My online article last week met with some harsh criticism, some of it trivial (yes, there were a couple of typos) and some wrong-headed (I did not misrepresent the HEMP party’s preferences).
However, the facts in the article are accurate, and the conclusions drawn from those facts are unassailable.
The gist is that HEMP, Stop CSG and WikiLeaks have, by preferencing far-right minor parties, made it more likely that on the final count one of those parties (the Shooters and Fishers, Family First or Pauline Hanson) will snatch the last senate seat from the Greens. Not definite, just more likely.
Please note that I did not state that HEMP and Stop CSG have actually preferenced the Shooters and Fishers above the Greens (that piece of stupidity belongs to WikiLeaks alone). What I said was that votes for them could get placed on the Shooters and Fishers’ pile by way of one of the other right-wing groups they have preferred to the Greens.
All that needs to happen is for just one of those groups to still be in play when, for example, a HEMP candidate is eliminated. His votes will be transferred to the highest preferenced group still live on HEMP’s list. If this is a right-wing mob, those votes can then travel to the Shooters and Fishers party (or some other unsavoury destination) when the group is eliminated in its turn. Merely preferencing Greens above Shooters and Fishers without considering what appears on the rest of your preference card will not prevent your vote going in an undesirable direction.
It’s not as if we haven’t seen voting disasters before. If you think 110 candidates and 44 parties makes this senate ballot difficult, remember the 1999 NSW Upper House had 264 candidates and 81 parties. Glenn Druery, the infamous ‘preference whisperer’, organised the harvesting of minor party preferences so effectively in that election that Malcolm Jones of the Outdoor Recreation Party won a seat with a primary vote of just 0.2 per cent.
The problem is that given enough small parties in the ballot the preferential voting system can be ‘gamed’ and Mr Druery woke up to this earlier than others. His baleful presence can be discerned in the WikiLeaks debacle, and in the Stop CSG preference list. Another gamer is the candidate for the Liberal Democrats, David Leyonhjelm, who has set up a couple of right-wing micro parties and has close links with several others.
The complexity of preferences in the senate is a good reason for playing it safe and voting above the line for the Greens. They are sympathetic to the causes of HEMP, WikiLeaks and Stop CSG whereas Shooters and Fishers are sympathetic only to slaughter. The point is that exchanging preferences with the enemy is a dangerous strategy in which right-wing parties have a better track record than progressives.