The hilarious reincarnation of the DLP

The surprise election of two Democratic Labor Party candidates to the Victorian Legislative Council has bloggers appalled. ‘Proportionate my arse’ says Urban Creature. ‘For crying out loud, not again’ laments GrodsCorp. ‘Mr Lefty’ condemns the ‘unbelievable f***ing hypocrites in the ALP’, whose preference deals helped it happen.

But more than any of this, it is just hilarious. I burst out laughing when told the news last night. The Democrats should not give up! Kim Beazley should not give up! If the DLP can come back to political life, anyone can. And the irony of Labor preferences bringing back the people who kept them in Opposition for so long makes it all the more amusing.

People say that proportional representation is more democratic than single member electorates. But what it seems to do in Australia is elect candidates that have negligible primary vote support, but manage to stitch up preference deals with the major parties that the PR system was designed to balance.

10 thoughts on “The hilarious reincarnation of the DLP

  1. It’s not proportional representation to blame. It’s the absence of above the line preferencing (you either give a party total control over your vote by marking “1” or you have to number 30-70 boxes below the line). It’s the bizarre inclusion of regions in the upper house, where they’re completely superfluous and just result in it being more difficult for minor parties to achieve a quota, and therefore more likely that preference arrangements will decide the last seat or two.

    The solutions are obvious: permit above the line preferencing, and make the upper house one single electorate. (We already have local electorates in the lower house.)

    Abandoning proportional representation would be more undemocratic than the present system.

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  2. What MrLefty said. Oh, and preferential voting should *always* be optional.

    Trouble is, compulsory preferences and no above the line preferencing suit the wheeler-dealers down to the ground – it takes power away from those unreliable voters and gives it to the party machines.

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  3. They should just introduce the minimum primary vote threshold they have in other proportional representation systems, I think it is 4% in New Zealand and Germany. That would stop parties like Family First or DLP getting seats until they get more primary support, Greens would still be ok given their 9% or so of primary support.

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  4. I would also mostly agree with MrLefty. The voting system has to be changed so that a voter must either preference all parties/groups above the line OR preference all candidates below the line. Victoria should be made one electorate in UH elections. We should definitely avoid dilution of PR voting. Its introduction into Victorian UH elections is probably Brack’s best achievement. If anything there should be PR in the Lower House as well (or at least half and half like in NZ).

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  5. I agree with DD that preferential voting should be optional. However, in the Victorian upper house it is (pretty much). If you vote below the line, you only have to number as many boxes as there are seats (ie 5) – not 30-70 as Mr Lefty would have it. Unfortunately, if people have no more interest in politics than to follow the party how-to-vote card they (and we) get the result they deserve. Though I do agree that the major parties do seem to have some problem in thinking their preference deals through to their logical conclusion.

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  6. You’d want to confirm this with a more expert source, but from what I heard optional preferential was part of the problem here, as the ballots of those who had not filled in all the squares were exhausted, leaving the party tickets to fill out reduced quotas.

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  7. Don’t we see these sorts of results from PR all the time? Notionally it’s terrifically democratic, but in practice it’s the reverse (Cf. Israel).

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  8. “Victoria should be made one electorate in UH elections” – How will that fix things, in NSW the upper house is one electorate and they have weird parties elected too like Outdoor Recreation Party etc. My view is just keep current proportional representation system, with current upper house electorates but introduce the 4 or 5% threshold…

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  9. Andrew, it’s the group ticket voting that produced these results – get rid of group ticket voting, introduce preferences above the line (perhaps compulsory), and you’d have less “random” outcomes.

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