The Greens:

Greens member Colin Smith writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (Tuesday, item 7). Crikey published:

“Amid the stoush over Labor placing the Family First ahead of the Greens in Melbourne, it’s worth recalling the 33 seats at the 2010 Victorian state election which the Greens recommended an open ticket, effectively letting voters place Family First or the Liberals ahead of Labor …”

I object to the word “letting”. There is nothing about a how-to-vote card that “lets” a voter do anything. “How-to-vote” cards are nothing but advice, and the only preference that matters is the one the voter writes on his ballot paper — and he isn’t obliged to copy anything if he doesn’t want to. (This isn’t quite true, of course, when one comes to the execrable Senate system of “group voting tickets” — but I’ll avoid getting distracted by that. What I say is absolutely true with respect to lower house voting.)

So all the Greens did in 2010 is decline to give their supporters any advice about how to allocate preferences — other than their first — in those 33 seats. They did not “let” voters do anything that they were not already perfectly able to do if they wanted to. And the ranking of Family First ahead of the Greens on the ALP Melbourne byelection HTV is, of course, also nothing but advice. Advice — what is more — that will have no effect as ALP preferences will never be distributed.

What one can say in comparing the two cases, however, is that the ALP has recommended a preference that is plainly contrary to what the voter would expect a party that is still generally supposed to be on the ‘left’ to recommend — whereas the Greens subscribe to a view that preferences recommended should always fall within the range of options that are consistent with the party’s policies and philosophy.

All parties, of course, bargain and try to get good deals over who they will recommend in preference to who in exchange for what. However, the ALP’s readiness to put Far Right parties ahead of the Greens (even on group voting tickets where this may really have a seriously distorting effect — even result in them getting elected ahead of the Greens — as happened in the Senate in 2004) is cynical “whatever it takes” dealing with the devil. And the Greens are not prepared to go there — often to their cost given the huge power of group voting tickets to handicap a more scrupulous candidate out of the race.

As for the Greens’ “open tickets”. Labor should be grateful — considering the thuggish and dishonest way its right wing dumps on us whenever it suits it — that we limit ourselves to this as the furthest we are prepared to go in the direction of recommending the Coalition candidate ahead of theirs. Because we often feel awfully tempted!

ATO and Macs:

Jason King writes: Re. “How the ATO leads the world in discriminating against Mac users” (yesterday, comments).  I do totally concur with Bernard Keane on the ATO’s incompetency in not allowing us Mac users to do their tax returns online. But frankly it is pretty consistent with anything the ATO does that involves information technology as any suburban tax agent will tell you.

Could I perhaps suggest that Keane buy a windows-based laptop just for the purpose of doing his annual income tax return. You can get a new one for less than $400, which would be quite sufficient for the task.  And, of course, it would be tax deductible as well.