Sunday, November 28, 2010

Greens, Country Party, Victoria and NSW

There is an old English saying, red sky at night, shepherd's delight, red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning. I was reminded of that this morning, with a brilliant red sky highlighting the still high clouds. More rain is coming.

In Victoria, the elections coincided with more rain and some local flooding. Flows in the Murray-Darling Basin look set to stay high for the moment. Flows to South Australia are now the highest since December 2000.

The ripple effects of Wednesday's severe glitch in the NAB (National Australia Bank) computing system continue. Interesting how a single corrupted file can bring a whole information processing system to its knees.

It's not just the NAB's direct customers, but also other institutions using the NAB for processing. One side-effect is that this has been an almost entirely cash-free weekend in this household with a degree of uncertainty as to how long this will continue.

We won't starve, but I'm not quite sure how I am going to fund the bus-tickets tomorrow to get to work. There is petrol in the car, but then we can't pay for the parking. We will probably work something out.

Not being able to smoke just adds to the gloom. Now some in the "tough love" brigade might say that's a good thing. I fear that I am very cynical here and becoming more so.

Too many "tough love" exponents simply want to impose their values and views on others. They are happy because they are not in fact affected. There is very little tolerance or give or take in their views. They have become the modern Zwingli or Calvin, generally minus the religious content. They are supported by the special interest groups and single interest not-for-profits who, to my mind, have become an absolute blight on the landscape.        

Crikey, I am jaundiced. Let's put that aside.

The public opinion polls showing a late shift in support to the Victorian opposition were bourne out by the vote. At the moment, the most likely outcome from the election would appear to be either a hung lower house or a slim coalition majority. The opposition could also gain an unexpected majority in the Legislative Council.

Looking back at my coverage of the last Victorian poll, Victorian Election November 06 - Final Results, the thing that stands out is the degree of confusion as the final seats in the Legislative Council sorted themselves out.

In my Saturday musings, Saturday Morning Musings - the Greens, I meandered round the similarities between the Greens and the old Country Party.

This was a bad election for the Greens. They had a chance to break through in the Lower House, but seem to have failed. In the Legislative Council, and accepting the vagaries still to come in the counting, it may well be the anti-Green Country Alliance (the Victorian equivalent of the huntin, shootin and fishin party) rather than the Greens that end up with the balance of power.

Looking at the numbers, the Greens would have won three lower house seats had the Liberals preferenced them rather than Labor.  This would have been a critical break-through. But, and just like the anti-Labor elements in the old Country Party, the anti-Coalition elements in the Greens made it very hard for the Greens to do otherwise than be seen to back Labor. They were locked in.

Another outcome from the Victorian elections was the removal of the last independent from the Lower House. Again, I thought of my past Country Party experiences and especially the disaster we suffered in Eden Monaro in 1975. After nearly winning at the two previous elections, the CP vote collapsed.

The problem is that in a polarised electorate as Eden Monaro was in 1975, voters revert to the main stream as they see it.

Even though we had out-polled the Liberal Party at the two previous elections, many in the electorate still saw the Liberals as the main anti-Labor party in this electorate and now voted for them. In some other electorates where the local position was reversed, the Liberal Party vote collapsed. In combination, the electoral affect was a wipe out for Labor.

The Victorian independent suffered from this effect, but there are also some real lessons for NSW. Here I am going to chance my arm and make a series of assertions to provide a measure for later test:

  1. The NSW electorate is quite polarised into a diminishing number of Labor faithful and the rest. Labor is so on the nose, key Labor figures so identified with the Government, that it is very hard to break the cycle.
  2. On paper, the Greens could break through in certain inner city Sydney seats. However, their chances of getting an absolute majority are not good. They have to get Liberal Party preferences, and it is highly unlikely that they will. Chancing my arm, I don't believe that the Greens will break through.
  3. The independents in NSW are far more important than in Victoria. However, NSW is a misnomer here. While there are two independent MPs outside New England (Northern NSW), Northern NSW is the only place where the independents are in fact a political movement in their own right for reasons that relate to the very specific history of the North.
  4. In a polarised electorate, all independents are likely to suffer. I expect the New England independents to pay a special political price for putting the Gillard Government into power. To what extent this will lead to loss of seats is the question.

In all this, the lower Hunter is emerging as a key battlefield.

Opposition leader O'Farrell has launched a special campaign to steal seats in what is is described as Labor's Hunter Valley heartland. I despair a bit.

Just listening to Hunter people talk, Mr O'Farrell's first foray failed because no one had briefed him on the funding arrangements with the Tillegra dam. Now he has followed the Sydney centric approach of combining the Central Coast and the Hunter. They aren't the same, yet the Liberal approach as described mixes them together in what can only be thought of as a mess.

Maybe this doesn't matter. It does to me because of my particular regional biases, but that's quite a different issue from the real outcomes.

We shall see.

No comments: