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?