Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Explaining the 2016 federal election result

The mainstream media is currently indulging in a political post mortem orgy and, in the end what its bloody dissection reveals is less about the political processes involved in the federal election campaign and more about the media itself.
Even given the official polling day fell within school holidays, one would have thought that the MSM would have paused to wonder if the record number of voters marching towards the prepoll stations in June might have indicated that the electorate was about to flex its muscle.
In recent years journalists have ignored the fact that in Australia the electorate has always had a contrary mind of its own. 
That the only truism that holds in every election is that it does not vote to install one particular political party in government – it votes in the hope of keeping a political party from either gaining government or gaining enough power to control both houses of parliament.
Hence the current state of play in the national ballot paper count.
Malcolm Bligh Turnbull is learning to his cost that he could change the rules on voting at Senate elections or he could call a double dissolution federal election – he just couldn’t do both without punishment.
Anthony John Abbott is learning that passive-aggressive election campaigning and failure to appear genuinely contrite for past failures also imposes a real political cost on the party he once led.
William Richard Shorten’s lesson is that it may just possibly take not one but two election cycles before Labor is fully forgiven for its self-indulgent federal in-fighting between 2007-2013.

Here are two of The Guardian’s ‘best’ efforts to explain the 2 July election result….. 
The Guardian, 4 July 2016:
At the moment the Liberal party is a burnt and broken enterprise and to repair it may be quite impossible. 
Tony Abbott’s baton of failure has been passed to Malcolm Turnbull. The party is stuck in a miserable warp that locks out the country’s crying unresolved issues, and there’s no one in the wings with the integrity, intellect and command to drag it out of its pitiable state.
The great issues of the day that define who we are as a country were not part of the Coalition’s play sheet, and this includes: climate change, offshore imprisonment of refugees and marriage equality. Instead, we had the mirage of an economic “plan” for jobs and growth, which on closer inspection turned out to be trickle-down economics based on a bunch of tax cuts for the better off.  
Turnbull says he can form a majority government, in which event it will be a sour little victory – a victory without a mandate. The hard-right soul of the party is also in flames – just look at what happened in Tasmania where Senator Eric Abetz’s Christian regressives run the local machine. There’s no moral authority to be found there – all we might hope for is that now he sits quietly in a corner for a very long time. 
The party started to take a primordial direction under John Howard, who is now paraded as a patron saint. The Liberals failed to heed the message that was delivered in 2007 when the saint was flung ignominiously by voters out of his own seat. 
Turnbull and Scott Morrison crying foul on Saturday night about Labor party lies was a treat to behold. The “we wus robbed” line coming from the people who brought us children overboard, Islamic scares, the “intelligence” for the Iraq war and fake budget projections is an exciting new audacity. Even the party’s very name is a lie. 
The campaign was laced with warnings about “hung parliaments”, “vote sharing fiascos”, “chaos”. The obverse is that MPs should be puppets and parliament a rubber stamp for the party with the majority of seats, doing what the executive commands – yet “stability” has not been a uniform feature of the long history of Westminster-style parliaments. Indeed, the Senate has ensured that in Australia hung parliaments are the norm and minority governments are not unknown. 
Importantly, this state of affairs is not always unworkable. Julia Gillard’s government operated both as a minority and in a hung parliament quite effectively, even if chaotically. 
With the support of crossbenchers and the Greens, the Gillard Labor government passed 561 bills through parliament, not one of which was defeated on the floor of the House of Representatives, including the National Broadband Network, the carbon tax, the resource rent tax (even though it turned out not to be very effective), the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the household assistance package, and pension increases. Despite the raucous attacks from the Coalition, by any standard it was an effective government…..
The Guardian, 3 July 2016:
It hadn’t even got to 11pm before the campaign post-mortems and leadership speculation began.
On the Coalition side.
I confess: sitting on the Sky News election desk, I could barely believe the booth results as they started coming in. I had expected it to be close; I had even (bravely) predicted a hung parliament. But if I am honest, I had been dreading the election night desk duty just a little, expecting to spend my time explaining why Labor was not picking up enough seats in western Sydney.
In fact, I had expected that I would need to answer questions about the future of Bill Shorten’s leadership.
Instead, before either party leader had addressed their party faithful, Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership was under question, and the blue on blue violence was underway. Cory Bernardi was arguing with Mark Textor on Twitter, Peta Credlin was calling the double dissolution a strategic mistake, and Andrew Bolt was demanding Turnbull resign.
How did this happen?
Let’s start with an uninspiring and tactically foolish campaign from the Coalition. The proposed company tax cuts never excited the electorate, no matter how exciting it is to be alive in these times.
The Coalition’s superannuation policy divided its party faithful and disappointed their donors.
The predicted scare campaigns from the Coalition – on negative gearing, on border security, on unions, and on election costings – never materialised.
And Malcolm Turnbull, having seized the prime ministership, never seized the economic leadership as he promised to do. Turnbull’s economic narrative was incoherent, flip flopping between increasing the GST, allow the state to levy income taxes, fixing bracket creep, and giving companies a tax break.
His campaign slogan didn’t even include a verb, for goodness’ sake. “Jobs and growth” isn’t a plan, it’s a list.
Turnbull’s campaign events were orchestrated, low-risk, and low-key. Look at the Coalition’s campaign launch: I’ve been to christenings with more people in attendance and wakes with more enthusiasm. He never seemed to actually fight for the job; rather he sat back waiting for the people to elect him…..

And here is The Australian pretending the sky has fallen down about our ears….. 
The Australian, 4 July 2016:
Australia’s top corporate figures have reacted with dismay to the possibility of a hung parliament or wafer-thin Coalition majority, warning economic reform could be paralysed for years.
As business anxiously waits on the counting of postal votes that won’t start until tomorrow, Seven Group Holdings executive chairman Kerry Stokes described the uncertainty of the weekend’s result as “disastrous” and said the current landscape in Canberra was “bad for investment and business”.
Mr Stokes was joined by other business leaders, who told The Australian that key planks of the Coalition’s reform agenda — including company tax cuts and the re-establishment of the construction industry watchdog — will be hostage to a precarious lower house majority and obstructive new Senate crossbench. Economists have also warned of an increased risk of a credit downgrade for Australia, based on the likely difficulty of passing unpopular budget repair measures.
“I think it’s disastrous,” Mr Stokes said late yesterday.
“There has been uncertainty for eight weeks.”
Now, he said, “the facts are it’s more uncertain”.
“So that’s a disaster, whichever way you want to look at it. I don’t know any way of dealing with that now to gain stability.”….
The Australian, 4 July 2016:
The double dissolution has been a double disaster for Malcolm Turnbull. Not only is his grip on power hanging from the precipice but voters have wilfully ignored his plea for stability by deliberately voting for minor parties and independents.
With 13 seats still in doubt, it remains possible the crossbench could control both houses of parliament, making the task for whoever lives in The Lodge doubly difficult.
Even if Turnbull stumbles to victory, he will govern by a wafer-thin majority and must keep one eye on each crossbench in each chamber with no margin to lose a slither of support in his own partyroom.
As the count currently stands, the Coalition’s primary vote of 42 per cent is one of its three worst results in the House of Representatives since the party created by Robert Menzies faced its first election 70 years ago.
Labor are celebrating a performance under Bill Shorten they never dreamed of achieving three years ago when the party was punted from power in the wake of the Rudd-Gillard civil war, but the primary vote of 35 per cent is the ALP’s second worst in 82 years.
The combined vote of minor and micro parties and independents is 22.8 per cent — the highest it has been since 1934 and third highest since Federation. It is the preferences of these protest votes that will decide who wins many seats.
The major parties did not secure the confidence of the voting public. No wonder we still don’t have a clear election winner.
Both parties have a smaller share of the vote than they did in 2010 when voters delivered the last hung parliament.
It is a repudiation to both Turnbull and Shorten and their appeal to voters to give them a majority, making clear they would not strike alliances with minor parties.
Shorten said the Greens were “dreaming” if they hoped to form an alliance.
Turnbull repeatedly issued the reminder that a vote for anyone other than the Liberals or Nationals would be a return to the “chaos and instability” of the hung parliament under the Gillard government.
If that was supposed to scare people, it failed.
Voters not only ignored the Prime Minister but they have forced him to get on the phone to the lower house crossbenchers — some of whom were in this position six years ago taking calls from Julia Gillard.
Shorten has also been on the phone and Labor is not ruling out the possibility it might just be able to win enough of the undecided seats on the preferences of the minor parties and independents and strike a deal with the crossbench to govern.
It’s a horror flashback to the 17-day wait in 2010 to find out who would form government……

While The Sydney Morning Herald plodded its way through this…..

Especially with all the major polls predicting a tight result. I certainly did when I took a deep breath and hopped aboard the Turnbull bus to cover the final two weeks of the campaign. 
They turned out to be anything but. 
Rather than a man locked in the fight of his life, Turnbull looked like a footballer running down the clock. The pace of the campaign - already at a low tempo - grew positively languid. 
"We will win on July 2," Turnbull had declared weeks earlier and he was acting like it as he strolled towards the finish line. A busy day contained two events, some just one….  
Malcolm Turnbull has assured Australians he can deliver stability but after a stinging rebuke from voters, the fate of his government may not be known for days and the Prime Minister is staring down an internal push from conservative MPs for the return of Tony Abbott to the ministry.
With the final lower house seat count from the knife-edge election unlikely to be clear until the end of the week, anger is growing within the Coalition over its massive reversal of electoral fortunes, which has ended the careers of three ministers, stymied industrial relations reforms used to justify the double dissolution, and dealt up an even more unruly Senate crossbench.
Three outcomes remain possible from the election, including a razor-thin Turnbull majority if seats in doubt tumble its way, a hung parliament in which neither side has a majority, and another election is even an outside possibility if a clear winner cannot be determined.
On Sunday night, Labor took an unexpected lead in the two-party preferred vote after an update on the Australian Electoral Commission's website.
It showed the swing away from the Coalition had risen to 3.7 per cent, putting Labor in the lead by a wafer-thin margin…..

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