By Denis Bright
Revisiting the 2016 Federal Election Results
From small primary votes at the 2016 federal elections, candidates from the religious right and the secular right played a vital role in protecting marginal LNP seats. Family First, Christian Democrats (Fred Nile Group) and Australian Christians were the main standard bearers for the religious right.
Additional preferences were usually needed from other far-right parties such as the Liberal Democrats, Rise Up Australia, the Australian Liberty Alliance and of course the perennial Australian Recreational Fishers’ Party.
The slender absolute majority of the federal LNP in the House of Representatives can be attributed to the discipline of preference allocations from both the religious right and the secular right in the thirteen currently most marginal LNP seats.
All thirteen seats were retained by the LNP with a margin of less than three percent after preferences.
The Key Marginals
Michelle Landry’s lead in Australia’s most marginal LNP electorate of Capricornia amounted to 1 111 after preferences. A Labor win in Capricornia was offset by 1 751 votes from Family First with a primary vote of 5.16 percent. A creditable 61.49 percent of the Family First’s primary vote went to the LNP.
In the potentially Labor heartland electorate of Forde on the southern outskirts of Brisbane, the combined vote of Family First and the Australian Liberty Alliance accounted for 9.05 percent of the primary vote. This primary vote delivered an additional 4,573 votes to the sitting Liberal member. This was over four times the slender winning margin in Forde for the LNP.
In the NSW South Coast electorate of Gilmore, 71.53 percent of the preferences from the Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group) delivered 3 691 votes to the LNP. This was twice the LNP’s victory margin in Gilmore after preferences.
One of the big surprises of the election count was the close result for the LNP in the electorate of Flynn that stretches from Gladstone to the Central West of Queensland. In Flynn, 60.29 percent distribution of primary votes from Family First allocated 1,310 in extra votes to the LNP.
The problem for sitting LNP member Ken O’Dowd in Flynn was the low primary vote of 2.49 percent achieved by Family First. The LNP primary vote had declined by 8.96 percent to 37.06 percent. A lot of ground had to be made up through the distribution of preferences.
Labor’s Zac Beers with 33.39 percent of the primary vote was still 3.67 percentage points behind the LNP’s Ken O’Dowd.
The big shock in Flynn was the extraordinary One Nation vote of 17.15 percent. This was five times the primary vote for Katter’s Australian Party of 3.38 percent.
Apart from the net loss in preferences from Family First, Labor gained just a few millimetres from the even-handed preference allocations from voters who selected One Nation or Katter’s Australian Party. The combined gift was a net gain of 34 votes to Zac Beers.
It was the Greens who kept Labor in the race for Flynn with 79.55 percent of preferences but from a small primary vote of 2.77 percent or a net gain of 1 428 votes after preferences.
The Greens or Labor needed an extra percent of the primary vote to close the gap in Flynn.
The alternative was a better flow of preferences from One Nation to Labor from the 50.05 percent achieved in Flynn to above 55 percent as achieved in Longman (56.49 percent).
In Australia’s fifth most marginal LNP seat of Robertson on the Central Coast of NSW in the Gosford Region, primary votes from the Christian Democrat Party (Fred Nile Group) of 2.66 percent, the Liberal Democrats (1.41 percent) and the Antipaedophile Party (1.60 percent) were sufficient to protect the LNP’s Lucy Wicks as the sitting member.
In the next eight electorates below the selected three percent winning quota, the combination of preferences delivered by the LNP from fundamentalist Christian parties and other far-right groups such as Rise Up Australia and the Liberal Democrats offered the winning edge to sitting LNP members.
These electorates are Chisholm, Dunkley, Banks, La Trobe, Dickson (held by Peter Dutton), Petrie (Qld), Hasluck in WA and Page in NSW.
The marginal electorate of Grey (SA) was not included in this analysis because the final contest was between the LNP and the candidates from the Nick Xenophon Party (NXT).
Success in these thirteen seats would have increased Labor’s representation to 82 and reduced LNP numbers to 63 seats.
The numbers of votes involved in generating these changes to results in the thirteen selected marginal electorates would probably have been too insignificant to change the distribution of parties in the senate. The combined LNP margin in these thirteen seats amounted to 31 798 or 0.235 per cent of the national vote.
In its haste to attribute the near demise of Prime Minister Turnbull to the rise of One Nation, the mainstream media conveniently overlooks the absence of One Nation as a big player in determining the results in any of the thirteen marginal seats. It was only in the electorate of Flynn that One Nation achieved a significant primary vote of 17.15 per cent. In this electorate, One Nation actually brought a miniscule net gain of fourteen votes to the Labor candidate after preference distribution.
The very minor parties from the religious and secular right that were the big players in determining the final outcomes of Election 2016.
Should problems with the political mix of the senate result in an early House of Representatives and half-senate election, some minor parties will be the big losers in the senate as the quota for the election of senators rises to 14.29 percent.
One Nation can expect to lose one senator in WA and NSW. Family First should lose its SA senator and the Liberal Democrats should shed one senator in NSW.
However, all these minor right-wing parties with the additional public funding and resources from their 2016 results might be crucial in building up the LNP senate vote in every mainland state.
The increase in influence of minor right-wing religious and secular parties continues to be embedded in the wider problem of Australian political apathy. A more informed electorate should question the legitimacy of political groups, which take public funding but only emerge from hibernation at election time.
The Challenge of Voter Apathy
The mainstream media panders to this apathy. It is obsessed by the news value of easy to arrange and colourful interviews with representatives from One Nation.
Under-resourced public and corporate media networks do not have the time and resources to investigate the real underlying challenges to Australian democracy. These challenges have little to do with perceived terrorist threats and highlight the need for preventative mental health services for individuals with pathological tendencies.
Voter apathy is a bigger challenge to Australian democracy as it produces election results and leaders who are out of touch with day to day problems faced by constituents.
The post-election estimates from the AEC on the extent of failure to complete electorate enrolments on 30 September 2016 amounted to 768,097 or 4.6 per cent of eligible Australian voters.
These are just best estimates as many Australians have never enrolled to vote. There is a naïve belief in some sub-cultures that non-enrolment poses challenges to both legal authorities and debt collectors in finding addresses. The precise number of non-enrolled voters is unknown.
Pre-enrolment at 16 years of age during senior high school and optional voting at 17 years might assist in challenging high levels of voter apathy.
From the 15.78 million Australians who were enrolled to vote on 30 September 2016, the level of informal voting (either intentionally or through error) amounted to 720,915 or 4.57 per cent of enrolled electors.
Estimates of the combined level of non-participation in Australian democracy is probably around 20 per cent of eligible voters.
Professor Ariadne Vromen of the Department of Government and International Relations at University of Sydney has published some ground-breaking work on these challenges to political participation in a fast-moving and stressful consumer society.
As in other countries across Europe from Britain to Italy, mainstream centre and centre-left political parties are in need of serious reform to meet the challenges of the globalization era. Voters overseas are giving political groups like Cinque Stelle in Italy a chance to out-trump the US President-elect himself.
A progressive victory to reclaim Australia for the political centre or centre-left is highly possible. It requires democratic renewal from within the Labor Movement at an industrial and political level.
Bill Shorten must challenge the institutional fiefdoms within the Labor Movement which are crude forms of political elitism.
Another serious problem is the phoney war between the Labor Movement and the Green Party at election time. The Green Party delivers so many seats to Labor. It is not afraid to question the profound militarism that has crept into Australian foreign policy.
In our workplaces and regular conversations, political activists should tactfully talk-up their political commitments. The notion that politics is an exclusively private matter should always be challenged. Australians are not yet living in the political equivalent of Vichy France.
Just raising topical and controversial issues is highly appropriate. Just asking the right questions is even recommended by Loon Pond in this remake of Scott Morrison in a profoundly 1930s style.
Is this supposedly family-friendly Scott Morrison indeed the heir-apparent if our prime minister decides to resign in 2017 or happens to be deposed in another LNP coup?
This would indeed be a quantum leap towards a more authoritarian future for Australia in the old traditions of Prime Minister Joseph Lyons.
Denis Bright is a financial member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to consensus-building in these difficult times. Your feedback by using the Reply button on The AIMN site is always most appreciated. It can liven up discussion. I appreciate your little intrusions with comments and from other insiders at The AIMN. Full names are not required when making comments. However, a valid email must be submitted if you decide to hit the Reply button.
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