Tuesday, November 16, 2010
WAS the Liberals' decision to direct preferences to Labor a tactical masterstroke, or an own goal that makes it more likely Labor will win re-election? Time and the Liberal voters of inner Melbourne will tell.
For while the Liberal head office decision tilts the odds Labor's way, Labor could still lose Melbourne and Richmond to the Greens on Liberal preferences.
Surprising figures published by the Victorian Electoral Commission show that at the 2006 election, most inner-city voters including most Liberals ignored how-to-vote cards and wrote their own preferences.
In a special study, officials examined every vote in the four inner-city seats fought out between Labor and the Greens, and the four country seats fought out between the Coalition and independents, or between the Liberals and Nationals.
In both areas, it found that less than 50 per cent of voters followed the party how-to-vote cards. Only 49 per cent of Labor voters did so, 48 per cent of Nationals, 46 per cent of Liberals and 31 per cent of Greens.
How come? One reason is that in Melbourne, for example, 30 per cent of votes were not cast at the polling booth, but as pre-poll, absentee and postal votes.
Such voters usually don't have a how-to-vote card, and make their own choices.
Others like to make up their own minds rather than do what head office tells them. And the inner suburbs are full of such people.
In the four inner Melbourne seats, just 39 per cent of Liberal voters followed the party's card, ranging from 45 per cent in Brunswick to a mere 30 per cent in Melbourne.
In 2006, that hurt the Greens. Their candidate Richard di Natale needed 83 per cent of Liberal preferences to win Melbourne, but won just 74 per cent, as 26 per cent of Liberals ignored the party ticket to give their preferences to Labor.
This year, if it happens again, that same independence could work for the Greens. At the federal election, Greens and Labor polled roughly level in the state seats of Melbourne and Richmond.
On federal voting, the Greens would have needed 46 per cent of Liberal preferences to win Melbourne and 52 per cent to win Richmond. They now have little chance of winning Brunswick (82 per cent) or Northcote (84 per cent). But this match is still alive.