By Denis Bright
The federal LNP’s slender absolute majority has generated strong expectations. The electorate now expects the promised delivery of new investment, jobs and higher living standards as promised by Prime Minister Morrison.
The unexpected federal LNP victory rides on successful marginal seat strategies from federal LNP with the support of preferences from minor right-wing parties particularly in more disadvantaged outer suburban and regional electorates. Extraordinary swings to the federal LNP were recorded in Grey (SA) (+13.93 per cent), Dawson (+11.53) and Capricornia (+11.07) in Central Queensland. There was also a surprise swing of +9.76 per cent in the seat of Hunter to the federal LNP (AEC Tallyroom 23 May 2019).
None of these high-profile swings to the federal LNP claimed a sitting candidate. Lesser swings in the 5-8 per cent range hit some Labor members in Herbert (+7.73 per cent), Lindsay (+6.28), Bass (+5.80) and Braddon (+5.12). Victory for the federal LNP in Longman was achieved on a lesser swing of 4.08 per cent. The close result in Macquarie was precipitated by a 2.3 per cent swing to the federal LNP. Less than 200 votes now separate the rival candidates as counting of pre-poll and postal votes continues.
Aside from the successful marginal seat strategies which claimed 5-6 Labor members, there were Labor gains in the seats of Corangamite (+1.23 per cent to Labor), Dunkley (+1.80), Gilmore (+3.11) but not quite in the seat of Chisholm in Eastern Melbourne (+2.09). There was a swing to the federal LNP in Robertson (+3.15). The sitting federal member in Robertson now has a comfortable majority again.
The final political landscape has changed very little from 2016 apart from the demise of some far-right parties in the senate. The swing to the federal LNP after preferences was nationally 0.92 per cent but varied from state to state. Labor’s vote after preferences rose by 2.66 per cent in SA and remained in slightly positive territory in Victoria and the ACT. Queensland (-3.40 per cent) and Tasmania (-4.03 per cent).
Labor was served a net loss of possibly two or three seats. Scrutineers will be watching the counting of pre-poll and postal votes particularly in Macquarie. A LNP victory here would take its national tally to 78 seats. Labor with 67 seats has contained those net losses to two members.
Labor’s primary vote of less than 34 per cent was of course somewhat lower than optimists for change suggested. The results after preferences needed to be just 1-2 per cent higher to achieve the projected outcomes from opinion polls.
Almost half the senate is still a remnant of the double dissolution in 2016. After the latest half-senate election, the federal LNP has a chance to work with two senators each from Australian Conservatives and the Central Alliance. It is still short of the 39 votes required to pass legislation (ABC News Online 22May 2019):
Despite the saturation media coverage of the national election, the electoral statistics have not so radically changed by the allocation of $60 million in campaign spending for the UAP to achieve an overall national vote of 3.4 per cent.
There was also slight rise in the vote for One Nation (ONP) to 3 per cent. ONP may secure a senate spot from the re-election of Senator Malcolm Roberts in Queensland. Senator Pauline Hanson did not need to face re-election this time.
Labor’s more traditional support-base is soft in some urban and regional heartland seats which are vulnerable to fear-strategies and negative campaigning from the federal LNP.
This is not a new feature of Australian politics with predominantly Labor seats like Capricornia changing hands for extended periods as economic and political headwinds changed in the past.
Federal LNP leaders have already warned their support base of the future consequences of a slowing national and global economy.
Coping with Future Economic Headwinds
The expectations generated by the federal LNP with the support of preferences from minor right-wing parties in more disadvantaged postcodes are possibly temporary deviations if economic headwinds eventuate. This potential volatility can be harnessed by the Labor Opposition as unrealistic expectations have been generated by the campaigns of both the federal LNP and minor right-wing parties.
Should Labor have got across the line in 2019, the federal LNP was ready to blame the new government for every bad economic vibe from a weakening property market to ailing private sector investment levels in the resources sector as well as new technology investment in electricity and mining.
The data to watch is ABS releases on Private New Capital Expenditure (5625.0). The next edition for the March Quarter of 2019 is expected on 30 May 2019.
Social tensions generated by national and global economic headwinds may drive younger voters away from political involvement unless handled empathetically by the Labor Opposition. The previous post-war recessions in 1953, 1961, 1981 and 1991 brought younger voters back to Labor.
Some popular musical culture has a rebellious streak to console people of several age groups who struggle with underemployment and rising consumer expectations in a more deregulated but largely non-unionised labour market that operates both in Australia and the USA.
The US rap group Macklemore has a good beat for those who feel excluded from the opportunities generated by modernist society which can be enjoyed by progressives from all age groups.
It will be a challenge for the new generation of Labor leaders to broaden the more narcissistic elements of contemporary pop culture.
As this currently popular US progressive music group tells its global audience, there are limits to the opportunities in a raw market economy with high price tags and disciplined security controls.
Those who do not feel alienated from the rival political clubs that steer modernist society should be encouraged to participate in Australian politics with the most articulate of political insiders. Lyrical innovation can bring more alienated young people back into the political insiders’ clubs. Let the protest lyric writing commence even before parliament reconvenes with political numbers that are much the same as in 2016.
Even in the better times for economic growth in Australia, there are pockets of appalling disadvantage.
Communities like Barcaldine are certainly doing their bit with support from the Queensland Government to promote events like Outback Race Meetings, festivals and a range of cultural activities.
Indigenous celebrities from the Baker Boys’ Band made it to Barcaldine for the Labor Day festivities.
Working for change and social justice should be fun and welcome the chance to mobilise and act out in the post-election period of political re-adjustment in a fun country that draws upon the resources offered by peaceful globalisation.
Despite its long political traditions as a birthplace of the Labor Movement in Queensland, Barcaldine followed the rest of the Maranoa electorate with a 6 per cent swing to the federal LNP after preferences from the ONP which polled 14.90 per cent across the electorate and 13.04 per cent in Barcaldine itself.
The transition to a social market economy is even more difficult to sell in some urban electorates like the seat of Blair in the Ipswich District. Here, the swing to the federal LNP was 6.71 per cent swing against Labor after preferences.
This swing against Labor reached double digit levels in booths like Collingwood Park South (-11.57 per cent), North Ipswich (-10.83), Raceview West (10.38), Redbank Plains East (-11.72) and Riverview itself (-10.48).
High rates of informal voting are a bad sign for political involvement. The rate of informal voting was 9.16 per cent at Collingwood Park South (9.16 per cent), Riverview (11.22), Leichhardt (10.03) and Redbank Plains East (8.96). Estimates of the number of potential voters who fail to enrol are not readily available to supplement this data.
The extent of the ONP vote is also a symptom of political alienation as ONP preferences are being directed towards the federal LNP in a more disciplined manner than in 2016.
The contours of ONP voting in electorates like Blair has strong links to the extent of economic and social disadvantage. The ONP vote topped 20 per cent in booths like Yamanto (20.42 per cent), Willowbank (20.11), Rosewood (22.53), Minden (27.30), Lowood (22.17) and Leichhardt (23.54).
The ONP candidate in Blair directed preferences against the sitting Labor member by placing the federal LNP ahead of Labor’s Shayne Neumann. The extend to which ONP voters followed the How to Vote Card will be released as the AEC’s Tallyroom data is updated.
When parliament reconvenes after the early winter recess, there is a large enough Labor representation to insist on protecting rights and living standards as the new headwinds emerge to remind everyone that market ideology is never a full invitation to the Insiders’ Club as portrayed by the lyrics from Macklemore and Co.
Market ideology has been a recipe attempted by the federal LNP in difficult times like the Fraser years (1975-83) as well as the first terms of John Howard (1996-98) and Tony Abbott (2013-15). With good vibes from popular culture, it should work again soon.
Politics should not be a private matter. Those in leadership positions have a social responsibility to dissent through the arts, the media, workplace unionism and tertiary campuses where new attitudes are easily developed. Negative trends in the market economy can be the best recruiting agents for new political involvement for peace and sustainable development.
Denis Bright is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is committed to citizens’ journalism by promoting discussion of topical issues from a critical structuralist perspective with support from evidence-based data. Feedback is encouraged from political insiders with specialist knowledge of the issues raised in the article.
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