Greens, but that is not news, nor honest persuasive writing.
The problem that the global rise of the Green poses for those who seek, in the words of the IPA, “the free flow of capital, a limited…government, the rule of law, and representative democracy” is that the participants in the latter two items on the list may not completely want the former two.
David Burchell’s ‘Harsh light of reality about to hit Greens’ (The Australian, August 30) seems to assert that the very notion of idealism is flawed, and from this dubious premise tries to argue that the Greens deserve no place in our polity.
Whatever Burchell’s opinion of the Greens’ philosophical underpinnings, they received over 11% of the primary vote. Far from having “benefited from the present political situation”, they are in fact under-represented in having won but a single seat. By contrast, the National Party’s 4% earned them seven seats, yet Burchell has no problem with this.
It is unhelpful – and untrue – to dismiss the Greens phenomenon as “a few thousand young professionals in inner-city Melbourne”, any more than it would be to describe as a couple of hundred yokels the electors of the “poor benighted rural independents”, whose views, the numbers tell us, are further from the mainstream than the Greens’, but who are the real beneficiaries of the current impasse.
The Nationals have won seven seats with under 4% of the primary vote, but the Greens, with over 11%, have only one. This is because Green support is spread throughout the nation while National voters are concentrated in a few areas. It is an irony of the single-member electoral system that parochial interests receive more representation in the national parliament than widespread concerns.
It is to be hoped that as the independent M.P.s negotiate over the formation of a national government, they will ignore The Australian’s advice to base their decisions on an unofficial opinion poll conducted in a couple of rural electorates (“Time to climb off the fence”, August 28).
Their allegiances to the far-from-mainstream views which dominate these seats must be weighed against their obligation to the nation as a whole.
A Labor-Green coalition seems the logical next step for both parties. On current figures, together they hold about 50% of the primary vote, to the Liberal-National coalition’s 43%.
But more importantly, they have more in common ideologically than do the Coalition’s members. The undoubted differences between, say, old-school unions and low-growth Greens, pale into insignificance compared to the chasm between small-government Liberals and rural-welfare Nationals, and the general confusion on social issues throughout the Coalition.
But without this strange pairing, conservative national government would be a rarity. It is time the progressive side of politics put aside turf squabbles to level the field in this regard.
Unsurprisingly, The Australian’s editorial finds clear messages in the election result (“It’s a mixed result, but the messages are clear”, August 28) which coincide nicely with the messages The Australian was peddling before the poll.
These messages date back to 1996 when Howard’s spin doctors, notably Andrew Robb, invented “battlers”, supposedly representing “middle Australia”, who stand in contrast to “educated urban elites”, who support Labor. This demographic fabrication is a fortune cookie, in that if you ask almost anyone if they are battling, and in the middle, they will say yes; and if you ask them if they belong to an elite, they will say no.
Who are these elites? The rich? Statistically the very poor vote Labor and the very rich, Liberal, but in between there is no clear connection. The educated? Statistics show a slight Liberal bias among people with degrees. Some kind of exclusive club to which most people are denied access? Oh, come now – but even If so, why are elections always so close?
If anything, this election has shown that people are sick of this kind of divisive claptrap and want a more consensus-driven approach.