There have been quite a few articles about the Fadden by-election telling people: “The Honeymoon Is Over For Labor”. Actually there have been a number of pieces written speculating about how the honeymoon is over for about ten months now.
Ok, people, one does have to stick with this analogy and ask: If the honeymoon is over, how’s the marriage looking?
There seems to be an assumption that once the honeymoon is over then couples are ready for a divorce, not that they’re ready for the more realistic relationship that makes a successful marriage and…
Yeah, you’re right. Your relationship with your government isn’t really a marriage and it isn’t really a honeymoon. Why writers keep using the same tired metaphors is anyone’s guess. It’s sort of like when government is compared to a household budget. Or a business.
Don’t get me wrong. Comparisons are fine for helping people understand a difficult concept, but they’re also flawed and the fact that you’ve needed to simplify something ultimately means that your comparison is rather like a model of an aircraft. It may look like the real thing. It may even fly. But don’t jump on it and expect to make it to New York.
So when it comes to Fadden, we’re being asked to choose between the spin of Labor’s “nothing to see here” and the Liberals “this is the beginning of our successful 2025 election campaign.” In truth, neither view is completely accurate but let’s look at each a bit more closely.
First the Liberals are asking us to believe that this is a great result because it’s no worse than it was at the previous election. In fact, it’s a little better. And this is all due to people being upset about the cost of living, the Voice and Federal Labor not dealing the state issue of crime in the streets of the Gold Coast. I don’t actually know what the crime rate is in the electorate of Fadden but it must be high because it was apparently a concern. Perhaps they were including white collar crime and people understating their income for tax purposes…
As a little aside here, how many of you read that wonderful article about Fiona uh“Not Your Typical Landlord” Martin in the Nine papers? It was a strange article because it was trying to suggest that most landlords weren’t rich fat cats with multiple properties at the same time as saying that the focus of the article wasn’t that either, so in one sense she was your typical landlord. It conveniently overlooked her role on a landlord advocacy group but, hey, you can’t cover everything in one article.
The article also pointed to the fact that many, many landlords had very low incomes. Some of their incomes were below the poverty line which would make you wonder how they got the money to buy an investment property unless you stop to think about the fact that negative gearing is designed to reduce your taxable income and enable you to pay as little tax as possible. The article didn’t say, for example, Thaddeus McGillicuddy only has a taxable income of $200 after paying interest on his 93 investment properties.
Of course, it’s a good result for the Liberals in the sense that it’s the first time that it hasn’t been a bad result. To borrow an analogy (flawed I know), this is like a tennis player who’s lost the first two sets and down four games to love in the second, holding serve. It’s a good result but if they lost serve here, their chances would be almost zero, instead of slightly better than almost zero. Whatever, it’s a good result for Dutton because it means that Sussan won’t have the numbers and Sussan is very concerned with numbers. As you’re aware, numerology is why she put the extra “S” in her name, so she’s not going to challenge unless she finds a way to put an extra few MPs in her suppporerss.
However, Labor shouldn’t take things for granted that just because the by-election didn’t produce a significant swing against them that there’s nothing to learn here. Saying it doesn’t matter and we’re getting on with the job might start to sound a bit arrogant if they say that about the next thing and the next thing and the next thing. It’s good to say, “We’ve heard the message” occasionally particularly if you don’t say what the message you heard was. That makes it sound like you’re listening even if you’re not.
The great thing for Labor is that the by-election ensures that Peter Dutton keeps the leadership. While there have been a large number of unelectable leaders elected in the past ten years and a number of surprise results in elections, Dutton has one thing going against him that most of the others didn’t. His inability to maintain a populist line.
While others have run an appeal to the hip pocket or the out of touch politicians, Dutton has taken the Coalition on a roller-coaster, demanding that the budget be in surplus, then when it was, arguing that they’d have had a bigger surplus, and now that it’s bigger, it’s too big and it’s all because Labor are taxing too much. Of course, this overlooks the fact that the surplus potentially allows Labor to announce either popular initiatives – which Dutton will attack – or tax cuts for those under $100k a year – which Dutton will say we can’t afford and that they’ll be inflationary, even though it’s probable that inflation will be lower and the concern will be a possible (or actual) recession.
While opinion polls have been wrong in the past, if you take the average of the reputable ones, you’ll find that there have been very few results that were outside the margin of error. Usually it’s been the interpretation of the polls that has been the problem. For example, the fact that Trump was only given a small chance of winning in 2016 led people to interpret that as no chance. Similarly, Labor was regarded as a certainty in 2019. However, if you look at the current polling, Dutton has a long way to go to get his approval rating above fifty per cent.
And that’s just in the Liberal party room.
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