The GetUp! argument for voting Liberal, National or Family First

The activist business GetUp! is running an unusual three-party election ad. It features Greens leader Bob Brown, Democrats leader Lyn Allison, and Labor Senator Kate Lundy under the banner ‘Save Our Senate’. You can watch the ad on their site, but its message is that to restore balance in the Senate voters should support one of the three anti-Coalition parties.

GetUp! supporters will, of course, vote for one of the three left-leaning parties. But I’m not sure that the ad’s logic quite works for other voters. It was never very likely that the Coalition would hold its Senate majority. Indeed, all the polls suggest that Australia is headed towards being a one-party state, in which Labor governments may not be very competent or popular but are nevertheless entrenched in power.

What we need here -as GetUp! itself thinks we have needed over the last three years – is some balance on otherwise unchecked power. But how likely are the Greens and Democrats to provide that in the Senate if they are so close to Labor that they are participating in joint advertising?

So on the logic of GetUp!’s ad, even those who want a change in government and will vote Labor (whether directly or via one of other parties) in the House of Representatives should vote Liberal, National or Family First in the Senate.

8 thoughts on “The GetUp! argument for voting Liberal, National or Family First

  1. Whilst agreeing with what you are trying to say. You have a flawed assumption in that working with someone on advertising suggests that they’re “that close” in policy as well.


  2. “Australia is headed towards being a one-party state”

    Like the Soviet Union was?

    Come off it, Andrew. Australia will continue to be a multi-party democracy even after Labor wins on November 2004, just as it was in 1971, when the Liberals/Country Party were in government in every state and federally.

    “On the logic of GetUp!’s ad, even those who want a change in government and will vote Labor … in the House of Representatives should vote Liberal, National or Family First in the Senate.”

    Alas, your logic is false. 36 of the 76 Senators are not up for re-election. Not even a landslide vote will deliver the Senate to Labor. There will continue to be a large residue of coalition senators, and FF Senator Green, who were elected in 2004. It’s not even certain that the Labor plus the Greens will have the majority in the Senate between them. Mrs Hanson might get up in Qld at the Democrats’ expense, and Nick Xenophon is a racing certainty in SA.


  3. Spiros – No, more like Japan, though I doubt it will last as long. Eventually the Liberal Party will get its act together.

    I never said the election would deliver the Senate to Labor on its own; it won’t. But it is unlikely that the Coalition majority will hold, and of course a strong showing for Labor in 2007 will have implications for their position after the 2010 election.

    Vee has a point. In practice, Coalition-Labor majorities are likely to be as common as Green-Labor majorities in the Senate. That will be part of Labor’s strength, being able to secure majorities from both sides.


  4. Coalition-Labor majorities will exist only if the Coalition decides not to play oppositionist politics in the Senate. Their track record does not inspire confidence.

    Andrew Bartlett at Lavartus made the excellent point the other day that when Paul Keating was trying to get his Native Title bill through the Senate the Liberals just opposed it, full stop. The result? Labor had to negotiate amendments with the two Green Senators which made the bill worse, from the Liberal viewpoint, than the original Labor bill, much less the bill they could have neogotiated with Labor, had they had the wit to do so.

    The Senate numbers post election in any case are very hard to predict. It’s possible that that there will be more than one group holding the BOP; the Greens, and Fielding + Xenophon + maybe Hansen. Much will depend on whether the Liberals hold their Senate seat in the ACT.


  5. The one party thing won’t last. Corruption will get some of the State governments. It is really a pity that the State Liberal Parties are so weak.

    In addition, it will be hard for things to get better, and should they get worse the Liberal Party should have an easy job of placing blame on Labor. Given that in Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Costello the Liberals have two strong candidates to be leader.


  6. Spiros – Unfortunately I can’t find Senate voting statistics from the early 1990s. But generally the major parties vote together more often than people would expect, because usually only the conflicts are reported. Opposition MPs will often move motions with words to the effect of ‘While not opposing this bill, we condemn the government for x, y & z.’

    In Stanley Bach’s book on the Senate, for example, he wrote that in 2001 the Opposition voted with the Greens during divisions 24 times and with the government 35 times. In 2000, they voted with the Greens 51 times and with the government 60 times.

    This is not very suprising; both the Liberals and the ALP are parties seeking the support of median voters, while the Greens need only worry about a left-wing fringe.

    We are likely to see the same pattern during a Rudd government, especially if he is as conservative as he appears to be. Will the Liberals vote against Labor’s tax cuts because they are slightly different from what the Liberals proposed themselves? It’s very unlikely.

    And on things that Labor has campaigned heavily on, mandate ideas may sway the Liberals to pass them. I expect they will let Labor’s WorkChoices repeal go through.


  7. The Liberal Party always becomes a rabble in opposition. The federal (yes, I still use the word) Liberal Party has had John Howard in or near a leadership role for the past 26 years. Menzies was only around for 22. The iron discipline of government would simply be gone, and replaced by the careening egos we have seen in recent weeks. While the “one party state” thing is overblown, the Liberals and Nationals will go through a protracted period of weakness at the federal level as memories of “the good times” fade.

    What can’t/won’t hold is this snobbery against state governments. It is very likely that Labor will reshape state/federal relations, and that the next Liberal governments will be state ones. Not all Coalition staffers will find employment with Crosby-Textor and so state politics will be a more vigorous contest than it is/they are now.

    The argument for voting Family First can’t be made because its time has passed. The argument for voting National is best made by Senator Joyce, who is not a candidate at this election but who has his imitators. Joyce posits such a stark difference from the Liberals that it is easy to believe that Coalition relations will be fraught from here on in. The argument for voting Liberal is much like that for voting Liberal in the lower hhouse: ohhhh come onnnnnnnnnn, just one more, please? Please? Hardly appealling, and bound to be less so once the disarray of opposition becomes apparent.


  8. After due consideration I have decided that John Howard may be the only government member who desires to win the 2007 election, the others having decided that he has past his use-by-date and will be blamed for the sins of the coalition. If they lose, then contenders for the leadership will explain that ‘it is not my fault’ and, will shelve the responsibility for the coming economic woes onto the incoming labour government with the explanation that ‘labour has ruined the economy in the “x” years they have been in power’.
    Tony Abbott certainly seems to be assisting this cause and if they get Kevin Andrews speaking I will know I am right.


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