December 13, 2006 | Graham

DLP breathes life into Democrats

One Democrat to another – it’s the preference deals that count. Many have been predicting the end of the Australian Democrats at the next federal election. Those people can’t count. But the Victorian Democratic Labor Party can, and their two victories in the Victorian upper house demonstrate that even with a vote lower than 3% smart preference deals can make everything right.
In the latest polls the Australian Democrats have been polling around 5% in a number of states, which is better than the DLP did in Victoria. Added to that, the quota in a senate election where there are six positions available, is lower than for a Victorian region where there are only 5 positions.
So, if the ADs can convince all the major parties they’re an easier group to work with than the Greens and that preference strategies ought to reflect this, they may do better than all the pundits predict.
They shouldn’t rely on this happening – backroom deals are no substitute for getting out and grabbing first preferences – but it would be well worth their while to see whether they can fund the premium on this insurance policy.

Posted by Graham at 11:46 pm | Comments (6) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. “they’re an easier group to work with than the Greens”
    The Libs can vouch for that… see GST and IR.

    Comment by vlado — December 16, 2006 @ 10:53 pm

  2. There are a number of silly things in this post. It’s either a wind up or the most heroically optimistic thing I’ve seen in a long while.
    1. Major parties don’t allocate preferences on the basis of who would be more pliable post-election. They do it on the basis of who can deliver them the most in the Reps to get elected in the first place. The ADs are in a very weak position here, with both very few votes to pass on and virtually no booth workers (which means that hardly any voters are getting the Reps preference recommendation anyway.)
    2. Only a fool would believe the Morgan Senate polling. Senate polling is notoriously inaccurate, and regularly inflates the vote of both ADs and Greens. For reference check out this Senate poll from 2004 and check out how inaccurate it turned out to be: A much better measure of the ADs’ vote next year is recent performance in state polls, and that gives no cause for optimism (to say the least!)
    3. The technical end of the Democrats depends on your definition. Clearly it won’t be this federal election, because there will still be 1 MP in SA and it will presumably remain a registered party. But the actual end, the meaningful point in time at which the end became inevitable, has long passed. The only live question now is whether or not it’s a dignified death.
    4. We all know that Fielding was elected in 04 with about 2%. To put that in context, it was by far the lowest primary vote ever on which a Senator was elected. The next lowest was Kerry Nettle in 01 with about 4.3%. Will it ever happen again? Probably. Is it extremely unlikely? Yes. Is it a sound basis for an electoral strategy? Only if you’re nuts.
    In 04 the Dems chased the preferences dream with a deal with Family First. The consequence was to further damage their standing, which is a pity because the ADs have been a principled party by far the majority of the time. I hope that they will not allow their legacy to be marred further with unethical preference dealings.

    Comment by AndrewB — December 18, 2006 @ 12:19 pm

  3. From one non-democrate to a bonofide democrate:
    Thank you for confirming the abuse of the “Preference system” and the underlying reason why Australian citizens would do well not to vote for you.

    Comment by Suebdootwo — December 20, 2006 @ 1:59 am

  4. Andrew B,
    You’ve obviously never negotiated a preference deal in your life! There are many considerations, including, at a Senate level, what is going to happen with your left-over quota, if you get more than one. Your calculation in this case is who you want to elect next. They might also reflect deals done at other levels.
    I don’t see why Morgan’s polling should be any worse than looking at state results. The Dems haven’t had a proper state campaign in Queensland for ever. They’ve always been a federal party, and they don’t run in many, if not most seats. Tote up their vote on this basis and it is bound to be under-stated.
    I’m not suggesting this as their only strategy, but I am suggesting that if they get the preference negotiations right they can eclipse the Greens. The corollary of that is that for the Dems it is the Greens who are the real target, not Labor or Liberal. The Greens should also take note of that and act accordingly.
    Preference deals aren’t unethical. You don’t express approval or otherwise for another party with a deal, you attempt to better your own position. You have to allocate preferences, so why should some idea that you shouldn’t preference certain parties (and why would you pick on Family First in this regard anyway) lead to you disadvantaging yourself?

    Comment by Graham Young — December 20, 2006 @ 10:06 am

  5. The problem with preference deals is that you have to preference somebody in our system and they all suck.
    The Dems have chance with preferences precisely because they look harmless. Having said that, the Libs will go to CDP & FF before the Dems and the Dems will have to pick up a range of micro-party preferences to have a shot. Time will tell.

    Comment by John Humphreys — December 26, 2006 @ 2:02 pm

  6. Pre 2000, the Democrats gained their electoral support from both Liberal and Labor leaners, that is about 50% of Democrat lower house voters gave their meaningful preference to the Liberals and about 50% to Labor.
    This is how they gained the numbers to elect Upper House members, by drawing support from the whole electorate. It also ensured some stability in support as if Liberal/Labor was on the nose, dissatisfied Liberal/Labor voters would support the Democrats. Note the recent large drop for the Greens in the polls in response to the surge in Labor support. If this became reality then we will see the stability of the Greens threatened.
    Post 2000, the Party moved to the left. Epitomized by the preferencing of Federal Labor in 2001,(Labor was preferenced in tight contests, Liberals in safe seats) the Democrats effectively cut themselves off from support from half the electorate. Consequently, in contesting with Labor and the Greens, the Party has withered.
    From a look at the recent Victorian Democrat preferencing, it appears that the Party is still persisting with its attempt to prosper from left support in competition with Labor and the Greens. In the five Upper House regions they contested the Greens were given first preference, in effect cutting off any support from the approximate 50% of Liberal leaners in the electorate.
    This may be acceptable if the Party sees its role as gathering votes for the Greens and Labor.
    However if the Party still sees itself as a legitimate political party then the status quo is not sustainable.
    I am one of the many Liberal leaners who supported the Democrats in the past and yearn for them to return to their pre 2000 format so I can support them again. At present I have no Party that I am happy to support.

    Comment by two bob — December 27, 2006 @ 3:44 pm

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