Clearing up a few epitaph matters

My letter of December 21 headed “Political epitaph for Labor in New England”, in response to Allan Lisle’s of December 17, has attracted sufficient comment that I need to elaborate.

I agreed with Allan that the situation where a Nationals member, or a member of any party, is “safe” because of voters “rusted on” to their party is not politically healthy for the seat of New England. That power of certain re-election will eventually corrupt – I mean only by complacency – the best intentioned member of parliament.

The nation is divided into local electorates so people dissatisfied with their local member or the government of which they may be part can change both. A “rusted-on” majority throws away that power.

My further comments went to the option of electing an independent member (and would also have some application to electing members of minor parties). But whether he would agree with them or not, I think they are just an extension of Allan Lisle’s sound reasoning.

Looking purely at the logic of it, when you elect an independent, you obviously retain your power to change the local member, but you substantially throw away your power to change the government.

 This is where my reference to voting Labor comes in.

If, to take the present situation, you replace the Nationals member, Mr Joyce, with an independent, you have reduced the government’s parliamentary vote by one, but you have failed to add a vote to the Opposition numbers as you would have by voting Labor. That has arguably halved your power of changing the government. 

But the calculation does not stop there. 

If your independent sides with the government anyway, as Mr Windsor did, then considered purely on the basis of numbers in parliament, you have thrown away all your power to change the government. 

In any event, the uncertainty of what your independent member will do appears to mean you have thrown away more than half your power of changing the government.

That is why I said the best option for an electorate dissatisfied with the government or the local member was to vote for the Opposition candidate, the one who maximises your power to change both local member and government, in the present case, Labor. And that is why I said the voter reaction to this of “What? I could never vote Labor”, is a political epitaph, not for Labor, but for the seat of New England.

Any electorate which thus de-powers itself by rusted-on allegiance to one party commits, in the power struggle which is politics, suicide. 

The electorate needs that full power to hold member and government accountable. Throw it away, and “What? I could never vote Labor!” will be a fitting inscription for the political tombstone of the electorate of New England.

Stan Heuston

Oxley Vale

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