Last Saturday the 28 July five by-elections for vacant parliamentary seats (some very marginal) were held and from opposite ends of the country. The ruling Liberal Party was thrashed in that in two of its former seats where polls and circumstance seemed to favour it were both lost decisively. The overall vote was pathetic and a mere continuation of the declining trends shown in the earlier summary on this voting preference issue. As former ALP leader – and absolute Outsider for all the major parties – Mark Lathan summed up, the voting results for the major parties was completely toxic going on Australian standards.
That was the major conclusion to be drawn from the results. The political, Insider and media class can cling onto their power, but a move is taking place which might mirror some of the characteristics of overseas trends seen in the USA, Brexit Britain and Europe.
Now that some time has passed to allow for the political class to attack each other and, with their media friends analyse-to-death the result, it should be noted that in the two of the seats mentioned above (Longman in Queensland and Braddon in Tasmania) the two major parties spent a lot of time and money campaigning and they were also ones where polls and media commentary indicated that the Liberal Party government could capture the both of them.
In Braddon in Tasmania the former member was standing again for the Liberal Party and when he lost it narrowly in July 2016, Getup, the political action group for Greens and the Labor party founded by former operatives for the America left group Move-On. org, had spent a lot of time and money specifically targeting Braddon and some other seats in that State. Without that extra effort this time, perhaps it levelled the playing field a bit. In Longman in Queensland, a long-time Liberal party seat, very narrowly lost in 2016 when it had a member who seemed to spend much time out of the area.
Peculiar characteristics of this multiple seat campaign were notable. The major 3rd party candidate for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party had a late setback when Pauline Hanson herself, the major drawcard, absented herself in the last week and went on a pre-paid/pre-arranged cruise in the Irish Sea. On top of that (& the usual political media attack on her and her party over it), the media also well-publicised the fact that a former official was convicted of a rape from some time before. It was very well timed and so much stress was placed on those setbacks it could have affected the turnout for the One Nation party.
A stage was set where the series of opinion polls about leadership, policy and voting preference could be tested by actual votes (and from areas scattered all over the country).
The results were interesting to say the least. The Liberal party wasn’t even standing in some of the other seats (the two seats in Western Australian didn’t even have a Pauline Hanson party candidate) yet it resulted in comfortable ALP wins but the vote numbers showed over 30% did not vote (in a compulsory voting system) did not vote. The only signposted voting trend was a larger than normal shunning of major party candidates. In South Australia an independent went up against a Liberal party candidate and won by a landslide. There were a lot of ALP votes for her I suspect, seeing the ALP primary vote was below 10%.
The results for the Liberal National Party were stark. They were rejected by the public. The ALP leader Shorten was in Longman a lot, and there was a strong union effort on its behalf as usual, but it in no way could the ALP victory be attributed to their presence although it obviously helped. No, it’s quite clear that whatever that left effort was, with the usual Getup and union tactics of medi scare (again), the fact that Bill Shorten is the nationally most unpopular leader of an opposition on record didn’t hold the party back and it took the seat comfortably in the end.
The biggest factor in the loss, without any doubt, was the 15% vote gained by the much-attacked Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party candidate. The votes were taken from the LNP and half of their preferences went straight to the ALP, even though Pauline Hanson herself had often said to put the ALP last. After many months of constant media attacks on the Hanson party (including during the campaign) and universal hared of it expressed by every party hack from the ALP or Greens and including their stooges, the vote obtained in Queensland alone was startling. All parties know that if maintained, a constant representation of two Senators from Queensland is assured for the party. In Braddon it was the same story but without the One Nation excuse. Another independent candidate (who was attacked by the Liberal party) gained nearly 11% of the vote and his preferences went to Labor.
RESULTS INDICATE AGAIN THAT MALCOLM TURNBULL IS A POOR CAMPAIGNER.
The biggest takeout is that the 37 polls lost in a row by Malcolm Turnbull is no blip in figures to be changed when a “real election” comes about. This was it. It also shows the lie pushed by the supine political media when they slavishly boost Turnbull in every poll loss and rant about the “popularity for PM” difference between Turnbull and Shorten when these by-elections showed that these differences are meaningless if the policy is terrible. The media know this, of course, but you can see them do it time after time to cover for their favourite Turnbull and to help stop their deadly enemy, Tony Abbott, getting any encouragement by indicating the stark facts of a losing poll number.
Malcolm Turnbull is the dud candidate from hell. He has zero political instinct and when there is a lapse and he goes the wrong way, makes the wrong call it just reiterates his weakness. In the July 2016 election campaign, it was widely noted that he was a lazy campaigner (or non-campaigner) usually working at one event for a few hours in the morning and then calling a halt for the day. The problem was, again, his usual lack of cut-through on policy. In 2016 it was his nothing mantra of “jobs and growth” yet ignoring the industrial relations campaign his double dissolution was about, and ignoring completely the stopping the boats and carbon tax issues which were so damaging when Tony Abbott was campaigning in 2013.
This time the energy issue was also on the table but Turnbull couldn’t campaign on the factor of coal fired power because he was stuck on his terrible National Energy Guarantee policy which will mandate continuation of huge subsidies for renewables at the expense of coal power. Not only that but it allows (as Tony Abbott has pointed out) that the acceptance of the policy is dictated by the veto power of the state ALP governments.