Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Senator Assange of the Greens?

This story should get enough exposure without my blogging about it, but I think it's going to come off the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald later today. The paper's Phillip Dorling has spoken with Assange about his plans in politics, that were announced a week or so ago, and has written a story that talks about how that would work.

It might be useful here to say something about how voting works in Australia, especially as regards the Senate, or Upper House. In Australia, each state fields 12 senators. Senators are chosen by popular ballot, as are members of the Lower House. But senators are elected for a period of six years, rather than three. Half of the Senate is reelected at the same time as each cohort of Lower House members. Half stays on. This system is designed to ensure balance in the Senate, which is called in Australia the "house of review", so that no one party can garner an absolute majority of both houses of Parliament. That's the theory anyway.

The Senate is interesting because votes are not reallocated according to pre-established preferences. Preferential allocation of votes is designed to ensure a clear victory for one party or the other in each seat. This happens for Lower House candidates. So for example while the Australian Greens have only one Lower House member at the moment they command six senators in the Upper House. Their Upper House standing better reflects the fact that the party usually commands between 12 and 15 percent of the popular vote. In the Lower House ballot, their votes are assigned to another party because the Greens are generally unable to demonstrate that they can command an absolute majority in the seat.

That's enough about Australia's political machinery. More importantly, Assange has not announced which way his allegiance would fall in a Senate run, but in this story he says that he is considering an alliance with a party. Running as an independent is also a possibility, as is establishing a separate political party. If he were to run with the crowd it could only be the Greens he would choose to partner with.
Mr Assange was sharply critical of the federal government and the opposition, saying there was "very little difference between Liberal and Labor, especially once they get into government. Labor suffers more from cronyism, while the Liberals care more for big business".
Apart from this perception, the Greens are the only political party that has tried to support Assange during his current adversity. The Greens have been talking with the Swedish government, for a start. But also their policies vis-a-vis personal freedoms are closer to those of Assange than are those of any other party. Looking at it from inside the beast, I would say that the Greens are Assange's only viable and credible option in terms of an alliance.

1 comment:

Behavioural Economics Australia said...

I can't see Assange partnering with the Greens. I would encourage him to start his own party. http://bit.ly/H5bDyT