Locked in – an update

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

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15 responses to “Locked in – an update”

  1. F on 3rd July 2016 10:41 am

    The vitriol and bitchiness of the media on display today on Insiders was something to behold. They got it completely wrong, were duped, and had all their pet obsessions (‘balanced budgets’, ‘the economy’)kinda ignored by voters.

    Also the way the senate result is being spoken about is hilarious, making out it to be some sort of monstrous joke when actually the senate changes means voters really did elect Pauline Hanson(twice) and Derryn Hinch. Ha!

  2. Snorky on 3rd July 2016 11:24 am

    The media has already started on the ‘winners and losers’ narrative, but don’t see themselves among the losers.

    Note that the polls seem to have got the result pretty much right. Those who got it wrong were the self appointed gurus in the press gallery, who would have us believe that the Government had it in the bag, despite the 50/50 polls, on the basis that they have some sort of supernatural capacity to interpret the evidence that we mere mortals lack. Still waiting in vain for a mea culpa from them.

  3. The Piping Shrike on 3rd July 2016 2:28 pm

    Yes, odd the increasing tendency, as with Trump and Brexit, to ignore the polls then be shocked when they’re right.

  4. Dianne on 3rd July 2016 2:58 pm

    Could someone please tell me what Turnbull ‘s Plan is?

    As far as I know no journalist has ever asked The Question.

    All through the election they kept referring to it as if we all knew what it was.

    I don’t.

  5. Snorky on 3rd July 2016 3:22 pm

    Sorry Dianne; I’d like to help you but I can’t. It seems that we were expected to accept that a company tax cut constituted a comprehensive plan that would lead us down a yellow brick road to endless prosperity for all. Despite the fact that trickle down economics has been shown manifestly to be a sham.

    The media apparently didn’t think it was appropriate to ask the question, because, you know, it’s a well known fact that the conservatives are superior economic managers. Despite the complete absence of any supporting evidence.

    And of course every day of the campaign spent on the economy was a win for the Government. Wasn’t it?

  6. Troy on 3rd July 2016 5:01 pm

    Great analysis as always, was pleased to see you had something up so quickly.

    I had missed what Beazley said (which you refer to) but it matches up with what I observed. That is, while two-party preferred swings were largely muted in many cases there were huge drops in first-preference votes for the major parties.

    I would have to assume even if this is largely ignored by the media (who focus on seats won, not how they were won) that party strategists would be deeply concerned by this trend.

    Not least because funding per vote is tied to first preference votes. As good a reason as any to vote anything but major for your first preference.

  7. The Piping Shrike on 3rd July 2016 6:53 pm

    The erosion of safe seats is also deeply destabilising to a party’s function. Nothing to reward politically inept hacks from Victoria, to take a random example.

  8. FC on 3rd July 2016 10:15 pm

    The question is, where do you think this will all end?

  9. The Piping Shrike on 3rd July 2016 10:47 pm

    Haven’t a clue.

  10. Dianne on 4th July 2016 8:04 am

    Shrike, I have seen your derisory tweet about the ‘if only’ lamenting that Turnbull should have got stuck into the building construction union during the election campaign.

    Yep, that would have done it. Now we have the Bring Back Abbott caterwauling led by choir master A. Bolt.

    Yep, that should do it. I fear though that the Libs will do exactly that.

    What it all says to me is that the Libs and their media barrackers have no idea. They cannot fix a problem because they do not understand the nature of the dilemma. Or maybe they do but are incapable or unwilling to adjust.

    It is poignant that the Libs keep talking in up-beat brittleness about Opportunity, Agility, Excitement, Innovation when they are stuck fast in the last century and perhaps the one before that.

  11. Ramon on 5th July 2016 10:11 am

    The Libs sloganeering was nothing more than anodyne corporate big picture statements with no detail whatsoever. We the people can only be hoodwinked some of the time…however, the erosion and splintering of the major party’s base from within is the real Trojan horse issue for them. Labor needs to take a long hard look at itself and engage more meaningfully with its member base and they might see an improvement in their primary vote. The industrial wing of the party still looms large in the political organisation, but this relic of a bygone age needs to be reformed ASAP.

  12. Oldskool on 5th July 2016 12:03 pm

    What I found interesting in the wash- up was that the Liberals blamed ‘Mediscare’ for their poor performance. This is curious because the entirety of the media (including the Grauniad)said it was untrue, every Liberal Politician who got their face in front of a Camera, or microphone said it was untrue (that was insane)- but given all that, we are lead to believe that the Liberal Party believe this was a major factor. They must have a lower sense of their own credibility than the electorate does…

  13. The Piping Shrike on 5th July 2016 5:47 pm

    Hard to think of a campaign that had less impact on the voters. As shown by the polls, which barely moved.

  14. Frosty on 6th July 2016 11:26 am

    Old Skool – as PS noted in the comment following yours, according to the polls, the 2PP did not move from before the campaign until voting day. So all the LNP people blaming “Mediscare” is just self-delusion and believing the appalling media coverage. We could have voted on 5 May and the result would have been the same.
    One thing that Shorten has achieved, however, is the protection of Medicare from any further tampering. They wouldn’t dare.

  15. Philip on 7th July 2016 10:24 am

    Thanks for your article. I think we are seeing conservative thinking exposed for its inability to respond to a rapidly changing world. By their nature the first and predominant response is to protect the status quo. The utterly failed war on drugs being an example. Conservative thinking is doomed to fail us because it doesn’t have the capability to respond increasing challenges be they economic or environmental. The sooner the population realises that conservative thinking means failure in our current circumstances the better.

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