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Greens must vote strategically in Wentworth if climate is a concern.

October 11, 2018

If Greens voters want Liberals to lose in Wentworth they must support Phelps, explains ABC’s Antony Green in this podcast with Michelle Grattan. The maths is very straight forward and Margo Kingston and her media extremis Joe Hildebrand have also made the same case.

This requires Greens and Licia Heath voters to put Phelps above Labor on their ballot. Antony Green: “If Labor finishes 2nd Liberals win easily.” That is, if IndyLeft ArtyParty Greens voters in Wentworth preference Labor ahead of Phelps, Sharma wins. This is because their votes will put Labor (and the very decent Tim Murray) in 2nd place. If Phelps in 3rd place, all her supporters who preferenced Liberal over Labor leapfrog Tim and go straight to Sharma for an easy win. It’s not a matter of caring and wanting to ‘punish’ her for mucking up the preference announcements or that she’s playing to her base by putting Liberals one spot above Labor on her suggested How To Vote card. The reality of the maths is as Margo Kingston puts it: “Only an independent in the tradition of Wentworth’s small l liberalism has a chance to beat the official Liberal Party candidate… Australian politics is at a tipping point, voters of Wentworth. Over to you”.

If IndyLeftGreens voters in Wentworth want change – and an independent MP who is good on climate and social progressive is change, oh yes it is – they must forget who they theoretically ‘want’ elected. Instead they must suck it up, vote strategically and, preference Phelps ahead of Labor on their ballot. The loser if they don’t isn’t Phelps (she can cope with not winning, it’s not losing, she put her hand up, she did her thing). The LOSER (grab that L plate) is all those who think climate change is a massive issue. Indeed, all those who see climate impact changing everything, including its mass species loss and human suffering.

In UK and first-past-the-post elections voters do often change their vote and vote strategically and get an alternative party’s MP. But in Australia, as Antony Green says, this strategic voting go against the nature of preferential voting. But just because it goes against the grain doesn’t mean people can’t think and understand, and then vote strategically IF they really do think this is a vote on climate change (Greenpeace do, GetUp! does, Adani supporters seem to, does….). But for Sharma to lose, the Greens need to strategically leverage a how to vote card NOT in order of ideological preference of who Greens insiders want elected, but to place Phelps above Labor (that is, the very decent Tim Murray) and create maximum opportunity for a non-Liberal win. If they do this it would shift Greens from a supporter of the status quo to to a strategic player in electoral change.

In recent by-elections where an independent replaced a Liberal MP (Cathy McGowan, Wagga Wagga, Tony Windsor) the incumbent wasn’t from the other end of the political spectrum but conservatively similar. Labor is not similar to Liberals, their tax policy alone and the fact they once mentioned under their breath an inheritance tax or paying more for private schools fills the privilege well-heeled Wentworth voters with fear. These people are voting Sharma for his message of ‘economic security’ – aka no-one takes my money as tax if I can help it.

In 2007, Rudd’s Labor government won with a huge swing against Howard’s failure on climate change policy and representing the diversity and dynamic of Australia’s 21st century population. In the 2007 election Labor’s vote went forward nearly 6%, the Liberal’s backwards nearly 5%. But not in Wentworth. In Wentworth, Turnbull was elected with a massive swing of 9.9% to the Liberals. Wentworth didn’t care who was in government, so long as their MP was a Liberal. It was similar in the 1972 Whitlam election where the Liberals won with more than 50% of the primary and Labor got just a 2.2% swing (possibility from the Kiwis living in Bondi).

The Labor and Liberal parties are always very happy to do strategic how-to-vote cards and entrench the Liberal-Labor stronghold. The Liberals preferenced the Greens in Albanese’s seat of Grayndler in the 2010 federal election putting a very low-key Greens candidate in coo-ee of beating Albanese. But in 2013 Libs reverted to Labor above Greens on how to vote card, sterilising Greens hopes. Just like the Libs, Labor also very happy to keep a Liberal MP win rather than risk a Green MP as seen in conservative electorates in the Victoria state election.

Elections are math but voters have agency in the lower house where they number their own ballot, they write 1, then 2, then 3 until all those boxes filled.

The question for Wentworth progressive left voters is whether they really want Liberals to lose or will just continue hoping that Labor will win. If it’s the former, then Phelps is the only option (and I’m quoting Antony Green here). If progressive left voters don’t care if it’s Phelps or Sharma and put Labor ahead of Phelps on their ballot, then Wentworth is going to get Sharma. But blaming Phelps for being who she is afterwards is a cop out. Vehemence against the government’s failure on climate change surely trumps personal grievance against Phelps for not being your personal Jesus. A vote that gives Phelps chance to win isn’t a vote against Labor, it’s a vote for change.


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