Senator Arthur Sinodinos jumped following his somewhat absent-minded appearance before ICAC, and Trade Minister Andrew Robb with the signing of the Japan FTA, but it was the WA Senate election do-over that dominated the last several days of political commentary, with quite a bit for the pundits to talk about. The Palmer United Party’s good performance after dominating electoral spending during the campaign pushed its leader Clive Palmer all the way up to second. Less expected was an equally strong performance by the Greens, with Senator Scott Ludlam winning a quota in his own right.
Meanwhile both major parties suffered big swings against them. It seemed a clear case of PUP stealing from the Liberal Party and the Greens stealing from Labor, and the PM was quick to claim the swing against the government was completely normal owing to the by-election style conditions. He also claimed it was another massive rejection of the carbon and mining taxes, despite the big increase in the Greens vote, and a slight increase in the Left vote overall -- his line largely accepted without much questioning by the media.
For Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and the Labor Party however, there was nowhere to hide, with their worst Senate vote in any state for a generation -- barely one in five Western Australians voted for the ALP. Most of the media focus was on the staunch social conservative who toppled left wing frontbencher Senator Louise Pratt to grab the top of the ticket, Shoppies big-wig Joe Bullock, who seems to admire Tony Abbott more than just a little bit. This has created the perfect storm for Labor, the usual calls for party reform seeming a feeble cry in the face of the reality that on a whole host of issues, the things half the party believes in are diametrically opposed to the things the other half believes in. Minor rules changes don't quite seem the ticket when an existential conversation is required.
Crikey Political Index: April 3-9