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Wentworth Circus, Elephants In The Room, Jokers In The Pack And Too Many Ringmasters…

The Liberals have lost Wentworth for the first time and so the analysis begins.

We’ve already been told that Malcolm didn’t help. He should have been there, campaigning his little arse off out of gratitude that the Liberals made him PM. Ungrateful wretch.

And, in the washup, Sky News was telling us not to draw too many conclusions because Wentworth wasn’t typical of the rest of Australia…It’s one of the wealthiest suburbs and it does have a significant gay population. True enough, I suppose, but is one meant to draw the inference that other electorates have an insignificant gay population?

However, I keep coming back to a point I make over and over again. We only get to vote once every three years or so and we often make our choice based on who we think is the least worst. Our vote is sometimes the lesser of two evils, rather than a ringing endorsement of every single policy of the party we ultimately vote for. And sometimes, an electorate gets the chance to say, yes, you seem more in tune with what we actually think than either of the major parties.

It’s not that Wentworth is out of step with the rest of Australia on something like climate change. Wentworth has pretty accurately reflected the fact that most people think more should be done on climate change. It’s not that Wentworth is out of step with attitudes to LGTBI issues or children on Nauru; it’s more that the loudest conservative voices have managed to make it sound like they are speaking for the “ordinary” Australian. And it’s hard to get more ordinary than some of the people backing Peter Dutton.

Now, I always suggested that Malcolm Turnbull wasn’t all that left-wing. I know, it’s surprising that a Point Piper multimillionaire Liberal Party leader wouldn’t be an extreme socialist pushing for the overthrow of the corrupt system. Yes, we’ve been told about leftie Malcolm, so often that we overlook the fact that most of his progressive views were consistent with the majority. Backing for the Republic, marriage equality, action on climate change. You name it, there was nothing that wasn’t a popular position. He was always positioning himself for popularity. That is, until he became Prime Minister, where his Faustian bargain left him unable to please either his party or his electorate. While it was one thing to paint Malcolm as progressive; it’s quite another to ask us to believe that a Liberal stronghold – one of its safest and most affluent seats – is a hotbed of out-of-touch elites who were simply angry at the dumping of their man.

It’s worth pointing out that they did so with the full knowledge that, unlike so many by-elections, they had the power to make the Coalition a minority government. If anything, this should have chastened them, made them more circumspet. And it’s not as though, this was a surprise like the 1999 defeat of Kennett in Victoria where people made a protest vote without any expectation that it would result in a change of government.

The electorate made a conscious decision to create a hung Parliament. But to hear Scott Morrison last night, it was all about Malcolm Turnbull, it was all about the “price” of switching leaders. But rest assured, the Liberals would rise again. (I’m sure I heard a few “hallelujahs” at this point from the crowd). Ok, perhaps not in three days, but it certainly sounded like an evangelical meeting at times. He went on to repeat his well-worn slogans of “Those who have a go, will get a go”, “The best form of welfare is a job”, “Jesus was a small businessman” and “I stopped the votes” and several other meaningless phrases, as though these had somehow helped deliver an electoral victory rather than the most embarrassing thing to happen to the Liberals in almost a week.

I guess it’s easy to be pessimistic and shake one’s head. We have a governent voting for a motion then realising that they didn’t intend to vote for it, floating ideas which are against all departmental advice, squabbling internally, considering a disgraced Barnbaby for a return to the Deputy PM role only a few months after his embarrassing admissions. And I know some of you will be worried by the assertions that this won’t flow through to the general election because of Rupert Murdoch or because the Liberals will “get away with it like they always do”.

However, I think that it’s always worth stopping and considering how many impossible things have happened. I mean, not only have the Liberals lost Wentworth – unthinkable just a few weeks ago – but they lost to an openly gay Independent. Yes, I know some of you are thinking, so what? But that’s the point. How long ago would it have been unthinkable for a candidate to have called their same sex partner up on the stage during their victory speech? If you go back to the beginning of this century it would have been talked about for weeks.

Progress may feel like two steps forward and one step back. And even, at times, the other way round. But because progress is slow, we often don’t see how far we’ve come. There’s still a long way to go, of course. For example, I was confused as to why the email suggesting that Phelps had pulled out because she had HIV was reported as being a “smear” and a “slur”. I don’t see having HIV is either of those, any more than a suggestion that she was cancelling an appearance because she had the flu. It was a nasty trick, sure, but why a “smear” as though HIV suggested something immoral about the person.

So, before the media starts talking about how terribly the Labor Party performed and tries to start leadership speculation about Shorten, let’s see this for what it is: a massive wake-up call for Scott Morrison. Unfortunately for him, his speech last night suggested he intended to just keep hitting the snooze button.


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  1. Ross in Gippsland

    Well that went swimmingly for the white middle aged male conservative right wing nutters of the Liberal Party. The law of unintended consequences, an electoral shellacking by a progressive gay woman in Wentworth. Ouch, that has to hurt plus the great wads of cash flushed down the gurgler for no result.
    It appears the Liberal base is not in what was once an ultra safe Liberal seat.

  2. Geoff Andrews

    Your attribution to Snottymo of the line “Stopping the votes” is very clever.

  3. Adrianne Haddow

    It’s obvious the LNP government only have one script. And not enough intellect to speak ‘off the cuff’ according to the circumstances.
    I guess they have to wait for their IPA masters to write a new set of one liners to serve to the electorate.

    The best thing about the Wentworth result is the message that money (and pork-barrelling) can’t buy you everything, and that the Australian public is waking up to the fact that the LNP crowd are only interested in winning elections and saving their jobs. They show very little interest in governing for better outcomes for Australia’s future.

    My personal favourite from Moralsnone’s post mortem speech was how Labor’s attempt at ‘dividing the community’ (?) was not working.
    Are they looking in a mirror and equating that with reality?

  4. Geoff Andrews

    Whoa!! Stop Press! Snotty is claiming on ABC news that latest counting of postal votes shows all is not lost for the Liberals who have gained hundreds of votes in the last ten minutes.
    So it looks as if his speech last night WAS a victory speech, so there; yah, pooh to all you lefty greenie commo do gooders.

  5. Terence Mills

    It’s important that the sender of that nasty email be brought to justice. I hear that they have been able to identify the location of the computer and now just have to grab the culprit.

    This is a threat to our national security when a simple email from a fake address can get into the mainstream system with the intention of disrupting our democracy.

    Now, who’s in charge of national security, ASIS, ASIO and the AFP ?

    OH Dear !

  6. Keith

    While the mongrel extreme right have a huge influence on “policy”, the Liberals are unlikely to do well.
    It is damm clear that the LNP have little contact with people within the electorate; just saying they wish to help business does not cut it.
    Victim blaming doesn’t do much for them either.
    The anti science views expressed by the LNP is not helpful.

    The LNP were caught high and dry by their Nazi vote, making a vote obviously without thinking. If the Opposition Parties were voting one way, it was clear the LNP felt they must need to vote the other way. It draws attention to how little care they place in many policy areas. Supporting a move of the Australian Embassy in Israel was not a well thought out opinion pushed. It displayed lack of insight into the views of other countries.

  7. Diane

    I turned off the TV during Scummo’s speech when someone from the crowd of sycophants called out “We love you, ScoMo!” and Fraudenberg joking said “Ho, ho, ho, we’ll leave that to his wife” – I had to go find a bucket.

    On the subject of postal votes, didn’t I read somewhere during another election about LNP stooges going round nursing homes and filling out people’s votes for them? If postal votes end up turning this around , I think there should be a major outcry

  8. Kerri

    Aww! Poor Scotty. If only Wentworth lobed strawberries.??

  9. Kaye Lee

    Breaking news, the gap is narrowing. Antony Green says the result could still be turned around.

    The gap is 884 with 73.9% of enrolled voters counted. (Potentially another 27,000 for 100% turnout which won’t happen but still….postal votes and hospital votes tend to favour conservatives)

    Postal votes, Dave Sharma has got almost 3,000 while Phelps has less than 900

  10. Kerri

    Is anyone else concerned that after gaining pre-selection, as a further success in his rapid trajectory. (Including a stint as Aus Ambassador to Israel) , “Dave” Sharma managed to twist ScoMo’s ear and mouth into doing Israel’s bidding??? Kerryn Phelps may have done more to rescue Australia than we yet realise.

  11. Max Gross

    There must be a way to force an early federal election. The Lads Nazi Party and Snake-handling Sing-along is no longer a joke, it is a clear and present danger and must be struck on its pointy head asap

  12. Christopher J. Ward

    Given the responses, I no longer believe I’m out of my tree when I hear the chants of “ScoMo, ScoMo” ring out. When Abbott was at a meeting in Sydney the chant of “Tony, Tony” was even more chilling. Seig Heil has the same metre. Wonder now, whether any other person felt a lurch in the guts.

  13. Rossleigh

    There were 13,002 postal votes issued, of which 5624 have been counted.
    That leaves a maximum of less than 7400 left to count. Assuming a number of informal and non-returned votes, Sharma would need to maintain 65% of these to even go close.
    Not impossible, but I wouldn’t be popping the champagne if I were Sharma!

  14. Kaye Lee

    Very interesting breakdown of voting results.

    The very rich suburbs (Bellevue Hill, Double Bay, Rose Bay, Darling Point, Dover Heights, Vaucluse, Edgecliff) all voted for Sharma. He has, so far, almost 65% of the postal vote, and 264 votes to 56 from the two “Special Hospital Teams.”

    Phelps won the beach suburbs (Bondi, Bronte, Clovelly, Randwick, Waverley) and in town (Darlinghurst, Elizabeth Bay, Haymarket, Kings Cross, Paddington, Woollahra)

  15. Kaye Lee

    Rossleigh, I think it says there are only 1266 more envelopes to process of those they have received. Can they still arrive later in the post? Not sure of when cutoff is.

    Just looked. “You only have 13 days after the by-election for your ballot papers to be received by the AEC.”

  16. Rossleigh

    Cutoff is two weeks after the poll but they tend not have many in that final week but I can see Morrison refusing to concede because it’s “theoretically” possible. You know the sort of thing, if we received 97% of all the outstanding votes, we’d win by seven.

  17. Kaye Lee

    Unfortunately, I think it may take two weeks to be sure. At the moment, Sharma has 64.38% of the postal vote. If he got that percentage of remaining envelopes. that’s about 815 (if they are all formal). The diff at the moment is 884. They have two weeks for more to dribble in. That’s getting close.

    Scott said “It is down to just over 800 votes and if it gets as close as 100 then an automatic recount is triggered under the normal rules — I am not saying it will get to that”.

  18. Rossleigh

    Yes, but a number will be informal and a number won’t be returned for various reasons.

  19. Michael Taylor

    Well that ruins a perfectly good Sunday.

  20. Diannaart

    My thoughts exactly, Michael.

  21. Frank Smith

    These developments are quite disturbing. Probably the result of “early” pre-poll and postal votes being lodged before the chaos the Libs created during the final week of the campaign. I do hope that Phelps hangs on and is a clear winner – an electoral dispute would add to the ridiculous state of Australian politics.

    There also seems to be an abnormality of preference flows in two of the booth counts, Bondi Beach and Bellevue Hill. According to the Guardian:
    “In most booths, Phelps received around 65% to 80% of preferences from the 14 other candidates. Yet she only received 57% of preferences at Bondi Beach and 49% at Bellevue Hill.”
    If there is a problem in the count in these two booths, Phelps would benefit significantly from a recount.


  22. may hem

    i’m wondering about our malcolm. wonder how he is feeling now? and what about our rupert? what dark plans might he be dredging up?

    this realy was a by-the-way election (or a bye-bye election?).

  23. Kaye Lee

    Rossleigh, that is on the envelopes already received but awaiting processing.

    A bit less than 3% have been rejected in the ones they have counted so far. Doing some rough calculations if trends continue – the diff after they count the remaining envelopes they have already received would be about 530.

    If they receive another 2000 postal votes over the next two weeks with similar pattern, then we are in trouble. (There were 6112 postal votes issued that have not been returned yet but no way of knowing how many will actually turn up).

    There has been no update since 10:30 this morning. Seems like they have gone home?

  24. Frank Smith

    If the postal votes that have not yet been received were submitted late last week, then perhaps they may reflect the disarray in the Libs last week and the preference trend shift back again towards Phelps. Does anyone know if postal votes can be submitted after the poll closed at 6pm on Saturday?

  25. Rossleigh

    Yes, they continue to accept postal votes for two weeks after the close of the poll. Given that this is between a Liberal and an Independent, it seems to me that the party machine would have been active in helping a number of people to vote and these would be the ones coming in early, while the ones received after Monday would be your average voter who took a postal vote and took their time in casting their votes. It also stands to reason that the people that the Liberals would be assisting with postal votes would be the ones who they thought would be likely to vote for them. I’d still suspect postal votes to favour Sharma but probably not by the current margin.

  26. Frank Smith

    I found the answer to my question above on the AEC Wentworth by-election site – postal votes must be completed and witnessed BEFORE by-election day:

    “Ballot papers must be completed and witnessed on or before by-election day, and posted back to the AEC as soon as possible.

    You only have 13 days after the by-election for your ballot papers to be received by the AEC.”

    That’s a relief!!


  27. Kaye Lee

    Update: She has extended her lead to over 1100 (with an extra 281 votes at the Bellevue Hill booth this afternoon after ‘fresh scrutiny’) and they have started this afternoon’s postal vote count

  28. Rosemary J36

    History may yet see this as one of the most important elections ever held in Australia!

  29. Frank Smith

    Kaye Lee it would seem they may need “fresh scrutiny” at the Bondi Beach booth as well – preference allocations there also appear to be an outlier from other booths.

  30. Kaye Lee

    From the AEC twitter feed

    ‘Fresh scrutiny’ of votes counted last night also well underway today. Polling places votes undergoing this check include Bondi Beach, Double Bay, Bellevue Hill, Padd’n Central, Darling Pt & Bronte. These are NOT recounts–also happens all seats at fed elections by law #Wentworth

  31. Kaye Lee

    UPDATE: 6th lot of postal votes counting underway – 1200 ballots early indication 60% 1st preferences are going to Dave Sharma

  32. Deidre Zanker

    How do we know the “special hospital teams” are not biased, and who authorises them to “assist” voters?
    My dad was in hospital during the last Federal election. No one offered him a ballot paper on election day or prior that for a postal vote. Family members took turns sitting with him during this time.

  33. John Holmes

    When are we going to have a royal commission into the meddling a citizen of another nation, into the politics of this nation- ie the activities of one Rupert M. It is interesting that the USA, UK and Australia are all suffering similar detrimental economics especially for the bulk of the population. What is the source of this push which is resulting in the increase in inequality of our societies. Perhaps a bit more modeling after the Scandinavian economic models of Western Europe. Also who was pushing for the TPP?

  34. Wun Farlung

    My local lnp/ipa member ‘helpfully’ mails out postal vote request forms, included in the missive is an equally ‘helpful’ how to vote card, not long after the election date is declared.
    Strangely none of my neighbours receive this ‘help’ and I wonder how they work out my need to make a postal vote.
    I have never been offered this ‘help’ by the ALP, Greens or Independants

  35. Kronomex

    It seems they’ve “found” what appears to be a fair number of votes that favour Phelps (with more checking of other booths to follow).


    Laundy is a moron –


    And, oh gosh, what a non-surprise from Friedeggburger –


  36. Kaye Lee

    Antony Green: Scrutineer reports coming to me that the preference check count at Bondi beach has widened Phelps’ lead by 679 votes.

  37. Rossleigh

    Laundy is probably one of the most intelligent Liberals in the Federal Parliament… which doesn’t mean that I disagree with your assessment Kronomex.

    Anyway, there’s a rumour going around that Julie Bishop will challenge for the leadership before the week is out, but surely they couldn’t be silly enough to think that another leadership change would do anything but make them look even more like the party in the recent series of “Rake” than an actual government.

    Still, like I wrote the other day, I sometimes suspect I’m in my own version of “The Truman Show”, where things just grow progressively more unbelievable until I work out the that it’s all a set-up. If Bishop is installed as leader, I will be looking for the cameras and trying to escape.

  38. Frank Smith

    Great result coming from Bondi Beach fresh scrutiny, Kaye Lee. It, along with Bellevue Hill, always looked very fishy. I am now much more confident that the Phelps result will stand in spite of postal vote returns.

  39. Frank Smith

    But these crazy moves by the Coalition are the fodder for your satirical pieces – except that they turn out to be the real deal. The Coalition are quite obviously headed for the Opposition benches so why would Julie Bishop want to put her hand up to lead them into oblivion – far better to convince ScumMo to install her as Sir Peter’s replacement at Yarralumla I would have thought. Look at the life time benefits such a position carries now that has been revealed in Hollingworth’s case

  40. OldWomBat

    Sorry, you can’t wake up the brain dead.

  41. Kaye Lee

    Bondi Beach booth corrected 2CP has now come through, Phelps now leads by 1,862 votes

  42. Kaye Lee

    I reckon they should offer the GG job to Tony Abbott. it would get him out of parliament and it would invigorate the push for a republic quicker than anything else.

  43. Kaye Lee

    RESULT for 6th postal:
    Dave Sharma 608
    Kerryn Phelps 229

    Tim Murray votes were in the wrong pile at Bondi Beach public according to Laura Jayes

  44. Frank Smith

    Ah, great result at Bondi Beach Kaye Lee. I think we can now sleep soundly tonight.

  45. johno

    Well done Dr Phelps.

  46. Peterf F

    Kaye, great suggestion for the GG. I had been thinking of some aristocrat(NOT a royal) to hasten the change, but Abbott would be perfect. The only power he could challenge would be our head of state. What wonderful irony.

  47. Kaye Lee


    Craig Laundy tweeted

    “Funny preselection story for you -Alan Jones backed a lovely 20 year old Uni lad against me. Hosted a function for him & called preselectors for him. The funny part? The more calls he made ….. the more votes I got! Told you conservative commentators can win you votes”

  48. SteveFitz

    I said it across the way and I’d like to say it again here: Some members of the IPCC have suggested that If we want action on climate change, some countries will require a change of government. It follows that the people who support those governments would need a change of thinking. To the affluent and early voters of Wentworth this is an appeal. There are more important things facing humanity and our home planet than money.

  49. James Cook

    Genuine question here: Is there any suggestion of corruption/deliberate miscounting in those booths which found mistakes in allocation of preferences? Or just dumb/over-worked electoral officers?

  50. Kaye Lee

    Doesn’t seem so James. As far as reported so far, the counting was ok…some of the tallying and preferences went awry but this is common. The count that night is always checked.

  51. New England Cocky

    @Kaye Lee: The “Tim Murray votes were in the wrong pile”.

    Funny, that happened in the NSW Armidale election back in 1976 when we got the late Bill McCarthy (ALP) elected over sitting member David Leitch (Nat$).

    It seems the Libs have the same set of skulduggery strategies still.

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