Malcom Turnbull stumbles over the line: but he actually wins two ways.

Posted: July 11, 2016 in Political musings
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TurnbullOne feature of the Liberal National Coalition’s nail-bitingly close win in the Australian election that deserves comment – especially as the knives are at the very least being sharpened for Mr Turnbull’s back by the right wing in his party, even if they are currently going back in the sheaths for a while – is that the Coalition didn’t just get a bare majority of seats, (or at least that’s how it looks currently, and Labor have now officially conceded defeat) but it also looks increasingly likely that they also won the popular vote.

That fact gives their election (and mandate) added credibility, unlike when then ALP leader Kim Beazley famously won the popular vote (in October 1988) but still lost.

With about 80 per cent of lower house ballots counted the Coalition has received 50.13 per cent of the vote on a two-party preferred basis to Labor’s 49.87 per cent.

What that obscures, of course, is two very important issues: firstly, that the ALP’s primary vote remains rooted in the mid-thirty percents (currently about 35%) putting them a long way behind the popularity of the Coalition, and far from being able to claim to be a natural party of government in any meaningful sense. And secondly that although the Coalition vote fell by about 3.4% (about .4% more than we thought it would) a substantial percentage of that fall went to third parties, and not the ALP.

Apart from a slight uptick for the Liberal’s National Party partners, we also saw increases for the Nick Xenophon Team, various “Christian” parties, and a rat-bag collection of right wing independents, notably the One Nation “party” of Pauline Hanson and the likes of “The Human Headline”, Derryn Hinch, in Victoria, and Jackie Lambie in the Tasmanian Senate, not to mention the libertarian Liberal Democrats in NSW.

Far from being a ringing endorsement of Labor’s strategies and policies, not to mention leadership, the election result actually suggests that the ALP has a great deal of work still to do. For one thing, the Greens will continue snapping away at their heels in inner urban areas (and less obviously in so-called “doctor’s wives” seats) and there are rumours they may yet take the eternally Labor seat of Melbourne Ports from its long-standing ALP member, Michael Danby, although we doubt it. This stubborn Green campaign success may well continue to cost Labor key seats at both Federal and State levels, blunting their appearance of recovery at the very least. And despite their best efforts, Labor seem so far pretty much unable to inspire enthusiasm either for Shorten personally, or for their brand of conservative social democracy.

After all, a swing to the major Opposition party – in a period of worldwide electoral upheaval – of less than two people in a hundred is hardly earth shattering. And at least some of that tiny swing can undoubtedly be accounted for by the factually and morally highly dubious “Mediscare” campaign, which might have produced a tiny increase in Labor votes, but the longer term impact may be that it also painted the party as relentlessly negative and dodgy.

Attempting to sell a “positive programme” at the same time as the most relentlessly pursued negative campaign in recent memory just rang untrue in voters’ ears.

And the Coalition’s subsequent fury over what they perceived as dirty pool will have struck some sort of chord with the wider electorate, if not with ironed-on Labor supporters, especially if the Coalition avoids anything that looks remotely like privatisation of Medicare in the next three years, just as “Kids Overboard” haunted the Coalition ever after, even after it had delivered them victory in 2001. It hung like a dead albatross around the neck of John Howard until he was swept aside by the fresh face of Kevin Rudd in 2007.

The result also reveals how vulnerable Federal parties are to wayward behaviour by their State counterparts, and especially for the Labor Party. There is little doubt that the furore over the State Labor Government’s handling of the Country Fire Authority matter cost Labor seats in Victoria, normally their strongest state. And probably cost them Government.

shortenSo whilst we admire Shorten’s hutzpah in visiting winning Labor seats in the election aftermath, we wouldn’t be entirely certain he is long for this world.

There will be no immediate move to replace him, to be sure, but the hard heads in the ALP – and there are plenty – will be looking at this result very carefully, including both the campaigning role of the Leader, as well as policy development. Anthony Albanese is one of the most loyal lieutenants any party leader could want, and Tanya Plibersek won’t toss her hat into the ring unless she’s sure of victory, but the greasy pole will be beckoning them both. And that’s before we factor in the ambition of a Chris Bowen, and others.

Any stumble by Shorten, any sign that he isn’t continuing to make ground on Turnbull, and pretty damn fast, too, and he’ll be gone. But if he doggedly pursues his agenda, and manages to ease up a little in front of the cameras instead of always seeming so earnest, he may yet get the top job one day.

 

 

 

 

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Comments
  1. Abysinnia says:

    Its a rubbish analysis.

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  2. Bob says:

    I would say that some of what you you say has merit, however, any thinking Labor supporter would have seen victory in this election as a bridge too far. 20 plus seats to make up after 3 years is pretty big. I think Bill and his team did a pretty good job to peg the Coalition lead back to whatever it will stand at after the count is concluded. Not to mention that many of those now Liberal/Coalition seats will be very marginal at the next election. Yes Labor will need to work hard to raise that primary vote number before the next election. As for Mediscare well I what a load of bollocks. The Liberals have been working to destroy Medibank/Medicare since it was introduced. Like most things public they want it privatised or detroyed eg ABC, CSIRO, public education, public hospitals, TAFE etc. Have the Liberal conservative knives been sheathed? Possibly but we have Bernardi out there launching a new conservative “movement”. Bolt and co belly aching about Turnbull’s shameful performance. Somewthing to watch I think.

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  3. I agree that labor has over egged their comeback and the coalition has underestimated the strength of their victory. Under Abbott and his policies the coalition was heading for a landslide defeat. Under Turnbull with Abbotts policies they had a near death experience but survived. We have just experienced the worst government in Australia’s history and endured an election campaign from the coalition that consisted of not much more than a vacuous slogan about “jobs and growth” and constant mention of a plan which was not much more than a plan to say the word plan as often as possible. We also had a united opposition lead by an increasingly effective leader in Bill Shorten who presented well considered policies leading to long term structural reform so clearly needed. Yet, the coalition survived. How is this so? I put in down to three factors. Firstly Turnbull’s personal popularity. Though rapidly declining at the time of the election he was still preferred prime minister and in an increasingly presidential style race this was significant. The fact the the liberal party morphed into the “Turnbull Coalition” underpins this theory. Secondly but more importantly is the influence of the Murdoch media, or Murdia as I prefer to call it. Some commentators think the influence of Murdoch is diminishing and this may be so, however the influence of Murdoch in poisoning the political debate in this country goes back decades and continues unabated. One need look no further than the way the Herald Sun promulgated the CFA dispute in Victoria. A third but less significant influence was the more subtle pro coalition bias in other sections of the mainstream media such as Fairfax and the ABC. The constant reference to the coalition being favourites and the editorials going Overwhelmingly towards the coalition may have been enough to convince some voters.

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    • Stephen Yolland says:

      Some interesting points there. Agree re Turnbull and Murdoch. Much less convinced that there is a strong Coalition bias in Fairfax or the ABC. Felt that the ABC in particular gave Shorten an easy ride this time round.

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      • Shorten performed very well on the ABC his appearances on QandA and the 7:30 report enhanced his support. This however was more to do with Shorten’s own performance than any “easy ride” from the presenters. Tony Jones effort on qanda the night Shorten appeared was deplorable. Sale’s interviews were hectoring and littered with attempts at gotcha moments in contrast her interviews with Turnbull were gushing. The feature in the last week by Sarah Ferguson were also biased against Shorten; asking Shorten to “prove” the education spending enhances growth whereas the case for company tax cuts improving growth were taking as a given. As for Chris Ulman, the man is a disgrace. The ABC has been nobbled the appointment of a Murdoch friend as the managing director the latest nail in the coffin. First acts: cut the fact check unit, remove the online drum content. We are about to see the destruction of the ABC in the interests of Murdoch

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        • Stephen Yolland says:

          Well, conversely I heard Shorten get an easy ride on ABC radio, and I thought he got a perfectly fair environment on Q&A. Leigh Sales is always the same whoever she interviews. So I cannot agree with your general thrust, which I can honestly tell you is echoed just as strongly on the Coalition side. I guess it really depends where you’re starting from …

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