Listening to the results come in from the Queensland election, I was reminded of the old saying, “When you’re a hammer, everything is a nail.” Or is it, “When you’re a nail, you think everything and everybody is a hammer!”?
Whatever, as the results came in, I couldn’t help but remember the truisms that frame every election night broadcast.
- Political commentators are like the proverbial hammer to which everything is a nail. Last night, it seemed that the only reason Ana Palaszczuk had ever closed the border was in order to use fear of Covid-19 to help her win the election. There was no suggestion that maybe, just maybe she’d done it in an attempt to keep the state as free of the virus as possible. I’m waiting for the day that one of them says, “Well, picking such a photogenic wife is such an obvious ploy to get the voters onside and arranging for his mother to have that terminal illness is so transparent that I can’t see how they’d expect to anyone to fall for it.”
- It’s easiest to work out what’s happening by not paying attention to anything that the people on screen are saying and ignoring any numbers on the screen. All you have to do is look at the body language of the various people speaking. If someone looks cross and is red in the face, they’ve certainly lost. If they have a smug expression that looks like they’re doing a Scott Morrison impression, they’re doing very well. When the broadcast cuts to a candidate and they’re drowned out by noisy supporters, it rarely matters that everyone’s telling you that this electorate is still too close to call, that person is a winner.
- Unsuccessful strategies that you tried are reprehensible and immoral when the other side uses them and wins. For example, Labor last night were apparently running a fear campaign about Covid-19. The Liberals discussion about the economic ruin should Labor be returned was apparently a simple prediction aimed at enlightenment of the unwashed masses. And, of course, the African gangs that were running rampant in Melbourne at the time of the last Victoria election seem to have all stayed at home during lockdown.
- What one has predicted is never wrong. It’s just that events intervened in such a way as to make what one was saying just a few days earlier different from what actually happened but that was only because of whatever stopped you being correct. It helps to consider Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup to fully appreciate this: Russian Camelot will certainly win, but if he doesn’t it was only because either the jockey made a terrible error OR some of the other horses finished in front of him. Either way, my prediction is basically sound and it’s only because of that unexpected thing that I wasn’t expecting that some of you are questioning what I said at all.
- Some commentators have a knack for spinning events so that they’ll be able to go back to their fundamental world view, whatever the result. While I don’t have the actual David Speers quote from last night it was something along the lines that a win for the LNP would be a great boost to the federal party, but a loss would have no implications because that would be because of the strong performance by Palaszczuk. This is very much like the argument that some have used against Covid-19 lockdowns and border closures: “We’ve only had six cases and two deaths! Why do we need to stop people from areas with much higher numbers coming here?”
- And finally, once the narrative has been decided, nobody much questions it. For example, last night the consistent line from the LNP talking heads was that it was still early and postal votes normally favour them, even though the talk was all aboutl how unprecedented this was and how nobody could predict how the record number of early voting and postal votes would go. Later, it was all about Covid-19 and that favours the incumbent government. Why, it was amazing that they’d even managed to hold as many seats as they did. Nobody asked if this meant that Donald Trump was therefore a certainty to be re-elected later this week.
Now that the election is all done and dusted, I’d like to see an interview Clive Palmer where someone asked him the obvious questions.
- Mr Palmer, you spent a large amount of time and money telling us about Labor’s death tax, but given Labor have been in power for two terms and there’s no Upper House in Queensland, why wouldn’t they have already done so if they wanted one?
- Mr Palmer, now that Labor has been re-elected, how soon before you expect them to introduce the death tax?
- When you said that you wanted to create another Titanic, were you referring to your own political party?
- Clive baby, exactly what did you hope to get for the millions you spent? I mean, I know that Mr Murdoch wastes millions keeping unprofitable newspapers afloat just so he can influence public opinion, but at least every now and then the Liberals can slip him some money to cover sport and pretend that it’s not a bribe, what did you hope to get out of it?
- Is it true that in an upcoming production of on the life of Henry the Eighth that you’ve financed that Campbell Newman will play the very important part of Henry, while you’ll play the rest of him?
Yes, I know. Clive would simply say that because of his campaign Labor is now too frightened to introduce the tax, that they had a terrific result and that they haven’t given up hope of some seats because the preferences from the informal votes are yet to be distributed and was happy to spend the money for the benefit of Queenslanders.
But we shouldn’t spend too much time on Palmer. After all, like Pauline Hanson, he received such a small percentage of the vote, he wouldn’t be worth talking about were it not for the way that we were encouraged to talk about him before the election. Yes, it seems that money not only buys you advertising, but it also buys you publicity.
Yes, I still remember the days when Clive was the politician we thought most like Trump. The politician who could lie about something even though it was quite clear that what he said was just not true. But now we have a PM who can look at the camera and say that they haven’t cut funding to the ABC and that it’s time to get out from under the doona because this virus can’t be an excuse forever.
Anyway, like David Speers said, this has no federal implications because it was about state issues and the fact that Morrison spent a week campaigning can just be ignored.
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