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Federal

Sep 10, 2013

Rundle mythbusts Abbott's victory

It was a landslide! Tony Abbott has a mandate! The result was a repudiation of Labor's dysfunction! Wrong, wrong and wrong. Crikey takes you through why Abbott's victory is not what you think.

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Tony Abbott

Part one — busting myths about the election result

1. “Labor’s lowest primary vote for a century!” Well, yes, but no. The point is that every Labor primary vote is going to be low from now on. The knowledge/culture/policy producer class has broken away and is voting for the Greens. Barring truly weird events, Labor ain’t coming back. That’s minimum of 7% — and as much as 12% — down from the mid-40s votes the ALP hitherto enjoyed.

That happened to the non-Labor forces of course in the 1920s, when the Country Party broke away. Out of that, we got the preferential system, and as a trade-off to Labor, compulsory voting. But the alliance with the Country Party didn’t turn United Australia Party/Liberal voters to Labor. Many of Labor’s voters won’t accept any sort of alliance with the Greens. Good luck working out that one.

2. “It was a landslide.” No, it wasn’t – 88 to 57 seats, give or take, isn’t a landslide. It’s a zero-sum game, so when five seats change hands, a 10-seat gap opens up between the two parties. Fewer than 50 seats and you can talk landslides. Mind you, getting 18 or so seats back to regain power at the end of a first term is a big ask and hasn’t been done since, oh that’s right, 1998, when Kim Beazley won a majority of the overall vote two years after Labor had been reduced to 49 seats. Despite a 5.5% swing to Labor and a 51%-49% two-party preferred margin in Labor’s favour, the Coalition held 80 seats to Labor’s 67. The next decade of our history was built on this manifest absurdity.

3. “It was a total repudiation of the Labor Party.” Wrong again. The two-party preferred vote was 53.5% to 46.5%, a serious enough margin in Australian politics. But the effect of two-party preferred in a single-member system is to amplify the gap. The previous vote was more or less 50:50. This result is the equivalent of one Labor two-party preferred voter in 16 changing his vote. That’s being made out as if it were on the level of say the ANC’s 63% vote in South Africa 1994, or Ramos-Horta’s 70% vote in East Timor’s first election. Those are expressions of a substantial public will — 53.5-46.5 ain’t.

4. “Labor will need to totally recondition itself to be electable and this will take a decade.” Labor needs to recondition itself for all sorts of reasons — and Australian politics may be in for a more comprehensive transformation — but let’s not awfulise this. Quite aside from the 1996-98 result, there’s the passage from 1975 — 44.3% to 1980 — 49.6%, and then victory in 1983. The telescoped relationship between the two-party preferred vote and seats won gives an entirely false impression of just how far there is to come back from. Whether that happening without a reconstruction of Labor would be a triumph or a tragedy is another question.

5. “Tony Abbott has a mandate, therefore Labor and the Greens should vote up his new legislation.” Where did this come from? Abbott has a mandate to govern, and therefore to introduce proposed legislation to Parliament. The 46.5% who wanted someone else elected their people to oppose it. The idea that a mandate abolishes opposition is totalitarian by definition.

6. “Australian democracy is the best in the world.” Yeah, a lower house that does not fairly represent the party vote, a compulsory voting/exhaustive preferential system/matched funding system that makes it easy for multimillionaires to get a seat and murder for anyone else, a Senate where the balance of power is held by five people with 4% primary vote between them, where the sheer size of the ballot paper sends the donkey vote skyrocketing towards a quota, where Tasmanians have five times the representation of New South Wales, two elections in 20 years with a majority vote not gaining government, and a prime minister-governor-general relationship that still hasn’t been clarified since it brought us to the brink of government collapse — and where blatant falsehoods in a near monopoly media is subject to no immediate sanction. Yeah, nothing needs to be looked at here, finest in the world. Nothing can possibly go wrong …

* Watch out for more mythbusting from our roaming reporter Guy Rundle in the coming days.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle

Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle is Crikey's correspondent-at-large. He was co-editor of Arena Magazine for 15 years, and has written four hit stage shows for Max Gillies, two musicals, numerous books and produced TV shows including Comedy Inc and Backberner.

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75 thoughts on “Rundle mythbusts Abbott’s victory

  1. John64

    And I’ll add… According to the polling, support for various policies ran something like this:

    NBN: 70% support
    Gonski: 70% support
    NDIS: 70% support
    Action on Climate Change: 68% support
    Paid Parental Leave Scheme: 44%

    There was over-whelming support for Labor’s policies (even more so than Gay Marriage, which only musters a meagre 53% support by comparison) yet barely any support (certainly not a majority) for the Liberal’s major policy.

    … and yet Labor lost. How can that be anything other than “a total repudiation of the Labor Party”? Certainly at least, in terms of how they choose to run things?

  2. John64

    I’m not certain how #1, #3, and #4 are “myth-busted” when it seems to confirm a dire problem for the Labor party. What do they stand for? Are they the modern progressive side of politics – or are they standing up for the working man? Especially when you then go ahead and point out in #4 that “Labor needs to recondition itself for all sorts of reasons”.

    Saying “well, that’s because people voted Green!” doesn’t help when, as you point out, Labor has done everything it can to distance themselves from the Greens as much as possible.

    What we’re left with is a party with a declining vote (#1) – and a question as to how low it will go – that’s confused over the values it stands for (#4) and is unable to recondition itself because it’s calling last Saturday a “win” (#3). The only reason last Saturday wasn’t a “landslide” wasn’t because of Labor’s doing, it was because the Liberals doggedly stuck with Abbott rather than switching to Turnbull… or for that matter, anyone else.

  3. Edward James

    It should be all about who you put first and who you put last on your ballot papers. Are you up to thinking past the results of the next ballot and into your future and how your votes now will shape your political future ? I doubt it ! Edward James

  4. arnold ziffel

    ‘ The knowledge/culture/policy producer class has broken away and is voting for the Greens.’
    There would be a substantial number of those people living in Grayndler. Every election we read predictions of the Greens winning that seat but they never come to anything. So that’s another myth.
    This time they put up 70 year old Hall Greenland.
    Without being ageist – he’s not much older than I – It’s hard to imagine that they expected him to win.

  5. Chuckster

    Any Australian that thought that Labor government deserved another term should hand in their freaking passport.

  6. Edward James

    All political allsorts are keen to abuse the word mandate. Yet most posters do not appear to give a toss! Edward James

  7. chinda63

    “Mandate” is one of the great furphies of our time.

    As you pointed out, Howard lost the popular vote at the 1998 election – largely due to the proposed introduction of the “never ever” GST – but he went ahead and declared a mandate to do it anyway.

    And Abbott is doubly not allowed to claim a mandate on anything, given he has had multiple positions on just about every policy area for the past 3 years.

  8. Dogs breakfast

    Lots of rubbish in the comments. Better for them to open their mouths so we can be sure they are fools rather than be left wondering.

    The talk of mandate is unutterable rubbish. It is a furphy. Their mandate is to put up legislation, as GR says, nothing more. Labor might just do itself a great injury if it didn’t respect its own mandate, which was to oppose those things they said they would.

    If the numbers don’t fall for TA, well that’s how our democracy works, get over it.

    And I’m glad that someonec orrected your maths GR. I wrote to the SMH many years ago pointing at that at the time a NSW voter had 1/16th the clout of a Tasmanian senate voter, based on AEC numbers at the time.

    And I respectfully suggest to the gracious winners that this was almost certainly more about Rudd and Gillard than it was about Labor.

    Plibersek really gave her leadership chances a huge boost with her erudition, calmness and honesty. This was a very good election for Labor. Only Rudd’s defeat could have made it better.

    And glory be, could Mirabella be gone. Praise the Lord. Worth a decade of election defeats just to see that.

  9. Jack K

    After reading Rundle’s article and all the comments so far, it would appear that the majority are diehard Labor supporters finding excuses for why the majority of Australian people voted against Labor, whether it was led by Gillard or Rudd.

    Gone are the days when Labor represented the “battlers” when they embraced political correctness instead of governing the people by what the the Australian public wanted. The same holds true for the Liberal Coalition, except this election the Liberals appealed far more to the Australian public than Labor.

    The great “destabilisers”, Rudd and Gillard, made a mockery of being the working class people’s party and played to the world stage rather than concern themselves about the economic welfare of the poorer people, the disabled, the unemployed etc. Life became much harder financially for these people, including my own family and friends, in Australia and in particular, the battlers of Tasmania.

    No matter what the economically well off Labor supporters, there is a real struggle for lower income people to remain viable. Those who live in the Ivory Tower of financial well-being are upset that their “Labor” party didn’t get elected and are spruiking their sour grapes syndrome without a thought for the poor.

    Under the Howard Government, we, the financially strugglers, benefited enormously and didn’t have to worry so much about the basic necessities of life. Under the Rudd/Gillard megalomaniac incompetence, many people were reduced to eating dog food and daily worry about how to get through the day or the week without sufficent funds to live and pay their bills. Most bills that were presented to the battler/struggler came from all tiers of government, like rates, car regristation, GST, electricity, (a monopoly owned by the Tasmanian Government) etc…

    I hope Tony Abbott will help the Australian poor as we were helped by the Howard Government to be able to live suffientally well. The “Labor Government” forgot about all the poor people and governed for the upwardly mobile well- to-do crowd with more opinions than compassion!

  10. Edward James

    It is a shame such so called “powerful writing” is select! Edward James

  11. Fran Barlow

    Peter Court

    [Its a weird system the ol’democracy. Needs some work, but we haven’t found a less worse system yet.]

    Of course, it’s not as if anyone amongst the elite is trying to find a less worse system. We have a system that works very well for the parties to that duopoly, and more importantly, their backers amongst the elite.

  12. the duke

    sheesh, c’mon guys, the role of the Opposition is to present a case for change – there is no point in having an opposition otherwise…

    if anything, Abbott highlighted just how ordinary the Government was at connecting with the electorate.

    Interesting to note the spike in Business Sentiment (refer August NAB survey) and ASX performance this week. It all points to a government that wasn’t up to the challenge.

    As for the MSM, Coalition supporters point to the ridiculous amount of coverage, and Murdoch endorsement, of Kevin07.

  13. Peter Court

    “The two-party preferred vote was 53.5% to 46.5%” .. “This result is the equivalent of one Labor two-party preferred voter in 16 changing his vote”.
    Not following your maths there Guy ? I read it as 3.5 voters in 100 changed their mind, or 1 in 28.. ?
    Certainly not a landslide or a ‘mandate’ for much..
    Seat margins really are meaningless, beyond about 5 you have a rock solid dictatorship in the lower house.
    A perfectly spread 50.1% margin could give you 100% of the seats. With the perfect gerrymander you can get a house majority with 25% of the vote. Joh I recall got govt at one point with 27% in Qld.
    And lets not even start on the joke of a system in the senate, nor the ‘conventions’ that cover its ability to block legislation, and the GG’s ability to dismiss the Govt.
    Then there’s the ability of Murdoch with 70% of readers subjected to 4 weeks of intense outright Propaganda (complete with Nazi’s etc) and Palmers millions to skew the results
    Its a weird system the ol’democracy. Needs some work, but we haven’t found a less worse system yet.

  14. AR

    Would it be too scatological to suggest that MM’s suppository is for his man date?

  15. Thorn

    Hang on a minute. If the vote was about 50/50 last time, and now it is 46.5/53.5 it means that just 3.5 voters per hundred changed their minds.

    After four years of the most ridiculously purile opposition by Abbott, and having almost all of the nations print media (especially the 70+% owned by Murdock) and all of commercial radio, and a very unbalanced ABC all pouring scorn on Labor …. just 3.5% of voters changed their minds!

    That is not a landslide to the LNP – it is an amazing performance by Labor.

    Abbott has no mandate, and he must remember his comment that the purpose of an opposition is to oppose. So get on him Labor – oppose everything that is even mildly against your policies – by doing that you will still be miles more constuctive than Abbott was, and you will hold him to the same standards he held you.

    For God’s sake Labor, get at least as much mongrel in you as Abbott had – remember that he did not care in the slightest about the country. You don’t have to be as bad as him but you must get right up there in his face and see how he likes it.

  16. Thorn

    Hang on a minute. If the vote was about 50/50 last time, and now it is 46.5/53.5 it means that just 3.5 voters per hundred changed their minds.

    After four years of the most ridiculously purile opposition by Abbott, and having almost all of the nations print media (especially the 70+% owned by Murdock) and all of commercial radio, and a very unbalanced ABC all pouring scorn on Labor …. just 3.5% of voters changed their minds!

    That is not a landslide to the LNP – it is an amazing performance by Labor.

    Abbott has no mandate, and he must remember his comment that the purpose of an opposition is to oppose. So get on him Labor – oppose everything that is even mildly against your policies – by doing that you will still be miles more constuctive than Abbott was, and you will hold him to the same standards he held you.

    For God’s sake Labor, get at least as much mongrel in you as Abbott had – remember that he did not give a shit about the country. You don’t have to be as bad as him but you must get right up there in his face and see how he likes it.

  17. Gavin Moodie

    I must have missed the bit about extending Parliamentary terms to 6 years, which I think is too long btw.

  18. the duke

    cut and dice the numbers whichever way that you want.

    However, stop kidding yourselves.

    It was an overwhelming victory for the Coalition in what was, in the most basic terms, a one term ALP government.

  19. AR

    Never forgetting that the long term minority governing party was, is & will be the tories. Except for 1975, they never had a majority of seats (much less votes) and always need the Nats to govern – the official name is the hint.
    Minority government is the norm is the grown-up euroid countries where Thatcher/bLIAR showed what what an elected dictatorship looks like, as did the Rodent 2004-2007.
    The B/S about minor parties is a classic example of “look over thereism” – simply put, a quarter to a third of the electorate loathes the major parties.

  20. stephen austin

    Oh Guy, have a drink and lie down.
    Former U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert MacNamara still swears to this day that the “data” showed the United States was “winning” in Vietnam.
    It’s not the percentage Guy, it’s the people on the ground that tell the story.
    Love your work … sometimes.

  21. westral

    If you accept the Liberals have a mandate for the policiies on which they campaigned, you have to accept their opponents have a mandate to oppose them. Australians have a history of voting different parties into “power” in the House and Senate.

  22. rachel612

    You said “awfulise”. You cannot unsay that.

  23. bjb

    David Hand: “Anyway, it’s a smashing Coalition victory and a firm repudiation of one of the most dysfunctional administrations I have ever seen.”

    Smashing Coalition victory ? Haven’t you read the other comments ? The combined swing from the ALP and Greens was 8.5%, and the Coalition picked up a mere 2.4%. Less than a 1/3 of the votes on offer.

    The Coalition may have won a bunch of seats, but it doesn’t really reflect the true mood of the nation. The Nationals with 4.5% of the vote have 9 seats, whereas the Greens with nearly twice the primary vote of 8.4% have only 1 seat in the Reps.

  24. Fran Barlow

    The Duke:

    [@ Fran – I presume you had the same issue with the media’s obsession with Kevin07]

    That puts it much too strongly, but yes. Rudd’s virulently anti-union policies drove me to the Greens (although his party’s anti-asylum-seeker policies inclined me to support them).

    I detest personality politics. Even had Rudd (and now Abbott) been nice fellows, policy and principles should be key

  25. Jane Critti

    well said

  26. Fran Barlow

    Steve777

    [If we had proportional representation with a House of 150 members then we would now have a Liberal-National-Other right coalition with a majority of about 10. In 2007 we would have had a Labour-Green coalition with a majority of about 8. The 2010 result would still have been difficult.]

    Your reasoning is flawed because if we’d had PR in 2007, and got such a parliament that in turn would have changed the context for 2010 and 2013. People on all sides would not only campaign differently, but make different claims, since the captured vote on both sides would be freed, and both major parties would be less coherent.Parliament would have had a “new paradigm” from then. Wedging would be harder to do.

    The system shapes who wins and how they win and therefore what they say and do.

  27. Scott

    A 23% loss of seats in the lower house, and a 33% loss of senate seats up for reelection.
    Yes, no issue with labor at all!

  28. The Pav

    Correction.It should read there is no possible reason for the ALP to support the REPEAL of their legislation

    I missed out REPEAL

  29. Steve777

    If we had proportional representation with a House of 150 members then we would now have a Liberal-National-Other right coalition with a majority of about 10. In 2007 we would have had a Labour-Green coalition with a majority of about 8. The 2010 result would still have been difficult. But many other democracies work that way. Single member electorates rely distort results, exaggerate majorities and effectively disenfranchise many – those whose votes are locked up in safe seats.

    By the way, talking about landslides, in Queensland in 2012, just under half the voters voted LNP. Just over half voted for someone else. And based on 2PP, 3 in 8 did not want a change in government.

  30. The Pav

    When Rudd won in 2007 it was in part on a policy for Carbon Pricing.

    The ALP govt started to negotiate with the LNP to get it thru the Senate. A deal was being struck then Minchin came out and said that even if a deal was struck the LNP would not honour it.

    If Rudd had gone to a DD then I reckon he would have had a landslide (BTW the losing PM didn’t lose his seat in this election unlike Howard in ’07 if you really want to talk electoral wipeouts)

    Rudd bottled it and that was the real start of his popularity drop that led to Gillard

    Abbot when he became Opposition leader said the role of the opposition was to oppose. I think as a trainee priest he should be aware of the line ” As ye sow so shall ye reap”

    Abbott si the leader of a minority party govt. He does not have a specific mandate for any particular policy only the sufficient vote to form govt.

    It is now up to him to negotiate the passage of legislation and it is eminently feasible however there is no , repeat no, possible justification for the ALP to support their legislation and they should argue the point strongly along with the fact that Abbotts direct action policy is a nonsense

    In fact Carbon Pricing represent an opportunity to product differentiate plus a cause celebre on which to start rebuilding and energise a base. It should be an opprtunity to have a rallying point and means to bring people together to support the protection of a genuine carbon price policy.

    A program of active opposition outside Parliament will impact on the minor parties and give the ALP opposition credibility and momentum

  31. JacetheAce

    Minstrel: The Senate is NOT a house of review; you’re thinking of the House of Lords. It is intended to represent the interests of the States, and has the power to introduce legislation, except with respect to expenditure or taxation. Abbott himself refused to accept the concept of mandates after the 2007 drubbing by the ALP.

  32. Hamis Hill

    No need, David< for "Labor" to start renewing itself when the nation has a Democratic Labor Party Prime Minister who has adopted most if not all of Labor's policies.
    Time to adjust your lens.

  33. David Hand

    It’s an overreach so typical of Crikey and the urban intellectuals that the term “Myth busting” becomes cloak of authenticity to what is no more then a difference of opinion.

    Anyway, it’s a smashing Coalition victory and a firm repudiation of one of the most dysfunctional administrations I have ever seen.

    Get over it Guy and start commenting on what must happen for Labor to start renewing itself.

  34. Henry

    bravo, a thorough well-supported analysis, all too rare in a News Ltd-dominated world!!!

  35. tonyfunnywalker

    This is a very good article especially the part about the Labor share of the vote. It reflects societal change and a decline in the ” traditional” working class. Societal values are now professional as increasingly productivity has moved from the factory to the office. The value chain has moved from producing products to that of problem solution on behalf of their client consumers. This change is universal in the western world economies and where Socialist Parties are under pressure. It is not the march of capitalism but a change in people’s expectations as a result of their education and training. The issue of social capital was not addressed by either party and societal values seem only to have been recognized by the Greens and in the microcosm of the Melbourne electorate where Adam Bandt was able to increase his vote in a traditional Labor seat. That’s why the traditional Liberal / Labor hate the Greens as a result. The other group are Getup – mostly young and with strong democratic and consultative values and who were prepared to really debate their values. Bob Brown foresaw this and with the unique intellect of Adam Bandt the Greens will go from strength as strength as they become more embraced by the mainstream and over ride the vilification of the tabloid press.

  36. Steve777

    The two-party preferred vote indicates that about eight in fifteen voters wanted to change the government while seven in fifteen didn’t. Even ‘landslides’ are close. Another thing – 45% of Australians voted for the Liberals or one of their Coalition partners with their first preference in the House of Reps. The other 55% voted for someone else. And given the Coalition’s ‘small target’ strategy, they have a ‘mandate’ to do very little. Not that they have ever respected others’ mandates.

  37. Simon Shaw

    A big +1 to this article.

  38. Jim McConnell

    “Mandate” – What mandate, If Tony Abbott was given a mandate then the people of Australia would have given him majority in the Senate also. To me it seems that the people have taken an each way bet to prevent the government in the lower house from getting out of control.
    On the figures to date the swing against Labor was 4.2% and against the Greens was 3.3% however the swing to the coalition was only 1.6% therefore there was a lot of who didn’t want Labor or the Greens but also didn’t want the Liberals. So I can’t see how all that equates to a mandate.

  39. Aaily c

    “where Tasmanians have five times the representation of New South Wales”

    Shouldn’t that read: “more than 13 times the representation of New South Wales”?

    NSW enrolment: 4,814,864
    Tasmanian enrolment: 362,712

  40. the duke

    given that the NAB Business Survey released in August showed confidence jumped to its highest level in two years, the 6th largest monthly jump since 97, the business community was obviously happy with the expected change in government.

  41. zut alors

    @ the duke

    Glad you reminded us of Murdoch’s machinations in 2007. News Ltd dredged up an old story from 2003 when Murdoch minion, Col Allen, and Rudd had a night on the town in NYC and ended up at a strip club, ‘Scores’. Suddenly (!) four years later they tried to besmirch Rudd during his campaign against Howard.

    But Murdoch and Allen had been away from home too long and lost touch with the Oz mindset – the Scores story actually worked in Rudd’s favour.

  42. Hamis Hill

    Australia’s first DLP PM, after three years of total opposition, finally adopted, as might be expected from a DLP politician, most of the Labor party’s policies.
    So apart from his DLP policy of thwarting the civilisation destroying heresies of the planet worshipping conservationists, Australia’s first DLP PM has nothing much to do.
    It’ll be quiet time on the outside while, inside the Liberals, Gerard Henderson’s “How Menzies’ Child Has Changed” (SMH 1999)will continue to be prophetic.
    If you don’t believe me, just ask Malcolm Fraser.
    Those Liberal Democrats just might be a fast growing party under Australia’s first DLP PM.

  43. jimD

    Here’s another indicator as to what might happen next: on Q&A last night, the pompous blowhard George Brandis was laying down the law to the panel, arguing that because ditching the carbon tax had been such a central policy of the Coalition during the campaign, other parties must now also recognize this as a gold mandate. Nothing new there: Brandis and his ilk would say that, wouldn’t they?

    What was new,though, was a snort of derision from the normally endlessly patient Tanya Plibersek, after which she went at Brandis full bore (no Brandis pun intended there: too easy, in his case) reminding him, and the audience, of the Coalition’s relentless negativity on every important piece of legislation presented to Parliament over the last few years. The audience erupted in guffaws aimed at Brandis and cheers for her, and by the time she was done, Brandis was gaping at the camera and wishing, very obviously, to be somewhere else. Especially as Richo was also there, on this particular evening, and made sport of Brandis for pretty well the rest of the programme. Say this for Richo: he knows when a good mocking is going to hit home. If Plibersek is now as energized and angry as she seemed last night, the likes of Brandis would be well-advised to avoid taking her on in debate. The inchoate Abbott might also find himself in this particular firing line before too long.

    Like any heavyweight being outclassed in the ring, Brandis interrupted Plibersek on another subject, and started out on another of his lengthy bloviations. She interrupted back, amidst calls by Brandis suggesting that she should give him the courtesy of finishing his point (which sounded as if this was going to run well past the end of the programme). Even Tony Jones sharply reminded Brandis that is was actually he who had initiated the interruption. More fish gaping from Brandis,and on it went.

    The take-home message for the Coalition:if Brandis is the benchmark for how you plan to operate in Parliament from now on,then it is most certainly not over for the ALP yet. Keep up the good work, George.

  44. the duke

    @ Fran – I presume you had the same issue with the media’s obsession with Kevin07?

  45. Shaniq'ua Shardonn'ay

    @Gavin No I don’t get the idea of voting informal either. But I support the paper based system and the implied constitutional right to draw testicles and other genitalia all over it.

  46. Gavin Moodie

    I would never waste my vote by voting informal. For example, in Melbourne Green supporters elected Bandt at the expense of a representative of a party that dishonours obligations to asylum seekers, even tho they eventually preferenced Labor and the Libs.

  47. Shaniq'ua Shardonn'ay

    Not a Mandate.

  48. Shaniq'ua Shardonn'ay

    So by my reckoning: Liberal + Liberal National Party +
    The Nationals + Country Liberals (NT) = 45.41%

    Thanks Peter & Malcolm

  49. Fran Barlow

    the Duke

    [look on the bright side, atleast we now have a capable and stable government.]

    There’s far too little data to make that inference yet. They haven’t been sworn in yet.

    What preliminary data we have suggests that a government that was at worst modestly competent in most of the areas most people regard as important has been replaced with an untested crew of ignorant rockthrowers in league with a foreign national who runs the media in this country with an agenda of self-enrichment and interest broking. This alliance (along with the political ineptitude of the regime) allowed the rockthrowers to escape scrutiny when it counted and assert crises where there were none.

    Democracy Australian-style …

  50. Fran Barlow

    Thanks Guy … as you and others have said here, mandate theory is bogus at best. In theory, politicians are supposed to implement what they promised before the election — or at least try to — since that, in theory, is what people voted to support. I don’t accept the “Juliar meme” — that Gillard lied when she promised that there’d be no carbon tax under the government she led — but even if she had done such a thing (she didn’t), it would only be wrong if pre-election promises were somehow binding for good or ill. They aren’t of course because we also expect politicians to be able to respond to the needs of the moment or new data and not do palpably unwise things merely because they promised them. In that case they should be candid and explain why they can’t do what they promised and accept responsibility, but “mandates” have nothing to do with it.

    More broadly though, our compulsory preferential system ensures that the price of voting for some non-major party with one set of policies, and having it count as formal, entails voting for a party determined to frustrate those policies and then claim a mandate on that basis. For mine, this is an insoluble paradox and so I always choose to vote informal, seeing the denial of a vote to my party — The Greens as the lesser harm than allowing my vote to count for locking up asylum seekers and a raft of other lamentable policies. Something like 10% either failed to register to vote or voted informal. It’s not clear what this 10% would want, but one can’t really derive a mandate from this section of the public.

    Finally, one might observe that unless both parties give detailed policies with costings and modelling by independent and well qualified oversight bodies in a timely way then it’s not possible to claim that those who voted really understood what they were voting for. The Coalition has still to do that and said quite clearly that they would walk away from any policies that didn’t fit their aspirations. Very few people who voted for the coalition (about 6%) said that they thought abolition of carbon pricing was a priority, and far more said they wanted the 5% target on reductions by 2020 met, yet it’s clear that the budget for “Direct Action” can’t meet this target — so it’s not at all clear what Coalition voters want them to do in this area of policy.

    About the only thing they do have a mandate for is to be in parliament and to elect a PM of their choice — presumably Abbott. The rest is a matter of process.

  51. the duke

    look on the bright side, atleast we now have a capable and stable government.

  52. Paulg

    It is all about votes in the box translating to bums on seats. If you tell more lies to get more votes you get more bums down. If you have more money to spend in spreading the lies you get even bigger bums down.

  53. CML

    Guy, re point 1. I agree with your opening remarks, but NOT with your conclusion. Sure the Labor party will struggle now that their primary vote is effectively ‘split’ with the Greens. But I predict that won’t last. Already the Green vote has dropped in this election (with the exception of the HOR electorate of Melbourne). These splinter parties come and go, (and for confirmation of that, just look at what is happening to them in Tasmania) – the Greens will be no different, although it may take a little longer and depend on what Labor does from now.
    The Labor party is in desperate need of reform, although after the demonisation and character assassination of Kevin Rudd for having a go at that, it could be some time before anyone else is brave enough. But when they do get their act together and return to their ‘roots’, there will be no need for the Greens.
    I’m a senior citizen, and political tragic, who has followed Labor politics closely in this country for over 60 years. Also had relatives who were Labor members/candidates in state parliament, so have some inside knowledge of what goes on at that level.
    Seen, heard and read about the demise of the Labor party many times before! It is just NOT going to happen, however much the Green fairies at the bottom of the garden wish it so!!

  54. Terry Conway

    Thanks Guy. That so needed to be said.

  55. Raaraa

    To me, a landslide means also gaining an upper house.

    @12, Limited News: I think this can be circumvented through printing a receipt after completing the vote. This receipt then goes into the ballot box as the completed ballot slip.

    One step further, if the voter wants to, he or she can request a “voter copy receipt” (of a different colour so no double voting).

  56. Peter Murphy

    Excellent question, Shaniq’ua Shardonn’ay. According to the AEC, the Coalition got roughly %36 in the senate, while about %44 in the house of reps. That’s no mandate.

  57. Andrew Bartlett

    Tony Abbott of all people knows that not getting elected to government does not equate to getting out of the way of the people who are elected to government. In the first term of Rudd/Labor, both Labor AND the Coalition were elected on a promise to support carbon pricing. Abbott not only overturned that for his own party but did everything possible to stop Labor implementing it.

    Everyone who is elected to Parliament has a mandate to pursue and vote for the policies & values they presented to the electorate (except for those elected on next to no votes – not sure what mandate they can claim).

  58. Malcolm Street

    Have a look at first preferences at http://vtr.aec.gov.au/HouseStateFirstPrefsByParty-17496-NAT.htm: Labor got a 4.6% swing against it, the various Liberal/National manifestations all up got around 1% to them. IOW, the Coalition attracted less than a quarter of the swing away from Labor!

    The election was a repudiation of Labor, but hardly a ringing endorsement of the Coalition. Which makes Abbott’s rhetoric about a mandate even more arrogant.

  59. Peter Murphy

    On the “landslide victory” thing, Glenn, I don’t just think you’re wrong, I know you’re wrong. I just lived through a landslide defeat: the utter thrashing of the Queensland ALP last year. The mood among the ALP people I know was utterly funereal. The vibe is completely different this year. Not only are they just thinking about the next leadership position, they are actively talking about it. “Will it be Plibersek?” “Will it be Albanese?” “Will it be f’in Shorten?”

    You could call it denial – but what exactly are they denying? No one is denying that they lost. But no one feels like slitting their wrists either. For better or worse, the wipeout that people were fearing didn’t happen. And knowing that Abbott has to negotiate with kangaroo poo flingers to get their ballots out has given my political mates heapings of schadenfreude.

  60. SusieQ

    beetwo77 the best place to get all the data on the election is the AEC website – loads of figures for you to look at and analyse.

  61. Sanjay

    The problem is not the size of the win its the pay back required to the vested interest groups who got the result they paid for. The corrupt method of getting elected and the wasted diversion of tax dollars to these people means government cant fund infrastructure. When RUDD saw the advertising campaign by big miners he knew his government was in trouble because they could do a better job of lying. Strange way to run a government.

  62. RoseL

    Well said, Guy. You and First Dog are why I renewed my subscription.

  63. beetwo77

    I’m looking forward to a thorough break down of seat by seat, state by state votes. I want to understand how 53% of the vote equates t around 60% of seats. I had a look at the 2010 figures and saw that with the exception of QLD and WA, the vote was either close or strongly labor in all other states. How has it panned out this time?

    There is no such thing as a mandate. A referendum is a mandate, everything else is just being elected to do the job.

    Good piece Guy.

  64. Limited News

    Turnbull has floated electronic voting. Without a piece of paper showing the vote, the potential for vote fraud is breathtaking. Have a look at what Diebold and others have got up to in the US. With electronic voting Abbott will win elections despite the opinion polls.

  65. Mr J

    Glenn, as Zut highlights a comfortable win but not a landslide. As for the mandate that’s a difficult issue. There would be many who voted in support of some Liberal policies but not all of policies that the Liberals are claiming a mandate on. There would be some who voted for in protest of Labor, for a minor party but had there preferences snapped up by the Liberals.

    Personally I think Labor should let a lot of the big ticket items of the Liberals pass without challenge. I look forward to the repealing of the Carbon price precisely because this policy will eventually be back if future governments decide to do anything about Climate Change, and the price increase from a future carbon price will be larger than it currently is due to Australia experiencing one of the lowest inflationary periods in the last 30 years. Same for the NBN the Liberals will role their program out, but it will eventually need significantly more investment at a greater cost. The beauty about this is that people have such short memories that they won’t blame the Liberals for what will be a series of huge stuff ups. Nor will the media. It’s important to understand Labor programs are waste, Liberal programs are not.

  66. Shaniq'ua Shardonn'ay

    BTW – Crikey Sweetie Darling, Lovey – what are the actual percentages (% who voted Coalition in the lower house, % who voted Coalition in the upper house)

  67. Andybob

    Well I voted against repeal of the Carbon Tax and the composition of the Senate might achieve that. Where’s my man’s date ?

    Also: Guy, get in the van.

  68. Shaniq'ua Shardonn'ay

    @Minstrel – unless the members of the senate decide to adopt the moral of ‘do unto others as they have done unto you’.

    And just quietly I didn’t hear any of the senate canditates of any persuasion campaigning with the slogan ‘I’ll just review what is proposed and pass what ever the majority in the lower house puts up”

  69. zut alors

    Agree strongly with point #6.

    @Glenn Wilson, ‘landslide’ would accurately describe the Queensland Legislative Assembly result in 2012 ie: 74 seats won out of 89 with the ALP retaining a mere 7. Abbott had no landslide, it was a comfortable win.

  70. maustin

    As for Tony Abbott’s ‘mandate’ I have quote hear by Alexis de Torqueville. ‘”The will of the nation” is one of those phrases, that have been most largely abused by the wily and the despotic’. Sums up Tony Abbott nicely, Tony the Dictator! I call for a ‘peoples revolt’. Also too bad he forgot about Rudd’s ‘mandate’ to implement an ETS. Or the ‘mandate’ of the 52% of the Australian people from the 1998 election that voted against the introduction of the GST by the Coalition. Then we also have that delightful quote by Tony Abbott about the role of the opposition, ‘the role of the opposition is to oppose’. Or does that only work when the Coalition are in opposition and when they are in government all must bow down to them and submit.

  71. Justin

    Powerful writing, glad someone is doing it

  72. Minstrel

    Here, have a Kleenex Guy. The Liberals have a mandate in the Senate for certain legislation that they campaigned on strongly eg parental scheme. Stuff that wasn’t campaigned on they do not. The Senate is the house of review and represents the weaker States by giving them an equal voice.

    Our elected Parliamentarians should form an effective Govt by passing campaigned on legislation and debating anything else. Horse trading by single member parties in the Senate should be kept to a minimum, that leads to massive distortions like Brian Harradine used to get.

    Australia needs effective governance and our Parliamentarians in the Senate should respect that. The house of Reps is where the legislation should be introduced and the Senate should review it for equality amongst teh states.

  73. Glenn Wilson

    And this is exactly why labor will continue to fail because this delusional denial you are trying to cling to will continue to be their downfall, they need to take some responsibility instead of waffling excuses but just keep going because this is exactly what coalition supporters want. Think you need to suck it up Rundle, it really was a landslide victory, I don’t think you appreciate the gravity of this defeat hence an ongoing dysfunctional party awaits. Take a leaf from Hawke’s comments, I think hes the only labor person who fully understood what happened.

  74. Gavin Moodie

    Reminds me of the bad ole days of the DLP. It was never in coalition with the Coalition, but its support was handy in neutering Labor for a couple of decades.

  75. Serenatopia

    Guy Rundle—so well-put and articulated—I was bemused by Abbott’s mandate—it was like Moses talking to his people—Thou shall not oppose when in Senate!

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