Jane Gilmore of the King’s Tribune is thoughtful, clever, insightful, compassionate, and she’s penned a number cogent criticisms of Tony Abbott and the mainstream media. Which is why it shocked many of her followers when she announced her intention to vote Liberal in spite of her not being able to stand Abbott. Her local member, Labor’s Michael Danby, sounds like an appalling candidate who hasn’t served Melbourne Ports at all well. On the other hand, the Liberal’s Kevin Ekendahl sounds like he may well do a much better job. I think she’s wrong, because she’s preferencing local representation over national representation, and she may have already decided that Labor has lost.
You’ll often read in letters columns the opinion that in Australia, unless you’re actually in their electorates, we do not vote for our prime minister, in this case Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott. Instead, we vote for our local member. This is literally true, of course, but it ignores the nature of our voting system, which squeezes a lot of function out of your lower house vote.
This vote ends up having several consequences, some of which may contradict your original intention. Obviously at the grossest level your vote helps to choose your local member, after distribution of your preferences. However, where that vote eventually lands up helps determine the final numbers of that member’s party in Parliament. The party with the majority of members, obviously, wins. So while you may have voted for a local member, you do by proxy vote for the party.
So what do you do, if, like Jane Gilmore, the local member of your preferred party is repulsive to you? It’s obviously a dilemma, but the choice you have to make is which unpalatable outcome do you want to support. Obviously there isn’t a perfect solution.
On the one hand, if Gilmore supports Ekendahl and he is elected, Melbourne Ports will be better represented, and if Tony Abbott gets in, the government will have at least one reasonable member. However, Abbott is more likely to become leader of the country, and all rational evidence is that the Liberals under Abbott would be an appalling result, which we know from Gilmore’s previous writing she would not support. Even the quite right wing publication The Economist has endorsed Rudd and Labor.
On the other hand, if Gilmore puts her vote towards Danby and he is returned, he will continue to be a shocking, neglectful member. However, his presence may help Labor form government.
So that’s the choice: Poor local representation and reasonable national representation. Or good local representation and atrocious national representation.
If it were me, I would sacrifice local representation for the chance of decent national representation. I would gag, swallow, and vote Danby if there were the slightest chance of Labor being returned. Only if there were absolutely no chance whatsoever that my preferred party would win would I put local representation above this.
Whatever the more recent polls say, we’re not at the stage yet.