Thursday, October 4, 2007

Malcolm Farr: Warning youngsters against the Greens

by Brian Arnell

Malcolm Farr of The Daily Telegraph, conjures amazing equations and random quotes to warn us against the Greens.

His headline is “Control of Senate a heavy cross to bear’ with the lead, “The question of who is the most influential non-government member of the Senate could lead young players astray.”

Young players should heed Farr’s warning. But, the danger is not the Greens: it is Farr himself. Farr’s answer to his own question is Steve Fielding, sole senator for Family First. He regales the reader with a befuddlement of figures and deft displays of arithmetic to prove the Fielding ascendancy.

According to Farr’s method Family First achieved a 30 per cent success rate compared to the second placed Greens on 1.02 per cent. Farr’s scoring is akin to the rating of prize fighters by win/loss ratios. He compares successful legislative amendments per number of amendments attempted. But this effort is ultimately pointless. As Farr notes himself, “Those statistics don't tell the complete story.”

Farr next provides his readers with more meaningless numbers on Senate motions. This proves that the Government has a majority in the Senate and supposedly point to “two horror prospects” for Labor. Labor could achieve a “massive anti-Government landslide” but still lose and only one party may hold the balance of power in the Senate and try to “rewrite” the policies of a Labor government.

Farr makes much of the possibility of a Labor landslide without winning government. He writes, “That would be a revisit of 1998 - in which Kim Beazley got 51 per cent of the primary vote but not the right number of seats”.

Actually, Kim Beazley got 40.1 per cent of the primary vote and 51.1 per cent of the two-party preferred vote. Yes, several times since the introduction of preferential voting in 1918, governments have won on minority votes. Beazley’s 51.1 per cent is the largest ever losing majority and you would hardly describe it as a “massive anti-Government landslide”.

As for the prospect of one party holding the balance of power in the Senate, Farr writes, “That outcome could be Senate inertia - not unknown to Labor governments - or a swag of compromises which corrupted the political intentions of a Rudd government.” The Hawke-Keating Government dealt with this situation between 1983 and 1993 when the Democrats alone held the balance of power. Ah, but this time it’s different. Why?

At this point Farr dispenses with ‘subtlety’ and circumlocution and names his evil. “Payne (Liberal) has been an influential identity in a number of serious Senate debates - while Nettle (Greens) hasn't. But that does not mean Nettle might not defeat the Liberal senator.”

The Democrats and Family First, “will argue that a Greens-directed Senate would not be good for Australia.”, Farr writes.

Farr quotes Fielding, “It would be a disaster for Australia to have the Greens holding the balance of power," and The Greens have shown they like to frustrate governments, whether state or federal, Coalition or Labor."

Farr’s article ends with the Fielding quotes. Farr seems to have forgotten his starting point, the supposed ascendant influence in the Senate which began this farce. Despite Fielding’s “heavy cross to bear” this article isn’t about him. Young players have been warned.

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