January 20, 2015

Horse 1826 - "Just Bin Your Vote" Is What Campbell Newman Actually Means

PREMIER Campbell Newman, promising to slash water bills for a million households in southeast Queensland, has implored voters to “Just Vote 1” at the January 31 election.
“If you number every square you are voting for a hung parliament,’’ he said.
- Steven Wardell, Courier Mail, 19th Jan 2015

In the 2015 state election campaign for Queensland, Premier Campbell Newman has launched a slogan to tell voters to "Just Vote 1" on their ballot. Owing to the fact that Queensland has Optional Preferential Voting, this isn't illegal. However, owing to the way that preferential voting works, it is basically telling less educated and vulnerable people, to throw away their vote. If it isn't actually illegal then I suppose that a case cannot be mounted against it but it is scurrilous - I bite my thumb at this knave.

Preferential voting works quite simply. Voters are asked to rank their choices from most favoured to least favoured.
All of the votes numbered 1 are tallied. If no candidate has achieved 50%+1 of the votes, then the smallest pile is taken and they then look for the 2s on those ballot papers and allocate then accordingly. If still no candidate has achieved 50%+1 of the votes, then the next smallest pile is taken and they look for the 2s or the 3s if they were 2s and allocate them accordingly. This process is repeated until one candidate had achieved 50%+1 of the votes. Thus under a full preferential system, the candidate who does finally win, has the actual authority of at least half of the voters.
This would be the same as having a series of run-off votes and eliminating one candidate each round. By numbering preferences, these rounds happen instantly; hence the other name for Preferential Voting: Instant Run-Off Voting.

In Australia, voting was made compulsory for a very good reason. The very point of parliamentary democracy is that those who govern do so with the consent and authority of the governed. Democracy itself comes from the two Greek words "demos" which means "the people" and "kratos" which means rule. 50%+1 of votes where some of them have been thrown away just doesn't seem like democracy to me.

Full preferential voting was introduced in 1919. The by-election for the Western Australian Division of Swan in 1918 illustrates perfectly why preferential voting is important. All.elections in those days were conducted under the first-past-the-post system: whoever had the most votes won.

Edwin Corboy - ALP - 6,540 - 34.4%
William Hedges - Nat - 5,635 - 29.6%
Basil Murray - CP - 5,975 - 31.4%
William Watson - 884 - 4.6%

Corboy  won the election with only 34.4% of the vote. This means that 65.6% of the electorate didn't vote for him. How can you call it democratic when almost two-thirds of the electorate didn't approve of the winning candidate. If you have ten people at a dinner party and four people like fish but the other six absolutely hate fish, then you've just served something unpalatable to more than half your guests. The decision of who has the consent of the people to govern them is more important than having fish for dinner and if it goes badly, the result stinks for more than just one evening.
Under Optional Preferential Voting, the number of votes required instead of 50%+1 of all votes, is now reduced to only 50%+1 of all still active votes; when votes have been discarded, it becomes far far easier to achieve a result.

So what happens in Optional Preferential Voting? Suppose for instance that a vote with only a single number 1 on it is in one of the smaller piles. What happens to it when that candidate is eliminated? With no number 2 where does that vote go? The answer is nowhere. Throw the vote into the bin for all the difference it makes. Use it for toilet paper. What's the thickest tissue in the bathroom you can issue? Unmarked voting paper.
Campbell Newman's "Just Vote 1" campaign is asking voters to do precisely that. It would probably suit his party if there was such a thing as optional voting because generally poorer people will tend to vote against nominally conservative political parties. If you can encourage them to throw their voting paper into the rubbish bin, then these parties benefit; I think that Campbell Newman knows this.

The real irony is that the whole preferential system itself was introduced for the 1919 General Election following that Swan by-election. What happened was that under the first-past-the-post system, the conservative vote was split between the Country Party and the Nationalist Party. PM Billy Hughes introduced preferential voting so that the two conservative parties wouldn't put each other at risk in the same electorate. That doesn't happen in Queensland anymore because their successors of the National Party and the Liberal Party have formally united in Queensland to form the Liberal-National Party (LNP).

Three years ago the tactic worked perfectly and caused possibly the biggest landslide in Australian political history at any level of government. The statement that “If you number every square you are voting for a hung parliament,’’ is I think an outright lie because a hung parliament is caused by the lack of a majority of members; not the method by which they were elected and the 2010 UK General Election is proof of that.

Actually it was The Australian who stated in plain English, why Campbell Newman wants people to "Just Vote 1":
THE conservatives in Queensland are set to turn the tables on state Labor and the Greens at the next state election.
The Queensland Liberal National Party will exploit the "Just Vote 1" option to dilute preference flows from Left-leaning voters.
In a strategy that will appeal to the Coalition in NSW, gearing up for a March poll, the LNP will urge supporters not to give a preference beyond a primary vote 
for the LNP under Queensland's optional preferential voting system.
- Sarah Elks, The Australian, 18th Nov 2010

The great Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly once said that: "If a player is not interfering with play or seeking to gain an advantage, then he should be." Tactically Campbell Newman is interfering with and seeking to gain an advantage, which makes sense because he wants his party to win the election, but it makes a mockery of democracy and in a state where there is no house of review, that's a bad thing.

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