Hawaii was once a very beautiful place, but even 20 years ago, when I first visited, the beauty was steadily being concreted over to provide hotels, restaurants and resorts for the people attracted by the very beauty they were destroying.

Oahu, and with it Waikiki, was already pretty much lost, but Maui was still largely unspoilt. When we returned 10 years later, Maui was also littered with condominiums, golf courses, restaurants and shopping centres.

The economic imperative — do whatever it takes to accommodate more visitors — had overridden all else, destroying in the process the very beauty that drew visitors in the first place.

The Labor Party is a lot like Hawaii. The electoral imperative — win power at all costs — is steadily obliterating the reasons one once voted for them. Refugees are once again being tossed overboard, along, of course, with us queers.

There used to be a least a few politicians who would stand for what they believed in, even if it cost them votes. This was called leadership.

Interviewing Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner on JOY last week, I asked him, what about leadership? Surely it’s one of the jobs of a politician to sometimes get in front of public opinion and lead, rather than just follow?

He smiled rather sadly and said, having been lobbied by a lot of people in his time, he could tell me that “When people have the numbers, they talk about democracy, and when they don’t, they talk about leadership”.

The only remaining justification ­— it cannot be dignified with the name of reason — I can find to vote for Labor now is that the alternative would be worse. But the difference is becoming harder to spot.

It must be very tempting, when you’re out of power, to ditch your principles, grab power, and delude yourself that you will do the right thing once you’re elected. Elect us, runs the mantra, and we will deliver something. It won’t be exactly what you want, and it’ll be slower than you’d like. But we will not take risks. We will not lead.

And anyway, the story continues, minor party preferences come back to us in the end. So voting for them won’t do any good.

Well actually, it will.

Even if the candidate isn’t elected, a primary vote for a minor party is not a waste. As I was reminded recently, a primary vote for a minor party earns them just over $2 in electoral funding.

Your preference may pass eventually to a major party — but the cash won’t.

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