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Australia Government Politics

Australia Elects Libertarian-Leaning Senator (By Accident) 343

Posted by timothy
from the people's-popular-front-of-new-south-wales-came-in-third dept.
LordLucless writes "Australia's Liberal Democratic Party, which describes itself as a classically liberal, free-market libertarian party, has had their candidate for New South Wales elected to the upper house, with roughly double the number of votes they were expecting. In part, this has been attributed to them being placed first on the ballot paper (which is determined by a random process) and similarities in name to one of the major parties, the Liberal Party of Australia."
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Australia Elects Libertarian-Leaning Senator (By Accident)

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 08, 2013 @11:42PM (#44794183)

    ...there's a bit of trick, too:

    http://www.crikey.com.au/2013/08/22/revealed-the-libertarian-rights-micro-party-links/

    • by LordLucless (582312) on Monday September 09, 2013 @02:49AM (#44794901)

      Yeah, only the major parties should be allowed to manipulate preferences - like Liberal directing all preferences away from the Greens to try and unseat them in Melbourne.

  • by DavidClarkeHR (2769805) <david.clarke@hrg ... a ['ner' in gap]> on Sunday September 08, 2013 @11:44PM (#44794193)
    In the last 30 years, when has the losing party every accepted the loss gracefully?

    Sure, the article says "Mr Leyonhjelm accepts his party probably gained votes in error, with voters thinking they were choosing the Liberals." ... but what else is he supposed to say?

    When the people make a massive mistake in democracy, it's still their decision to make. Look at the american elections for the last 20 years. Both sides will say the people made mistakes.
    • by Mitchell314 (1576581) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @11:55PM (#44794251)
      In the US, the losing presidential candidates tend to concede defeat gracefully. And grace is relative; regularly changing power from one party to another with virtually no violence is unusual in the history of human civilizations.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 09, 2013 @12:04AM (#44794297)

        regularly changing power from one party to another with virtually no violence is unusual in the history of human civilizations.

        That's because the same party (i.e. group of people) stays in power, what changes is the figurehead they give orders to.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 09, 2013 @12:10AM (#44794319)

        That's because the power never really changes. It stays in the hands of the businesses and their lobbyists. They pay any side that looks like it has a chance of winning. They don't care who the figure head is.

        It also helps that there's multiple precedents of the new guys forgiving and hiding any wrongdoings the other guys did.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by epyT-R (613989)

          You're forgetting the special 'social' interests that make up the bulk of the left wing lobby field. They promote systemically driven privilege as 'equality' to justify more government in our lives, picking the winners and losers in ever growing numbers of situations...and the taxpayer pay the bill! These people are as guilty as your neocon fuckwits for the destruction of liberty in this country.

        • by khallow (566160)

          That's because the power never really changes. It stays in the hands of the businesses and their lobbyists.

          So where do the real powers like the various US intelligence agencies fit into your scheme?

    • by mjwx (966435) on Monday September 09, 2013 @12:23AM (#44794367)

      Sure, the article says "Mr Leyonhjelm accepts his party probably gained votes in error, with voters thinking they were choosing the Liberals." ... but what else is he supposed to say?

      I think the mistake was that the voter simply didn't care. I highly doubt, as dumb as Liberal voters are that they would accidentally vote Liberal Democrat as opposed to Liberal.

      What happened is that apathetic voters simply put 1 into the first box on the page and dumped the paper into the Ballot box. They really didn't care who was in the box, they just voted to avoid being fined (yes, in Australia if you dont vote you get a fine). I'm just glad one of the obviously racist parties (One Nation, Stable Population) wasn't in pole position.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        The simplest solution would be to randomize the order on each ballot paper.

        Alternatively just make the first entry "none of the below" and if it wins have a re-run where none of the first round candidates are allowed to participate again.

    • by thegarbz (1787294) on Monday September 09, 2013 @04:21AM (#44795271)

      When the people make a massive mistake in democracy, it's still their decision to make. Look at the american elections for the last 20 years. Both sides will say the people made mistakes.

      The American system is different in that voting is voluntary and not quite as complicated. Also there's not a whole host of parties with similar sounding names. If you wanted to vote properly in Australia on the weekend you had to number 110 boxes on a ballot paper about 1 metre wide. I WISH I WAS JOKING!

      It took me literally 20min to fill out my ballot paper. I can understand why the vast majority of New South Welshmen would have opened the piece of paper, shouted out "CRIKEY!" then put the number one into the first box with "Liberal" in the title and walked away. Unfortunately the first box with Liberal written in it wasn't the Liberal party.

      • FWIW, my last American ballot paper wasn't a meter wide. It was, however, both sides of two sheets of legal-sized paper. Lazy voters here just complete the part of the ballot that selects the President (which is by far the highest profile election on the paper) and submit that. Next laziest vote for Senator and Congressman. Third laziest add votes for State congresspeople. And the rest actually vote for Sheriff, Clerk of the Court, et al, although by that point there's frequently just one candidate, as wh

  • Good news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Endovior (2450520) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @11:45PM (#44794201)
    In my experience, you get better government when there are more opinions at the table. The occasional election of people from minor parties (Greens, Pirates, Libertarians, etc...) makes it more likely for there to be objections to the really awful policies that the mainstream politicos try to force through. Even if you don't necessarily agree with what the guys have to say, they're probably a better choice than the typical minions of the expected 'lesser evil'. As such, it's good news when these sorts of guys get in... even if it was possibly 'an accident'.
    • Re:Good news (Score:5, Informative)

      by Solandri (704621) on Monday September 09, 2013 @04:26AM (#44795293)

      In my experience, you get better government when there are more opinions at the table. The occasional election of people from minor parties (Greens, Pirates, Libertarians, etc...) makes it more likely for there to be objections to the really awful policies that the mainstream politicos try to force through

      1) Australia practices compulsory voting. If you are eligible to vote and fail to do so, you are fined. From eyeballing the turnout numbers of the 2008 and 2010 elections in the U.S., my impression is that the people didn't really "decide" the Democrats were better in 2008, and the Republicans better in 2010. What happened was the Republican voters were dejected and didn't bother to vote in 2008, and Democrat voters were dejected and didn't bother to vote in 2010.

      2) Australia uses preferential voting. You rank the candidates in the order you like them. That means you don't get situations where two candidates with similar political ideologies split the vote, resulting in a minor candidate with the opposite ideology winning because votes for that ideology weren't split. Most Australians just use the simplified version (rank their choice #1, leave the rest blank) which has the same result as the plurality voting system used in the U.S. (greatest vote recipient wins). But having the option to rank the candidates means the system is protected from splitting the vote.

      Another voting option used in some parliamentary elections (not sure about Australia) is to vote for a party, not for individuals. This means if there are 100 members in parliament and the Green party gets 1% of the vote nationwide, they get 1 member in parliament. This system is incompatible with the representative system used in the U.S. (the idea being that if a Congressman or Senator represents a district or state, s/he will be more responsive to the wishes of the his/her electorate). In a representative system, the 1% Green party vote gets spread out over all the representative areas, and no Green party member ever gets voted to office.

      The combination of the representative system with plurality voting in the U.S. virtually guarantees there will only be two political parties - if there are three parties, the two whose ideologies are closest improve their odds of winning elections by merging into one party. Good luck explaining all this to regular people though. I've been trying to explain the benefits of a preferential voting system ("instant run-off") since the 1990s. Most people don't understand or don't care.

    • In our experience when there's minor parties on the table there are a lot of backroom deals done with minor parties to get them to vote on the governing party policies. That's exactly how we ended up a carbon tax despite voting for a party that guaranteed no carbon tax would be offered. It's how the seat of Lyne (a tiny part of the New South Wales mid-north coast) ended up with a new hospital, legislation making it easier for regional kids (like those in the seat of Lyne) to receive youth allowance, and in

  • by sd4f (1891894) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @11:45PM (#44794207)

    Once the count was on and I started to see a few more votes in that pile for the liberal democrats, I knew it was going to take a sizable proportion off the mainstream party in error. Having a look at statistics though, where I was working and surrounding regions had informal vote rates of 12% to 15% (much higher than the national average). It's also a labor party stronghold, which is the party who just got knocked out.

    It's also worth pointing out that the particular ballot paper was enormous, over 1m long, 110 candidates for 6 positions, 35 parties and can be very confusing to explain to people who barely speak english, on how to make their vote formal, let alone read the 6.5 point print on who they're voting for.

    Moral of the story is, you can't help stupid people, but you can let them to vote... (NB: Australia has compulsory attendance to vote and compulsory preferential voting in federal elections)

    • Moral of the story is, you can't help stupid people, but you can *force them to vote....

      • by donaldm (919619)

        Moral of the story is, you can't help stupid people, but you can *force them to vote

        In Australia you can be fined if your name is not marked off as having voted, however you don't have to put anything on the ballot papers if you don't want to or even just scribble on it. We call that the donkey vote and it is perfectly legal. Of course doing something like that is a wasted vote.

    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Monday September 09, 2013 @12:07AM (#44794311)

      Moral of the story is randomly choosing the order of the names on the ballot a single time then using that order on all the ballots doesn't actually accomplish anything.

      It's like making a random number generator with a single fair dice roll.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Moral of the story is, you can't help stupid people, but you can let them to vote... (NB: Australia has compulsory attendance to vote and compulsory preferential voting in federal elections)

      Errr... ummm... you sure that the subtle whiff of superiority emanating from your post was really what you mean?

      Is voting for liberal democrats an act of stupidity?
      Or... is making a(n individual) mistake a symptom of stupidity... only because many others made the same mistake?
      Ah, maybe "barely speaking english" would be a sign of stupidity, is that it?

      You know, rather than having me inferring reasons for your attempt of "moral of the story", why wouldn't you ellaborate on what you mean by it, mate?

      • by aardvarkjoe (156801) on Monday September 09, 2013 @12:50AM (#44794471)

        Well, I can't speak for the original poster, but in my book anyone who can't even figure out the name of which candidate they intend to vote for doesn't deserve to have their vote counted.

        This is the main reason why I support removing party affiliation from all ballots. If someone can't be bothered to learn the name of the person that they're voting for, then they shouldn't be voting. Increasing voter turnout is only a worthwhile goal if the voters actually have some idea of what they're doing.

        • by c0lo (1497653)

          If someone can't be bothered to learn the name of the person that they're voting for, then they shouldn't be voting.

          I would tend to agree... but not entirely... not knowing the name of the person for which one is voting can have a larger number of causes than only "can't be bothered".

          Increasing voter turnout is only a worthwhile goal if the voters actually have some idea of what they're doing.

          Eh, no. I prefer to have a compulsory voting for the same reason I prefer a society with compulsory elementary schooling... compulsory voting requires a participation in civic matters.
          Even if some/many will still end "illiterate" or "lacking basic numeracy skills", there are chances that some (hopefully many) would actually get "some idea of

      • by sd4f (1891894)

        Most people just couldn't care less. They don't inform themselves, they don't attempt to read things through properly, and after having a few people argue with me about voting, when I'm explaining to them what they have to do to vote formally, because if they did what they wanted to do, then their vote wouldn't count. I'm quite disenchanted with my electorate.

        Yes calling them stupid is over the top, particularly for people who don't speak english well.

        As for the liberal democrats, I enjoy shooting, so a par

    • by Any Web Loco (555458) on Monday September 09, 2013 @12:48AM (#44794461) Homepage
      I worked the election too and saw the same thing. A huge number of people came up to me asking which ones were "the Liberals" (meaning the Liberal National coalition, rather than the Liberal Democrats), and of course wasn't allowed to tell them, but it was pretty clear to myself and the election officers I was working with that people saw the word "Liberal" at the start of the ballot paper and then just ticked that box.
      • And I assume you're also not allowed to direct them outside to those people who could help answer that question?
    • It's a pity that all informal votes are clumped together under one number. How many of those are deliberate?
  • Appalling (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rsmith-mac (639075)

    Any system that lets someone be elected by accident is absolutely appalling. Australia would do well to reevaluate their system so that this doesn't happen in the future.

    Politics and national leadership is far too important to be decided by absurd errors.

    • Re:Appalling (Score:5, Insightful)

      by yotto (590067) on Monday September 09, 2013 @12:06AM (#44794305) Homepage

      Any system that lets someone be elected by accident is absolutely appalling. Australia would do well to reevaluate their system so that this doesn't happen in the future.

      Politics and national leadership is far too important to be decided by absurd errors.

      You know that any system where you ask common people to decide things will allow for stuff to happen by accident, right?

    • Re:Appalling (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AK Marc (707885) on Monday September 09, 2013 @12:16AM (#44794351)

      Any system that lets someone be elected by accident is absolutely appalling.

      Yet it was done in the US in 2000 and 2004. "accidental" votes (hanging chads, pregnant chads, etc.) got counted or discarded, affecting the election.

    • Re:Appalling (Score:5, Informative)

      by GumphMaster (772693) on Monday September 09, 2013 @12:30AM (#44794395)
      Election of this candidate was no accident. This is not first-past-the-post voting and the individual did not gain a quota outright. He won because other parties passed their votes to him after they were eliminated. As the LDP candidate points out, the senate voting preference system is open, well documented and the specific preferences are available to the public for weeks before the election. If electors cannot be bothered to vote with their own preferences (an admittedly tedious affair) then they take the parties preferences as published. In this case, there were tight preference deals between the litany of single-issue and minor parties. That minor parties can use that system to their own advantage is neither a surprise nor unexpected. It's equally naive to think the major parties do not play the same game... they are just not as "looney" or "fringe" and less worthy of media sensationalism.
    • You need to look up Arrow's impossibility theorem [wikipedia.org]: the problem is unavoidable.

  • I honestly thought the Liberal Democratic Party was part of the "Liberal Party", since what is referred to as the Liberal Party is actually a coalition of 4 (I think) different parties with names of a similar structure.

    And they sure as heck aren't liberal in policy, either. In fact they are the more conservative of the two main parties.

  • by Neo-Rio-101 (700494) on Monday September 09, 2013 @12:14AM (#44794341)

    The Australian Labor party is what you'd call a liberal party.
    The Australian Liberal party is a centre-right conservative party,
    And this Liberal Democratic party is closer to your republicans.

    Got it?

  • Reason #1 - Even though it's the opposite side of the globe from me it spreads the ideology and that makes me happy.

    Reason #2 - This most likely happened due to Australia mandatory voting policy - which as a Libertarian mandatory anything annoys me - so it sort of proves our point.

  • by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Monday September 09, 2013 @01:03AM (#44794499) Journal

    As it was my first time in Australia for an election, I watched on TV. The coverage was completely about the lower house. By the time I quit watching (Rudd's concession speech) I don't think there had been so much as a mention of the fact that senators were being elected also. It was weird and puzzling.

    • by LordLucless (582312) on Monday September 09, 2013 @02:52AM (#44794913)

      There's three reasons for that:
      - The lower house determines who the PM is, which is the thing everyone really wants to know
      - We only elect half the Senate at a time, so there's less of a shift than there is in the lower house where everything's up for grabs
      - The new Senators don't take their seats for almost a year

  • It's my understanding that voting is compulsory in AU. When you vote, must you mark your ballot?

    Given that not everyone is interested in voting, would it not make sense to simply mark the ballot the easiest way possible (i.e., from the top)?

    • by srjh (1316705) on Monday September 09, 2013 @01:19AM (#44794561)

      You don't have to mark your ballot, and even if you did, that would require them to check your ballots before you dropped it in the box, which they don't do.

      You can drop in a blank ballot, draw a penis on it, or whatever you like; if it doesn't follow the rules it's called "informal" and not counted.

      What you're describing is still quite common - it's called the donkey vote (numbering the ballot from the top), is a valid vote, and actually gives the top candidates a slight edge.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by paavo512 (2866903)
        If you don't have any slightest idea who to vote for, then you probably also don't know that voting is not compulsory or that the officials have no right to check your ballot before boxing. Better to tick just some box in order to not take any chances!

        The more I think of it, these people are actually rather smart. In a bad situation forced upon them they try to get it over as quickly and safely as possible and move on with their lives. Scanning the ballot beyond the first tick box would be a clear waste
      • draw a penis on it

        That just may count as a vote for the biggest dick on the list. At least it would explain a lot about the outcome of these elections.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You don't actually have to put anything in the Ballot - if you were so inclined you could simply sign off your name and put the blank ballot papers straight into the box and nothing would be said.

      As a side note: People must dislike the Australian Electoral Commission vote counters because it's not like a politician is ever going to see the penises and expletives they marked their ballots with.

      • by F1re (249002) on Monday September 09, 2013 @01:59AM (#44794713) Homepage Journal

        You don't actually have to put anything in the Ballot - if you were so inclined you could simply sign off your name and put the blank ballot papers straight into the box and nothing would be said.

        As a side note: People must dislike the Australian Electoral Commission vote counters because it's not like a politician is ever going to see the penises and expletives they marked their ballots with.

        As a vote counter I can assure you that during the long and tedious process of counting votes, the pictures of penises and swear words give us a chuckle and lift our spirits.

  • alrighty then (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slashmydots (2189826) on Monday September 09, 2013 @01:41AM (#44794645)
    If anyone was looking for evidence that straight ticket (aka party line) voters aren't so bright, here it is.
  • by craznar (710808) on Monday September 09, 2013 @02:32AM (#44794847) Homepage

    Two of them bought their seats
    One is a rev head
    One is a religious nutter
    One is a gun nutter
    One is a sports nutter

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-09/senate-balance-of-power---who27s-who/4945390 [abc.net.au]

  • by HJED (1304957) on Monday September 09, 2013 @03:02AM (#44794951)
    The article is incorrect, the senate count is nowhere near final, this result is based on computers predicting the flow of votes from people who voted above the line. Given the amount of preferences, it is entirely possible that another minor party could overtake him (it is however unlikely).
  • by Meski (774546) <meski.oz@gmail. c o m> on Monday September 09, 2013 @03:14AM (#44794993)
    Because the Liberal party is the conservative party, after all. That a conservative would accidentally vote Libertarian because of this naming issue has me almost pissing myself with laughter.
  • Complete lies (Score:3, Informative)

    by myforwik (1465003) on Monday September 09, 2013 @07:23AM (#44795909)
    The correlation between first place and more votes in the senate is essentially zero (actually its just less than 1% - with 16% needed to win a seat). LDP has been around for decades and been on the senate ballot in the first place previously - so that doesnt explain it. There is no evdence at all people were confused. People did not mix up their names at all. Australia has a long history of low government spending and low debt. Both sides of politics have ran campaigns promoting surplus and low debt. Libertarian leanings have grown recently due to the debt bringe and tax increases of the left Labor/Green alliance that have seen the fastest debt growth and biggest debt and deficit in Australias history. The left are trying to down play the fact that Australians have voted in what will almost certainly be a majority right wing senate. I Notice that no one Claims the Democratic Labor Party was mistaken for the Labor Party - as this wouldnt fit their view that Right only won this election by luck/stupidity/mistake. The truth is the major left wing party suffered their lowest two party vote in over 100 years - and previously fringe right wing parties have benefitted.
  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Monday September 09, 2013 @07:30AM (#44795927) Homepage

    From what I have heard, everyone in Australia must vote. Which I imagine is the biggest culprit here; A significant portion of people are voting who cannot even tell two parties with liberal in their name apart. Also, we should not discount the group who just picks a random party on the ballot box, which likely have a large percentage which picks the first one.

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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