This Saturday’s St Patrick’s Day poll is a major community event, and with all its limitations, when all is said and done, a festival of albeit historically limited democracy. Parliamentary elections are not, as the LeftUnity Constitution reminds us, the only form of politics, much less its be all and end all. But the fall of the Weimar Republic under the twin challenges of leftist criticism and subversive fascist violence serves to remind us that liberal democracy, if a qualified version of democracy, has its virtues as well as its vices.
One of the shibboleths of Australian democracy is that we suffer under a regime of compulsory voting. This is absurd. No one is forced to vote in this country. The law merely mandates that every citizen take steps to be polled. It is open to every elector to cross their name off the roll and decline to cast a vote. It is illegal under the Electoral Act to propagandise against voting. Unfortunately the Electoral Commission interprets this stipulation in such a way as to be silent on the electoral reality, thus suffraging the aforementioned shibboleth. This comforts the Tory push for casual or `voluntary’ voting. So we take this opportunity to invite all members and friends to vote.
Reports have moreover reached us that the preferential mechanism has been altered so far as ticketing arrangements are concerned. It would be as well then for electors to vote right through the ballot below the line to safeguard the validity of their vote.
It is not the role of the Convener of LU to legislate a partisan vote. But some observations are called for.
The Labor administration, led in recent times by Premier Jay Weatherill, has been in office with a majority on the floor of the House of Assembly for 14 years. But any `It’s time’ impulse is uncalled for in so far as this is very substantially a new government in respect of the previous Rann-Foley regime. It has halted the Labor lurch to privatization, for example. There have been signs of scandalous maladministration in health, and policy critics have not lacked grist to their mill in other departments of government. As against this, the administration’s response to energy market failure has been energetic, visionary and ecologically and socioeconomically sound.
The Opposition’s interconnector panacea, reliant on interstate coal burning, has been none of these things. In general the Liberals offer a front bench devoid of much talent, and their parliamentary leader Steven Marshall remains inexperienced and far from a safe pair of hands. In fine Labor has a credible socioeconomic program, flawed it is true by arms industry projects, whereas the Liberals so called strong plan is all spin and failed neo-liberal rhetoric.
While the major parties will remain the only ones capable of forming as opposed to supporting a government enjoying the Governor’s commission, if only as a minority government, independents and minor parties will very much shape the next parliament.
The Greens, led by Mark Parnell, are fighting to retain the services in the Legislative Council of Tammy Franks, a hard-working parliamentarian with good community links and sound political acumen. Her loss to the parliament is not to be countenanced. She has championed many causes, including calling on the Council to emulate the historic vote of the Assembly, the first State chamber to call on the Commonwealth to recognize Palestine unconditionally forthwith. Cheated by the wavering vote of former NXT exponent John Darley, parleyed by the Zionist lobby, Franks is expected to return to the charge on this important issue in the next Parliament.
The X factor in this election is of course Mr X himself, de facto leader, whether he becomes the Member for Hartley or not, of the newly minted SA Best. The list has some credible candidates, for example the progressive Mayor of Marion Kris Hanna, and on the liberal side the Mayor of Port Adelaide Enfield Gary Johanson. This political ambiguity of SA Best, together with the wearing off of the third-party novelty effect, is doubtless the reason that this friable personality party is not polling under campaign conditions as well as it was last year, when the risk of having to vote was more remote.
Newscorp polling points to a good showing by progressive icon and Labour Independent Frances Bedford. Rebelling against factional Labor Party overlords who challenged her pre-selection, her return would be one in the eye for them and a healthy measure tending to enfranchise democratic Party reform, and is accordingly much to be hoped for. Frances may well have a say in the formation of government in the next parliament. Let us hope so. She has been an ornament to the institution.
Hard pressed by her own account in her re-election campaign is Dignity’s industrious and politic Kelly Vincent. She too has been an ornament to the parliament, and it would be excessively sad to see her go; she has served her constituency, and the public generally, well. A good listener who consults widely; she gave an excellent speech in Council on the Palestine question, proof that she is more than a single-issue politician. Those who wish to see her returned will need to give her a primary or higher order vote if she is not to fail the cut-up before preferences begin flowing her way.
On the environment front, a consortium of ecological associations hosted a well-attended Leader’s forum at the Science Exchange. For once the Greens Mark Parnell got a guernsey (take note the ABC). He won the palm so far as the environmental score card published afterwards was concerned, with a perfect 5 votes. The plausible Mr X 3 scored votes, notwithstanding that SA Best arguably has yet to put runs on the Board. This caused some controversy, as the program of the winner of the debate, Premier Wetherill, scored only 2 votes. The lackluster Mr Marshall’s program scored only 1.5 votes. (Get the full lowdown at www.Ourfuturesa.org.au)
We commend these considerations to LU members and friends in the privacy of the voting booth. In general we would counsel putting the Tories last. It is a tossup whether the Liberals or the Australian Conservatives, socially reactionary but economically more sensible, out-Tory each other.
(Dr) David Faber LU Convener