Why preference the Coalition after a Green vote (Australian Election 2010)

Marieke Hardy says she is going to vote Green and give her preference to Labor over Liberal (http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/07/12/2950655.htm). I also have used this strategy for as many elections as I can remember. The first preference goes to the Greens because it:

  • sends a strong message to both parties that environmental issues are important to the electorate
  • increases the public political funding the Greens will receive in the next election
  • in the Senate, increases the number of seats they can be expected to win
  • maybe one day (but not yet) may even lead to a Green member in the House of Representatives.

To date I have preferenced Labor above Liberal because its environmental policy, while usually inadequate, has been somewhat better than that of the Liberals.
But now, after so many years of voting this way, I am persuaded it’s necessary to change. Even though I believe a Labor government may be better for the environment than a Liberal government over the next three years, I believe a better result will be achieved for the environment in the long term if I and others like me vote Green but give their preferences to the Coalition. Why? Primarily because Labor has been taking the environmental vote for granted for a long time and is now starting to do so to an increasing extent. Its policies have become startlingly less green since the beginning of 2010 and it seems quite clear that Labor feels it has the environmental vote sewn up and hence is free to court the ‘middle ground’ of those that are more interested in short term economic outcomes than environmental issues.
Something must be done to stop the rot. If that something leads to the Liberals being in government for 3-6 years until Labor gets the message that it needs to earn the environmental vote, then that’s a reasonable price to pay. Yes, even if it means Prime Minister Abbott!
In the absence of any change like this, if the vast majority of Green preferences flow to Labor as in recent elections, Labor will be tactically and strategically correct (if morally bankrupt!) in deciding that it can ignore green issues as long as it stays just ever so slightly greener than the Coalition, no matter how rapacious and irresponsible the policies of the latter may be. Consequently there will never again be a major party in Australia that stands up for environmental issues.
If my voting strategy is moderately widely adopted then at best Labor will get an enormous scare but still return to government. The scare should be sufficient to ensure that they quickly adopt some serious environmental policies and continue to maintain them in future.
Or, the shift in preferences may be sufficient to unseat Labor and put the Coalition in government. That may mean some marginally worse environmental policies in the short term, but not by much, based on the current policy platforms. In any case, if all we ever achieve is what’s in Labor’s current policy platform, we’ll be so badly off in the long run that 3-6 years of Coalition rule won’t make a noticeable difference.
A secondary benefit of this strategy is that it may surprise the Liberal party to receive Green preferences and persuade it to court the environmental vote with suitable policies, rather than its current approach of writing it off as a Labor fiefdom and punishing it by studied neglect.
In Europe and California, environmental concern is not considered a left-wing issue, as such people as Angela Merkel, Arnold Schwarzenegger and David Cameron have shown us by their policies and actions. Neither should it be here but unfortunately it is, to the enormous detriment of Australian public policy. Perhaps the first step in rectifying this unfortunate situation is to vote as I have suggested and turn the environment back into an issue that concerns everyone.

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One Comment on “Why preference the Coalition after a Green vote (Australian Election 2010)”

  1. Jeremy says:

    The point of preferences is that you can give Labor a scare by voting Green – the ALP doesn’t want to lose seats to the Greens any more than it wants to lose seats to the Coalition – without risking Abbott.

    And it’s clear that however bad Labor is, the Liberals are worse. And not just on the environment. Industrial relations, public services – they’re the party of the rich, of employers, against the poor, against workers. Labor’s faults have been in aping the Liberals – but no matter how depressing that is, they’re not worse. Except on the internet filter. But I don’t trust the social conservatives in the Liberals not to try something similar if they win government.

    Abbott as PM would be a disaster for progressives. I’m not going to help him.


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