The status quo rules in Australian politics. That’s why John Howard won last year. Times are good – and thanks to federal economic and policy setting that have given us a strong economy, strong consumption, a strong property market and a GST, the states are cashed up. They just all happen to be Labor.
Ideology is far less important now in state politics than it’s ever been. Voters tend to ask the question: is the incumbent government doing a reasonable job, and what reason have we got to replace them?
People won’t change governments unless they believe what they’re changing to is going to do a better job, which is a bit different from the federal situation where voters feel more strongly about the ideological issues.
John Howard could have almost been spinning Kim Beazley’s personal approval ratings from today’s Newspoll when he talked about the Northern Territory election results on AM yesterday. The prime minister could have also talked about the resistance of voters to change governments at a federal level. Look at the last half century: governments have only changed four times – in 1972, 1975, 1983 and 1996.
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Look at the changes in government in the states over the last 20 years. Sleaze factors were in play when Wayne Goss defeated the Queensland Nats and sleaze or sheer incompetence were the deciding factors in the defeats of the Labor governments in NSW, Victoria, WA and SA from 1988 to 1993. Sleaze and incompetence – sometimes manifested as infighting or arrogance – saw the Liberals narrowly tipped out in these states from 1995 to 2002. Since then, Labor governments have been returned with cracking majorities in all states other than SA, which goes to the polls next March. Labor is the favourite there by a mile. The only problem is how the 4.3% of punters who backed Family First in the state in October might vote – and where their preferences will go.
Congratulations on that last par, PM. A great analysis. No wonder you’re our second longest serving prime minister. The status quo rules Australian politics – state and federal, as you said.