Australian Election: The Aftermath

Greetings. Long-time reader, first-time poster. It's disappointing that my first blog post is in the aftermath of the terrible Australian election results; however I feel I need to vent my spleen, so here goes. I hope my post can live up to the high standards of the other wonderful bloggers on this website.

Anyway, my thoughts on the election results and where we go from here:

I think all those on the progressive side of politics were very worried when Shorten got the Labor leadership over Albanese in 2013. His involvement in the 'knifing' of Rudd/Gillard never sat well with me but the 2016 election result was very encouraging, and I think perhaps we started to delude ourselves that Shorten was transforming into a leader that could win the next election. In hindsight, I think the reason Shorten got so close to winning in 2016 was because of the Abbott/Turnbull disaster. In other words, it was a vote against the Libs chaos rather than a vote for Shorten.

Moving forward, we ignored the consistently low 'Preferred PM' polls as unimportant because Labor's TPP vote was ahead for 3 full years (!), and surely the electorate would vote for the party as a whole rather than the leader, for the good of the nation. In addition, there was another 3 years of chaos with the Turnbull/Morrison debacle, so surely Australians would punish the Libs further for their instability. Well, we were wrong. The vote, in terms of seats, turned out to be essentially the same as 2016. 77/78 > 67/68. It turns out that the electorate would only punish instability to a certain point. Likeability of the leader seems to be a much bigger factor in gaining a majority, it turns out. At least, one of the big factors anyway (I'll get to the other factors shortly).

So, what does that mean? Does that mean politics is a populist issue now? Has it always been? That is depressing to me, as a parties’ policies should be much more important than the likeability of the leader. Sure, the leader is an important factor in party cohesion and delivering on promises, but is it all a popularity contest now? Regardless of Left & Right, governments elected on leader popularity/likeability usually never turn out well. Some of this is human nature, naturally. We are drawn to charismatic people, but it is so dangerous to base your vote solely on that. Look at Justin Trudeau - he's charming & handsome, and to be fair he has implemented some progressive policies, but his record on the environment shows he's just another neoliberal shill.

Another factor to consider is campaigning. It's clear now that a positive, clear agenda doesn't work for the greater public. Most people don't care or don't have time to read policy documents. From here on out, it's going to be 3-word slogans and negative campaigning. That is an incredibly depressing lesson to learn. The only way to change that would be to promote ethics & civics as a serious part of childhood learning, so that there is an educated adult populace that can engage in party policies. Chances of that happening? Zero. Especially under a right-wing government, as uneducated voters suit their agenda.

So, yeah, 3-word slogans and attacking your opponent. Just like in the school yard. It really shakes my, already low, faith in humanity. I guess, if we have to have campaigns based on slogans, then we should at least go all out. "Tax the rich! Feed the poor!" - that's how I'd go. Don't dance around the issue. Go for the jugular. As for the negativity and attacking the other side.......I don't know how to do that without selling your soul. Surely, we must be better than the Tories. Sure, you can win by going "full Trump" and throwing all morals out the window, but don't we have to be better than that? Don't we have to set a better example for the next generation? Smarter people than me need to get their act together to find a campaign that works with a populous that doesn't care about policies/politics.

Next, the candidates issue. We need improved candidate vetting across all parties. The number of candidates that have been disendorsed is staggering, and the thought that homophobe Gladys Liu might get up in Chisholm is terrifying (currently she leads 50.7 to 49.3). Also, isn't it telling that the only candidates that were disendorsed were the ones who had no chance of winning? Very telling indeed. So, how to fix this issue? I don't know. I assume we'd have to legislate that homophobes and racists aren't allowed to stand, and would enforce it by doing background checks. That would have the "free speech brigade" fuming and calling their Murdoch mates, one would expect.

So, how do we survive the next 3 years? Well, firstly, in the upcoming weeks I'm forcing myself to be ridiculously optimistic about the Senate. That's the only thing keeping my optimism alive right now. I'm praying to the Great Old Ones that there will be a progressive bloc of 38 seats, so that the Senate can block the Right Wing agenda. Currently, it looks like there will be 35 seats with a good chance of a 2nd Labor seat in QLD. So, that makes 36. There's an outside chance of a 3rd Labor seat in Victoria, and I'm being incredible optimistic by hoping for the Greens to beat out the Libs in the ACT; I know that is unicorn thinking, but let me believe dammit! Currently it is 0.97 quota vs 0.51 quota, but there is still below-the-line voting to come and if the Greens can increase their quota, and if the Labor excess, Sustainable Australia, Independents and the mysterious "Group C" flow to the Greens there might be a chance. On the worse end of the spectrum, if Labor+Greens get only 35 seats then be prepared for an extremely right-wing agenda, as we would need to rely on Jacqui Lambie as the voice of reason (*shudder*). The most realistic result though is a progressive bloc of 36/37, and in that instance our hope falls into the lap of the Centre Alliance party. In the previous Senate, the Centre Alliance weren’t rottenly bad but you can never have any confidence in the way they will vote. They generally seem to vote socially progressive and economically conservative – I doubt they will block the corporate tax cuts, for example.

Once the Senate is decided, then there are a few things to do: (1) Never believe a poll ever again, (2) Fight hard to win back voters, (3) Protest, Disrupt, Block!, (4) Hug your close friends, family, pets, stuffed's not going to be pleasant.

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