You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pay money, take choice

"After all, in whose hands would the Australian people prefer to leave their Constitutional fate: the author of the J-curve and the L-A-W tax cuts [Paul Keating], who had the previous week revealed an intention to jail journalists for revealing inconvenient Government secrets; or the man the Australian public [sic] had christened 'Honest John,' and whose decency has been a shining light through all the pitfalls of public life?"
- Tony Abbott, The Minimal Monarchy, And Why It Still Makes Sense for Australia (Wakefield Press, 1995), p 13.

Very well, then: let the Diogenes-es of the Liberal Party hear from this honest man:

'Asked about the level of support for the Greens, which he calls a passing phase in his book, Howard calibrated his view in a significant way. He noted that in some inner city electorates, voting Green could become institutionalised through Greens-voting families passing the habit down through generations - in the same way voting Labor or Liberal was a family thing a generation or so ago.

'And while he didn't say as much, he suggested one way to institutionalise the Greens vote would be for Liberals to allocate preferences to the new party in a bid to oust Labor MPs in soft left inner city electorates - as when the Liberals gave the Greens preferences in the federal seat of Melbourne, which led to the election of Adam Bandt. Howard pointed out that if a Greens politician was elected instead of a Labor candidate it would have the same outcome: one less number for the non-Labor side in Parliament...'
- Dennis Atkins, "It may benefit Libs to heed Howard's advice," The Courier-Mail (28 October 2010), p 11.

(The same outcome? I'd dispute that. Three important differences between a result of "80 Labor MHRs, 70 Coalition" and "65 Labor MHRs, 15 Greens and 70 Coalition", even if a Green/Coalition coalition is unthinkable: (a) Parliamentary logic. The Coalition might be able to defeat Labor on specific issues by peeling away the Greens, especially on "transparency" matters: see Tasmania since 1989. By contrast, they won't dent a solid absolute majority of Labor MPs. (b) Electoral logic. There will be Labor MPs who are nervous about Greens defeating them on Liberal preferences, and vice versa. Sows the dragon's teeth of discord on the left side of politics: compare the Liberals and Nationals in Queensland. (c) Moral ambit claims. "We won more Reps seats than any other grouping - 5 more seats than Labor and a whopping 55 more seats than the Greens" sounds very impressive if you don't analyse it too closely, and if there's another hung Parliament with a combined Liberal/National plurality - the Liberals will almost never, of course, be that largest single party on their own - this trope, repeated endlessly by Murdoch journalists, can be used to make a Greens/ Labor alliance seem illegitimate and anti-democratic.)

'The former prime minister, John Howard, has urged the Liberal Party to avoid doing preference deals with the Greens, even if it puts the Coalition at a tactical disadvantage. Speaking at the National Press Club yesterday to promote his autobiography, Lazarus Rising, Mr Howard said ultimately the Coalition had nothing to gain by helping the Greens take seats from Labor. This was because the Greens would always support Labor and their agenda was more extreme. ''I think my side of politics has got to be very careful about giving preferences to the Greens. In my view the Greens are worse than Labor,'' Mr Howard said. ''The Greens are fundamentally anti-free enterprise. They have terrible foreign policy attitudes and they have a lot of social policy attitudes that a lot of Labor people would find abhorrent.''...'

- Phillip Coorey, "Don't give preferences to the Greens, says Howard", Brisbane Times (28 October 2010).

Okay. Can someone please tell me, yes or no: Does JoHo think the Liberals should preference the Greens ahead of Labor, or does he not?

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