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70% of Voters Didn't Vote for a Labor Government - Misrepresenting a Statistic | Australian Federal Election 2022

Caricature of Anthony Albanese - Australia's 31st Prime Minister
Anthony Albanese - Australia's 31st Prime Minister

In the aftermath of the Australian Federal Election, in which the Australian Labor Party won the right to govern, taking over from the Liberal/National party coalition, one of the most misrepresented statistics I have seen bandied around is:

70% of voters did not vote for a Labor Government.

At a surface level that's true give or take a percentage point depending on the final count of the primary votes (primary vote being every voter's first choice in our preferential voting system). However the people who are holding this statement up (notably the so-called 'Freedom Parties') for validation of the claim that the majority of Australians don't want a Labor government are grossly misrepresenting the Australian people.

Using myself as an example, I put The Greens as my first choice, knowing full well they have next to no chance of forming a government. I'm most aligned with The Greens in terms of their policies and ideology and I like to support them on the off chance there's a Green swing in my electorate - extremely unlikely. 

However if any candidate gets above 4% of the primary vote in an election they become eligible for government election funding to support their future campaigns. So it's not a complete waste of time to vote for your preferred minor party/candidate, even if they don't win their seat. Maybe next election they will. The Greens have won seats. In fact, this election has been one of their best results, so it's not totally out of the question in my electorate.

Want to guess what my second preference was?

Labor. Of the major parties, Labor is who I'm most aligned with.

Take a guess at my third preference...

Liberal. Yes, given a choice, I would rather have kept our current Prime Minister/government than give any preferences to the remaining minor 'freedom' parties.

I'm fairly certain plenty of people may have voted with the strategy of putting their preferred minor party first, and then putting their preferred major party higher in the mix than any other minor party.

The Freedom Parties

I'm not 100% clear on which of the minor parties would call themselves the 'Freedom' parties but I am kind of sure they include One Nation and the United Australia Party as the two largest candidates. At least those are the two I've paid more attention to over the last year. More so than The Greens for that matter because those two parties spend so much time complaining, nit picking, calling everything out they don't like, and generally sounding like awful people.

These parties (all of them, not just the two I mentioned above) combined barely got 15% of the primary vote.

Naturally their supporters are claiming the election, while not rigged, certainly had some suspect goings at many of polling booths, from volunteers giving incorrect voting instructions, to preferences being distributed incorrectly during the count (after receiving suspect phone calls from the Australian Electoral Commission who are obviously corrupt). Let's also not forget that polling booths distribute pencils to fill in your form, so you know someone during the count is going to break out an eraser.

What is most laughable is calls by these voters to do away with preferential voting (which is so confusing a concept, understanding that you can rank candidates from your favorite to least favorite) and give voters just one vote for one party/candidate.

In this election if it was just one vote per person the Liberal/National Coalition government would have won. From all the rhetoric I heard from the Freedom parties, that would be the absolute worst possible outcome. A change of government is actually a very minor win for their campaigns.

70% of Voters Didn't Vote for a Labor Government

If you're a Freedom Party supporter (or you're an elected member from one of these parties) you can sure has hell hold the incoming Labor Government to task by saying 70% of voters didn't vote for a Labor Government. You're not wrong.

The thing is, 85% of voters didn't vote for the freedom parties first. Not a single freedom party got more than 5% of the primary vote. That's pretty much 95% of voters did not vote for your party either.

30% of voters did vote for a Labor Government first. Enough people put Labor high enough in their preferences to allow them to win the election. At the very least, 51% (maybe more in the final count) of Australians would 'prefer' a Labor Government to a Liberal/National coalition, Greens, or any Freedom Party candidate.

The primary vote is not the whole story of Australian elections. Preferences matter and should never be ignored. Particularly not in the post election summary.

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