Yesterday I handed out how to vote (HTV) cards for the Australian Greens. The experience was very different to the one I had when I handed out cards for the Greens in the Victorian state election in 2006 . The Labor party (ALP) hadn’t spread any gross lies about the Greens and there were no representatives from the insane parties (Family First and Citizens Electoral Council/Commission (CEC)). So we didn’t have any arguments among the people handing out the HTV cards.
The atmosphere among the volunteers that were present was a good match for some ideals of a sporting contest. Everyone wanted their own team to win but acted in a sporting manner. When no voters were around we had some friendly conversations.
One thing that was interesting to note was the significant number of families where the parents in their 40s deliberately snubbed me while their children in the 18-22 age range took the Greens cards. It seemed that for families with adult children there were two likely voting patterns, one was children voting Green and parents not liking it, and the other was when the entire family voted informal (when someone refuses all offers of HTV cards it’s a safe bet that they will cast an informal vote). In Australia submitting a vote card is mandatory but making it legible and formal is optional.
The last report I heard suggested that about 5% of the total votes were informal. This seems to be strong evidence showing that civics lessons are needed in high school. Also there were a disturbing number of people who stated that they didn’t know which party to vote for when they were collecting the HTV cards. A HTV card has one or two sentences about the party and there are almost no requirements for truth in such statements. Anyone who votes according to such brief summaries of the parties is quiet unlikely to end up casting a vote that gives the result that they desire.
The result of the election is a significant swing to the Greens, more senators and the first Green MP! For the lower house it seems that Labor will have great difficulty in forming government even when in a coalition with the Greens and some independents. It seems unlikely that the Liberal party could ever make a deal with the Greens, the Liberal position on almost every significant issue contradicts that of the Green policy, but there is a chance of a Liberal coalition with independent MPs. In any case it seems that the Greens will have the balance of power in the senate so the excesses of the Howard government can’t be repeated.
If you like the nail-biting drama of watching several columns of figures slowly changing over the course of several days then you would love watching the analysis of this election! Whatever coalition government is created is not likely to be stable and we can probably expect another election in a year or two.