Tuesday 3 May 2011

The coming vote

I get a message from my good friend in Australia about the Alternative Vote. I think I'm allowed to blog it!

"Dear friends in the UK,
with the referendum for the Alternative Vote coming up soon I feel compelled to write to you as that's the system they have here in Australia. And it doesn't work and I would really and strongly warn you against voting for it.
It's not that I like the current first past the post system either - I don't - it's just that changing it to the preferential voting system (or AV as they call it in UK) is a further step AWAY from democracy and transparency, not towards it.
This is the voting reality in Australia: in 2004 a man named Steven Fielding from the Family First party (think American tea party, you know conservative, homophobic, sexist "family value" type agendas) was elected into the Senate (where all laws have to pass through) on 1.88% (yes that's right just under two per cent) of the vote in Victoria! This was possible because no one got over 50% of primary votes and with the system of votes then flowing to preferences he eventually was the "winner" of the seat! Because he wasn't one of the 2 major parties he then held enormous power in the Senate. Every time a law was being proposed everyone had to lobby and beg him to take their side (or not). And he only got there on the basis of a skewed voting system that allowed him to hold this power on the strength of 210,000 votes out of 12 million votes! But that was not a blip - in last year's election he nearly got re-elected but was "overtaken" by someone else from an obscure little party who got 2.2% of the primary vote - who now sits in the senate and gets to decide on Australian laws! It'd be funny if it wasn't so scary! But that's how the AV system works - it can take unexpected and unintended turns and put people in hugely powerful positions who really shouldn't be there.
People who argue pro AV say that with the first past the post system a lot of votes never go into the count. But surely electing someone on the strength of a minute percentage - as can happen in the AV system - wastes 90 odd per cent of the vote.
The preferential (AV) voting system is seriously flawed and certainly, DEMOCRACY IT IS NOT! THe AV system also encourages a lot of  dealings among parties over who to give their preferences to, except once the party is in power no one can hold them to those 'deals'. For example in 2007 in Australia the Greens got a significant number of votes based on environmental concerns such as logging of ancient forrests. Those votes pretty much flowed to Labour so Labour got into power and - guess what - just did what they wanted with no concern of the Greens stance even though they got a large number of votes from them.
The AV system will not get rid of a 2 party system, nor will it be a more accurate representation of people's votes.
Anyway, I'll stop blabbing on, I just thought I might give you the story of a country where the AV system is being used. 
If you really want to have greater democracy and end the 2 party dominance then the way forward is the proportional representation, but AV is almost the opposite of that. "
 And as for me I have decided to vote No. I'm rather traditional when it comes to such things. I liked the Allison Blog on this.

But you will make up your own mind I'm sure! don't let me influence you!

1 comment:

Dom said...

It might have been an idea to actually research whether this was entirely correct before sharing it with your readers. Because the claim that Steven Fielding was elected by the AV system which this referendum is about is just not true. About 30 seconds on Wikipedia reveals that it is the House of Representatives which is elected by AV, and the Senate (where Fielding was elected) by PR. Which isn't the same.