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Is a vote for an independent a wasted vote?

By Richard Stanton - posted Thursday, 19 August 2010

Forget the independent and minor parties in this election - the media has.

The mainstream media in Australia supports the two-party system of voting and government.

Its failure to report objectively the minor parties and independents is a function of its support for the Labor and Liberal institutions because the media themselves are similar institutions.


So when Mark Latham, former Labor leader turned reporter, provided direct advice to electors - if you’re sick of the two-party system, submit an informal ballot for both the Senate and the House - the media again went on the attack.

As if he had not been vilified enough for earlier random acts of politics Latham was attacked by the ABC for attempting to destroy “democracy”, and legal minds turned to the possibility that he had infringed the electoral act itself.

The news media is quick to attack anyone who presents an alternative view of the two-party system and the attacks are not new.

One hundred years ago, David Storey, an independent in New South Wales, was attacked by the Sydney Morning Herald for attempting to establish a group of “independents”.

Storey and his proposed independent party were attacked by the Herald for being a “mischievous element” with no “administrative experience” and thus no way to provide policy or to govern in its own right.

The Herald was concerned that the strength of the Liberal vote would be split by unhappy conservatives who might defect to the independent party (known for a while as “democrats”).


One hundred years later the Herald is still producing opinions that reflect the two-party system - witness Paul Sheehan earlier this week (“Gillard’s pork pies hard to resist”) - but arguing the mirror image position.

Sheehan wrote that a vote for the Greens and their preference deal with Labor means a vote for a Greens candidate in the House may be a protest vote by unhappy progressives but will still go to Labor because of compulsory preferential voting.

This is not the case if we take Mark Latham’s advice. An informal vote can be a protest vote and there is no preference distribution.

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About the Author

Richard Stanton is a political communication writer and media critic. His most recent book is Do What They Like: The Media In The Australian Election Campaign 2010.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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