More psephojunk from the Australian


The entirely forgotten former Labor senator John Black has published a very strange and stupid piece of electoral analysis in yesterday’s Australian, basically arguing that Greens voters are richer than Liberals, therefore they won’t support the mining tax because it will hurt their share portfolios. This will apparently cost the ALP the election because every single new Greens voter came from the ALP, but they will be preferencing the Liberals en masse because of the ALP’s tax on mining.

It’s difficult to decide which part of Black’s stupidity is the worst. When you get past the snide insulting of Greens voters (I don’t know what evidence he has that Greens voters don’t study maths or economics – my experience certainly doesn’t indicate that).

Black seems to base his entire thesis on the idea that Greens voters are the wealthiest group of Australians. It’s true that the core Greens constituency consists of middle-class Australians who generally are doing relatively well, although it also includes plenty of young people and students who have low incomes.

Before trying to compare political parties, you have to recognise that major parties are made up of a number of constituencies each larger than the Greens. Labor voters include working class voters with lower educations and inner-city progressives with degrees (who are very similar demographically to a lot of Greens voters). The Coalition draws support from wealthy, highly-educated voters as well as working class voters in the fringes of the big cities and Nationals voters in rural areas without much of an education. If you average those out, the Greens may come out with the highest average (although I doubt it). It’s far too simple to say “rich people vote Green”, and is obviously absurd.

There is a variety of reasons why Greens voters are seen as relatively wealthy. Greens voters tend to be young, so they don’t tend to include as many retired voters with depressed incomes (in contrast to the Coalition). Female Greens voters would be much more likely to be employed, which also would increase incomes. Indeed, I have seen evidence that, amongst highly-educated people, Greens voters tend to be less wealthy. Greens voters are wealthier mainly because they have higher education levels.

Black argues that the Greens are serving in a similar role as the Democratic Labor Party played in the 1950s and 1960s, when it directed the preferences of Catholics away from Labor and to the Liberals. It’s a really strange comparison. First of all, the DLP actively worked to prevent the ALP from forming government, directing preferences to Liberal candidates and helping the Liberals stay in power continually for 23 years. In contrast, the Greens very rarely preference the Coalition and their preferences were central to the election of the Rudd government in 2007.

The political base of the two parties is also extremely different. The DLP’s positioning on the right wing of the ALP as opponents too communists and the ALP’s left meant that they sat in the centre of the political spectrum. The Greens instead sit to the left of the ALP. It seems very strange to think that the Greens could act as a bridge to ease the transition of voters from Labor to Liberal.

Black’s thesis appears to be based on the assumption that Greens voters are motivated by their self-interest, and they see the health of mining profits to be in their self-interest. This seems like a very courageous assumption. Greens voters are clearly strongly motivated by environmental issues and social justice. While Greens voters are usually middle-class, the party has built a base through campaigning for public health and education in preference to private alternatives and campaigning for strong action on climate change.

Indeed, the Greens have been fiercely critical of the mining industry and advocated for the gradual shutdown of the coal industry. Black figures that rich Greens voters are worried about their share portfolio and superannuation if the federal government imposes a tax on the mining industry, despite Greens voters strongly supporting action on climate change which would hit the resource extraction industry hardest.

There is no evidence at all that Greens voters oppose the RSPT. Bob Brown today has criticised the government’s policy for subsidising mining, and that position seems to be in line with where Greens voters would stand. So is there any evidence at all that Greens voters are being pushed away from preferencing Labor because of Rudd’s policies on mining taxes? I can’t find any. It is probably reasonable to assume that most new Greens voters are coming from the ALP, but it is also reasonable to assume that most of those voters will return to Labor in preferences, despite their gross disillusionment with the Rudd government.

If Labor is to lose power in 2010, it will be due to voters in the centre switching to the Liberals, it won’t be due to left-wing voters deciding to preference Tony Abbott because Kevin Rudd is too hard on the mining industry!

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  1. Thanks for putting into words what I’ve been thinking on the walk to work this morning.

    I notice Black wanted to blame the Greens for those who are voting Green-1 Liberal-2; the ALP’s sense of entitlement to Greens preferences apparently includes those who were previously Liberal voters. When the Greens were finding most of their votes from disillusioned ALP voters, most Green preferences went to ALP: now the Greens are picking up disillusioned Coalition voters too.

  2. I call the Greens the “Watermelon Party” – green on the outside, red to the core.

    Why is it that the left side of politics has a lock on green issues?
    I think it has been proven that market based solutions have a role to play in saving the planet. How long before we get a real centre-right green party? Come on Malcolm Turnbell, you’re too good to be in Abott’s gang.

  3. “Why is it that the left side of politics has a lock on green issues?”

    Because the right is only interested in the size of their next dividend?

  4. Attempting to appeal to Liberal voters is doubly harmful to Labor. It doesn’t just alienate voters on the left, some of whom will leak to the Greens. On the right it simply convinces voters of the notion that the Liberals are already correct about things like “great big new taxes” and offshore processing of refugees. I think we are witnessing the tail end of a slowly revealed major tactical failure on the part of the ALP.

  5. Green voters are well to the left of Labor voters on social issues but there is much less gap on economic issues. The resources tax thus won’t particularly appeal to Green voters annoyed about the ETS demise. Black has a bad record in junk ecological analysis and is blissfully unaware of the ecological fallacy (although brighter people than he such as Pollytics also make mistakes here).

  6. There are a lot of disillusioned ALP voters who are more concerned with economic stability, the rights of workers and employment than environmental issues. A lot of union members, especially in Queensland, are much more concerned about employment than climate change. And the Greens support for the mining tax in Queensland won’t see disillusioned ALP voters turn to the Greens. The Greens support for the mining tax will see, particularly in North Queensland, voters turn to the LNP. The mining tax issue in Queensland is going to cost the ALP and the Greens votes. There is a common perception that a vote for the Greens is really just a vote for the ALP and Queensland voters aren’t warming towards the mining tax.

  7. In saying the above, the same voters don’t like Tony Abbott, so maybe they will vote Greens 1 LNP 2. Not sure.

  8. Well put Ben, Black’s argument seemed to be constructed on a mix of facts as well as conjecture/perception- I would agree with him though in that the Greens preference flows will prove crucial to an extent. Interesting times ahead!

  9. Senator Black’s comments are interesting in that he at least shows some recognition the role the DLP played in the 1950-s to 1970’s. At that stage the DLP stood in between the extremes of the Socialism of the ALP and the mild capitalism of the Coalition. Today this is even more the case.
    The Greens role today is more in line with the role the Communist Party played in the 1950’s to 70’s. THe Greens play the role of an extremist group whose policies are rejected by the great majority of the electorate but who hold influence because of infiltration into positions of power. In the 1950′ the Communists had infiltrated the trade union movement. Today the Greens have infiltrated the media and education sectors of the economy. Their policies are far more extreme than those of the ALP. The Communist Party Paper Tribune is now known as Green-Left Review and whilst the Australian Greens will maintain that they have no links with “Green Left Review the Communist Fellow Travellers in the Trade Union movement made out that they had no links with “Tribune”

    The next Federal election is not being fought in the House of Representatives but in the Senate. IT is likely that the House of Reps result will be an outright victory for the Coalition or ALP. The Senate result however is likely to be a hung house.

    The Greens extremist position makes it likely that a hung Senate will be unworkable. Today the DLP sits between the two major parties on most issues and has shown over thirty years that it has the capacity to compromise.

    In making their Senate selection the electorate is choosing between an unworkable Senate with extremist Green Yuppies bringing Australian Government to a standstill and a Senate with the Democratic Labor Party holding the balance of power. Since 1964 the Senate has ben hung for all but a few years and Government has functioned because extremists did not hold the balance of power.

    DLP Senators Gair, McManus. Byrne, Little and Kane in holding the balance of power in the Senate made the Senate work as a house of review. We need to ensure that the Senate is returned to this position after the next election. Electing Greens Senators will have the opposite effect.

    The real fight this election is Democratic Labor Party vs. Greens not between Rudd the unprincipled and a return to Work Choices.
    Andrew Jackson
    Queensland DLP President.

  10. Andrew:

    (a) The paper is called the Green Left Weekly.

    (b) It’s put out by one of the socialist / trotskyist groups (Socialist Alternative I think). They turn up at the same protest rallies as the Greens sometimes, but apart from that they have about as much to do with each other as Labor has to do with the continuing DLP.

    (c-f) I’m gonna leave the rest to the Greens on here, who can defend their own party better than I can.

  11. Since 1977 it’s been the Democrats, with up to nine Senators, who have contributed greatly to the effective operation of Australia’s Parliament by recognising the right of the properly elected government to actually govern – by improving and then implementing its sucessful election manifesto.

    İt’s easy to claim a useful role when your allies are in power – relying on your own party’s support to remain in power, as the Menzies-Holt-Gorton-McMahon governments relied on the DLP.

    İt’s more difficult (and thankless) to work cooperatively and constructively with both ALP and Conservative Governments; assessing all legislation and every issue on it’s merits – a role that has been sadly lacking in the current Senate (other than Senator Xen) – to Australia’s detriment.

    İf the LNCP and ALP were more concerned about better governance than their own electoral prospects, they would preference the Democrats rather than The Greens and Family First, as the Democrats have demonstrated over many years how to be respectful of a mandate, and yet tireless in working for better outcomes.

    The other small Senate parties even vote against their own interests (notably on emissions trading) when they sense longer term political gain from grandstanding and obstruction.

  12. There’s a lot of guffaw and cruft spread by both Paul Kavanagh and Andrew Jackson. Not much point debating either as they are so full of fluff as to have not much to grab on to. I do like though how one can be ‘Principled’ and still ‘Respectful of a party’s mandate’. A mandate is decided at the ballot box not the dispatch box. A good political party is not a cheer squad, it’s an alternative government.

    Remember the Government’s stimulus package wouldn’t have passed without the Greens’ support. Trying to relate the DLP to the Greens is like trying to relate the Free Trade party to the DLP, that is, nonsensical.

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