Federal Election 2016: Some Quick Preliminary Thoughts

Just some quick thoughts on the 2016 Federal Election, which I would hope to return to in a more substantive post later on.

The Result. All kinds of speculation exists on this. Most seems to be of the view that a hung parliament or minority Liberal government is most likely. The election analyst, Antony Green, thinks, however, that the Liberal Party will form a very slim majority government. This projection is based on his electoral model, and the assumption that postal and prepoll votes historically favour the Liberals. Green’s model is the best projection we have, but we should be careful of computer modelling in human affairs; they are not sacred but they are, alas, better than speculation.

Overall. A stunning rebuke for Malcolm Turnbull, and the established political class more broadly. Turnbull’s journey in Australian politics has been marked by two events where he has gone for the jugular. The first, during the Godwin Grech affair when he sought to knock Kevin Rudd off quite early during KRudd’s first term in The Lodge. Secondly, with this double dissolution election where he sought,following a deal made with the Greens to reform Senate voting, to secure for the Liberal Party a majority in both houses of Parliament. The first spectacularly went haywire, and the double dissolution clearly has blown up in his face. Malcolm Turnbull appears to lack political judgement and nous. Where Gough Whitlam mastered the art of the crash through Malcolm Turnbull has mastered the art of the crash.

Elections, both federal and state, in Australia are characterised by increasing volatility and support for minor parties and independents. Andrew Wilkie surely is correct when he notes that this result, a further instance of this trend, represents a rebuke to the established political class in Australia. The attitudes of the public pretty much throughout the Western world during the period of neoliberal restructuring have remained social democratic, however these attitudes have not been reflected in policy. Neoliberalism comes at the expense of democracy. Analysts are correct to focus on how this election (but also others) demonstrates dissatisfaction with the political system. But they forget one additional, crucial, point. They also show the limits of the political system to channel that dissatisfaction; voters still end up with either Labor or Liberal both of which remain commitment to the neoliberal order. Real change will require forms of political action outside of parliament, and the current situation is ripe for the development and organisation of a pro democracy political reform movement in Australia.

Liberal Party Malcolm Turnbull’s performance on election night was horrid, and just about the poorest in Australian political history. He was goaded into that by the conservative commentariat on the night. Round One to the conservative wing of the Liberal Party. Doubtless the internal party room conflict between the conservative wing and the liberal wing shall intensify; today both of these wings are committed to economic liberalism. That has not always been the case.

Labor Party The Labor Party has gained lost ground in Parliament as a consequence of the depth and scale of the liberal attack on the population, and the political ineptitude of both Abbott and Turnbull. Labor nor Bill Shorten did not actually do anything spectacular to claw back that ground. Furthermore, the relatively low ALP primary vote, by now a permanent feature of Australian electoral politics, must be of concern to Labor strategists.

The Senate. Not even going to bother.

The Greens. Overall the Greens vote nationally remains at 10% or just under that. This election did not see a leap beyond that figure, however more inner city seats were in play in Melbourne and Sydney than hitherto. For those of us active in the climate justice movement; is this an adequate basis upon which to wage a strategy to alleviate the urgent dangers of climate change and ecological catastrophe?

Pauline Hanson. Yuck! It would appear that the second coming of Hanson was enabled by the deal that the Greens made with the Liberals on Senate voting reform. More later.

Okay, that’s it for now.