The most destructive, harmful and dangerous vote anyone can make in the forthcoming election is for a teal independent or the Greens. They are both a direct threat to our national security. The government and Labor, and most strategic analysts, tell us, correctly, that these are uniquely challenging times strategically and militarily. Yet the Greens’ position on defence is nearly insane – they, almost uniquely in the entire world, think China presents no strategic challenge and they want to slash our already feeble military capability.
By the way, this represents a terrible decline by the Greens. Years ago, on TV and in print, I frequently praised former Greens leader Bob Brown when he was almost the only mainstream politician making a serious critique of human rights in China while the major parties were locked in a conspiracy of silence, as they didn’t want to upset trade.
The teal independents are worse than the Greens. Their view of national security seems to be that an extremist position on climate change solves all other security issues. They are best seen as the latest wave of populists – like so many populists, funded by a white billionaire – to infest our political system.
The teal exploitation of compulsory preferential voting is becoming undemocratic as well. When preferential voting worked, it forced every voter to choose between one of the two main parties, while registering a protest vote along the way if they liked. The Westminster system relies on a party, or coalition, hammering out internal compromises to present a coherent program. Single-issue independents are the absolute opposite of this.
The main parties have themselves contributed mightily to their declining legitimacy. That the respective leaders took over preselections in Victorian Labor and NSW Liberal is a grotesque betrayal of democratic culture. As is, now, compulsory preferential voting.
In the current system, Frydenberg, or the Liberals’ Dave Sharma in Wentworth, could win, say, 43 per cent of the primary vote to the teal’s 25 per cent. If Labor got 15 per cent and the Greens 10, Frydenberg or Sharma could lose. So the candidate with 43 per cent loses to the candidate with 25 per cent. In truth, thousands of voters do not take seriously the allocation of their second preferences, but the parties, Labor or Green, print how-to-vote cards that most of their voters follow automatically.
For a long time I lived in an extremely multicultural part of Sydney. Within the polling area I was often approached by older people from a non-English-speaking background asking for help filling out their ballot papers. At the very least, we should switch to optional preferential voting, as state elections have. In seats where Liberals are at risk to teals, Labor and Greens are intentionally running dead but making sure to harvest the second preferences of their core voters. This is undemocratic in spirit. It’s a lower house form of preference-whispering, victory by tactical voodoo.
It is also intensely undemocratic that the teal independents will not say which side of politics they would favour to form a government if there is a hung parliament. I did an ABC Q&A episode with the teal candidate in Wentworth, Allegra Spender, and pressed her on this. Her absurd non-answer included the excuse that Labor had not yet released all its policies. So after nine years of Coalition government and despite endless detailed pledges from Labor, Spender really has no preference between the two?