The answer, as far as I can see, is a resounding ‘well, sort of’. I’ve downloaded from the Greens website a document called ‘How to Vote Greens’, which shows all the How to Vote Cards for the Lower House seats.
There are (if I have counted correctly) 98 Lower House seats in Victoria. In 71 of them, the Greens have preferenced Labor ahead of Liberal. In 4, they are asking people to put Greens first, and to number the rest in any order they like.
And in 23 (mostly in country Victoria, but also, to my surprise, in the Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne), they have issued a ‘split ticket’ – where one side favours Labor over Liberal, the other Liberal over Labor (actually, there is one other split ticket, in Footscray, where one side favours an independent ahead of Labor, and the other doesn’t, but both are preferenced ahead of Liberal, so this isn’t part of the issue). Which is, as cjander potentially damaging to Labor – depending on which side of the card faces up.
(I also note with interest that in Lyndhurst alone of all electorates, they’ve preferenced Family First ahead of the Liberal party – although since the Liberal candidate is Gary Anderton, this is perhaps not so surprising. The Greens have also done pretty well out of the donkey vote, being listed first on the voting card in at least 25 seats)
What does all this mean (aside from the fact that both people I mentioned above are technically correct)? Well, to me it means that yes, in some areas, around half of all people following Green How To Vote Cards will be preferencing Liberal ahead of Labor. And I’m not very happy about that. If the Greens truly don’t care which way the preferences go in those seats, they should do what they did in the 4 seats where they encourage voters to put Greens first and then vote whatever they like (although that does carry the risk of people voting informal, so perhaps this is an unfair expectation).
But for me, while I don’t like this particular piece of politics at all, it isn’t actually a deal-breaker. Why? Well, first, I’m handing out how to vote cards in an electorate where the Greens do, unequivocally, preference Labor. In fact, I note that in both Brunswick and Melbourne, the seats near me that were strongly contested by the Greens in 2002, they also unequivocally preference Labor (I admit, I really do not understand what logic underlies their choice of areas for split tickets – I would have thought Kew, of all places, would be a safe Liberal seat – why encourage them, then? Or are the Doctors’ Wives at work here? In which case, again – why encourage the Liberals??).
Primarily, though, I still like the Greens’ policies the best of all that I have read. Oddly enough, this isn’t about me being a great environmentalist (I’m a pretty poor one, actually). But their policies in the areas of health, disability, public transport, social justice, and many other things appeal to me very strongly. Do I think they are ready to form a government? By no means. And I can’t imagine that they will in the near future. But I’d really like to see what they can do in collaboration with a Labor Government. I am quite partial to the Bracks government, and I like their policies and promises as well. I want to see them get back in – but I’d really like to see the Greens have a voice in the Lower House as well as the Upper House. Politics needs a few idealists in it, and I think the Greens need to learn how to work and play well with the larger parties if they want to become a more major party themselves.
And this, incidentally, is why I’m not actually a member of the Greens. I’m a swing voter – I’ve been swinging pretty strongly towards the Greens for several years now, but I’ve voted in other directions in the past, and may well do so again. I don’t think I’m cut out to join any party, to be honest – I’m not single-minded enough, perhaps; my favourite moments in politics are the ones where people from different parties work together to achieve goals. And it seems unethical to join a party knowing that I might not be there for the long haul – I’d rather throw my energy behind whoever currently best represents my vision for Australia, on a case-by-case basis. And write lots of letters to politicians in between elections…
Hmm… this has gotten very unfocused, sorry. I meant simply to get to the bottom of all this business with preferences, but got sidetracked.