Introducing: I Don't Hold An Election, Mate.
📓 A new election column from Kara Schlegl
G’day Fearmongers, Thrilled to announce a new column by one of the most talented people I know. Writer Kara Schlegl brings a uniquely clear-sighted, smart and often funny view to any topic. It’s our luck and fortune that Kara has agreed to write a column for A Rational Fear’s Substack every fortnight on a Tuesday until the election: I Don’t Hold An Election Mate. This is possible thanks to people who chip into the A Rational Fear Patreon, if you want to read more like this — chip-in for as little as the price of a cup of hot chocolate per month. Cheers Dan Ilic
Here’s How Scott Morrison Could Win This Election.
Where I try to explain preference voting without falling asleep on my keyboard.
Late on a balmy Sunday evening, as Australia was still recovering from our collective Barty Party hangover, we received word from Newspoll that the general vibes of the nation were shifting. In a surprise to only Prime Minister Scott Morrison himself (probably), his approval rating dropped 5 points, and his disapproval rating gained 6 points. Yes, the shift was so cataclysmic, it defied the laws of mathematics. And so too did The Australian when they sliced up their Newspoll pie charts, as if it were a real pie and they were getting Morrison’s piece.
If you’re lefty scum like me, this might’ve been a perfect way to end a perfect weekend, a weekend that saw proud Ngaragu woman Ash Barty become the first homegrown tennis player to win the Australian Open in 44 years, and saw Queensland Senator Pauline Hanson get stung by a bunch of wasps. Truly, there are no words to express what last weekend meant to me, especially as a way to set a tone for the upcoming election.
However, I hate to be a buzz-kill (pun intended), but I do remember feeling a similar smug optimism at the open of the 2019 federal election, and we all know how that ended. Back then, of course, the Newspoll numbers weren’t quite so definitive (and by ‘definitive’ I mean, hilariously brutal). But, with a not so insignificant boost from the Greens Party, the ALP was in a clear lead.
I don’t remember much from before the pandemic, my brain has slowly turned to mush over the last two years, but I do remember the abject horror of watching the vote count on election night defy all predictions, and destroy my hopes and dreams. Something I think we all need to keep in mind is that polls aren’t votes, and that an election isn’t over until Antony Green sings.
But still, things aren’t looking great for the Coalition. And, even without polls, you might be wondering how this Government could possibly retain power after all the havoc they’ve wreaked on my nerves specifically in the past few years. Seriously, I’ve been writing about politics for almost a decade, and I’ve never been more stressed out.
So, here’s a stat that might blow your mind. In the 2019 election, almost 70% of winning candidates received less than 50% of the vote in their electorate. This means these candidates were entirely reliant on preference votes from other party and independent candidate ballots to win their seat. To put that into perspective, that’s two thirds of the House of Representatives decided by those who voted ‘1’ for the least popular candidates. Yes, that guy you know who voted for Clive Palmer’s UAP “as a joke” likely helped seal our election fate.
This Conversation explainer uses an extreme example from 1972 in the federal division of McMillan, where ALP votes towered over an LNP candidate, only to watch themselves get crushed under a tidal wave of small party voters to lead to an out of nowhere Country Party victory. In 2019, far more total preference votes went to the ALP, largely due to the growing popularity of the Greens Party. Yes, unfortunately for all the Bill Shorten stans out there (I know there are millions of you), even preferences couldn’t save him. But both parties benefitted greatly from preferences, with 54 seats won by the ALP and 46 seats won by the Coalition through preference voting.
I’m not here to talk about how fair this is. I’m not an expert on the electoral system, nor am I good at math (in fact, I’m about as bad at math as The Australian’s art department). What I do know is that there were plenty of reasons the ALP lost the federal election in 2019. The party themselves wrote an entire treatise about it, which reads like a Mean Girls burn book, with notable claims that Bill Shorten is a fugly slut. But there is a reason the Coalition won the election that often gets lost in the noise of people bullying Shorten; many Australians voted for the Coalition as their number 2.
Whether this was because people followed those stupid ‘How To Vote’ pamphlets that get thrust into our faces as we line up for a democracy sausage, or if it’s because people genuinely felt that Morrison was second best, we’ll likely never know. Hell, I once rocked up to an election booth so hungover, I’m pretty sure I picked the Shooters & Fishers as my number 2 choice because I like fish.
Clearly, I’m not in a position to judge anyone, but if you’re a loose unit like me, read the following carefully; preferences count. Whomever you put last on that ballot can count just as much as who you put first. That’s something nobody has ever properly explained to me, and as a consequence, I’ve made so many terrible choices in my voting life. If I were to wish for anything going into this election season (other than for Pauline Hanson to get stung by wasps again), it would be that you learn from my mistakes.
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Lovely. Is this something or am I just old & out of touch?
"Bill Shorten stans out there"