Oz Blog News Commentary

Eight Weeks and Eight Days

July 11, 2016 - 21:01 -- Admin

The election ran for eight weeks, and then the count took days to sort out who had a bare majority in the House of Reps to form the government. I tired of being told seemingly endlessly that the 76 members represented an absolute majority.

The result cannot be confirmed. It is not clear whether the cross bench however desirable, would even agree to providing the Speaker. An overly partisan speaker is likely to run into trouble. A number of cross bench members have put up their hands to guarantee Malcolm Turnbull Supply. While that reinforces the PM, it handicaps the Liberal National Coalition should they decide as I imagine they might in changing the leadership, especially when the next election looms. Whatever considerable qualities that Malcolm brings to the job of national leader political understanding and nous is not amongst them. We will have to wait the consequences.

The preferential voting for the House of Reps is dead simple, especially in regard to the unmanageable Senate ballot that challenges those of us who should have seen an optometrist before voting, particularly if we were voting below the line. I managed to make preferences below the line in the wrong column and had to ask for a new ballot paper.

In my electorate, a safe seat, there were six candidates and six parties represented. Of course, it is a clear decision between the Government and the Opposition, regardless of the distribution of preferences on the ballot. When I looked at other polling places in suburbs with differing demographics, although not as clear cut a distinction as it might have once been due to the  impact of neoliberalism and rising land and house prices, I did not a higher vote for the Coalition, but also a higher percentage for the Greens. People vote strategically in relation to circumstances and the voting system. Media horse race political call ignores these dynamics.

Do you have voice if you have choice? The Senate paper seems, if nothing else, to disprove this hypothesis. In my opinion the size of the ballot paper was a barrier to exercising the choice. It is a pity that the Australian Electoral Commission did not photo of size of the ballot prior to voting. I had the night before stayed up and went to the websites of most of the 40 or more parties standing for the Senate.It was a very interesting exercise. I was then able to vote below the line.

Bearing in mind, it a double dissolution election (something that is not going to happen for many years again) the intention is vote strategically for the final positions, those after the majority minor parties acquire quotas.Despite all my numeracy exercises with Sudoku (a late night does not help) I knew the problems that I might encounter. My approach was to preference five forward and then count five back, and remember you are actually moving at minimum one metre long ballot and giving preferences in their mostly party columns. I thought 25 would be a nice round preference total, but despite my best intentions, not then wanting to ask for another ballot, I ended up with 40 preferences (don’t ask). To make the vote count, as in the  House, you have to appreciate which candidates might achieve a quota.

The Constitution enforces a democratic deficit in the State-based Senate, and perhaps in  Tasmania’s guaranteed minimum five electoral divisions.However democratically desirable, this state of affairs is not likely to change. Of course, some form of proportional representation could be introduced to the House of Reps. However, a MMP as in NZ, would make the Senate redundant. The geographic bias of  electoral divisions, favours the National Party over the Greens when the totals for each party and compared to their representation in the House of Reps. And yet, with some justice, regional and remote areas of the continent feel neglected. I believed that the NBN would be part of fixing the problem. And now electronic voting is likely to be considered.I am wondering whether that will be packaged with a checking mechanism that reduce the unintentional informal voting.

Prior to counting the vote after election day, there must have been eight weeks of television presentations. Sitting in the warmer kitchen, I could have watch more horse race commentary. I do not expect there was anyone who discussing climate change, neoliberal economic policy and or the Trans Pacific Parnership.

No one listens to me, you see.And this includes Pauline! We do not ask what are the conditions for democratic dialogue and dialectic. There may well be disciplines that are intrinsic to the process. Those who believed that God could speak through any member of the congregation – a democratic insight – make outward expression conditional on collective inward reflection. I am not sure how that would work out in mass democracy with its focus on elections rather than debate and discussion. The test of self awareness might be the recognition of what is not known. Humility is one thing I constantly forget. I put that down to cultural conditioning.

Regardless in the eight weeks prior to the election, I was bored by the process. Yet we are now told, and usual suspects insist, that the structural violence of the neoliberal program has  renewed mandate. The people have spoken, if by a marginal majority.

I liked the Get Up live feeds. “I felt I had a voice”. Sorry, Nah. “They listen to us”. Nup.

They have a mandate! Pauline has a voice. Nick has a voice. More than ever the major party members do as they are told, or as in the case of the Government representatives they will bring the show down – but that will not stop some of them.

And when, as perhaps is likely, voter identification is brought in, I will cease to have a vote.