There are plenty of people around the country who disagree with what John Howard has done in Iraq. They are not just left wing radicals - the anger extends across the spectrum, taking in many people who would have supported the Liberal Party in the past. A lot of people, staunch Liberal supporters included, are keen to vote the Prime Minister out after what he has done in Iraq, and for the contemptuous way he has told us that our only option to keep him accountable is to vote him out at the next election.
And now as we approach the next election, those people need to decide how to accept his invitation. If they think they can do this by voting Green or Labor, depending on their seat, they may well need to think again.
If you are in a marginal seat, you can obviously vote for one of the other parties. The dominant alternative parties this election seem to be Labor and the Greens. In a marginal seat, you can help vote out the Liberal member simply by voting for one of these parties, and then giving your preferences to the other.
But we are not all in marginal seats. For those of us in safe Liberal seats, a vote for Labor or the Greens is unlikely to help much at all. To win in a safe Liberal seat, you need to get votes from people who prefer Liberal to the left wing parties. Labor and the Greens cannot do that - or at least they cannot get enough of those votes to get them over the all-important fifty percent line. A vote for Labor or the Greens has some symbolic value but has no real chance of helping to defeat the safe Liberal MP.
Voting Labor or Green may look attractive if you want to vote against Liberal but appearances are deceiving. The other parties always seem assured of a certain amount of votes. They can get to a certain distance just by being a well known party. But the problem is that in a safe Liberal seat, they get to that certain distance and no further. After the election it may look like they came closest because they got to forty percent, but it is the next ten percent that will always elude them. Ultimately, voting for another party in a safe Liberal seat is futile.
On the other hand, independents are good at getting those crucial votes from the dominant party. Because independents are not perceived as the "other side of politics" by Liberal voters, the Liberal voters are often quite happy to vote for an independent. If the independent is knocked out, their votes are likely to go back to the Liberals but if the independent hangs on until the final round, they will defeat the Liberal candidate.
And there is the rub - the independent must hang on until the final round. The challenge facing independents in this election is not getting votes away from the Liberal party. The challenge is getting enough votes to avoid being knocked out early by the Greens and Labor. The horrible truth is that the independent - the only option with a real chance of defeating the safe Liberal MP - is more likely to be knocked out by the votes of people who want to get rid of the Liberal MP than by people who support the Liberal MP.
This leads to a conclusion that most people find startling - Liberal candidates often win in safe Liberal seats because too many people voted Labor and Green. This is something that is well known in political circles, and it is why the big parties will do anything to tell you that you "waste your vote" by voting independent - they fear that if voters realise the power they can wield by putting an independent first, the big parties will lose their stranglehold on power.
The voters of Calare, Kennedy and New England know this. All three of these electorates are held by independents. They are the only seats in the Federal Parliament held by independents. Before that, they were all safe seats for one party or another. By putting an independent first, you really can make a difference - even in a safe Liberal seat.
Voters in safe Liberal seats who are unhappy with the Prime Minister's conduct have a choice - they can cast a symbolic vote for Labor or the Greens that will help the Liberal get back in, or they can cast a strategic vote for an independent that will help defeat the Liberal.
By all means give your preferences to Labor or the Greens, but if you live in a safe Liberal seat and you want to make sure the Liberal candidate does not win you need to make sure you put an independent first.
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