Aug 22, 2010

It’s just a jump to the Left

And thus, from the most tedious, uninspiring and insulting election campaign in Australian political history, emerges the most fascinating of results.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

And thus, from the most tedious, uninspiring and insulting election campaign in Australian political history, emerges the most fascinating of results. A hung parliament and a new Senate in which the Greens will have the balance of power and, most likely, a presence of which few of their number would have dared dream. The mainstream media have been curiously reticent to say it, but the electorate lurched sharply to the Left yesterday. Labor bled just more than 5% of its vote, but most of it -- 3.6% -- went to the Greens. The Coalition picked up the scraps. That’s why Labor is still jockeying for government today and hasn’t been obliterated, and why the Greens will have nine senators next year. Moreover, three traditional Country Party-style figures will be kingmakers, with an agenda for bigger government and more state intervention. There will also be a WA National arriving in Parliament to replace Wilson Tuckey, and he has indicated his willingness to ignore traditional party constraints. Keep an eye on Tony Crook. His relations with the eastern Nationals may not all be smooth sailing. There was also a big rise in informal votes, with more than 5.6% of voters unable -- or unwilling -- to fill out their ballots correctly, up from 3.9%. For all that the major parties have structured the electoral system to perpetuate their grip on power, voters have found ways to resist them, in a result that should rattle the major parties, but most particularly Labor, which faces what may be a long-term erosion of its base support to the Left. The horse trading will now begin, with Tony Windsor, Bob Katter and Rob Oakeshott, to decide who will form the next government. Tony Crook’s views must also not be irrelevant, given how long the WA Nats took to agree to support Colin Barnett in WA. Bandt has already indicated he will not support an Abbott Government; Andrew Wilkie is presumably not likely to support the Coalition either, although it is not yet clear whether Wilkie or the Greens (or Labor) have secured Denison. But on current numbers that still leaves Labor with only 72 votes in the House of Representatives, with three seats undecided. Windsor, Katter and Oakeshott will extract a price for their support. It may be disguised as “regional infrastructure” or dressed up nation-building, but all three have been effective at State and Federal level at securing funding for their electorates. Now they are in a stronger position than ever. As former Nationals, you’d have to expect they would reflexively support Tony Abbott before Julia Gillard as Prime Minister. Expect a Liberal Government before the week is out. But stranger things have happened. A final note: the AEC has yet again demonstrated why it is the best electoral outfit in the world, running a very close election with expedition, efficiency and integrity. There are always hiccups, but when you see how it’s done in comparable countries, you can only be amazed at how well the AEC does it. It is one of our finest public institutions.

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67 thoughts on “It’s just a jump to the Left

  1. Gavin Moodie

    I heartily agree about the Australian Electoral Commission, which is far better and operates under far better institutional arrangements than those in the UK and the 50 electoral agencies in the US – a separate one for each state. I only wish it would hurry up with computer voting, which would make entering and counting votes for the Senate below the line much easier and more efficient.

    While I agree that the outcome is the best for political junkies, is it the best for public policy? I agree with what seemed to be the consensus on Crikey’s election blog last nite that a hung Parliament is likely to get a national broadband network for Australia whichever party wins the Lodge – may the fibre gods be praised – altho an Abbott government would execute the NBN bosses and restructure the corporation in a combination of payback and saving face.

    But wont all other big areas be confined to decision slo-mo if not paralysis with all the consensus building, negotiation and deal making that will be needed to get anything done?

  2. John Bennetts

    BK, you are sticking your neck out calling it for the Coalition this early.

    The fun will not be over till Labor have a go at forming a government to present to the GG.

    I believe that one possible outcome would see an independent in the Speaker’s chair, an alliance between the Greens and Labor with at least a couple of Green Ministers and a lot of humble pie being eaten by Tony, the ALP and Andrew Bolt, who seems to think that 49% 2PP beats 51% 2PP.

    Another Reps summary: Lab + Green primaries = 50%. The rest, including all loonies and fellow-travellers = 45%. Informal = 5%. Now who won the hearts and minds?

    Andrew Bolt could not hide his smiles and smirks on ABCTV this morning. No matter what my opinion of the political parties, this oaf deserves his come-uppance and it would be so sweet if his chosen mob still missed sitting to the right of the Speaker.

    Finally, only Green + ALP can deliver a majority in the Senate and thus form a workable government.

    There’s still much fun to be drawn from this election result.

  3. John

    The electorate has resisted the major parties’ refusal to legislate gay marriage by forcing a minority government to be mainly dependant on the Greens for support.
    In addition, it swung strongly towards moderate Liberals such as Malcolm Turnbull (10% swing to him in Wentworth) and Christopher Pyne (managing to hang on in Sturt), for example.
    Also, some minor parties campaigned hard in favour of gay marriage while other minor parties campaigned hard against gay marriage. A breakdown of the support for gay marriage is demonstrated by the National Tally for these minor parties at the close of counting last night. House of Representatives minor parties 4:1 support in favour of gay marriage. Senate minor parties 5:1 support in favour of gay marriage. That is the electorate telling the major parties not to be cowed by the religious right and to enact legislation allowing same-sex marriage.

    National Tally, House of Representatives, First Preferences:

    Party Ordinary Votes Campaigned loudly

    Family First 227,444 2.20% Against gay marriage
    CDP Christian Party 69,770 0.67% 2.87%

    The Greens 1,183,366 11.43% For gay marriage
    Democrats 17,602 0.17% 11.95%
    Liberty and Democracy Party 17,628 0.17%
    Australian Sex Party 8,727 0.08%
    Secular Party of Australia 10,214 0.10%

    National Tally, Senate, First Preferences:

    Party Ordinary Votes Campaigned loudly

    Family First 207,445 2.13% Against gay marriage
    CDP Christian Party 97,631 1.00% 3.13%

    The Greens 1,261,726 12.96% For gay marriage
    Democrats 60,557 0.62% 17.29%
    Liberty and Democracy Party 159,020 1.63%
    Australian Sex Party 193,394 1.99%
    Secular Party of Australia 8,729 0.09%

  4. Barking Gecko

    Oh well.

    If its a hung parliament who will be the speaker, and how will that affect voting outcomes in the House of Reps.

    Let the horse trading and vote buying begin 🙂

  5. Jenny Haines

    Well said Bernard. The majority of the drift away from Labor went to the Greens and that is the problem for Labor, they have lost a lot of their Left base, ie their conscience and their soul, to the Greens. What is left in the Labor Party are factional machines that spend a lot of time on promoting member’s careers, by engaging in factional bickering, occaisonally warfare. And with the Lefts walking out of the Labor Party goes campaining on issues like global warming and climate change, refugees and asylum seekers, workchoices, gay marriage and mental health funding. When Gillard took over from Rudd there was a short hiatus where Gillard could have brought at least some of the supporters who left the Labor Party for the Greens over these issues back towards Labor but she disappointed these people by being more supportive of the conservative views on these issues than the progressive views. That’s what Labor leaders do these days – if things go badly, get more and more conservative, try to grab more of the centre to right of politics. Look where that has got us! No doubt after the dust of this election is settled they will do the same, go more conservative than learn that the people/voters are moving in the opposite direction.

  6. mbernacki

    The ex-National Independents have also copped a lot of flak from Abbot and his party for their decision to leave party politics behind. Don’t be too quick to assume their willingness to help him out now.

  7. Alex

    Just like the city-based mainstream media, Mr Keane is showing a misunderstanding of rural affairs. Rather than ancient political ties, the National Broadband Network will be the single biggest concern of the three confirmed Independents. The benefits it could give rural Australians is completely unappreciated.

    Further, while the ‘faceless men of the Labor Party’ have become a Latham-like spectre hanging over Gillard’s campaign, the (in)famous backstabbing and preselection politics of the National Party over many years has not endeared the Coalition to Mr Windsor, Mr Katter or Mr Oakeshott. Nor, for that matter, would the the smear campaign launched by the Nationals against Mr Windsor in the 2007 election.

    Personally, I find it reassuring that our electoral system has placed the short-term future of our country in the hands of three experienced legislators whom genuinely represent their constituents (as their massive margins demonstrate). They are the type of representatives our system is meant to promote and one can only hope that this election signals a more diverse, representational brand of Australian politics.

  8. John

    My previous table got scrambled. Here it is in legible format:

    National Tally, House of Representatives, First Preferences:

    Campaigned loudly AGAINST gay marriage
    Family First 2.20% + CDP Christian Party 0.67%
    Against gay marriage total= 2.87%

    Campaigned loudly FOR gay marriage
    The Greens 11.43% + Democrats 0.17% + Liberty and Democracy Party 0.17% + Australian Sex Party 0.08% +Secular Party of Australia 0.10%
    For gay marriage total = 11.95%

    National Tally, Senate, First Preferences:

    Campaigned loudly AGAINST gay marriage
    Family First 2.13% + CDP Christian Party 1.00%
    Against gay marriage total = 3.13%

    Campaigned loudly FOR gay marriage
    The Greens 12.96% + Democrats 0.62% + Liberty and Democracy Party 1.63% + Australian Sex Party 1.99% + Secular Party of Australia 0.09%
    For gay marriage total = 17.29%

  9. susan elfert

    Labor will very likely retain Corangamite and Lindsay, wrench back Macquarie on Greens preferences as the week unfolds (just watch!) and even take Boothby. As for Adam Bandt succeeding someone of Tanner’s stature in Melbourne, surely it can only improve the function of the People’s Assembly to have an articulate dissenter in the legislature at last!

    Not over by a long shot, comrades, and the Coalition knows it. So do the Good Family Abbott, who should never have been subjected to the glare of the cameras late Saturday night and whose distraught faces were a sharp reminder to us all of the cost to individuals of the murky business of politics.

    As ever, though, Jenny Haines sums up Labor’s dilemma. The banality of the last five weels has effectively masked serious concerns in the Party’s heart and soul and we see it all reflected in the Greerns’ vote. The True Believers won’t desert, of course… there’s too much to be done, and too many decent people still on board, and we could well be back on the hustings sooner than anyone’s predicted.


  10. Jack Strocchi

    Bernard Keane said:

    The mainstream media have been curiously reticent to say it, but the electorate lurched sharply to the Left yesterday. Labor bled just more than 5% of its vote, but most of it — 3.6% — went to the Greens. The Coalition picked up the scraps.

    Rubbish. Mr Keane needs to learn some basic electoral arithmetic. This election the total electorate shift a couple of points to the Right. With both sides of politics polarising away from their moderate and towards their militant wings.

    In 2007 HoR primary vote, the Broad Left (ALP/GREEN) won just over 51%, whilst the Broad Right (L/NP/OTHERs) won about 48%.

    In 2010 HoR primary vote, the Broad Left (ALP/GREEN) won a bit over 48% , whilst the Broad Right (L/NP/OTHERs) won a bit over 50%.

    So there was a significant 2% overall shift of the electorate to the Right. Within the Broad Right the electorate swung to the militant Right-wing candidate – Abbott. Whilst within the Broad Left, the electorate swung to the militant Left-wing candidate – Brown.

    Please, spare us the spin from sour-grapes Leftists.

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