Why Labor voters in Melbourne need to vote Liberal

In the 2002 French presidential election it came down to a run-off contest between the conservative Jacques Chirac and the nationalist firebrand Jean-Marie Le Pen, after the left candidate Lionel Jospin was eliminated. Showing they had not lost their sense of humour, French leftists set up a shower outside a polling booth, to wash themselves after voting for Chirac to keep the lunatic Le Pen out of the Élysée Palace.

Labor voters in the seat of Melbourne may need to do something similar this Saturday. In what may be a first for Australian major party politics (or at least very rare), the only way Labor can guarantee itself victory in this seat is to boost the Liberal vote.

Their problem is that if the Liberals are eliminated before the Greens their preferences will run heavily against Labor. The figures on Antony Green’s website suggest that about 85% of Liberal preferences went to the Greens in 2007.

Yet if the Greens are elmininated first, Labor is headed for the kind of crushing victory over the Liberals it achieved before 2007, because Green preferences overwhelmingly flow to Labor.

As noted in an earlier post, the Liberals were about 600 votes ahead of the Green primary in 2007, but fell behind after distribution of minor party preferences. The donkey vote was helping the Greens in 2007, as it is again this time. I’m not sure how (or whether) the minor parties this time are directing their preferences. The most eye-catching is the Australian Sex Party.

But unless there have been some demographic changes in the seat since 2007, it’s likely that the Liberal base will again not be large enough to get Green preferences distributed to Labor. But a couple of thousand Labor voters voting Liberal with a second preference back to Bowtell (just in case it is not enough) should see off the Green menace.

It would be the ultimate in tactical voting – but a tactic that is very difficult to implement.

22 thoughts on “Why Labor voters in Melbourne need to vote Liberal

  1. Rolling things together: I agree that green sentiment inspired bush maintenance policies that endangered lives, water I think we can work around we more efficient usage though.

    On tactical voting: I find this notion abhorrent and a subversion of democracy. We have preferential system of voting which entitles individuals 1 full valued vote in a competition of candidates, and if Labor faithful did engage in this, then I would hope that either the Greens or Liberals won the seat based on true democratic representation!


  2. additionally as shown by many posts in the previous thread, the Greens need to win more seats so that they will have proper scrutiny applied to their policies and outside pressure to conform to a coherent platform.


  3. I think it’s good the Greens have a seat given how many people vote for them. Also, comparing the Greens to Le Pen example isn’t a very good analogy given the massive differences between them (both in terms of policies and the number of votes collected).


  4. Fascinating post Andrew. I guess it makes sense that if Liberal voters vote tactically (putting Greens ahead of Labor even though they actually prefer Labor to the Greens), it forces Labor voters to do the same, but in a far more mercenary and harrowing manner. Delicious!


  5. Hi Andrew –
    As noted before, I disagree with your evaluation of Labor vs Greens, but for anyone who prefers Labor your recommendation to vote tactically is entirely logical. Preferential voting is a pretty good system because there aren’t often opportunities for tactical voting, but I don’t see any moral issue about taking advantage of them when they’re there. Every system will have them somewhere – that’s Arrow’s theorem. And BTW it’s “Jospin”, not “Jaspin”.


  6. Conrad – The analogy was just about the distasteful nature of tactical voting; I don’t think there are any parallels beyond that.

    Charles – Thanks for the spelling correction.


  7. This is why I prefer a Condorcet counting method to an IRV counting method. The preferencing would happen in the same way, the count would just limit tactical voting. It would see more honesty for the major parties on their HtV cards too, they would be less likely to put each other last.


  8. I’ll echo Shem’s sentiment here. Labor supporters voting Liberal, Liberal supporters voting Green, this silliness would be avoided whilst still allowing (even optional) preferential voting with a Condorcet count.

    Condorcet count is simple. If a candidate beats every other candidate 2PP, they win. If there’s a loop of candidates who beat each other (e.g. A beats B, B beats C, C beats A, which wouldn’t happen very often) split them in some way, first preferences count would be the easy way to do it.

    This avoids these silly situations where who wins depends on who gets eliminated first, and at the same time, whilst still ensuring that the winner of the 2PP count wins the seat.

    Would that make me the first candidate in Australia to advocate Condorcet count for the lower house?


  9. “Would that make me the first candidate in Australia to advocate Condorcet count for the lower house?”

    I should have done a little research. Obviously Shem takes that honour, oops.


  10. ALP voters should only do as you suggest Andrew if they actually favour ALP policies of pandering to bigots on asylum seekers and gay marriage, surrendering veto over policy to the mining thugs, abandoning action on climate change. That, after all, is the only way one can reasonably interopret ALP voters defecting to the Liberals. That is how the rightwing of the ALP would interpret it — Bowtell up against ALP voters.

    Oh and inaddition, those 2000+ ALP voters would be funnelling about $4600 to the Liberal Party as a bonus.

    It would complet the irony of course. Not only does the ALP have Liberal policies, but its “leftists” actually vote Liberal.

    If the ALP did win Melbourne in this way, it would simply underline how coercive and ethically bankrupt this system and its major parties are.


  11. Fran, you don’t have to vote liberal first. Voting Secular Party first, liberal second, and labor third keeps your $2.50 out of liberal coffersm expresses some of your values and minimises the chance of a Green win. I agree with you about Labor sell-outs but those who know her say Bowtell is an outstanding candidate who will push hard for progressive policies in the ALP.


  12. “If the ALP did win Melbourne in this way, it would simply underline how coercive and ethically bankrupt this system and its major parties are.”

    Not at all. Bandt is not likely to be the preferred candidate by a majority of Melbourne residents; as the post noted he is only a contender because the Liberal Party has put a tactical judgment ahead of a policy/ideological one. Labor should counter with another tactic to show that its candidate is preferred.

    And Peter’s point is correct about the funding.


  13. Were I in Melbourne I would almost certainly put the secular party before the ALP, but personally, I am going to vote informal — voting 1 for the Greens and then ranking both ALP and Liberal equally (but in front of the absolute crazies in my electorate)

    From a left-Green perspective, I see both parties as equally unacceptable. I simply can’t vote for mining thug rule, for beating up asylum seekers and bigotry in general and for the total abandonment of action on climate change. I also can’t vote for school chaplains and against gay marriage.


  14. Fran if your first preference is clear does it count? The condorcet method sounds absolutely fantastic, I wonder how it would effect electing non-major party representatives.


  15. [Fran if your first preference is clear does it count?]

    It should, IMO, but in practice it won’t. When I scrutineered at the Bradfield by-election the RO declared that if two “24s” or two “23s” was the only error, then the vote would stand, but this ruling was apparently eccentric.


  16. Condorcet is good when you have three or more popular candidates, such as in Melbourne. But in a seat where only two parties are popular (which is most of the country), then if the major parties each put the other last on their how-to-vote cards, close results could end up going to the no-name independents who have hardly any real support.


  17. Good point David …

    Limiting myself to systems that have the proverbial snowflake’s chance in hell of being adopted …

    I’d prefer a modified PR system. It would be possible to have a PR system that didn’t expand the number of MPs and which retained some scope for local and regional candidates to be elected. If anyone is interested, I will explain how this could be done.


  18. Andrew, as you say, the Greens could only win Melbourne because of Liberal preferences. The same goes for Wilkie in Denison. Labor is also vulnerable in the future in seats like Grayndler and Sydney for the same reasons. But the Coalition has also lost or is also vulnerable to independents in other areas. So to me, the solution is obvious (if not practicable) – a preference deal between the Coalition and Labor in particular seats whereby the weaker party agrees to preference the stronger party but not vice versa. So the Libs would preference Labor in Melbourne and other inner city seats, but not the reverse, lest this turns off prospective Labor voters. In return, Labor would preference the Coalition in regional seats, but not the reverse. It won’t work for the Coalition in New England, but it could get O’Connor back and it might work against Bob Katter in Kennedy and Robert Oakeshott in Lyne. It seems to be the only way to check the long term splintering of the electorate in a way that is likely to encourage rent-seeking behaviour.


  19. Rajat – I suspect tactical deals will be hard to pull off, despite their electoral logic. In Melbourne the primary result was very different to last time, with the Greens thrashing the Liberals on primary votes instead of coming in behind. So my ALP activist based strategy would not have worked because they were losing too many primary votes to the Greens.


  20. Well at least the pre-election feminist spin against Abbott has been consigned to the dust bin of history. Which vindicates Andrew Norton’s several posts on the subject.

    When given the clear choice I would guess that women were more likely to vote for the hairy-chested conservative male Abbott rather than the “you go, girl!” Gillard.

    Educated females may use their fore-brain to mouth worthy-but-dull feminist platitudes. But their hind-brains remain fixated on more primeval subject-matters.


  21. We have just had an election campaign where both major political parties have fought over right wing crap. How should we spend half a billion dollars keeping a few thousand unfortunate people arriving on our shores.

    It is with some humor that I watch Australian Politics lurch to the left.

    And I must accept I was wrong, with the Labor party putting in a gallant effort, Abbot was almost electable.


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