Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Swinging and Hanging

Continuing to find things to question in news reports, I found a version of my recent favourite misunderstanding/oversight again yesterday, when I looked at the election coverage in the Daily Tele I found on the train seat. Speaking of the hits Labor took in inner Sydney without looking like losing a seat, they said Grayndler had gone from a massive 25% margin to 5% or less. Apples and oranges, anyone?

The (almost) 25% figure is based on the two-party preferred results between Labor and Liberal at the last election. Had preferences between Labor and the Greens been compared, it would have been significantly less, despite the Greens not doing well enough on primary votes to make that count happen. (Actually, there wasn't a need to look at any preferences.) While we can't say for sure, I'd be surprised if the change in Labor v Green 2PP result was much more than the primary swing against Labor, that is, about the same as the 8% swing being reported for the Labor-Liberal 2PP in nearly safe Labor seats. Moving on to even more guesswork, the change in the Labor v Liberal was probably even less than that.

In any case the parliament is almost certainly going to be hung. For many years I've had a dream, probably inpsired by NSW in the early 90s, of hung parliaments where independents actively pressure the major players to work together across party lines, as well as providing a separate voice of their own. Now, I'm amazed that Independent Rob Oakeshott is actually make this sort of “cheeky” proposal. I'm not still naive enough to think that this would be all good, but I like the way Oakeshott and Windsor are talking.


David Barry said...

It's not often I'd cite Andrew Bolt on matters of democratic procedure, but his point against this sort of unity government is a good one - how do the voters hold it accountable?

In Melbourne in 2007, 82.6% of the votes that ended up in the Liberal's pile went on preferences to the Green. Applying the same rate of preference flow to the 2007 Grayndler election gives a Labor-Green two-party preferred of 60.5-39.5.

Jonathan said...

I think they unity government idea is towards the extreme end of the "working together" possibilities. I'm glad that the suggestions are heading in that direction, even if it's not best to go that far - I certianly don't expect it will happen. One casualty could, as you say, be the traditional approach to accountability, and let's not pretend that avoiding being accountable for whoever he gives support to isn't one the main reasons Oakeshott is saying this sort of thing. Alternatively, we risk coherence in policy.

However, I do think the current defaults could do with being shaken up. It wouldn't hurt to look for approaches to accountability (and the process as a whole) other than voting for a single opposition for opposition's sake (just look at NSW!). Perhaps this would result in the growth of other parties, less radically perhaps a bit more open in-party (or between Coalition members) divisions. At the very least, just having these conversations might put the notion of "balance of power" in a more sensible place.