Archive for August, 2010

What does the Australian election mean for Greens?

Posted in Climate Sock, Politics on August 22nd, 2010 by leo – 3 Comments

The dust is still whirling around the Australian political landscape. As I write, not only are the coalition talks barely beginning, but with five seats still in doubt it’s not yet clear where the balance of power lies.

Still, there are some conclusions we can draw at this stage that are interesting for Greens in Australia, the UK and potentially elsewhere.

1. Greens are making electoral progress around the world

Like in the UK earlier this year, this was the best-ever election result for the Australian Greens. They won a seat in the House of Representatives for the first time in a competitive election, and increased their vote share to its highest national level. Not only will they potentially hold the balance of power in the House of Representatives (two recounts are currently underway that could potentially give them further seats), they’ll also increase their group in the Senate, further adding to their influence.  Above all else, the result is hugely encouraging for Green Parties, and a further demonstration that they have the opportunity to become mainstream across the world.

2. Non-proportional systems hurt Greens

With the inching progress in the UK towards a referendum for an AV electoral system, the results of the Australian Greens are instructive. Sure, AV allows people to vote for their favoured party, when they wouldn’t necessarily take that voting risk for under FPTP. But in Australia that’s still not enough to avoid squeezing out smaller parties. The comparison between vote share and seats won in the House of Representative is reminiscent of the images used by the UK Take Back Parliament campaign earlier this year:

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The muzzled dog of the Australian election

Posted in Climate Sock, Media, Politics on August 8th, 2010 by leo – 1 Comment

Last week, we saw that Australian PM Julia Gillard’s proposal for a citizens’ assembly to analyse and propose climate policy was widely criticised – but that despite the hype, there really wasn’t any evidence that it was turning the election against Labor. A week on, and it looks like the fuss about Gillard’s plan has completely disappeared, and climate change has become the muzzled dog of the campaign.

For anyone not following the election – you’re missing out. When Gillard called the election last month after toppling Rudd to become Prime Minister, Labor had a fairly healthy lead over the Liberal/National Coalition. But of the last eight polls, three have given the lead to the Coalition, three to Labour (including one being reported as I write), and two call it as a dead heat.  The excellent Pollytics has produced an election simulator that gives a wafer-thin majority to Labor, but it’s clear at this point that the result could easily tip either way.

One of the key factors will be the performance and role of the Greens. They could be crucial in two ways. Firstly, they have a good shot of winning the Melbourne Division from Labor, having polled 45% in the redistributed share in the last election. In an election as close as this, the result in that one seat could make a big difference to Labor – and potentially to the Greens if they win it, and can use its leverage in helping Labor form a government.

Secondly, while the Greens didn’t have any seats in the lower house of the last parliament, they’re polling at around 13% and the election uses Alternative Vote. To bring their redistributed share above 50%, Labor will rely on Green second preferences votes; in the latest Nielsen poll, Labor is getting 83% of those votes – which is strong but leaves perhaps crucial room for improvement.

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Climate change in the Australian election

Posted in Climate Sock, Media, Politics on August 1st, 2010 by leo – Comments Off on Climate change in the Australian election

The Australian media has been deeply critical of Julia Gillard’s proposal for a citizens’ assembly to explore policy responses to climate change. It’s been attacked both by advocates, and critics, of action to tackle climate change – with the coverage attributing particular significance in the heat of the election campaign.

There’s indeed some polling evidence to suggest that voters aren’t convinced by Gillard’s proposal, but its importance in influencing the election seems to have been exaggerated. Despite some of the claims, there’s very little evidence that it’s having much of an impact on voting intentions.

Gillard’s proposal is for a 150-strong assembly of citizens, selected to be nationally representative, which would analyse and discuss climate issues, and make recommendations to policy-makers. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, a majority of 53% oppose the proposal, while 41% support it. Another poll for the Daily Telegraph apparently found 62% opposed.

Unfortunately, Australian pollsters don’t appear to be as obliging with their data as are those in some other countries, so I only have these papers’ word to go on for the results of the polls, and can’t check how fairly they’re worded.  This is important because the wording of a question can have a huge impact on the results that come out. But taking the two polls on face value, the conclusion appears to be that the policy is slightly unpopular – but not wildly so.

Despite this, some of the coverage has presented public reaction in a very different light. According to the Australian, “voters have turned against Labor’s proposal for a citizens assembly on climate change”. 3AW claim it could be “the ‘turning point’” of the election.

But these claims that the policy is swinging the election look rather like bluster without any real evidence behind it. Gillard made the announcement on 23rd July. Since then, the polls have shown no trends and no movement outside the margin of error. One pollster has Labor falling 3pts; another shows them gaining 2pts, then losing 2pts in the next poll; a third has them falling 1.5pt and then losing another point in a subsequent poll.

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