Should I preference the Greens in the seat of Melbourne?

Lindsay Tanner retiring from the seat of Melbourne, where I live, creates a dilemma for me. For the last three federal elections I have given Tanner and therefore the ALP my second preference. In the last election Liberal preferences were distributed, so how Liberal voters like myself see the Green-Labor choice can affect the outcome in Melbourne.

However I preferenced Tanner not because he is Labor but because I respected him. I’ve read a couple of his speeches in which he gives a clearer explanation of why markets are necessary than is typically found on my own side of politics. While there isn’t really much evidence that this government could ever make hard spending decisions about current programs, I am willing to believe that Tanner in the Finance portfolio and Cabinet (or the gang of four) at least typically led to less-bad outcomes.

But now that Tanner is going, should I still preference Labor above the Greens?

Labor’s choice to replace Tanner is ACTU apparatchik Cath Bowtell. We certainly don’t need another former union official in the Parliament (though Tanner himself was one long ago). On the other hand Green candidate Adam Bandt is a lawyer, another significantly over-represented group. He is also criticising Labor for not going far enough in repealing WorkChoices, when I think they went too far in repealing WorkChoices. So the candidates are pretty much as bad as each other.

That leaves broader strategic considerations.

The official Liberal view – and the view that has guided the party’s how-to-vote card – is that Labor is the ultimate enemy and that we should do what we can to deny them seats and complicate their electoral task. The rise of the Greens means that Labor is under attack from right and left, and this creates problems for them. On some cultural-symbolic issues such as asylum seekers the Labor-leaning working and lower middle class hold opposing views to the inner city left. Whichever way Labor jump, when these issues are salient it creates problems for them. A strong threat from the Greens causes Labor to spend its political and financial resources in ways that are likely to benefit the Liberal campaign overall.

On the other hand, despite occasional sensible policies (eg gay marriage) overall the Greens are worse than Labor, especially on economic issues. The Green political culture is still prone to sanctimoniousness and flakiness. While I am not generally a fan of Australian trade unions, the task of being a union official grounds activists in the everyday problems of ordinary people, and steers them away from the grand symbolic gestures favoured by middle-class lefties. So do I really want to help get the Greens a start in the House of Representatives?

I’m genuinely not sure what to do here. Any advice?

32 thoughts on “Should I preference the Greens in the seat of Melbourne?

  1. Tim – If the Greens could actually take government, I would preference Labor. Voting for them would be a tactical contribution to causing trouble for Labor.


  2. Usually the simplest answers are the best ones. Read up on the policies and convictions of each candidate and make up your mind. I vote Greens in the senate and find a lot of misapprehension surrounding their policies, so make sure you obtain first hand answers.

    If you vote Green to keep out Labor you’ll only be encouraging lLbor to nominate more progressive candidates that are likely to be less representative of your views. I have never been a fan of this style of voting.

    Finally if you find each candidate on par I think that you should consider that if the Greens are elected that there will be a lot of scrutiny in the electorate as it will become a litmus test for electing the party in the lower house. The increased scrutiny would, if the greens are a serious party, create better results for the electorate.

    I hope that you will keep an open mind, good luck.


  3. Hi Andrew –
    Like you, I have voted for Tanner in the past, but without him I will be voting Green. If it were a choice between electing a Labor govt and electing a Green govt that would be a different matter, but it’s not: it’s a choice between a parliament with 80-something Labor members and one Green, or one with one additional Labor member and no Greens. To me it seems clear that the former is a better option. Having additional views aired in parliament would be good, and given that some 10% of people vote Green I think it’s outrageous that they have no voice in the lower house. As Alex says, it would also mean greater scrutiny for their views, which should push them in the direction of more rational policies.
    I should also say that I’ve met Adam Bandt & find him a generally intelligent and sensible person; like you, I disagree with him about IR, but that’s not one of the most prominent Green issues and I think its importance is overrated in any case. (And presumably Bowtell would also be a voice in caucus for greater regulation.) He’s certainly not “flaky”, and on a number of fairly salient issues – asylum seekers, internet censorship, gay marriage, drugs, Afghanistan – I think his views would be preferable to those of either of the major parties.


  4. PS – I expect you already realise this, but if you do decide you prefer Bandt to Bowtell, you should give him your first preference, otherwise there is a risk he could be knocked out by the Liberal. Conversely, if you prefer Bowtell, you should vote 1 for the Liberal (increasing the risk Bandt will be knocked out) and then preference her.


  5. (assuming I won’t be dobbed in to the AEC….)

    Just don’t vote, or vote informal. Save the taxpayer a couple of bucks. Avoid your brain twisting around in an endless loop wondering which preference is tactically optimal.


  6. I’d like you to justify voting for the Liberals in the first place, if you’re a liberal. What have the Liberal party done for liberalism in the last, oh, thirty years?


  7. If you were in NSW, the answer would be easy: preference the Greens, as NSW Labor deserves every kick that it can get.

    In Victoria, the Brumby Government is a reasonable government, so the question turns purely on Federal politics.

    In such a situation, I do NOT agree with the “worse is better” proposition when dealing with matters of Federal Government, so preference Labor. (I suspect that, like me, you agree with Julia rather more often than Bob.)

    The Greens are well on the way to becoming the inner city equivalent of the Country Party, since those most enamoured of the wonders of nature are those who least have to deal with it and are most shielded from the consequences of their preferred policies, so it may be moot.

    (Charles’s argument that they deserve representation because they get 10% of the vote is already covered by the Senate.)


  8. I’m with Rajat and yourself (comment #3) — since the Greens are not going to get in and no-one is going to listen to their economic policies no matter what, this doesn’t really matter. Alternatively, on areas where people are split, like some social policies, they might have some influence.


  9. Yes. I have long argued that Melbourne liberal voters should take out Tanner by voting Green. Rajat and Conrad have the reasons.


  10. I think should you vote with your feet and move away from that ‘intellectual, caffe latte sippin, cosmopolitan appreciatin, cardigan wearin, self righteous inner city electorate, and move to a place where ‘real aussies’ live.
    You might have to change your blog title, but at least your vote will count!


  11. What are you talking about Baz? Andrew’s vote will count – hence the current Labor spend-a-thon in Melbourne. It’s just that one mainstream party (the Libs) doesn’t have a chance. So are you suggesting that Andrew moves to a more conventional marginal seat – Narre Warren North perhaps (La Trobe)?


  12. anyone who moves from a nice inner city area to a boring suburb for political reasons is a bloody loser. andrew is not.


  13. I do wonder if Labor voters with tactically vote Liberal, and if Liberal voters will tactically vote Green.

    If anyone does decide to tactically vote, keep in mind your first preference gets $2.50 or so, so if you don’t want them to get their hands on the money, give your first preference to some minor party/independent of your choice (and they won’t get paid anyway if they don’t get over 4%).


  14. It is a very easy choice Andrew,

    If you want another term of an ALP government then vote for the ALP.
    If you wish for a change of government then vote green


  15. jttsoon – nice inner city area is an oxy moron, unless of course you’re talking about Southbank – the land of the professional class – God’s country!!


  16. I don’t know if Andrew would be too interested in Southbank, the single man epicentre of Melbourne. So perhaps God’s country if you’re a woman or a gay male, Baz.


  17. Everyone should vote Green…then buy gold bullion…

    Teach our young people first hand what socialism really is…

    Hopefully they’ll be voted out before Clive suspends democracy and the subsequent ‘Great Cull’…


  18. If it were Hamilton running in Melbourne I’d advise you vote Labor. But Bandt seems okay.

    You also need to look at what a Greens MP would mean in the event of a hung parliament. The Greens may have opposed the ETS from the wrong side- but they still opposed it and they are planning on opposing the mining tax. Strong opposition capable of blocking legislation is a GOOD thing for a classical liberals.

    I’d agree with the sentiments Charles, Rajat, Conrad, etc expressed.

    But also I’d preference a minor party [1], even the CEC, as I’d rather no-one get public funding than any major party. Then Libs, then Greens.


  19. wilful

    The Liberals are not, and never have been, a “liberal” party. They started out as a mercantilist bulwark against mid-20th century Communist imperialism, before stumbling into line with the Hawkeating Neoliberal Revolution, after which they regrouped as a party of Quasi-Propertarian Conservatives, with a solid core of reactionary scum and low-IQ thickheads.


  20. What sort of public policy outcomes would you like to see in the next Parliament, Andrew?

    A Green MHR and a larger number of Green Senators will mean that environmental policies will have to be different to the compromises we have seen so far. A diminished Green presence will not see those issues go away, or be buried (yes, that’s Liberal policy, but they won’t win anyway) but they will come out with the same sort of half-hearted but expensive outcomes we have seen so far.

    Either way I doubt there will be much impact in any other area of policy, including gay marriage, immigration, economic policy, defence, Aboriginal issues or anything else.


  21. If you want to damage Labor, vote Green for the House of Representatives. If you want to damage the nation, vote Green for the Senate.


  22. A Green MP for Melbourne will only be a problem for the Labor Party if that denies them a majority because he holds the balance of power. If not, they won’t care, just as Howard didn’t care that several former National Party seats were (still are) held by independents.

    If Adam Bandt does hold the balance of power in the Reps, that will give the Greens a lot of negotiating power. It will be Labor that will form a minority government, a la Tasmania. All those Greens economic policies will come into play; maybe foreign policy too.

    If inner Melbourne Liberals want this outcome, so be it.


  23. Andrew, if i recall the AEC data of the top of my head (I looked at this last year when I thought Tanner was vulnerable) the Lib voters preference Green 84% of the time. I don’t have tim to check it while I write but i do know you won’t be alone if you preference Green.


  24. I’d have more sympathy with Michael’s argument that Greens voters should be content with their Senate seats were it not for the fact that the Nationals, with a lot fewer votes, have ten seats in the Reps. On that basis, I think Greens voters are entitled to feel short-changed.


  25. Andrew, another thing to consider is the implication of your vote for the evolution of the Greens. Bandt’s election would provide the union-allied left of the Greens with a big boost at the expense of what could be termed their environmental faction.

    Greens voters may be flakey inner city trendies, but active members tend to be either red of green. I know Bandt, and he is by no means an environmentalist. He’s a smart labor lawyer who had contempt for the Greens only a few years back. He spotted their rise and saw the chance to do the numbers, get elected, and shape them into a left-of-labor poltical force. Bandt may now pay lip-service to environmental concerns, but its not where his heart is.

    I find the greens flakey, self-righteous, and economically naive; but I think they’ve done us all a service by raising the profile of environmental concerns. I’ll be preferencing Labor (even though I’ll vote Green in the senate) because I’d prefer to minimise the influence of ETU types in the Greens.


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