BTL: A tale of two Liberals

Yesterday’s post looked briefly at an overview of below the line voting, with a quick look at the results for those who voted ‘1’ Liberal (or rather, for any one of the Liberal candidates). Today I’m going to briefly look in a little deeper at something noted in passing then; the different sub-groups that feature within those who,regardless of their other votes, picked the Liberals as the first of those who ended up elected (Lib, Lab, Grn, Pup). This is a slightly different group than I showed in short form previously, but one which serves to show the noted split in preferencing clearly.

Within that set, I have then filtered for those who voted Family First in the early half of their vote (Pro FF), and the alternate of those who voted them in the latter half (Anti FF).

To show the difference this test makes not only to the votes for Family First, but also the differences in voting preference across the whole range, these are sorted in order from most difference against FF to most difference for FF.


Significant differences that correspond positively with support for Family First are support for ‘Stop the Greens’ and Andrew Roberts, an independent candidate. Significant differences that correspond negatively with support include the ALP, Pirate Party, HEMP, and the Sex Party.

Notably there is little differentiation on the two groups opinion of the Greens, and a small negative correlation with Rise Up Australia (another Christian Values based group, but one that is notably more extreme).

Now any theorising on the basis of why these differences exist is beyond the scope of this data; most votes don’t indicate why they voted the way they did, and for those which do… well the information isn’t transcribed into the system.

Feel free to speculate .

One final bit of information.  This chart is based on ~8500 votes; ~3500 in favour of Family First and ~5000 against, all voting Liberals as the first of their majors.  




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Below The Line

One of the features of our Federal Senate voting system in Australia is the option to vote below the line. Although there has been some substantial (and well deserved) complaint regarding flaws in the system, it actually forms a pretty good basis for selection that works well while the number of candidates remains approachable.

However, the number of candidates in the Senate, in most states, has long since become unapproachable in terms of the effort required to allocate preferences – in NSW for 110 candidates this time around, and even in Tasmania 54.

In anticipation of this issue, the system was designed with a short cut – you could nominate to vote above the line and pick one of the provided pre-arranged preference lists. Each party is able to provide one such list.

This however has lead to some problems in that these lists are not necessarily — nor commonly — ordered in the way that party members would select if they were to allocate themselves.  This leads to a lot of the fuss that has occurred with micro parties managing to ‘snowball’ a very small vote up to the point where they pick up a seat through a combination of good fortune and good analysis.

Despite the ease of voting above the line, some people choose to take the effort below the line.  In Tasmania this time around, around 10.3% chose to do so. After the election is counted, the AEC publishes the preferences selected by those who vote below the line, naturally without any identifying details. This allows a look at what order people who voted for a particular party actually did use, and thus a comparison with the party’s above the line selection.

A couple notes before looking at some of the data.  Firstly, people have different reasons for voting below the line. A significant reason for doing so is because they don’t like some aspect of the way the party has arranged their above the line list. As such, the arrangement of votes sampled from below the line should not be confused with how those who voted for that party above the line would have voted below the line. Secondly, although the data is nominally by individual, the difference between individual and party results is almost exclusively determined by the order in the party and thus the results can be simplified to party results without loss.

With that said, lets have a look at the results for the Liberal Party.

LibBTLSo what can we get out of this? Apart from the order of preference which you can muse over yourself, there are a couple of interesting features.  One is the shape of the curve; the other the deep spike in the 20 percentile line for Labor.

The shape of the curve illustrates the consistency of response; where there is a consistent response to another party, their point lies close to the diagonal.  In this case it is obvious that the only really consistent responses are for the Liberal Party and the Greens.  The other parties are either not well enough known or opinion is split upon them.  The Liberal Democrats and Palmer United also show a lesser consistency.

Labor’s lower line shows a deep spike down; this reflects the substantial portion of voters who preference Labor very early in their votes, before most of the minor parties. Its not enough to outweigh the much larger grouping who put them last or second last, (see the spike up in the 80 percentile line), but it does reveal the distinct split in votes that occurs.

In my next piece I’ll look at the division that is revealed within Liberal Party voters with a little cutting and slicing of the data.


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On the prevention of chaos

Around the world these days there are numerous regions facing declining / collapsing economies, from Europe to the Middle East, and more on the verge of such a collapse should there be another significant interruption to trade and confidence.

One of the tensions that forms in these times is rooted in powerlessness and dependency. People feel powerless to change their own situation, and feel firstly dependant and then, necessarily, betrayed by government. This leads to extreme politics, increasing social tension, and in many cases fragmentation and eventually war.

We are not immune to this in the West, not even in Australia. We may be more sheltered, but we are not invulnerable. And we know it; our national concern over the inflow of illegal immigrants is a reflection of this, as is our increased rate of savings. We are preparing for hard times whether we acknowledge that logically or not.

So as part of this preparation, what measures can be taken to see us through with the minimum of unrest and chaos? For once I’d like to look at the role of government here rather than the individual.

There are two major changes government can make to provide greater capacity for self determination , and they have to do with localisation and flexibility.

Firstly, it is critical that government does not ‘betray’ it’s people, and yet at a state or national level it is near impossible to manage because the demands become so great. Counterintuitively, the only way I see for a government to manage a collapsing economy is to early on, intentionally fragment and delegate power, to localise government to the degree that people relate to one another in community in resolving their immediate needs. It must be done early, because relationships take time to form. It must be done intentionally, because otherwise it will happen arbitrarily and without oversight. It must be sufficiently small that people have a sense of their own ability to influence outcomes, and a sense of their own responsibility in decisions that are made. If this is done, the burden of any loss can be shared and accepted rather than be transformed into blame.

Secondly, the capacity must exist to change the nature of land use quickly and repeatedly. Times of difficulty are inherently times of change, as desperate people make decisions unpalatable in easier times. One of the biggest changes is movement – locally or further afield. It is critically important to make this change as easy as possible. The loss in terms of stability and relationship are significant enough; arbitrarily adding unnecessary economic costs can mean that the required changes either happen at significant loss, happen later than they should or both. This increases the damage caused, stressing relationships and stability as people seek to avoid economic losses. It doesn’t need to be that way. In Tasmania, the biggest culprits are stamp duty – imposing an arbitrary cost on movement – and our use of freehold title, which imposes asset losses rather than reducing costs in difficult times, exacerbating the situation. Eliminating or minimising stamp duty, and resolving our land title problems either by making a transition to Flowhold title or by imposing a corrective land tax, will set us up to pass through difficult times with the least loss.

These changes are important, and it is important that they are made prior to being needed. Changing early lets people get used to the ideas implicit within them and have a degree of familiarity with those concepts before they need them in desperation.

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Bringing home the budget

So the news is in.  The Alliance has brought down a budget that is only $425M in the red this year.  Looking at the figures it is pretty easy to see where things went wrong.  They budgeted last year to end up $283M in the red; things just got worse from there.

Budgeting for a government need not be a hard thing, need not be dependant on the vagaries of treasury sucking its finger and lifting it to the wind and hoping for a lift in revenue.  There is no need to project the next year,  simply to limit spending in the year ahead to the revenue brought in in the year past.

So last years budget should have been $4594M, and guess what – actual revenue this year would have left us with a few million in the bank.   Sure, this is simplistic and ignores all the second order effects that happen when you trim back.  But all of that washes out after a couple years.

This mechanism gives teeth to the line that both major party’s feed everyone about ‘balanced budgets over the medium term’.  If you maintain this, that will occur, regardless of the actual outcomes – it’s prooffed against collapse, and tempered against surges.  The one year lag also serves to temper economic changes, but just a little.

That’s the bottom line.  The hard work, the hard choices, is above that, choosing what has to make way in order to fit in the budget.  In a state budget, there are few easy cuts; I’ll look at that tomorrow.


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We can do this the easy way, or…

When those words are said, you never assume that this way is easy; there is always a cost involved.  The cost is just less than the alternative.

There are four aspects of governance we need to change: the state must tax the state, and only the state; the people who pay the state’s bills must have a upper house that represents them and only them; the responsibility for discrimination must be held by the community and only by the community; and we must learn to value nature that is productive, and productivity that is natural.

This is the easy way.

I believe in a Tasmania that thrives in and because of adversity, that has an inclination to step out of its comfort zone and make something of itself.  That is our history, and it is our future.

Men and women were sent to Macquarie Harbour as the worst of the worst; they set about building the best boat hulls the world had seen to that point.  Making use of the exceptional natural resources that Tasmania had to offer, and combining it with technology and productivity.

And then government stepped on it.

Which also is part of the story of this place.   The clash between the frontier and the urbane.  At our best, we are personally engaged with the natural wonder of this place we live.  We work on and within the frontier, pushing back against the wild and growing from the experience. When we isolate ourselves from the elemental, the wild, the uncontrollable, the uncivilised aspects of life, it lessens us.  In isolation from the wonder that surrounds us we become insular, our self focus festering within our communities. People grow to miss something they cannot identify for they have no experience of it.  They seek to preserve nature rather than engage it, because the thought that they have kept something ‘other’ gives them comfort in their civilised emptiness.  Yet that very act distances not only themselves but others from the very thing we as a community missing when we disengage with the frontier.  Communion, in community.

That then is the point of exhortation.  Engage the place around you, with the people around you.  Communicate more.  Achieve more.  Explore more.  Take more risk.  Have influence.  Be influenced by those you want to emulate.

For we do find ourselves in a difficult place, make no bones about that.  Our federal government spends 10% more than it takes in, vainly projecting a better tomorrow that cannot come while it continues to do so.  Our state government does the same.  Do not be the third link in a chain to disaster.  Hope for a better future, but don’t count on it coming tomorrow.  Do not count on a new government doing a new thing.  Your future gets better each day you produce more than you spend, but that means working a bit more today, and a bit more tomorrow.  As we each do that, each day, Tasmania’s bright future moves a day closer.

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The Swagman’s Ghost

Once a jolly swagman
Camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolabah tree
And he sang as he watched
And waited till his billy boiled
‘You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me’

It’s a song etched in the memory of most every Australian. Yet seldom do we stop to listen and ponder the words within. Like many song that have been handed down through the generations, this song has much that is lost to time.

We pass by the billabong without hearing the words of the ghost.

Yet the song describes the archetypal Australian struggle; the swagman against the squatter. A struggle that is just as current today as it was when the song was written. Today, the squatter, backed by the law, still wins against the swagman as a direct result of his windfall.

Still today, everyone wants their bit of something for nothing. Still today, because the swagman takes his ‘something for nothing’, the squatter gets away with gouging orders of magnitude greater. And still today, the swagman still ends up ruined.

For the sake of a sheep. After that point the difference is only a matter of scale. With the power of the law, the power of the systems in place, brought to bear, there is only ruin for the small. We don’t seem to learn that it is through the chinks within the systems that are established that the benefits flows, without labour or risk, to those in position to take advantage of them. The beauty and the terror of our system is that not despite but because these flaws are open to all, nothing is done about them.

Because so many do well from owning a home, we seem to forget that society still divides along the line of those who hold land and those who don’t. We see those who take best advantage of the system as good business, the same business we are in but at a different scale. Those who act to preserve these advantages act ‘in everyone’s interest’.

In everyone’s interest; At everyone’s cost. To the advantage of the few, at the cost of the many. For the sake of a sheep. Behind the strength of the law.

The cost, at any one time is not too great. A few percent a year. Each year. Year after year. Generation after generation. Wealth that would have been built never is. Changes for the better that would have occurred never do.

All for the sake of a sheep.

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The fragile nature of the gift

To receive a gift is a precious moment; no less the giving of one.  To give willingly, without expectation of return provides a momentary glimpse of the greatness that is inherent within mankind.  The gift embodies self-sacrifice.  Whether it is from a known loved one, or a total stranger; whether in time of plenty or time of need, it is a beautiful act.

Nothing denigrates a gift more than a sense of an entitlement to that gift.  With our children, it is this delicate balancing act teaching this.  There is a sense that you cannot give the same thing, the same way, too often or it becomes an expectation, and loses it’s nature as a gift.  Thus we avoid giving gifts when asked, we are creative in our giving, and we speak disapprovingly into those times where a child reacts negatively when gift is expected but not received.

The perspective of the gift sheds an interesting light on the contention within our culture over the provision of public services.  The vast majority of those producing wealth in this, and other nations feel to one degree or another that they are happy to help out through taxation others in need.  What grates is not that this help is given, but that it becomes expected, demanded.  The gift they give is not honoured; at some point it is no longer a gift.

Government inserts an immense dissociation between giver and receiver.  There is no ‘person’ giving,  just the amorphous, bottomless pit of money that is the government.  Critically, there is no relationship, and without that relationship, there is no sense of the sacrifice involved.  The gifts people receive become perceived merely as outworking of the system.

Confounding the issue further is the systemic lack of a discrete point at which people’s obligations as members of society end and their generosity as gift givers begins.  There is no clarity, just an ever changing taxation system that morphs to reflect the political aspirations of the government of the day.  This ambiguity about what is appropriate leads to the situation we see where those who are paying in to the system feel they are paying in too much, and those that are receiving from the system feel that others are paying in too little.

Part of the beauty of land tax is that it clearly indicates this boundary.  We are paying the community for the right to sole use of a limited and valuable resource.  There is no gift involved; the returns from this are equally distributable to all.  We already get our return from our expense in the land we occupy; what happens to the money is then the choice of the community.  Gift giving returns to the personal, relational act that it is supposed to be.

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