Sunday, 3 July 2016
A newly installed Prime Minister goes to the first election and claims a mandate that doesn’t exist while an opposition leader claimed a victory that he never won. The eerie mirroring of the 2010 result shows that Australian politics still hasn’t left the deadlock it’s been in since then.
It’s been six years now that both parties have failed to establish a mandate. The Coalition thought it had one after the 2013 election, but when it tried it on, sunk like a stone.
The result is that both parties are now focused more on internal affairs than the electorate. Turnbull’s bitter election night speech made clear that the campaign continues – but after a brief interlude of talking to the public, it went back to being an internal one to save his position. That’s why he raised the ABCC, an election issue that was to lock in his own side when the election was called, but has barely been mentioned since
Both sides are paralysed against eroding support from the electorate. While the Coalition flopped, Labor’s result was even more dismal. Labor added less than 2% to its shocker of a 2013 primary vote making it the second lowest since the Lang split of 1934. Minor party support is continuing its inexorable climb. What made this election different was that not only were Labor and the Nationals scrambling to defend their safe seats against them, but the Liberals as well, with seats like Higgins, Mayo, and even Warringah, coming under pressure.
That this pressure from new parties is coming in safe seats is a sign we are seeing the erosion of the old rather than the rise of the new. The return of Pauline Hanson seemed to leave even her confused why, and the success of Nick Xenophon and Derryn Hinch represented little more than Nick Xenophon and Derryn Hinch.
The two party preferred system is still disguising the extent of this erosion in the lower house, although as Beazley said last night, this can only last so long. Then we’ll see the preferential system flip it over and potentially lead to dramatic results as the major parties lose their top two rankings. Last night, the only really tangible sign of it was in the Senate, where the major parties’ reform moves to keep out minor parties proved unable to stop an electorate heading the opposite way.
With neither party knowing what to do about it, it was understandable that talk turned last night to blaming the electorate. Liberals’ harping on about “lies” and “scare campaigns” gave the impression the electorate had been duped, rather than being simply unimpressed by them and their leader. Meanwhile the Labor side was indulging in subtler anti-democratic tones with Penny Wong bemoaning how the double dissolution had “opened the gates” to, er, what the public actually wanted in the Senate.
There was a brave attempt by some in the Coalition to pretend that last night’s close result was a “return to normal” just as Labor tries to pretend that the end of the Rudd/Gillard feud meant a return to normalcy on their own side. The confusion about what is happening was summed up in the last week of the campaign when it was thought by the Coalition and commentators that the turmoil of Brexit would lead voters to seek stability under the Coalition.
This was based on the flawed assumption that the electorate’s wish for change was confined to the UK and the US and the Australian electorate was wanting to resist it. No such luck. It is true that the type of turmoil we have seen of the last few years is likely to come to an end – but mainly because it is unlikely to be confined just to the never-ending leadership merry-go-round. If this is bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Posted by The Piping Shrike on Sunday, 3 July 2016.Filed under State of the parties