A tax and spend election

This election I've spent some time making fun of the tax-dodging gun nuts, but they make an excellent point about Howard's campaign launch yesterday. While promising $4 million a second, the Liberals really put the lie to their self description as "fiscal conservatives". The elephant in the room is that their tax and spend culture has contributed enormously to inflation, which has forced up interest rates.

A risky but potentially knockout option for Labor would be to promise less and attempt to force the narrative in the direction Lindsay Tanner's description of Costello's 2007 Budget: "a budget built on preaching abstinence and practising incontinence". I suspect the Labor hard heads will look at the polls and decide not to take the risk.

So on election day, just remember that it's your money they're buying your vote with! Of course, the difference between me and the libertarians is that I don't mind governments taxing and spending, provided the money is spent on something more useful than another Olympic sized swimming pool for a ridiculously rich private school.

Floating utopias

Easily Confused pointed me at this great article (via Danny) about floating libertarian microstates. It's a remarkably common theme amongst the tax-dodging no-such-thing-as-society fear-the-black-UN-helicopters-who-want-your-guns set. I remember reading, with interest, about The Atlantis Project back in my early days on the Net.

It seems the most common factor amongst all these state opt-out projects is their continuing non-existence. The article is hysterical! I particularly love the closing line.

Make blog is gone

I've been reading the Make magazine blog since it launched, but recently I've found myself hitting "mark as read" for it. The problem is one of volume and repetition. I just don't have the time to read 20+ posts a day from a single blog. What's more, when they show a single item they often then include every possibly vaguely-related post in that blog entry.

So it's with heavy heart that I must unsubscribe. I've enjoyed the blog, with lots of very cool projects shown, but until they have an "edited highlights" version with less than 3 posts a day, I just can't keep up.

A vote for a minor party is not a wasted vote

I was in Stanmore this morning handing out flyers for The Greens and yet again I had to explain our preferential voting system to a number of people. These aren't stupid, uneducated people, just people who have never learnt how voting in Australia works.

Australia's lower house runs the voting system knows as instant runoff, or more commonly in Australia known as preferential. It works like this:

  1. The voter puts a number in every box, against every candidate, showing their preference from 1 (candidate the voter would most like) until all the boxes are filled in.
  2. When voting, the first preference (the ones) are sorted out for each candidate and counted.
  3. If any candidate has a clear majority (>50%) they are declared the winner, otherwise:
  4. The candidate with the least votes is removed from the running, and his second preferences (2) are sorted out and added to the other candidates' piles.
  5. This continues through all the preferences until there is a clear winner.

Now if you hear the nonsense that "a vote for a minor party is a wasted vote", what you're hearing about is other voting systems. In much of Europe and the US, they use a single box vote -- you tick one box and that's it. In that case, unless you vote for one of the top two candidates, your vote is indeed wasted. However in Australia, your vote continues until it ends up on one of the piles of the top two candidates.

So let's say you live in an ordinary electorate, you can register your true preference for the candidates of minor parties, but still ensure that your preference between Labor and Coalition candidates is expressed. So you can still vote for The Greens while still contributing to getting rid of Howard. The candidate you put as your first preference, assuming they get 4 percent of first preferences, will receive funding from the Electoral Commission, so it's worth giving the first vote to the party you really want.

Update: Raz writes in to point out that the rounds of preference distribution only continue until a candidate gets an absolute majority. That's correct, and I've amended my description.

Raz also argues that the reason I gave to give your "1" vote is a pretty bad reason. He suggests it puts voters' preferences on the table and therefore:

  • allows major parties (those who have a shot of ending up in government) to adjust their policies to suit a wider range of Australians
  • and/or

  • allows momentum to build behind a new party when there's a sea-change in voter sentiment.