AV Probably Not The Big Deal Everyone Thinks It Is

Link bait headline aside, I actually think AV is a good thing. For Australians, AV is not ‘Alternative Voting’ it is the way we have voted for decades.

The AV referendum, like most referenda, looks to be tanking. The Tories had the easiest side of the argument, ‘Don’t fix something we think isn’t broken’ while the AV proponents had to try and explain how it works.

The anti-AVers

The anti-AV people ran rings around the pros except for a few. Adam Boulton on Sky UK destroyed Baronness Sarsi who looked like a fool and cited the Australian experience with AV. Or, to put it more frankly, lied.

1. AV will cause more coalition governments

False. We’ve had two in sixty years in Australia.

2. Australians want to abandon AV

False. It’s not even on the radar, nobody cares, we’ve had it since just after WWI, starting with a December 1918 Federal by-election. Ironically, it was the Conservative-types who wanted it because Conservative-types were splitting the vote and delivering FPTP victories to the socialist-leaning Labor Party.

3. The introduction of AV precipitated the enforcement of compulsory voting.

False. Voter turnout sucked either way. I support compulsory voting because if you have the right to vote, you should. A lot of people have died in the last six months for that right.

It is, in fact, not compulsory to vote. It is compulsory to attend an electoral booth, prove your identity and stuff the ballot box with your ballot papers. You don’t even have to mark the paper. That’s it. It’s a civic duty, like paying your taxes and getting your dog to relieve itself somewhere other than the footpath.

My theory is that compulsory voting is probably a mitigating factor in the lack of eight-party coalition government arguments so beloved of anti-AVers because it’s more difficult to organise EVERYONE to vote weirdly. The ‘everyone’ voting bloc like to stick to the middle ground, however wide that middle is.

The other side

It’s not all one-way traffic, though. The pro-AV crowd have made some equally stupid arguments:


This one made my blood boil. Those four beers have to all be the people you want voted in for the winning coffee to be a bad thing. In the real world, those four beers are Australian Democrats, One Nation, Family First and Labor or Liberal with the coffee being either Labor or Liberal that isn’t a beer (Labour and Tories to my UK readers).

The point of AV is that you may like Labor first but also want to point out that you really don’t want One Nation cluttering up Parliament with their bollocks and Family First pretending to be Christians when they’re just social conservatives who’ve only read the Old Testament and take it literally.

Note that I’ve deliberately left the Greens out. I’ve done that because the only reason they are anywhere in Australia today is because of AV. The Democrats use to be the winners from the AV system before everyone realised that they were the dumping ground for people who couldn’t cut it in the two major parties, Labor and Liberal.

If AV were abandoned here, the Greens would be pretty much wiped out of the Senate as they largely make it on preferences. That is not a criticism, in fact it’s the advantage of AV in the Upper House that we get a spectrum (which does sadly include idiots like Steven Fielding), and a spectrum that sometimes gives moderate parties the balance of power. Preferences have given Greens seats in Lower Houses of the Federal and NSW Parliaments. Which is why instead of AV, the Greens want Proportional Representation. No thankyou. That would really cause trouble because then we would end up with One Nation lunatics in the Lower House demanding 2% flat-taxes and whites-only public transport.

I’m not super-keen on the Greens having the balance of power, if you’re interested in knowing, but it would have been great in the Howard years after Dems sold us down the river on GST (not the fact it happened at all, but the fact they got hoodwinked and didn’t get more things left out).

Oh, yes, the point.

In the end, if AV got up, it won’t make much difference. Voter turnout in the UK is reasonably strong despite the idiotic decision to run elections on a work day (the much-admired Australian Electoral Commission is a slick operation and reckons Saturday is the business, and it is). So that voter turnout at the next FPTP election will destroy the LibDems because they’ll realise the protest vote against Labor didn’t work out that well. Sure, there may still have been a Tory government but there’d be no pesky left-wingish Nick Clegg carrying the drinks tray in Cabinet meetings.

If AV had got up, the LibDems would suffer the same fate because they’d end up getting lower preferences, skulking just above the Nazis and the BNP (oops, same party) if I were voting. AV is a cause-du-jour for the LibDems because it would have meant that in the past, they’d have had more seats but it cuts both ways, as the Australian Democrats discovered.

In the wash-up, it probably won’t make much difference and until the House of Lords is elected, it will just mean a slight re-jigging down below in the House of Commons. I’ll be disappointed if AV goes down but angry at those ineffectual morons who invented the beer/coffee analogy because it’s that kind of patronising, hopeless approach that helped it sink.

– This was originally posted on my Tumblr which I abandoned because Tumblr isn’t that good. –


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