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Mar 28, 2011

No precedents for depths plumbed by Labor vote

There is little about NSW Labor at present that offers cause for optimism about its regenerative capacities.


So much has been said of what was unprecedented in the New South Wales election result that it’s worth recalling how, despite of everything, it can still be viewed within the continuity of recent electoral history.

The Coalition’s success in recording 51.2% of the primary vote is an enormous achievement by any standard, and one that would not have been possible without the disciplined and united front presented to the public over the past four years. However, in historical terms the figure is eclipsed by the “Wranslides” of 1978 and 1981, when Labor respectively polled 57.8% and 55.7%.

Two more recent elections from other states stand testament to the havoc that can be wrought in a perfect electoral storm: the 2001 election in Queensland, when Labor under Peter Beattie recorded 48.9%, and the 1993 election in South Australia, when the Liberal and National parties managed a combined vote of 53.9% in ousting a decade-old Labor government.

It must be granted that there are no such precedents for the depths plumbed by Labor’s primary vote. Despite being higher than most polls were predicting, its 25.5% has been matched only in circumstances where party splits sent rival factions into electoral contest with each other. However, the factors that drove them to this nadir are familiar enough to students of history.

What gave them record-breaking force was a long-term and continuing decline in partisan attachment, which has made electoral behaviour more volatile, enabling swings of a size that would have been impossible when voting behaviour was more deeply rooted in class identification.

Many are reluctant to credit explanations that fail to sheet home blame to the government’s specific policy failings, the party’s large cast of factional villain figures and the broader cultural malaise that is said to underscore both. Not for a moment should the role of these factors in reducing Labor to its present state be discounted. However, they should also not mislead us into underestimating the significance of such well-understood phenomena as the role of governmental longevity.

It has been more than three decades since a government stood before the people asking for an advance on 16 years, something that — despite Bob Carr’s audacious claim to the contrary yesterday — seems objectively impossible to achieve in modern politics. The glacial epoch of class-based electoral behaviour, when governments could survive off apparently permanent majorities for decades on end, is gone forever. For this reason, the worst landslides are usually meted out to governments that were clearly granted that one term too many, usually as a result of the failings of the opposing party. This becomes especially forceful when four-year terms are in place, as they are in most states but not federally.

One telling comparison here is with John Major’s Conservative government in the United Kingdom, which was annihilated in 1997 after being unexpectedly returned in 1992. That government recalled NSW Labor’s final term in another way: the all-pervasive air of sleaze that descended upon it after a dizzying procession of sometimes hair-raising personal scandals. Combined with a general readiness to think the worst of politicians under even the happiest of circumstances, a steady drumbeat of such stories can activate a “last days of Rome” image in the public mind which colours every aspect of how the government is perceived.

Another point of continuity between this and past elections was that the swing, while unprecedented in size, was familiar enough in shape. The headline-grabbing exception of Bathurst notwithstanding, the biggest swings were recorded in the new suburbs on the fringes of the city, just as the textbook tells us to expect when an electoral realignment is under way. Outstanding examples were Riverstone (a 29.9% swing), Menai (27.5%), Mulgoa (23.5%) and Penrith (25.2% when compared with the 2007 election rather than the byelection).

As such, prognostications about a fundamental redrawing of the electoral map are almost certainly premature — particularly given that no supporting evidence was offered by the federal election just seven months ago. It is true that electoral convulsions have on occasion been harbingers of long-term change — votes swathes of rural Queensland moved from Labor to the Country Party amid the wreckage of the split, and remain conservative to this day — but the lesson of history is that familiar patterns of electoral behaviour usually reassert themselves.

For all that the electorate has become more volatile over the past three decades, 80% of respondents surveyed by the Australian Election Study after the 2007 federal election were ready to express an identification with one major party or the other. In 37% of cases the identification was with Labor — a far greater share than voted for them in one of their traditionally strongest states on Saturday. No doubt that figure has come off a little since the happier times of 2007, but clearly many of those who defected on Saturday stayed with Labor at the federal election, and maintain an attachment of a kind that can survive the occasional dalliance with the other side.

When the horrors of the Carr-Iemma-Rees-Keneally years fade from memory — one might even say, when they come to be seen in clearer perspective — old habits will reassert themselves. However, there is no guarantee for Labor that this will happen for sooner rather than later. For every encouragement offered by Labor rebounds in New South Wales in 1991 and South Australia in 1997, there are several other examples of landslide results that were all but repeated the election after: New South Wales in 1981, Queensland in 2004, Victoria in 2006, federally in 1977.

Quite often it takes several applications of the lash to weaken a party’s vested interests to the point where it finds the strength to re-orient itself, and there is little about NSW Labor at present that offers cause for optimism about its regenerative capacities.

A further sense in which this election could not be said to have marked a paradigm shift was in the failure of minor parties and independents to reap a harvest from the collapse in support for Labor. While the Greens increased their vote, and perhaps picked up seats in the upper house and Balmain, the outstanding fact of the election for them is surely that they were only able to poach 1.4% from the 13.5% that went missing from Labor.

One difficulty was familiar from the Victorian campaign: the lack of a substantial state leadership figure, in marked contrast with the party at federal level. However, an issue peculiar to the NSW party has been its “hard left” image and policy orientation and how this played with the kind of moderate swinging voters whose support was there for the taking. Much has been said in particular about Marrickville candidate Fiona Byrne’s role as mayor of a council that imposed a boycott on Israel, in light of her failure to win a seat where most would have backed her a few months ago. This seems to have been significant not only for the policy itself, but also for what its existence says about the party’s sense of proportion.

Greens activists are quick to deny that their party contains competing tendencies, but tension between purity and pragmatism is an unavoidable fact of life for any party of a progressive bent. The NSW Greens’ recent performance suggests the former has carried more weight than the latter, which they will need to address should they decide that electoral under-achievement is really what bothers them.


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47 thoughts on “No precedents for depths plumbed by Labor vote

  1. Frank Campbell

    The Greens”…were only able to poach 1.4% from the 13.5% that went missing from Labor.

    Crikey’s other story:
    “NSW Greens: not easy being green, as high hopes fizzle
    by Matthew Knott

    It’s not only NSW Labor with some serious soul searching to do. Like at the Victorian election last November, expectations of a Greenslide in NSW did not eventuate and the party faces the real prospect of not claiming a lower house seat despite widespread disillusionment with Labor.

    The polls and the bookies both had local mayor Fiona Byrne as a heavy favourite to win….”

    High hopes? Of winning two classic low-postcode Green seats? Tribalism may be dying slowly in Oz (well done Richo) but the constant expectation (not least on Crikey) of the apotheois of the Greens is just wishful thinking. Crikey (and progressives generally) learned little from the Higgins and Bradfield byelections, which were touted as retribution from Civilised (urbane) Liberals for Abbott’s coup.

    The Greens failure in NSW to capitalise on the flight from the blight on the hill isn’t due to one candidate wanting a boycott on Israel. Zionism isn’t high on the menu in Balmain. And nowhere in most of NSW. But what is known to all is “proycing caaahbun”.

    Until the Green Left faces the fact that climate millenarianism and the idiotic policies it engenders is self-defeating, political power will continue to be squandered.

    I’m sick and tired of being the only voice on the Green Left saying this. We’re heading for a decade of political oblivion. If there others Out There who’ve woken up- speak up now. Sure, you’ll get abuse and ridicule. Just wear it, you gutless wonders.

  2. Bob the builder

    Personally I think the Greens should leave off on their obsession with electoral politics. Sure, being in the tent is fine, but not if that’s the only thing you do.
    If all the active Greens members were politically active (as opposed to putting their energy into getting someone else to speak on their behalf in parliament), the green agenda would be greatly advanced. And if even 10% of present Greens voters did something more than smugly marking a ballot paper every now then we’d have huge positive change.

  3. Had Enough

    The Greens are so extreme and radical and nasty, they deserve the results they did.

    I love Labor Minister’s Fergusons comment

    Unemployed under trees weaving baskets.

    That quote will go down in history like Keatings Banana Republic.

  4. Bob the builder

    Had Enough thinking have you? And you’re calling the Greens nasty?

  5. Mike

    I detest the Greens and everything they stand for and I find them utterly dangerous & evil but let me put that aside for one sec and state the obvious.

    The Greens Exist At The Mercy Of The Conservatives.

    Their viability can be extinguished with a simple stroke of the pen by Coalition voters.

    Libs preference Labor in inner city seats and “poof” Greens are gone… forever…. that is now patently clear …. and that’s gotta hurt.

  6. Scott

    I think William has called it with the lack of a point person for the Greens in NSW. Bob Brown, being so high profile, is a talisman….he can be a lightning rod (attracting votes) or an odour (repelling them) depending on the mood of the electorate at the time. The major party’s state branches have the ability to either associate or disassociate themselves with the Feds when they feel the need; the greens have no such luxury. Delegating some authority to the individual states might allow Bob to step back from the frey if the mood is against him and hence allow the state party to win votes on their own merit.

  7. dgh1

    The nerve of people to set up a political party, the Greens, that disturbs the comfortable oligopoly of the major parties and keeps standing candidates and putting out alternative policies. What do they think this is, a democracy?

    “Basketweaving” is a nice cliche to avoid actually having to debate the issues but it couldn’t be more wrong. What evidence we have sociologically suggests that Greens supporter are more likely to be in IT and high tech industries and be younger than the population average rather than the ageing hippies of legend.

    After all the venting from the above contributors my advice is – get over it. Liberals not giving preferences to the Greens is not going to make the Green vote go away.

    I find it fascinating that the reaction of people to the Greens as evidenced by the primal screams above is one of visceral emotion and personal abuse not rational analysis.

    To move on to analysis of voting patterns across the state there is an interesting pattern emerging that suggests that the Greens phenomonen is being driven by sociological change as much as overt response to short term political trends:

    I refer to the fact that outside the inner city where the ALP is being challenged by the Greens in Balmain and Marrickville, in Vaucluse and 8 seats in the northern suburbs of Sydney ALP voters are at risk of becoming an endangered species and the two party preferred count will be between the Liberals and the Greens. In none of these cases are the Greens likely to mount a serious threat now or in any forseeable future to Coalition control of these seats .

    however, the Greens vote is reaching the point where they should be able to start to elect significant numbers of councillors across this region and build a local profile.

    The trends are clear enough to represent a challenge to the ALP’s ability to man enough booths to harvest a reasonable number of upper house votes from this region.

  8. Frank Campbell

    Mike: “Libs preference Labor in inner city seats and “poof” Greens are gone”

    care to rephrase that?

  9. freecountry

    [The glacial epoch of class-based electoral behaviour, when governments could survive off apparently permanent majorities for decades on end, is gone forever.]
    I don’t know about that. It seems to me a lot of fanatical progressives out there have simply decided they need a trial separation with NSW Labor, like a beaten wife calling the police to take her husband to the drunk tank, but counting the days until she can have him back sober. They remain afraid of the Coalition, believing the Labor propaganda that it stands for trampling the helpless and deifying the rich. Those people may be in for a surprise.
    [For this reason, the worst landslides are usually meted out to governments that were clearly granted that one term too many, usually as a result of the failings of the opposing party.]
    I think people often reserve their fiercest anger for those who have made fools of them. And Labor certainly did make fools of the NSW voter who kept them in 2007. And yes, that was a lost opportunity for a disorganized opposition.

    Significantly, I think federal election 2010 parallels NSW 2007 in this way. First term government or not (and remember Whitlam only lasted three years) federal Labor was almost finished, and would have been finished were it not for the ineptitude of Tony Abbott. For the time being, Abbott’s colleagues see him as a hero for the supposedly historic achievement of failing to do in 2010 pretty much what Fraser did in 1975. But that won’t last.

    Meanwhile many people now feel that Gillard has made a fool of them, and as with NSW Labor, they will be especially bitter about that in 2013.

  10. Fool

    Dear Australian voters,
    again you have shown your complete lack of ignorance. You are nothing but a bunch or easily led sheeple who believe the only choices you have are to vote for a party. It seems that once you have decided to vote for a party, then every other party and political figure is bad. If you get upset with one side of the coin you flip to the opposite side. The Liberal and Labor parties are nothing more than the two different faces of the same coin. The differences between them are minuscule! In reality how often do they actually represent you, the people of Australia, or represent their electorate? Then again how often do our politicians actually keep to their electoral promises? They may hold to one watered down pathetic token promise, if you are lucky. It would be nice if Australian were not so easily led, and actually paid attention to what was going on in the world and Australian politic’s. Personally I am sick of Australian politican’s pandering to big business and only talking about the economic rationale of every situation. The economy is a man-made construct; there is no economy without society or the environment! The continuance of “Pigs head” rationalities, collusion and corruption in politic’s does not benefit the majority of Australians. Australia now has the largest inequality of wealth in the first world – the rich are getting richer, while the poor are getting poorer! The political machinations that Australians are offered is nothing more than a great sham! How are politician’s actually going to represent the people, or at a minimum be seriously conflicted, when they are beholdent to to the powers that support their career’s and political parties through massive donations? Wake up Australia!!! Then again the NSW election is pretty much a good reflection of the fearful, self-centred, individualistic, and ignorant ideologies Australians seen to hold!

    I have to laugh at poor misguided Mikes comments – pray tell how the Greens are utterly dangerous and evil? I am pretty sure it is because of Liberal ideas (not the Liberal party) [Liberal – as in forward, free thinking, open-mindedness, independence of thoughts and ideas] that the Greens exist, rather than at the bequest of the conservatives!

  11. Mike

    Fool I’d prefer not to comment cause as you rightly point out I “lack ignorance” unlike you who enjoys more than his fair share.

  12. GocomSys

    Let’s face it mediocre Australians deserve a mediocre media and mediocre politicians!
    The danger is that it can get worse in “Mediocrity Land”. What did the mediocre NSW voters do? They removed a mediocre government and replaced it with one that is going to be worse! OOps! Replacing the mediocre federal government with one led by someone like Abbott @ Co.? Unimaginable! If the concentrated effort to undermine the national psyche persists we’ll nostalgically look back to the times of mediocrity. Difficult to see us getting out of this quagmire since any attempt to buck the trend is quickly nipped in the butt by the usual suspects!
    Very sad really, because in so many fields individual Australians are doing exceptional work!

  13. Fran Barlow

    [Greens activists are quick to deny that their party contains competing tendencies, but tension between purity and pragmatism is an unavoidable fact of life for any party of a progressive bent.]

    Speaking simply for myself, I would sooner we Greens had not a single representative in any parliament in this country than that we become like the ALP — obsessed with getting representation. To focus on what one must do to get elected at the cost of the integrity of our public policy claims is fundamentally corrupt and corrupting. If we are ever minded to try such nonsense, I hope we are swiftly repudiated. Getting policy right must come first.

    That is not to say that we cannot, having developed rational policies, choose how best to promote them and raise them in public space. Provided we avoid dissembling or pretending that we are what we are not, that is entirely progamatic. I have no problem with compromise either. Where there is indeed a “least of all harms” position to be had, we should always take it, since by definition, it wlll cohere with our policy objectives.

    It seems to me that this is where Ms Byrne went awry. Whatever the merits of the Israel disinvestment proposal, neither Marrickville Council nor the State Parliament were suitable places to raise it. Pragmatism entails picking battles which will make a positive difference if won and which one has a reasonable prospect of winning. The policy did not go close to meeting either of those criteria, but it did allow an extraneous issue to enter the campaign and almost certainly cost us votes in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. As I implied above, I’d have been fine with that if the above criteria had been met but of course that wasn’t the case. This was simply an own goal.

    We are a thematic party, and as such we do best in elections where there are big ideas being discussed. There were no big ideas being discussed in this one and our attempts to raise them — given that our prospects of either forming a government or supporting one were for all practical purposes, zero, were never going to gain traction. This was a plebiscite on the government — should they continue was their time well and truly up? The majority had made up their minds a long time ago — perhaps two years ago — that it weas the latter and therefore anything anyone (including even the Liberals) had to say was simply moot. The Libs were getting the guernsey. Simple as that.

    Our best chance was to run as the ALP of labor voter imagination: Tell Labor how they should be! Vote Green! ought to have been our slogan. We ought to have spoken up in favour of unions and public ownership a lot more loudly than we did. Had we done so, we’d have got a lot more than 10% of ALP defectors, even if they had 2nd preferenced the Libs. Instead, we said “real change for a change” which sounded a lot like the Liberals — without the organisational credibility to make it sound like anything but handwaving.

    With this tactical blunder in mind, all things considered, our performance wasn’t that bad. It just wasn’t all that good.

  14. geomac

    I agree with the article where it points to the last election where Labor should have been out of office. This election result is four years late although maybe not the margin. Having escaped defeat it makes the antics of NSW Labor seem incomprehensible in how they acted and governed. This wasn,t the drovers dog scenario it was the flea on the drovers dog . Mind you I,m a Victorian so its a case of looking from the outside but I expected the coalition to win four years ago.
    At one stage while Howard was in office all states had Labor in power and now its seems the the same is happening only a reversal with Labor in office federally. Similar to how voters tend to vote in the senate not wishing to give a party unfettered power in both houses.

  15. GocomSys

    Some of the previous posts prove my point. Mediocrity in action!

  16. shepherdmarilyn

    Go, we have been a mediocre pissant of a place for the passt 20 years, run by a bunch of chancers on both sides who feel threatened by anyone with a brain.

    As for the Greens – shame on them. They hate war, don’t want to lock up the refugees fleeing those wars and want to preserve our natural environment without pandering to the corporates.

    Damn, think I will vote for them.

    Actually I have for a decade or more, ever since Meg Lees sold us out on the GST.

  17. khsharpe

    ” climate millenarianism and the idiotic policies it engenders ”
    i doubt there’s a month goes by that some report doesn’t confirm the effects of climate change are likely to be more severe and more imminent than thought the month before. You seem to be seriously suggesting that the main reason for a “Green Left” existence is to run a political party conforming to your whims?
    *eyebrow raise *

    Ferguson’s comments show one thing only – if left to people like him unwilling to acknowledge the depths of Labor’s alienation of voters – then the Labor Party risks becoming a total irrelevance to the electorate. Something i for one dread. Also, except for the most dedicated of party faithful, Keating’s comment was always as much liablity as asset. Ferguson’s will be far less an asset to the party, and not even enough relevance to be a liabilty … and this you applaud?
    *head shake *

  18. GocomSys

    Mediocrity in action, get it?

  19. shepherdmarilyn

    And why do the media think the indies should drop the federal government because other indies lost in the NSW state election and why does it matter a toss if 3 states now have liberal governments.

    Howard only had Campbell Newman for years.

  20. freecountry

    I think I’m starting to get it, Gocomsys. You said above that some posts prove your point. As far as I can see you have no point. Maybe that is your point: no point! That’s probably what passes for clever in your world.

  21. sickofitall

    How did we let Tripodi, Roozendahl and the rest of the low – class mediocrities get away with it? Once they dumped Rees and put in the useless KKK, we should have…

    we should have… left the party in droves… complained to our local members, written to the speaker. boought ICAC in…

    Oh, we did…

  22. Citizen 211

    The Labor party, like the Greens who are already there…are slipping further into the abyss of irrelevence. Who would vote for a party that no longer stands for anything and can’t deliver on a single promise?

  23. Bob the builder

    You should have left in 1983 you muppet.
    Act like a doormat, get treated like a doormat.

  24. Oscar Jones

    Is it all possible to expect the mass media (including crikey) to examine their part in allowing Barry O’Farrell to slide into office on absolutely no merit and without ( without precedent) presenting one single policy to the elctorate ?

    After all Tony Abbiott has confirmed the process by announcing O’Farrell did the right thing-small target. All very well as a strategy but doesn’t serve the elctorate well . Where are the guardians of all this-the media ?

    Cast your minds back to the Howard election inwhich Labor were supposedly wiped out. That was all reversed within 3 years and that’s because those who receive a thunping majority are expected to deliver much and anyone who believes the Coaltion will perform miracles are dreaming.

    If the state coaltion had announced a raft of policies they could claim a mandate to introduce them. I predict trouble within the year as basically everything remains exactly the same and those who followed like sheep become unsettled.

    As to the media and their inaction and outright fibs-read thesocialshuttle.com and see how even the Sydney Morning Herald lied outright about one candidate-admittedly an independent for the upper house. But if they lied about that-what else ?

  25. Bob the builder

    Labor hacks – you lost. As bad as O’Farrell’s mob might be, you royally f**ked NSW. Stop blaming everything else but your own actions.

  26. sickofitall

    @Bob – probably, but I was too young to join then… and even then thre was some adherence to broad principles.

  27. Bob the builder

    @SICKOFITALL if you were too young to join in 1983, then you were too young to have had any excuse to ever have joined, at least for reasons of idealism.
    The Young Labor rodents I knew at uni in the ’90s were completely ruthless, unprincipled and self-serving. And many went on to influential roles within the grown-up NSW ALP. Apart from a smattering of mindless, deluded Labor ‘left’ types, who usually (ineffectually) opposed what the others were doing, they were by far the worst group of people I’ve met in a very varied life.

  28. Firstname Lastname

    Wow the Laborites are still flailing around in a rage, you are all giving my 3 year old boy a run for his money in the tantrum stakes.

    Herpa derp derp the Greens only increased their vote by 1.4%. talk about losers, they can’t even manage a 16% swing against them, what amatuers.

  29. GocomSys

    Let me explain the point I am making. Are you aware what’s happening to our society? Short term thinking wherever you look. Stuck in a groove. In a forever more complex world, bombarded with mixed, negative, often contradictory messages the public increasingly becomes detached and alienated. More people are becoming introverted. They live for today and couldn’t give a damn about tomorrow. The very systems we have inherited are failing. We are pre-occupied with our daily chores and minor issues whilst our very existence is threatened. Unfortunately the warning messages are not headed, mostly for the sake of short term personal gain. Enough said!

    I am now looking forward to the next weekly opinion poll, the cricket results etc. etc etc.
    The ABC will keep me sedated!

  30. Bobalot

    FC complaining about pointless verbose posts…the irony.

  31. Hogarth

    “We are pre-occupied with our daily chores and minor issues whilst our very existence is threatened. ”

    I certainly am pre-occupied. The amount of regulatory bullshit that is required to “live” ensures that I am focused on my own hunting ground. The best I can do is make sure I don’t crap all over it and tell my children the same.

    How do you expect the citizenry to comprehend one of the most complex sciences described when the same citizenry value the working year of a scientist to average wage?

  32. freecountry

    Oscar Jones:
    [If the state coalition had announced a raft of policies they could claim a mandate to introduce them. I predict trouble within the year as basically everything remains exactly the same and those who followed like sheep become unsettled.]
    You miss the point that not all governments want to turn everything upside down from the word go. O’Farrell does have a number of policies but most of them are fine tuning rather than setting the world on fire. That’s not “small target”; that’s the way he’s expected to govern. The business organisations have complained of “reform fatigue”.

    For example, most people agree that the solar panels rebate never should have been introduced, but it was introduced, and people have arranged their affairs around it, so there’s no need to rush in and abolish it.

    Most of what the Coalition actually promised was simply a higher degree of accountability, responsibility, professionalism, no more creative accounting, less corruption (eg a ban on lobbyist success fees), and so on. Will they deliver it? Maybe they will and maybe they won’t. We’ll have four years to judge while Labor regroups. If you judge them on whether they are as gung-ho as Labor, that’s a test they will not pass, because they don’t want to.

  33. Frank Campbell

    “We are pre-occupied with our daily chores and minor issues whilst our very existence is threatened. ”

    Exactly my point. The real world and its tribulations are dismissed, subordinated to the Armageddon obsession. This is why politics- normal, sane, frustrating politics- has ceased to exist.

    The nasty corollary of climate millenarianism is authoritarianism and cruelty. After all, anything is justified if people are jeopardising salvation.

    Fortunately, the cult is its own worst enemy: patronising and berating a recalcitrant population will send Believers to the political wilderness. It’s happening.
    Suicidally, Gillard has made the next election a referendum on climate millenarianism- whenever it’s held. Yesterday she defined “progress” as successful imposition of the caaahbun tax. She calls it “reform”, and the harbinger of a “clean green” economic future. Such banalities confirm that Gillard has no connection to “Labour values” or any coherent view of politics.

  34. freecountry

    Gocomsys, it’s a common complaint, but doesn’t really help anyone because everybody thinks his own side to be more long term thinking than the other side. Labor believes that society, left to its own devices, decays, and that the act of government dragging it kicking and screaming into the future is painful but necessary. Liberals on the other hand, believe that society itself is the engine of its own progress, a sort of wild garden which requires some maintenance and troubleshooting here and there, an injection of resources sometimes, but otherwise to be left alone to grow in its own unpredictable way; that quick fixes for socio-economic inequities merely shift poverty from one place to another and are unsustainable; that poverty can only be beaten by taking a long view. Each side claims that the other is driven by short term thinking.

  35. Frank Campbell

    KHSharpe: “i doubt there’s a month goes by that some report doesn’t confirm the effects of climate change are likely to be more severe and more imminent than thought the month before.”

    Classic millenarianism. Signs, portents, omens. A sense of gathering doom. Sliding as in a nightmare into the open maw of Hell.

    Climate impacts (whether anthropogenically generated or not) are not much more than computer-model generated guesswork. There are a plethora of unknowns, and a Rumsfeld of unknown unknowns. AGW is an immature hypothesis itself, not to mention the Heath-Robinson structures bolted onto it.

  36. tripe

    “One difficulty was familiar from the Victorian campaign: the lack of a substantial state leadership figure, in marked contrast with the party at federal level.”

    Huh? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I didn’t think Brumby was a total non-event.

    Whilst I concede that Gillard is certainly a ‘distinctive’ leadership figure, I’m not sure it’s in a way that’s currently working in her favour.

    And sure Brumby wasn’t the most charismatic premier, but he had no more pinache and flair than Baillieu…not that I often describe pollies with those adjectives.

  37. sickofitall

    Actually, Bob, I’ve never been a member of the ALP … now I know where you’re coming from. My mistake. I find everything from the centre right and centre left on out grubby and distasteful. And the NSW right… grrr… as for teh far left… grrr… as well.

  38. arty

    Mr O’Farrell has just announced that he has found a huge black hole in the state’s accounts. I think I might of just won our raffle on “pick the day and time” of the usual shock-horror announcement.

  39. the man on the clapham omnibus

    Despite not translating to seats, the Green vote seems to be steadily increasing over time, and as a % overall their vote is often quite higher than the National party. However, due to the vagaries of the state and federal electoral system this does not often translate into lower house seats.

    When put into a larger proportional voting environment like Tasmania’s Hare Clark system the results seem to get a lot better for smaller parties.

    Would be interesting to see the tipping point in the current system where the Greens would need to be to increase their seat count. In Tasmania a 21% overall count translated into 5 out of 25 seats (20% of seat allocations).

    Victorian Election 2011 – % of primary vote to lower house seats
    Labor – 26.25% – 43 Seats
    Liberal – 38.03% – 35 Seats
    National – 6.75% – 10 seats
    Green – 11.21% – 0 seats

  40. ronin8317

    The NSW Labor Party suffered from a human resource crisis. Positions are parcelled out based on loyalty to the fraction, and those who end up in positions of power have neither ability, integrity nor shame. No matter what yardstick you use, paying over 500 million to NOT build a metro is a scandal. The best word to describe some of the last minutes action by the former NSW ALP Government is ‘looting’. Certain consultants from Macqurie Bank will be receiving a huge bonus this year.

  41. Fran Barlow

    the man on the clapham omnibus said:

    [When put into a larger proportional voting environment like Tasmania’s Hare Clark system the results seem to get a lot better for smaller parties.]

    Doubtless though single member PR might work just as well.

    Of course, you overlook the fact that all of this extra Green/other representation would be at the expense of the majors so what are the odds?

  42. geomac

    This may be of interest or a source of amusement Arty . The predicted black hole statement relates to finances in five years time. In other words another election will be held before that so called black hole can be put under scrutiny. A very strange start for a government out of office for so long.

  43. the man on the clapham omnibus


    Just trying to raise awareness showing that the Green’s numbers aren’t all that bad and a healthy % of votes not translating to seats is a consequence of the current system.

    Electoral reform with established vested interests would be extremely difficult to prosecute, as Nick Clegg is possibly finding out in Britain and I accept that it would be difficult to prosecute in Australia.

    The independents and Greens have probably missed an opportunity to push a referendum as part of their conditions of being a coalition. (Abbott would probably have gone for it given what has come out re: the negotiations).

    With the progressive vote split though and Labor struggling to retain 30% of votes, electoral reform may be their only way to ensure they have a voice in the future as the major party in a coalition. I highlight Tasmania as an example as it seems to produce extremely balanced representation with its system that reflects the preferences of the public.

    I think it would be an extremely positive development to allow multi member representation in an electorate. Is having your only party candidate come from the extreme faction of a party really representative democracy? Having choice of factions or candidates for a party in an electorate would I think be a really positive development, allow further scrutiny of members over parties and make political bodies carefully consider their pre-selection choices.

  44. Pdaddy

    If the Greens are so irrelevant, why are both major parties so obessed by them and feel they need to attack anyone who considers voting for them as unemployed hippies? Given the Libs are sucking up to every far right nut job in the country and the ALP are leaking voters left right and centre I can’t see it as a sensible tactic.

    It just gets boring. have a go at the “crazed and possibly secret” policy of rail links if you must but can we please try and lift ourselves above the level of Gerard “the corporate criminal’s best mate” Henderson who can’t write two lines about the Greens without talking about what lee Rhiannon’s parents were interested in. Are we all 13?

    Of course given the Liberal party’s love of a war criminal after the second world war it’s always a bit weird they want to harp on about that era’s political leanings.

  45. freecountry

    Pdaddy – Because they work exactly the same way Pauline Hanson does, catering to the lowest common denominator of populist ignorance. Absolutely no interest in learning how the real economy works. Too busy coming up with creative ways to vilify anyone who doesn’t think our society needs to be scrapped and rebuilt from the ground up.

    Wanting to recycle the MRRT revenue into free dental care. Wanting to compensate the carbon tax revenue using a direct cash splash instead of streamlining existing taxes. No idea how to provide for a business environment that’s capable of even adapting to a carbon tax, instead of capital simply retreating and marginal companies simply closing down, so we’re left with reduced industrial competition and consumers end up paying monopoly pricing on top of the carbon tax loading. Endlessly peddling the idea that you can blithely punish industry for polluting on behalf of consumers, while somehow insulating those consumers from that punishment.

    A party with a seductive appeal to all the Peter Pans out there who think just because they can talk about “market price signals” without any other consideration of market factors, suddenly makes them economics PhDs. Glorifying an economic principle which they do not understand, and do not even believe in, arguing in any other context that market forces lead to failed social outcomes.

    Of course the main parties consider the Greens themselves to be irrelevant, along with Pauline Hanson. What is relevant is the sheer weight of numbers of people out there who do take them seriously, no matter how patiently you try to explain the facts of life to those people.

  46. Had Enough

    Labor will be in the wilderness for 16 years as well if they appoint Robertson as leader. The ex ALP Minister who said today that the next Labor Premier is not an MP in 2011 is right.

    The Greens got a wake fure up call. Interesting to see if they move further left of right and try me too Labor.

  47. Mike

    Frank I don’t think I will.
    I quite like the turn of phrase used – appropriate don’t you think?

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