For the last three weeks I have been in Queensland, and no one much there wanted to talk about the election. When the time came for me to vote, in Townsville a week before the poll, even the how-to-vote people outside were reluctant to talk about the likely outcome. I missed Bill Shorten at a Cathy O’Toole rally in Townsville by a minute or two, but later saw a big sign declaring that ‘Only Bill Shorten and Cathy O’Toole can deliver the Stadium!’ For those unaware of this election-winning slogan, Townsville would like a decent stadium just like Sydney and Melbourne, paid for by the Feds, and that has to be priority number one for a Labor Government. It is of course, not at all clear who will be governing us for the next little while, but I doubt that it will be a majority Labor Government. North Queenslanders can look on the bright side. Malcolm Turnbull apparently promised the Townsville Stadium too — but is the promise void if the Coalition loses Herbert? Those with long memories will wonder anyway whether it was a core promise or not.

For the last week I have been in Kennedy, the seat of Bob Katter, of the Katter Australia Party, its Leader and sole representative, easily returned. Kennedy is a  large seat, extending from the Northern Territory border across to just outside the City of Townsville. His signs have been the conspicuous and frequent ones, and supporters were taking them down on Sunday. No doubt on their part. Katter’s argument is with the Nationals, and you can see him as the embodiment of the new state sentiment that nothing much will happen in North Queensland until they govern themselves. He may be in a pivotal position in the new Parliament, too, and in any case he is unlikely to support a Shorten Government.

On election night I relied on the ABC, mostly because I have much respect for Antony Green, their election analyst, and when I turned off the TV set it was because he said there was nothing more that could be said that night, with the two parties tied at about 67 seats each, one Green and four Independents, and a clutch of seats still in doubt. Despite the uncertainty about who will govern, and in what context, there are a few things that can be said at once.

First, the major parties have not done well. Very generally, the two major party groups won only three votes in every four between them, with the Greens gaining 10 per cent, and the ‘Independents’ (everyone else), the remaining 15 per cent. In 1910, the first election with the two parties we know today, they won 95 per cent of the vote between them, and all the seats. The Greens have settled over the past few years at about 10 per cent, and that tells me they are not likely to grow. Their policies, including climate change, are a rag-bag of feel-good  ideas that do not have a common thread, let alone intellectual coherence, but appeal to some of those who live in inner-city electorates.

It is odd indeed that a party with this name is focussed on the heart of the cities. In the country, and Australia has a lot of that, the Greens don’t do especially well, and often quite poorly.  And the inner city, in every State, is a long  way from the Great Barrier Reef. It is a puzzle. I listened to to Richard di Natale, the Greens leader, speaking enthusiastically about climate change and the outcome for his party, and found it hard to see why he felt as he did. The ABC commentators said that he has a long-term plan to win the inner city seats from Labor. Fine. But how come such a party is called the Greens? A further thought: Linda Burney mentioned ‘climate change’ as an issue for her in inner-city Banks (Sydney) but no one else did. It may be that most of the core ‘climate change’ people are now Greens. I’ve mentioned before that those who nominate ‘climate change’ as their most important issue come to about 7 per cent of the electorate, and that is consistent with the Greens’ share of the vote.

Second, the ALP’s share of the vote is one of the historically low scores, though we won’t know it exactly for a few days. We will know more when all the votes are in, and the preferences are counted, but my own assessment is that the drift from Labor went less to the Greens than to the other groups, and the drift from the Coalition did not go to Labor, or to the Greens, but to the other groups as well. It is hard to dispute the view that there is a high degree of dissatisfaction with the major parties, and in our system that means the growth of and support to minor groups that come and go, representing local issues of one kind or another, or State-wide issues, as with Nick Xenophon’s party, which won a seat. Pauline Hanson’s One Nation did well too, in Queensland, getting up to ten per cent of the vote in some seats. I see no sign that either Labor or the Coalition knows what to do about any of these formations.

Third, Malcolm Turnbull is not the vote-winner many thought he would be. I was surprised with some of the Coalition strategy. Where was the obvious attack on union corruption, given the Royal Commission’s report? ‘Jobs and Growth’ didn’t cut it for anyone I talked with. Where was the attack on the lack of fiscal responsibility of the last Labor governments, the basis of our current public debt problem? I came to the conclusion that the Coalition was relying on its substantial buffer of seats in the House, and that nobody wanted to argue difficult themes.

Fourth, though lots of commendations came Bill Shorten’s way on election night, as ‘the real winner in the campaign’, I gave up on him early in the contest, since he seemed to have discovered the fabled Money Tree, and was promising this and that as though money were no problem at all. On election night Kim Carr trumpeted that his Leader had showed what ‘true Labor values’ were. I wouldn’t have thought spending money you didn’t have was a true Labor value. At least the Coalition was more modest in its promises even if its appeal was feeble and tentative. It didn’t seem to me to go on the attack about the absurdity of Labor’s promises, but perhaps I missed that. I wasn’t impressed by the thumping about the Coalition’s intention to privatise Medicare, which was, if not an untruth, then close to it.

Finally, there seems to be a disconnect between the reality of Australia’s situation and the view of the body politic about that situation. If we go on funding everything that people want we will run out of money. Indeed, we have run out of money, and will be told soon by the credit agencies that we are running out of credit too. I may have missed it, but I saw no one attacking Labor because of its endless promises, or from Labor defending its pitch with any kind of reasoned argument. It seemed like an election in Fairyland to me, and I’m long past Peter Pan and Wendy.


Join the discussion 41 Comments

  • David says:

    In my view, the Coalition’s main error was making a company tax cut the center piece of its economic policy. It may be a reasonable economic policy, but not a great political strategy. That just allowed the ALP to offer increased spending on health and education in lieu of a company tax cut, 40% of which are based overseas anyway.

    But hindsight is 20/20 as they say.

  • Patrick says:

    Like you Don I was thoroughly underwhelmed by the campaigning of both major parties. I kept hoping that Turnbull would go on the attack to remind the electorate of Labor’s connections with & support from the corrupt unions, the fact that Labor’s last surplus was 27 years ago, the disastrous effect of Labor’s renewable energy policy would have on the cost of electricity & everything else etc. Perhaps he was keeping his powder dry for ‘later’ in the campaign? But it never eventuated. Nobody on the coalition side pointed out the obvious absurdity of Shorten’s pledge to ‘achieve 50% renewable energy by 2030’. [After more than a quarter of a century of being bombarded with the propaganda about climate change wind & solar power account for some 6% of supply. To achieve 50% supply from these sources would require an 8 fold increase in the rate of installation.]
    As for Labor’s blatant lies about the coalition’s alleged ‘plans to privatise Medicare’ … Why were they allowed to get away with that? Which corporate entity would want to buy an organisation posting $17 billion loss annually? In fact, if Medicare is to survive in the future a co-payment MUST be introduced at some point as a ‘price signal’ otherwise Medicare becomes unsustainable.
    Without doubt this was the worst election campaigning in living memory here in Australia.

  • david purcell says:

    I agree with your comments Don.
    It was a poor performance especially from Turnbull. Why he never took labour to task on most of the Coalitions strong policies I don’t understand.
    The ABC was the only TV station to do a reasonable job on election night. I was digusted with the “reality show” type performance of Ch 7 and 9. It treated the election as one big joke, especially Ch9 and their animated “chrushing” of defeated Liberal members. Elections should be serious business and if this performance by 7 and 9 is a true reflection of the present generationof voters there is little chance we will get good government in the future. Very disappointing.

    • gnome says:

      I disagree very strongly that the ABC coverage was even adequate. Antony Green only left numbers up for three seconds at a time and percentages for four to six seconds. Why bother at all if there isn’t enough time to even read the full table. Then Wong and Sales went into long discussions about policy issues and Wong and Morrison argued about issues already well canvassed in the campaigns. Wong just can’t help wanting to score points instead of discussing results. I’d like to see Green forced to try to make sense of an election result based on the amount of info he gave.

      Channel 9 had the bottom half of the screen taken up with an alphabetical call of the board which gave a much better picture of what was going on. Sinodinos, Vanstone and Beazley gave insights without trying to score petty points. Costello, Oakes and McKew weren’t much benefit, but while they were talking there was time to peruse the bottom half of the screen. Not perfect, but a much better format and cast than the ABC had.

      • JMO says:

        I agree with gnome. Both my wife and myself where disappointed with the ABC coverag, it was far better in prior elections. My admiration for Morrison handling himself surrounded by lefties and AAGW ideologues. Anton Green was flashing the numbers up so fast they became near meaningless. Of course ABC gave far too much coverage for the Greens, I walked out of the room or switched immediately to WIN every time Richard de Natale appeared. WIN was much better …until the twitter commentary came.

    • NameGlenM says:

      Then again you have overt favouritism towards the”left”from the ABC.Penny Wong the go-to and the usual comments that indicate a bias that is entrenched at our national carrier.No surprises there mes enfants.Preferred the crush.I’m just happy our Barnaby crapped over that turncoat dude…Tony whatsisname.

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    People with Green values live quite remote from the reality. He who talketh most knowest least (After C. Northcote Parkinson)

  • It seems ironic that the “Greens” are predominantly people whose own chosen habitat is the tiny fraction of the continent where nature has been virtually annihilated. Concern for the environment provides them a cost free virtue and a feeling of moral superiority to the productive sector absolved
    of any uncomfortable tinge of gratitude or guilt.

  • Neville says:

    Don I agree with your summary of this fairyland election campaign. But then so many in the Labor and Green’s parties seem to live in a fairyland most of the time. I think Turnbull ignored most of the Coalition’s winning issues because he doesn’t have a strong belief in them.
    Jobs and growth wasn’t a winner because he didn’t hit Labor hard enough on union corruption and thuggery. Labor’s boats fiasco differences at the start of the election should have sealed their fate, but the Coalition failed to drive home their undoubted advantage.
    But I think Labor’s Medicare lies at the eleventh hour was enough of a vote changer that unfortunately delivered this hopeless result. You have to wonder how many more billions of dollars will be wasted to buy the support of Katter and other independents.
    If Labor is able to form govt the waste could be even more extreme.

  • Peter B says:

    You mentioned and I quote, ‘I wouldn’t have thought spending money you didn’t have was a true Labor value’. Unfortunately this would appear to be the very thing they excel at and their history [both state and federal], shows that to be the case and has been for decades. And how much easier it would be to hold an election whereby your traditional base was not knobbled by the urgent need to find funds to balance the budget and rectify the financial problems left by Labor.

    However, it is also amazing that the conservatives campaign team did not look at previous elections to see how Labor will distort and lie, and be allowed to do so without question from the media. But this is not to excuse the truly awful campaign by Turnbull and the party machine. I have never been a fan of Leigh Sales, but to her credit she was the only media commentator I am aware of who actually tried to call Shorten out. It was indeed interesting that she received hate mail from her supporters, and no support from her peers.

    I had previously mentioned that I favour the idea of voluntary voting and after the latest debacle, I am even more in favour. An example of this form of voting was, I think, strongly endorsed by the recent Brexit results whereby the number of people who voted was well up on the number turning out at the last general election. My reading of this is that it focusses the minds of voters and encourages them to actually look seriously at the policies before they cast their vote. I was also encouraged by the latest senate member to be elected [Derryn Hinch], and his statement that he was also in favour of voluntary voting. Of course the Labor Party would go ballistic should this be suggested, but most other countries have survived with voluntary voting and I believe it should be adopted here. Maybe the ‘human headline’ can do what he has been good at in the past and give it a good airing.

    • dlb says:

      I’d go further and would like to see the banning of how to vote cards outside polling centres.
      People who need to be told how to vote shouldn’t be voting.

      Also add political canvassing and political phone polls to the do not call register.

      • Brian Austen says:

        I support compulsory voting. Australia has the most accurate and least contentious process of all. Democracy is about accepting the result. Our system delivers that very well. It’s primarily because of compulsory voting and the resultant stable, established electoral mechanics.

        But we don’t need how-to -vote cards, or at least people lined up at the door accosting you as you go to vote. One way to do this is to widen postal and pre-poll rules so we could go and vote before polling day at our leisure, free of harassment and without needing to provide a reason.

        In reality of course, voting is not compulsory. Getting crossed off the roll is. Can we distinguish between the two?

        • Brian Austen says:

          Can I also add.

          Compulsory voting was originally introduced to remove the need for so much effort to get voters to the polls.

          Getting voters to polls will become a nightmare for parties and voters if compulsory enrolment is removed.

  • Alan Gould says:

    I share your disfavour toward Shorten, Don. Even prior to the Medicare dishonesty, the man seems to lack a physiology that communicates conviction. My sense was a peculiar puppetry, as though he were slightly surprised he had been given certain lines to say, certain gestures with which to reinforce them.
    His abrupt vehemence on the Medicare alarmism was thoroughly disgusting, and burnt off any vestigial trust I might have placed in this underwhelming orator. Worse still, it tainted the fellow who I had always regarded very highly as a PM – Hawke.
    I thoroughly agree that to neglect our debt, and to spend where money does not exist, is perilous. Unfortunately these considerations serve to muddle my political allegiances presently rather than deflect them elsewhere. I prefer political representatives for whom it is axiomatic “From each according to ability, to each according to need,” distrust the tory interest as having the entrenchment of privilege inalienable from its interests, accept welfare must be anchored in sound budgeting, and now find an ALP thoroughly tainted by its alarmist dishonesty in our recent 8-week show. Ough!

  • margaret says:

    I’m hearing a lot of pontifications here. I believe that was one of Malcolm Turnbull’s problems. Speaking as though he was delivering a brief to a cloistered jury.

    • spangled drongo says:

      Yes Marg, look at the positives. Pauline might get 6.

    • JMO says:

      That was Kim Beasley’s problem also…

    • Don Aitkin says:


      What I am reading is people’s opinions. I don’t think anyone is acting or writing as though he/she were a bishop in a pulpit.

      • margaret says:

        Fair enough. Apologies if it was insulting. I was referring to the PM’s former profession which is a very wordy one. He does pontificate at times.

  • Art Raiche says:

    The fact that the Green ideology is strongest in the city is easy to understand. It is because their environment is so devoid of “Nature” that they believe it is their duty to compensate for this by insisting that the rest of the country compensate for their barren streetscapes.

    The Brexit and our election results are manifestation of the disillusionment of the common people with our institutions; e.g. banks, media, universities and Parliament. The first three are an example of malignant managerialism. With respect to the election, note that the candidates who spoke directly to people’s needs and aspirations in real English rather than slogans seemed to do quite well; e.g. Nick X, Barnaby Joyce, Pauline Hanson, Kathy McGowan and Bob Katter. Our major party politicians are well aware that people despise their childish squabbling but seem powerless to change their behavior.

  • JAC says:

    Don’t be too hard on them Margaret, you may be hearing pontification – I am hearing frustration.
    There are many disturbing features emerging in modern electioneering. The predominance of the targeting of key seats with messages shaped by polling. This is policy on the run of the worst kind. Groucho Marx said ” I’m a man of principal and if you don’t like that , well – I have others!” It seems to have become the mainstay of the party strategists. Many people have commented on Shorten’s mendacious Medicare claim and the lack of focus on core policies by Turnbull, but this to me highlights the difference in the two parties. Turnbull has always had the air of a man who simply had to present himself as being prepared to accept the position of PM for it to be a done deal. Shorten on the other hand embodied the spirit of Grahame Richardson’s “whatever it takes” philosophy. It worked.

    As for opportunities missed the most astounding free pass was given to Chis Bowen for his observation that the 16 Billion dollar addition to the debt he proposed was “only an increase of 0.2%. Other countries have a much higher debt to GDP ratio”. Bowen is suggesting that it is OK if we cripple ourselves because the bloke next door is a double amputee. Watching the ABC news tonight I see the putative crossbench Senators gloating over their terms for support to whatever party forms government – billions of dollars spent on meretricious projects without any sense of rationally or cost benefit analysis. As a nation we are developing a cargo cult mentality on steroids.
    I can only console myself with the thought that the country has survived worse. Life in Australia has been pretty good to me so far, despite the best efforts of the politicians.

  • Bill Griffiths says:

    For me, the real issue in this campaign as in Brexit and in the Trump campaign in the US is the utter failure of the Keynesian economic policies implemented by pretty well every government. Until economic policy reacts to the reality that low interest rates and high government spending will not deliver the growth needed to reduce unemployment and improve living standards we will wallow along blindly into the next recession. It will be a beauty, fed by the mountains of government and household debt now everywhere in the developed world and increasingly in China. Someone, somewhere has to have the courage to cut spending, slash taxes and raise interest rates. Harsh medicine, you might think but better than the economic tsunami that current policies will inevitably bring.

    • JAC says:

      Bill, I agree with your prognosis but despair of the chance of a curative. It seems like we are in the grip of an economic superbug and all we are offered is more of the ineffectual Keynesian antibiotics.
      James Allan of the IPA made some interesting observations recently. In relation to Brexit he noted that for decades, the EU bureaucracy has not been able to provide a satisfactory audit of where all the member states contributions goes and that the EU economy has not grown at all since 2006. He describes it as a club which the IMF, Obama, all the failed domestic politicians who are shunted into EU administration and plenty of Davos types are saying that membership is so good that you would be a fool to leave. He thinks ambition should be made of sterner stuff.
      His other point is that Turnbull in his time as PM has dragged the whole political spectrum in this country to the Left. That is probably the case, but it would not necessarily be a bad thing as is implied, if it meant the result was intellectual honesty and rigor was applied to the problems we all agree we face. But it has not been so. I think the problem comes down to the fact that it is too easy for politicians to maintain we are running a Magic Pudding economy – and they get rewarded at the polls for doing so. Until there is some statesmanship on display in Parliament, we will continue to elect duds. to me, Turnbull is a dead man walking, and I don’t think our next Prime Minister is in the Parliament.

  • David says:

    I note a lot commentary on the Greens. At least the Greens are united, organised and have a clear vision of what they stand for. The Conservatives on the other hand, here in Australia and in the UK and the USA are in total disarray. What Turnbull and Abbott would not give for a bit of the loyalty that Di Natale enjoys”?:

    • spangled drongo says:

      Green Davey, it’s not hard to be united when they have never been in power and they have such tunnel vision.

      There are more things in heaven and earth Davey, than are dreamt of in Green philosophy.

      As I said upthread, even Pauline did better.

    • gnome says:

      I like Richard di Natale and despair that the Green Party now has an articulate and competent leader. I was hoping that Christine Milne would front another election to complete the destruction of Bob Brown’s legacy.
      However, unity, organisation and a clear vision are much overrated, as is the enjoyment of the loyalty of the little folk. Stalin and Hitler were big on all that. Philanthropic policies excite me considerably more.

    • spangled drongo says:

      ” At least the Greens are united, organised and have a clear vision of what they stand for.”

      As perfectly epitomised in their party-wide apoplexy over Pauline:

  • Ross says:

    Hi Don! Just passing…
    In my humble opinion, everyone including your good self, has missed the most obvious outcome of the election.
    The Liberal Party is ‘hopelessly’ split.
    When you have one wing (the flapping right one) of a party, openly and actively working AGAINST it’s own leader, you have a profound problem.
    The ‘broad church’ theme has become a sad joke as the calls go out for a ‘new’ Conservative party. There will be no meeting in the middle. The winner will take all (of what’s left).
    The TURC was supposed to be the beginning of the end of the Labor Party. Ironic, yes?
    Best of luck Malcom.
    Okay, that’s all. I’m gone.

    • spangled drongo says:

      So Marg, ya don’t possibly think it may have been because that “steaming pile of junk” that TA won a huge majority on at the last election was the only thing that was ever going to get him over the line but by not prosecuting it vigorously enough [awa being the assassin of TA, awa not going after Billy Boy and union corruption which was his excuse for the whole schemozzle] he lost the 1.7 million delcon vote?

      Not MT’s fault? It was them delcons wot dunnit, wannit?

      Oh dear!!

      • margaret says:

        I voted Labor Spangled. I’ve never voted LNP. For a tiny brief flicker when MT ousted TA – I thought the centrist Liberals might be a party I could respect but … Malcolm really is Mr HM even though I thought Peta Credlin undermined him with that comment. In her biography of Sydney you can understand why Lucy and Malcolm are Sydney centric. It is Their PLACE.

  • […] the Greens, is some sense the real inheritors of Marxism, and from the right by One Nation. I said in my last essay that the Greens’ policies have no intellectual rationale that I can discern, and I could say […]

  • Ted O'Brien. says:

    Public debt must be funded by private capital. That is the primary purpose for the ALP’s reckless spending, to take private capital out of private management.

    The ALP is not an Australian Labor Party. It is a party of Marxist socialists. Their primary objective is to abolish all private management of industry and private ownership of land. Their plan is to destroy private capital, no matter what the cost.

    The Hawke government deregulated the banks and immediately promoted wild abuse of that deregulation. That promotion extended to public vilification of the CEO of the only one of our “big 4” banks which refused to join their road to ruin, even as Bond was doing the things that later landed him in gaol.

    That was half of Australia’s deliberate contribution to the crash of 1987. The other half can be found in policy switches in annual budgets, including the temporary abolition of negative gearing.

    Their crash of ’87 failed the Marxists. They were outsmarted, because the people on top of the pile could still remember the 1930s. There is but little fun on top of the pile when it is flat. So they took losses sufficient to ensure that the pile did not collapse, leaving them still on top and the Marxists still on the outer.

    After the crash, we saw the pilots’ strike bankrupt billions of the dollars that had been displaced from housing investment by the abolition of negative gearing into heavily promoted tourism. Then the ALP set about running up public debt, and that has been their tool for destroying the capitalist system to the present day.

    The original proposal for an ETS was to tax agricultures poorly researched recycled emissions on the same basis as fossil based emissions, with no credits for the sequestration side of agriculture’s carbon cycle. This would have quickly bankrupted Australia’s entire livestock industry, rendering the 60% of Australia’s land area that is use for grazing valueless. This would enable the government to direct that land into new ownership without compensating the present owners. The inequity of that proposal was never allowed recognition. After protestation agriculture generally was put into the too hard basket. Gillard’s carbon tax would have enabled reintroduction of those measures at will.

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