The Australasian Study of Parliament Group, Queensland Chapter, presents:
Talk – 5:30pm, Mon 15 April 2013 – Tweedledee, Tweedledum: all electoral systems were not created equal – Australasian Study of Parliament Group, Qld ChapterApril 1, 2013
So I created a survey on whether the ALP should be a labourist party and whether it should change its name – see: my Tumblr blog
I’m analysing the survey results now – a summary is here: ALP name survey – summary stats_02
NB: I’m only analysing 100 responses although there were 105 – I have a ‘basic’ SurveyMonkey account. Apologies if your survey response is not one of the 100 I’m analysing.
So I now have a WordPress app – I can easily post blogs. Excitement.
In the absence of a Labor candidate, I’ll be voting for Greens candidate Chris Harris at the Sydney by-election on 27 October 2012. While I agree with much of the Greens social policy, I disagree with much of their economic policy, and so I wouldn’t usually vote for them. But this is an unusual circumstance with the NSW ALP not running a candidate. It’s a difficult decision given that I was the Labor candidate for the seat in the 2011 NSW election and that the Greens have said they want to replace the ALP.
Relative to the other two main candidates (Liberal Shayne Mallard and Clover Moore-endorsed Independent Alex Greenwich), Chris is more likely to generally support NSW Labor’s policy approach in Parliament and to effectively promote progressive social reform. Chris has also effectively said he would seek an agreement to support of a minority ALP government in a hung parliament while Alex Greenwich has said he’d be open to supporting a minority Coalition government. For these reasons I’ll be voting for Chris on 27 October – and then be campaigning against him in 2015 if he is elected.
This is a personal view. The ALP has not recommended a vote for any particular candidate in this by-election.
On 27 Oct 2012, voters in the state seat of Sydney will elect a new MP to the NSW Parliament following the resignation by Clover Moore to serve as the Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney. Despite the rhetoric, Clover was not forced from her seat in the NSW Parliament – she made a choice to be Lord Mayor over continuing to be an MP.
This by-election represents a genuinely difficult choice for me and many other locals in the inner city, as the NSW ALP has decided not to run a candidate. Many local residents and ALP supporters think their decision to not run a candidate is a mistake, and people have spontaneously said this to me over the last few weeks. But their decision not to run is a subject for another post.
To me this by-election is a Morton’s Fork – a decision in which every choice is unsatisfactory.
Despite thoughts to the contrary, the ALP has not endorsed any of the candidates running in the election. It is frankly surprising that a former ALP Premier endorsed one of the independent candidates – Alex Greenwich – given that, if he wins, the ALP might have trouble winning the seat in the future.
There are probably a couple of factors that will impact my voting decision.
In a sense, policy does not matter for this by-election given that the Coalition government holds 69 of 93 seats in the Legislative Assembly. An independent or Greens MP could say whatever they wanted, without any responsibility, and be completely ignored. A Liberal MP would presumably support the government line. Nonetheless, a few key points:
- I asked Alex Greenwich at a public forum last Tuesday whether he disagreed with Clover Moore on any policy issue. His answer was no, but that he would act more on small business issues, could disagree with her in the future, and would promote residents’ issues to Council. It’s surprising that he doesn’t disagree with Clover on any issue at the moment.
- I asked Alex Greenwich and Chris Harris (Greens candidate) what they thought the biggest issues facing NSW are and how the NSW Government should address the fact that the ‘rivers of GST revenue gold’ are not as substantial as was once thought.
I don’t recall Chris Harris’ response to the first part of the question, but to the second part he said that the state should not be scared of borrowing, that the government had decided to give hundreds of millions to the Clubs industry and millions to waterfront jetty owners, and that it was a matter of government priorities.
Alex Greenwich said the most important issues facing NSW are the cuts to education and health, and that GST revenue issues could be addressed by cutting waste – not giving a $300m tax cut to registered clubs and not having the Sydney by-election.
It was frankly surprising that neither of them identified housing affordability or the relatively low growth in Gross State Product over the last ten-odd years as key issues. It’s even more surprising when these issues are brought up in the media quite regularly by economic and social commentators.
Nonetheless, it was clear that, of Chris and Alex, Chris had a better understanding of issues facing NSW and inner Sydney.
While each of Chris, Alex, and Shayne Mallard (Liberal) have policy platforms, suffice to say that Alex’s reads very similar to Clover’s, while the Greens and Liberals are standard party or government platforms.
I’ve been quite surprised at some of Alex’s ideas – at Tuesday’s public forum he said that there needs to be a new inner-city high school, that ‘the community’ had identified the old Cleveland St school (corner of Chalmers and Cleveland streets) as a site, and that he would lobby for the re-establishment of a school on that site. I strongly suspect that there are detailed technocratic processes within the Department of Education and Communities the aim of which is to decide when and where new schools are to open and existing schools are to close, to efficiently allocate limited funds for schooling purposes. DEC has limited funds – you can’t just say “let’s have a school where I think it should go.”
Alex has also vowed to ‘save Oxford St’ if elected, by introducing a 40km/hr speed limit and converting one lane to traffic to outdoor dining/additional parking. He also calls on the state government to seriously look at light rail. Putting aside the fact that he was calling on people to ‘not talk Oxford St down’ during last month’s Council elections, it has to be asked whether his plan: (a) would work, if implemented, (b) has a chance of being implemented, and (c) would not result in detrimental impacts elsewhere. As anyone who’s had any involvement with government policy-making knows, policy-making is often complicated with many interacting elements in which there is no clear or straightforward solution. You cannot simply say that a major thoroughfare to the Sydney CBD should be made much slower and nicer without considering the wider impacts. And there appears to be buckley’s chance for light rail to be rolled up the middle of Oxford St.
Alex is also promoting Clover Moore’s idea that liquor licences should have to be renewed on an annual basis.
Approach in a future hung parliament
Alex and Chris were both asked who they would support in a future hung NSW Parliament.
Alex said he was open to negotiating with both sides, while Chris pointed to how the Greens approached the current hung Federal Parliament as a guide to what he would do (in the federal parliament the Greens support an ALP government).
Chris indicated that, at that time, the Greens had not finalised their preference arrangements. However, he was wanting the Greens and Alex to swap preferences to prevent a Liberal being elected. The Greens were intending to give Alex a second preference.
Alex indicated that he would not be recommending a preference as it should be up to the voters. This was Clover Moore’s approach.
Many Labor voters I’ve chatted with have brought up the tactical issue – the election of which candidate would be in Labor’s medium-term interest?
Some supporters will vote, in any election, for the Liberals before the Greens or a Clover Moore-style independent. Some also think that Shayne Mallard should be elected as the by-election is likely to be high water mark for Liberal support and Labor would have a good chance of winning the seat against the Greens in the future.
Some supporters, who can’t stand the Liberals, will vote for Chris Harris and not give preferences as they see Alex Greenwich as a ‘soft liberal’. Some people will vote for Chris or Alex and preference the other, and put the Liberals last.
Some people will think that the best tactical outcome would be for Shayne Mallard to win, but of Chris and Alex, Chris should win as he would be easier to defeat in a future election.
Some people will cast an informal vote, e.g. voting for Paul Keating as a write-in candidate.
The by-election outcome will be interesting.
This was the media release from the local Labor party condemning the fact that the NSW ALP decided not to run a candidate in the 2012 Sydney by-election.
Media release — ALP Sydney State Electoral Council — 21 September 2012
Outrage over ALP Sydney election no-show
Inner-Sydney ALP members are outraged by yesterday’s decision by the NSW ALP to not contest the upcoming Sydney by-election.
The ALP Sydney State Electorate Council met last night and unanimously condemned the NSW ALP decision.
“Not running is a gutless no-show by John Robertson and Sussex St,” said Sacha Blumen, President of the Sydney SEC.
Dr Blumen said the decision marked contempt for ALP members and supporters, and may have implications for the 2013 federal election and future state and local elections.
“Not running vacates the field to Labor’s electoral opponents in inner Sydney. Local ALP branches called for a preselection months ago. Three talented members were willing to stand for preselection. This is the shameful victory of empty Sussex St tactics over substance.
The Sydney SEC also called on the NSW ALP to act immediately on holding a preselection for the state seat of Sydney for the 2015 state election shortly after the by-election.
It’s been six months since my last post. Amazing this blog has lasted as long as it has.
The Sydney by-election is upon is, and the question is whom to vote for.
The candidates are, in no particular order:
Shayne Mallard – Liberal Party
Alex Greenwich – Clover Moore endorsed Independent
Chris Harris – Greens
Robyn Peebles – Christian Democrats
Glenn Wall – Independent
No idea who Glenn Wall is, although a search indicates he lives near Mudgee and someone with his name has been elected to Dungog Council.
So – who to vote for? It’s a very unsatisfactory choice, with the decision by the NSW ALP to not run a candidate. See also here. Three local ALP members had indicated that they were willing to run in the by-election.
I’ll write more about this soon.
NB: I’m President of the ALP Sydney State Electoral Council, and was the ALP candidate for the state seat of the Sydney in the 2011 state election.
I arrived home tonight to find a letter from my old University saying that one of their students is going to call me over the next few weeks to ‘learn more about your engagement with the University and update you on recent achievements, future plans and ways you can be involved’. They’re asking for contributions to their bursary fund to help students in financial hardship. I can however, opt out from receiving the phone call.
This is bold telemarketing for the University – the first time they’ve been so forward. I wonder if they’ll use marketing students?
I don’t like the presumption that I should have to do something to not receive a telemarketing call. While I like the idea of supporting the bursary fund, that might be for the future.
The City of Sydney has just embarked in a mini-experiment in centrally planned street food. It is allowing ‘food trucks’ to start operating in particular locations at particular times in the CBD. Food trucks seem to be fashionable versions of street hawkers – I understand the trucks are in New York (to me food trucks look like something from a film set).
One of the great things about street hawkers is that they can provide inexpensive food at all times and in all sorts of locations. In Sydney though, the Council has decided it needs to prevent the food trucks competing with existing cafes by regulating where and when they can be open. In effect Council is just allowing new regulated shops to open next to the kerb – and in a way that doesn’t compete with other outlets.
This would be unlikely to be in consumers’ interests. Council should just let hawkers sell food wherever and whenever they wish in the CBD (subject to health/rubbish concerns) – the small scale of most operations would likely result in minimal amenity impacts. Hawkers would gravitate to where people want to buy food rather than where Council thinks they will – hawkers would be much more able to respond to consumer demands than a Council regulating times and locations of operation.
This to me looks like an overengineered regulatory esponse to a desire for street food.
Adam Creighton (@Adam_Creighton Economics correspondent for the Australian) wrote an article The Democracy Deficit published in Charter magazine, which has subsequently been shortened and republished in the Australian last Friday. While I agree with his general theme about the incentives in democracies being for governments to respond to voters’ demands and spend more over time - free money, after all, is attractive – his medicine is off mark.
There is no inexorable decline for democracies to financial ruin. They can be self-correcting if governments overspend - as shown with the 1992 election of the Kennett government in Victoria (I understand that the Victorian Government was in a much worse financial state than is generally believed) provided the political system allows change to be implemented. It could be argued that the US Federal political system does not allow reforms to be implemented effectively or efficiently.
While some European governments appear to be in financial trouble, the Australian government – one of the longest-existing democracies – is easily able to sell its bonds at low prices. Good financial management of a government is probably more connected to political culture, effective financial controls, transparency of economic and financial data, and clear lines of accountability.
In addition, the idea that there should be a constitutional limit of spending – as suggested by Creighton - is ill thought out.
- it does nothing to prevent unsustainable budget deficits unless there are similar provisions for revenue raising;
- determining Creighton’s proposed maximum level of government expenditure would not a technical process;
- like all such constitutional provisions, it would entrench a policy view that existed at one point in time;
- it would reduce the flexibility for governments to respond to societal needs; and
- it would create incentives for governments to disguise expenditure and redefine economic activity.
While the article has shortcomings, it is interesting and worth a read. Of course democracy should be retained. People must be able to throw a government – and its economic policy - out. And the franchise must be as wide as possible among competent people (i.e. adults and potentially 16/17 yr old citizens / residents) to ensure that political parties seek to consider the interests of the entire population in designing policy.
A question to ponder is – if democracy has the deficits claimed by Creighton, but should be retained as the least worst system, what remedies are there? Possibly the most practical remedy would be to raise the general level of political and economic knowledge through the mass media – something which kind-of occurred in the ’80s and ’90s but which appears to be declined since.
Introducing a constitutional or statutory maximum level of government expenditure is a short-term fix that may not be a solution at all.