LDP – promoting conservatism in the Senate

Over at Thoughts on Freedom, blogger Jim Fryar seems happy enough with the electoral progress of the libertarian Liberal Democratic Party.

But a story in today’s Sunday Age suggests that what I think is the LDP’s first electoral impact in Victoria is, well, not exactly striking a blow for freedom.

Their Senate preference deals, it seems, are helping bring back to life the political fossils in the DLP, with their candidate John Madigan set to win the last Victorian Senate spot. Even Madigan’s occupation – a blacksmith – seems out of another era. He’s an old-fashioned working class conservative Catholic, who wants the shops to shut at 12 on a Saturday and is ‘sentimental about Australia’s diminished manufacturing industry’ (ie presumably wants tariffs back). The ghost of BA Santamaria will haunt the Senate.

According to the Sunday Age

Madigan was helped by preferences from One Nation, the Christian Democrats and the Liberal Democratic Party. The latter is the real surprise: the LDP disagrees with the DLP’s views on gay marriage, stem cells and abortion, but its policy is to preference minor parties before major parties.

I can understand the LDP’s strategy – this last Victorian spot seems to be a lottery in which complicated Senate preference deals can get people with negligible actual support elected, which is the most promising route for a low-profile party like the LDP.

But in this case the cause of freedom would probably have been served better by just about any candidate from the major parties, even the Liberal Madigan looks like defeating, Julian McGauran.

25 thoughts on “LDP – promoting conservatism in the Senate

  1. Actually I would argue that the DLP would have got a greater percentage of the vote had they got any media coverage prior to the election.

    Many people who vote Labor or Liberal would actually support many of the DLPs policies and of course some people won’t vote for a minor party even though they may support its policies. I hosted an event where John Madigan was the speaker and some of the people volunteered feedback after the election, e.g. a 40plus woman told me she had always voted Labor in the Senate but voted for John, and liberal voting 40plus man volunteered that he had voted for John Madigan.


  2. John Madigan is a self employed welder/boilermaker/blacksmith and it is tradesmen such as him that: build our bridges,fences, gates, enable us to have a rail system etc.

    I would argue that Australia’s parliament would benefit from the presence of a few more men and women who are truly able to empathise with the people working in our factories.


  3. Yes Catherine, a fair point. Though for all the criticisms of the former union leaders in Parliament, they do at least typically have plenty of experience in listening to the concerns of working class people.


  4. Say the DLP agree with the LDP on policy 10% of the time and the Liberal Party agree with the LDP on policy 20% of the time. However by doing a preference deal with the other minor parties the LDP triples its chance of being elected. In such a case the risk/ return favours the LDP supporting other minor parties.

    I think that’s pretty close to the reality. The DLP may be marginally worse for freedom (actually given the Senate make up Mardigan’s election is pretty irrelevant) but the election of an LDP Senator would be FAR greater for freedom than the status quo.

    I also think that having another minor party Senator, whatever their colour, is better for democracy than another major party hack, even if it is worse for freedom. As a Liberal Democratic party, however, I think the LDP recognises that one of the best ways of promoting freedom is to promote pluralism and there isn’t much pluralism to be found within the Lab/Lib duopoly.

    I disagreed with Steve Fielding on so many issues, but I’m still glad (by and large) that he shared the balance of power rather than Jacinta Collins or David Risstrom being another rubber stamp for their respective party.

    I don’t see this preference deal as being counter productive at all. And that’s not just for strategic reasons. If Australia had less major party discipline I’d be more inclined to like them, but as it stands I’d take almost any minor party Senator over another major party hack.


  5. This case (and many others) shows the senate voting system needs to be reformed. To get elected, Senators (or their party ticket) should have to poll above a threshold minimum number of primary votes, say 3 per cent.


  6. Son of the Ratpack: All that would do is cause the minor parties to band together into joint tickets.

    The reality of the Victorian Senate results is that the electorate had a strong preference for the last spot to go to a Conservative candidate, but that support was split fairly equally among Fielding, Fryar and McGauran. Given that, it’s entirely unsurprising that it becomes a “lottery” between those candidates. That the three contesting candidates had similar views just shows that the system is working well.

    The distortions in the Senate from to preference deals are due to the fact that voting below-the-line is so unwieldy in the larger States. There needs to be a “third option” for voters – the ability to assign preferences between party tickets, without having to assign preferences between every single candidate.


  7. So who will you vote for now, Jason? If you have a look at where the preferences of all the parties end up, the only other option for a liberal is an informal vote. That might make sense in House seats, but for the Senate it’s pointless irrelevance.

    Avoiding pointless irrelevance is the main point of being involved in a political party.

    The flow of preferences here: http://www.abc.net.au/elections/federal/2010/guide/svic-results.htm

    Incidentally, in exchange for preferencing the DLP in Victoria, we received their preferences in NSW and were nearly elected. If we had been elected and the DLP hadn’t, would that have been OK??


  8. In all probability if Madigan was eliminated before McGauran below the line preference leaks would see Anthony Thow (ALP) over the line anyway. The ALP are on 12.82% before McGauran is eliminated and I’m sure that out of the 8.23% the DLP have by that stage at least another 1.5% would leak back to Labor…


  9. The ghost of BA Santamaria will haunt the Senate.

    Not so in the H of R, where that ghost shall be punching on in the leader of the opposition’s chair!


  10. “All that would do is cause the minor parties to band together into joint tickets.”

    Like the Sex Party and the DLP? I doubt it.


  11. But the DLP, FFP and CDP? They together got over 5% of the vote.

    Is this the first time any state’s elected two minor party candidates to the senate in one half-election?

    I’m all for abolition of GVTs on one condition—compulsory above-the-line preferences. Considering we have only six seats up for grabs, OPV would result in way too much of the vote being wasted. However, considering Victoria adopted the Senate system *after* the 2004 result, I don’t think it’s likely to change any time soon. The majors seem to like it…

    Btw, am I the only person who finds the text box in this blog is too wide to be able to see it all? I thought it was a bug in another browser, but I’ve switched to a completely different one now, and I still can’t see all the width of the commentbox at once. (The text box—indeed, all comments—scrolls horizontally, despite the fact there’s no horizontal scrollbar.)


  12. Alexander -On firefox 3.6.9 and whatever ancient version of Explorer I have at work I don’t have this comment box issue. Which browsers are you using?


  13. I’ve had the problem is Firefox and Galeon (which uses the same rendering engine), and now I’m using Epiphany which uses WebKit (the same as Safari and the Google browser). But when you say it works fine on Firefox, I’ve investigated and in turns out it’s probably due to font size or something. I have a high resolution but physically (relatively) small screen, so I have to use non-standard font size settings. I haven’t checked out the CSS, but I suppose the text box has a width setting set in font-relative units (e.g. ems, point), but the commens column is set in absolute units (e.g. pixels). Any chance they could be harmonised? Thanks.


  14. Alexander – Jacques Chester is the master of all things technical for this blog (and several others in the Australian blogosphere), and I have passed this on to him.


  15. Andrew, I had a look at the CSS. Your page is designed with a fixed width that presumes a desktop browser. You need to add an additional styling page that supports small displays.


  16. At the expense of offending some good friends and associates the LDP’s anti-Liberal position is costing it at the ballot box. If the LDP wants more libertarians to vote for it, it needs to move the major parties up the list of preferences. At present known libertarians may want the majors down the list, but voters tend to go for the majors and tend to vote above the line.


  17. Sinclair, the LDP is not anti-Liberal. The Liberal Party is anti-LDP.

    From direct experience I can tell you the only minor parties the Libs will deal with are Family First and Christian Democrats. Labor, by contrast, is quite pragmatic.

    In any case, there are not many libertarians in the Liberal Party. Most of its members are happy with either tax and spend, or regulate and restrict.


  18. David – there aren’t many libertarians anywhere in Australia. But I reckon they tend to vote Liberal and don’t want to preference minor parties and/or Labor. I’m not convinced that the LDP preference policy is going to work in getting anyone (actually) elected anytime soon. But I understand, everyone’s a critic…


  19. As much as I love to see storms-in-a-teacup like those at 7 & 8, the fact is that a LDPer from NSW would have been cancelled out by the DLPer from Victoria. Another problem with libertarians is their casual disregard, even contempt for politicians who do pretty much what they would hope for but not quite everything. In a transactional political environment it’s hard to warm to people like that, and easy to reciprocate when they express their disappointment at you.


  20. I can’t really see what’s so wrong with this. It’s not like the LDP has the power to have significant political influence anyway, and it’s doing what it was designed to do: provide a pro-freedom alternative people can vote for and, in doing so, provide a broader platform to publicise classical liberal ideas.

    So the question is what it should do with the votes it does get? If a particularly useful preference deal can’t be struck, then mixing up the parliament as much as possible and limiting the major parties doing ‘business as usual’ is as good a strategy as any. It’s better than just giving preferences to the major parties.

    I’ll go out on a limb: considering the LDP has fairly minimal influence and this probably isn’t going to change in the near future, if there is no clear strategy on the horizon to getting a good break eg. an issue that affords them lots of publicity or something, then they’d be better to help the Greens, DLP, etc get some really bad policy through and point out the damage it does! So long as you can justify your preference deal (eg drug legalisation, voluntary euthenasia or just any reason), and it plays out by putting unworkable legislation on the Australian people to the point they actually react, then it’s probably helping the LDPs case!


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