Saturday, June 18, 2016

Saturday Morning Musings - the Australian election enters its end game

A brief post today just to get things going again. It's been a crazy time.

As we enter the last stages of the Federal election campaign, a few observations.

Mr Shorten has run quite a good campaign and seems to have settled into his role. In so doing, he has put to rest some of the doubts people had about his ability to be PM. However, if the opinion polls are any guide, and they are all over the place, the electoral tide has shifted a little. The ALP does not seem to be getting the support now that it needs to overturn the strong coalition majority.

For Mr Turnbull's part, his election seems to have taken some of the heat out of the political debate. The early enthusiasm is gone, but the view seems to be that he is okay as a PM, better than Mr Abbbott, if not quite what many hoped for. Mind you, he is also better than some people expected. It just depends on where you stand.

Mr Turnbull's actions in forcing Senate voting changes and then calling a double dissolution election have not had quite the effect he hoped for. He wanted to clean out the micro parties in the Senate, to capitalise on Labor problems, to gain a clear mandate. Sometimes you can be just too clever. I think he would have been better off biding his time.

In this election, both Liberal and Labor Parties have had to contend with forces to the right and left eating away at their primary vote. Both parties now have a popular support with a 3 in front. The Liberal Party also faces the rise of the Nick Xenophon  Now there is a man who has benefited from Mr Turnbull's decisions. If the polls are to be believed, there could be three Xenophon senators in South Australia plus perhaps one member in the lower house. Not the result that Mr Turnbull wanted.

I am not a supporter of Mr Xenophon. I would far prefer to have retained micro party representation!

There have been two very separate election campaigns, one for the House of Representatives, the place where Government is formed, the second for the Senate.

In the House of Representatives, the focus is micro, a seat by seat battle focused on the marginals, those seats where the result might be swung. The Labor Party has to gain seats from the Coalition while preventing the Greens from picking up Labor inner city seats. The ALP seems to be falling behind in the first, but I'm not sure about the second. My feeling is that the ALP will do at least a little better here than might have been expected.

The Liberal Party has to hold its seats in the face of Labor and National Party challenges and hopes to pick up particular Labor Party seats. The National Party challenge does not affect the Coalition total, but does affect the power balance within the Coalition. Under Coalition rules, neither party can challenge sitting members, but once a member retires or is defeated, both can run.

As indicated earlier, the Liberal Party will lose seats to Labor, but broadly seems to be holding. However, it did look as though it would lose three seats to the Nationals. Enter now from stage left a preference deal between Labor and Liberal in which Labor preferenced the Liberal Party over the Nationals.

There have been some weird and wild preference arrangements. What can one say when the Greens preference a Fred Nile candidate, a Party that is opposed to Green agendas, over a left of centre gay Liberal candidate? The Greens backed down on this, but the intent was there.

Like the Greens, the National's support is regionally concentrated. They hoped to pick up seats from the Liberals while holding off a Labor, Green and independent challenge in Northern NSW, the National's vulnerable political heartland. The decision by first Tony Windsor and then Rob Oakeshott to re-enter the political fray has put two National seats into play. This has allowed Mr Turnbull to again raise the spectre of a Labor-Green-independent coalition government. This is a bit silly, I think that both Windsor and Oakeshott have said that they would broadly support a Coalition Government if that were the electoral outcome, but still useful politically.

In the Senate race where the electorate is a single state or territory, the shifting political fortunes make things hard to call. I haven't done the numbers properly, but my feeling is that whoever wins Government will have to deal with a Senate in which neither the Greens nor the Xenophon group on their own have the balance of power. You can either combine the two, or get one and add minor party senators.

My best guess is that there will be at least three such senators. In Victoria, it will be Derryn Hinch. I didn't have him on my radar, but he has a high profile and is number one on the ballot paper. In Tasmania, Jacqui Lambie. Queensland? There the race appears to be between Pauline Hanson and Glen Lazarus. All the major parties have preferenced Mr Lazarus to try to keep Ms Hanson out of Parliament.

In all this, we are either going to have a Senate in which there is one block with sufficient numbers to block, two with sufficient numbers to block in combination, or one in which one block plus the independents/micros have the power of passage. And Mr Turnbull wanted a simpler Senate?


Anonymous said...

Turnbull channels Groucho Marx: "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."


2 tanners said...

Greens very much the same. Every deal they have going reeks of politics first, which would be fine if they weren't running on a'principles over politics' platform

Jim Belshaw said...

I spluttered over my coffee, kvd! The Greens do reek of politics, 2t, and there is an obvious conflict between actions and rhetoric

2 tanners said...

It's obvious that the Greens party room has a carpet labelled "get elected at any cost" which clashes horribly with the curtains. But what on Earth is going on in the LNP party room?