[Marxism] NYT: Australia's Prime Minister Defeated After Four Terms

Nick Fredman srcsra at scu.edu.au
Sun Nov 25 18:42:29 MST 2007

A few objective comments on our ever-so-helpful but not particularly
well-informed comrade Ozleft (ever so nice of you to pop in, on such a broad
range of topics too):

> In the Senate, Socialist Alliance got 7392, down slightly, and SEP got
> 5224, up slightly.

Actually the SA is about 50% less than that of 2004, and it's meaningless to
compare the SEP vote with *their* previous vote as they're registered this
time, while they weren't before (i.e. no party name on the ballot), i.e.
their vote previously was largely random.

Interestingly though the SA + SEP vote this time is just a bit more that the
2004 SA vote, suggesting the SEP have simply split the small conscious
socialist vote. It seems similar in lower house seats where the SEP ran,
i.e. the small socialist vote stayed about the same overall. The stand-out
was the inner Sydney seat of Grayndler, with SA at 1.8%, and the socialist
vote at 2.2.% or 1600 people in a smallish area, indicating something of a
base there - and/or quite a few lazy "donkey" voters as it seemed SA was the
pole position on the ballot.

On a scale a couple of orders of magnitudes higher, the Greens, with quite a
few more staffers and loads more money than last time, also just held there
own in the Ruddslide, gaining one senate spot but not the balance of power.
It's unfortunate that an activist left Green like Kerry Nettle doesn't seem
to have retained her seat.

Some pundits and political scientists look at aggregate levels of where
votes were and where they changed etc, and maybe compare them to aggregate
social indicators for particular areas. But this is at best educated
guesswork, as there's actually no way to empirically tell anything much at a
mass level about how and why people vote without a survey instrument that
takes a representatives sample and asks about votes, social attitudes and
background etc, like the comprehensive Australian Election Study which'll be
filled out by a couple of thousand people in the next few months and be out
in about a year (a number of coutries including the US and UK have very
similar things). 

The socialist vote is too tiny to register on such a thing. Even the Greens
voting sample, and the sample of those who changed votes, will be quite
small meaning they'll be quite large margins of errors in statistically
testing questions like "what sort of people voted for the Greens" or "what
positions on what issues most strongly correlated with a vote switch from
Liberal to Labor?".

In terms of a socialist campaign in Australia today, the votes are fairly
meaningless, except to reinforce that the tactic is essentially propaganda,
a useful way of having a conversation with a few tens of thousands of people
and of involving 700 or 1000 people in activity. The discussion about how
useful a tactic it is, compared with for example working for the Greens
without any way of influencing what the Greens say or do (the ISO's latest
stick-beding), is ongoing. Some may make snide comments from outside this
discussion, but they're very welcome to their delusions that they're big
dudes in mass politics if it helps them cope with their awful past.

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