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The Voice to Parliament referendum is in danger of defeat

Summary:
Why it’s vital to present a model before we vote Shorter JQ: Albanese should release draft legislation before the Voice referendum if it is to succeed. Not doing so is a recipe for failure based in part on a mistaken analysis of the 1990s Republic referendum, which I shared for a long time. Although polls suggested majority support for a republic, the Turnbull/Keating proposed model (appointed president) was defeated. Analysis assumes alternative of elected president would also be defeated. So, suggestion is “vote on principle of referendum first, then choose model”. Sounds convincing, BUT On the stated facts, status quo would beat either alternative and is therefore the Condorcet winner. On most theories of voting it should be selected. More, given the stated facts, and

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Why it’s vital to present a model before we vote

Shorter JQ: Albanese should release draft legislation before the Voice referendum if it is to succeed. Not doing so is a recipe for failure based in part on a mistaken analysis of the 1990s Republic referendum, which I shared for a long time.


Although polls suggested majority support for a republic, the Turnbull/Keating proposed model (appointed president) was defeated. Analysis assumes alternative of elected president would also be defeated. So, suggestion is “vote on principle of referendum first, then choose model”. Sounds convincing, BUT

On the stated facts, status quo would beat either alternative and is therefore the Condorcet winner. On most theories of voting it should be selected.

More, given the stated facts, and assuming rational voters, Republic should lose in the first round.

Suppose “appointed president” would beat “elected president”. Then “elected president” voters who prefer “no change” to “appointed” should vote “No” in the first round to prevent this happening.

On the stated facts, status quo would beat either alternative and is therefore the Condorcet winner. On most theories of voting it should be selected.

More, given the stated facts, and assuming rational voters, Republic should lose in the first round.

Suppose “appointed president” would beat “elected president”. Then “elected president” voters who prefer “no change” to “appointed” should vote “No” in the first round to prevent this happening.

Voters aren’t perfectly rational calculators. In the Brexit referendum, for example, people voted for radically inconsistent versions of Brexit (from Singapore-on-Thames to Hang the Bankers), all expecting that their own version would prevail

But, in the context of an Australian referendum, any ambiguity will be resolved by voting No. If there isn’t a clearly described model on offer, people will imagine the version they like least, then vote for or against that. I’m a Yes, pretty much regardless of the model, but I don’t think I’m representative of a majority of voters in a majority of states.

*This is an unrolled version of a thread on Mastodon (@[email protected]), so it may be telegraphic in places.

John Quiggin
He is an Australian economist, a Professor and an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland, and a former member of the Board of the Climate Change Authority of the Australian Government.

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