Last Saturday I spent the day planting swamp gums and manna gums in the Koala Reserve in Philip Island to increase their habitat and in an attempt (perhaps futile) to reduce my carbon footprint.
After a hard day of planting our group went to the North Pier pub in Cowes for a meal. We arrived at ten minutes to six. The place is huge and was packed. By the time we got our meals was about ten past six. We chatted and we waited for dessert. I was starting to check my phone for early results. No one else in my group did. And neither did the 200 patrons or so in that hotel. The TVs had the Geelong vs Western Bulldogs game on and a Rugby League game I didn’t know who was playing.
Does anyone want to know who was winning? There were young families, couples on dates, retirees with their parmas and red wine. It seemed that no one could not care less. I realised what a politics tragic I was on my twitter, where every poll was eagerly awaited (not anymore probably now) and every raised eyebrow of an ABC journalist invites dozens of comments of anti Labor ABC bias.
I heard the results on the radio on my way home in the car, which made for a depressing car trip.
So now of course there is the usual post election analysis. Labor was too left, the mainstream media was was totally against the ALP, the agenda was too ambitious, no one liked Shorten etc. etc.
So what do I think?
The ALP was good in attack but it left the defence too open
As people here would know I love foottball (aka soccer) and to use a football analogy the players of the ALP team were good, but the tactics were naive.
As an ALP supporter I thought that they had the better team, but they were outnumbered in the sense that they had a very overtly hostile media in the form of News Ltd. and the other media didn’t really challenge this narrative in the fear of looking biased.
So the ALP went to the attack with big policies, thinking that scoring goals were all they had to do. The franking credits, electric cars etc. This meant that the opposition was able to counterattack easily and they scored the goals instead.
As many said this was similar to 1993 when Hewson went to an election that the Liberals were confident to win so they could put forward a bold agenda and they lost.
Australians haven’t become rabid racist right wingers.
There has been lots of nonsense on twitter that because of the result Australians are some horrible species of people.
Australians are dumb, mean-spirited and greedy. Accept it.
— Meshel Laurie (@Meshel_Laurie) May 18, 2019
This sort of stuff makes me want to disown my side of politics. I think Australians have a gut feel of who could govern OK for the next three years and the majority thought that this time the status quo was a better options. Winning government from opposition in Australia is always hard. Since the Chiefly Labor government in 1946 only three Labor opposition leaders achieved it: Whitlam, Hawke and Rudd.
I know that swinging voters can change quickly, and mostly not because of ideological reasons. Howard was seen as unassailable, hailed as someone who would govern into the future with his battlers and not only he lost an election but his seat too.
Even in Queensland, this state so maligned by us lefties, in 2012 Campbell Newman won won 78 seats against only seven for Labor. Commentators were thinking that with such massive majority Labor would never see government for decades. In 2015 Annastacia Palaszczuk formed government.
And lets also stop asserting ‘Australians this…Australians that…’ like every single Australian supported the winning party. In any elections most voters are split in the middle. As I write the 2 party preferred vote is 50.92% for the Coalition and 49.08% for Labor. That means that the difference is 1.84%, hardly a figure to state that Australians were enthusiastically behind Scott Morrison and his government.
A very Australian result
Reading twitter I see a lot of ‘I despair of what Australia has become’. I think that Australia has become nothing. The result was a very standard typical one. Where voters were unsure of the ALP financial plans and went for the devil they knew.
This has happened before for both parties. In 1977 the Liberals ran advertisements with the slogan “fistful of dollars” And in 1987 the ALP ran the “Whinging Wendy” scare campaign.
So nothing new. The result was very much based on the hip pocket nerve. Something both parties have exploited and most likely will continue to do so.
Lesson one. Don’t rely on auspol twitter, or newspaper polls.
Again twitter is full of speculation and opinions. I am hesitant to explain my views there. My frustration with left Twitter (which are the people who are on my side) was that many were in a bubble. Even if Newspoll constantly had Labor ahead, even a small shift away from the ALP was met with ‘bullshit’ or ‘it’s Murdoch poll’ etc. The absolute refusal to think that the coalition may win. I felt irritated by these comments. Firstly because even if they were from my side I found them arrogant. But also because (and that may be because of my age) I’ve seen a few ‘dead cert’ elections that were lost. Hewson in 1993 or Beazley in 2001 (and the trend away from the ALP started before Tampa). And I fear that the bubble still remains. Especially regarding the next ALP leader.
Much soul searching will be done by Labor over the next few months. Comments say that it has moved too much to the left. Ans this was echoed by some MPs like Fitzgibbon that should know better. Last time the ALP had a leader that said things like that was Mark Latham and we have all seen how that has turned out.
Trying to occupy the areas now covered by the Coalition is a sure way to stay in opposition. Why vote for a copy when they can have the real thing?
Certainly, the ALP needs to go out there and canvas ideas for new policies. I haven’t been an ALP member for 19 years now, but I remember the ALP had a great network of branches that could organised policy forums open to everyone where ideas could be raised and then recorded to form policy.
Another area that the ALP should do better is in regional areas. While normally regional voters do not vote ALP this does not mean that they should be disregarded. I think this is important for three reasons. Firstly because regional Australia is vital for the country full stop. Second because even if the ALP may not get votes in the country, looking after regional areas resonate elsewhere, especially in the outer suburban areas. And thirdly becaue being seen to care about regional Australia may (and I stress may) suppress some of the right wing small parties protest vote.
Hawke had a great minister of primary industry in John Kerin. Landcare was a watershed reform where environmental conservation and agricultural sustainability went hand in hand.
The problems are there.The ALP needs to take the initiativeEmbed from Getty Images
The ALP used to have ‘Country conferences’. Not sure if they still exist. But they again would be a really useful resource to hear what people in regional Australia needs and create appropriate policy.
Talking about auspol left twitter the debate is who should be the next leader. I am very hesitant to put my views there, because twitter is an awful place to put forward and argument. So let’s put the cards on the table. My favourite ALP politician, by far, is Penny Wong, and I believe it would be great for her to be the leader of the opposition. But I think that she would not be the best leader of the ALP after a loss. Not because she is gay or an Asian but because we need someone who can come across easily on the media, and I don’t think Wong is there as yet. The other is Jim Chalmers. Tick the boxes. Good performer, young, and a Queenslander to boot. But I really haven’t heard much about him. And I am sure that if you go to a shopping centre many will say ‘Jim who?’ He is certainly someone for the future. But not now.
The best is Albanese. Not because of anything brilliant he has done but he is well known and as far as I know fairly well liked. He has developed his skills on TV.
I can hear the howls of protest. “We need a leader with ideas for the country, not someone who is on TV!”. I bet if we go back to the shopping centre I mentioned before Albo would be the most recognised, and as far as I know well liked. I know the purist may baulk at this, but we live in this world.
Many Liberals still give Sam Dastyari a hard time, despite he acknowledged that his downfall was totally his fault. And I think he’s been on the money about the election result:
There isn’t a conspiracy. There just isn’t.
The Labor Party lost the election because the Australian public didn’t like our policies and we ran a poor campaign.
It’s that simple.
So let’s start from that and let’s go forward.