Last night on ABC TV news Lindsay Tanner filled what seemed to me to be a major omission in Labor candidate for Melbourne Cath Bowtell’s campaign. He appealed directly to Liberal voters to ignore their party’s Green preferencing how-to-vote card and preference Labor instead.
All the Bowtell campaign material I have received is focused on a competition with the Greens for the ‘progressive’ vote. Even the admission that Labor is not as far left as the Greens is phrased in apologetic terms: ‘Unlike the Greens, Labor does not have the luxury of behaving like a single-issue group’ said one campaign letter I received from Bowtell.
But despite the ‘progressive’ vote focus, it is likely that Liberal voters will decide the seat of Melbourne. Indeed, for all the money the Greens spend in Melbourne, and all the buzz their campaign generates, they would have no hope whatsoever of winning the seat were it not for the Liberal how-to-vote card. On the primary vote in 2007 the Greens were actually about 600 votes behind the Liberal candidate. Only the distribution of minor party and then Liberal preferences made them serious contenders.
As regular readers know, I had been unsure as to whether I should preference Labor or the Greens after the Liberals. The party’s decision is a tactical one aimed at creating problems for its main opponent, the ALP.
However I have decided to preference Labor on Tanneresque grounds that overall they are clearly the least-worst from a Liberal voter perspective. On the issue I am most interested in, education, Green policies are mostly very bad.
Their prejudices against private schools I object to but I can see the logic within their own worldview. But in higher education some of the proposals are just ridiculous, eg:
abolish fees for educational services at public universities for Australian students and forgive HECS debts and FEE-HELP debt incurred at public universities
This would write-off $20 billion in debts that students have freely signed up to and add billions to annual recurrent spending to cover the gaps in university income. Even from a ‘progressive’ perspective it makes no sense, because the benefits of this will flow overwhelming to higher-income earners. It reflects continued belief in theory about access to higher education that is not supported by the evidence.
To be sure, there are plenty of daft handouts in the platforms of the other parties. But none of them would deliver so much to a group so clearly not in need.
The Greens are still the flaky party, and I cannot bring myself to preference them above Labor.