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May 31st 2016 print

Christian Kerr

Dancing Around the May Polls

Things couldn't be better for the Coalition, insist insiders, who swear that recent polls' intimations of as many as 19 seats going south will be refuted by local voters 'standing up where it counts'. One gathers those same sanguine strategists aren't mulling the numbers from South Australia

xeno IIThe Australian made an elementary blunder in coming up with its Monday splash, which warned that the Coalition is set to lose government with the loss of 19 seats in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia. That report assumed uniform swings, based on its Newspoll figure, when on-the-ground factors tend to produce very different outcomes.

Meanwhile, government sources remain adamant: their vote is standing up where it counts.

For once Fairfax’s poll analysis appears to be better than The Australian’s. Instead of relying on crude arithmetic, they’ve yakked to party strategists and now estimate the government will lose around 12 seats on July 2.

True, party strategists aren’t the most objective types. But there’s a certain honour among thieves — for purposes of electoral calculations you can include the media among that lot — and that 12-seat figure rings truer. Or rings truer four-and-a-bit weeks out from polling day and after almost three months of heavily ritualised election lite.

Mind you, that loss would take the government from 90 seats in the House of Representatives down to 78. No doubt the electors in the seat of Fairfax, sadder but wiser after their Clive Palmer experiment, will add another seat to the Coalition’s tally. But after supplying a Speaker and allowing that the projections are right, the Coalition will be left with just a tiny buffer in the 150-member chamber.

But that ignores one factor: government sources remain adamant that their vote is standing up where it counts – but prefer not to mention South Australia. Their Labor colleagues are similarly disinclined.

All year, the Morgan poll has been reporting that Nick Xenophon & Co. have been polling around 20% in the state. On Monday, Newspoll finally put a number on his support – or two. One report said one-in-five residents of Australia’s Rust Belt were considering sending their votes Xenophon’s way. Another sampling of sentiment gave the firmer figure of 22%. It put the government’s primary vote at 34% – down more than 10% on the 2013 result – and Labor’s on a mere 27%.

Not to be outdone, pollster Gary Morgan later that day that put Liberal support in South Australia on 31%, Xenophon on 26.5% and Labor on 25%. If — and there should be a suitable pause for dramatic effect here — those figures are vaguely accurate then Xenophon candidates could just displace both Labor and Liberal members of the House of Representatives in SA. Which makes the crystal balls the political seers are staring so intently into very cloudy indeed.

It also puts last night’s Q&A – always frightening enough in itself  – up there with Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad in the terror stakes. For last night we got the “My name’s Richard, I’m from Victoria, and I’m here to help” from the Greens leader.

“Let me challenge this assertion that the previous period of the Gillard government with the support of the Greens and independents was not a productive period of government,” Richard Di Natale said. “I think history has been rewritten a little bit here. The problem with that period of government was the division within the Labor Party. You had the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd division, and people were very angry about that.”

He couldn’t have done more to explain away the problems of the Gillard years while ever so gently laying them at Labor’s feet. And he couldn’t have put his reassuring bedside-manner lessons from med school to better use when he told the Q&A crowd, “If the choice came down to who we’d support, we’d like to enter a productive, responsible negotiations with the Labor Party.”

Government sources remain adamant that their vote is standing up where it counts. But just think of an outcome where the Coalition is the largest grouping in the parliament, but falls short of a majority.  Think also of an outcome where Labor is just a little behind in numbers.

Bob Katter, if returned, will remain the usual pillar of incoherent inconsistency.  Andrew Wilkie and Indi’s Cathy McGowan have already declared they will not enter into formal governing arrangements, but are unlikely to line up with the Coalition. Indeed, Wilkie was speaking almost nostalgically of the 2010-2013 experience on Radio National only this morning. Potential Xenophon members are doing likewise. We now know very well what the Greens want to do.

Just think about that. There has never been a  more terrifying time to be an Australian.

Comments [10]

  1. Bwana Neusi says:

    I truly despair! As an economist would say “On the one hand we have the Wentworth Waffler, and on the other hand?” The coalition are clinging to straws in their attempts to reassure themselves that they can and will get across the line. The alternative pandemonium will hopefully drive some of us “Delcons” to vote for the assassin despite our anger.

    What isn’t discussed is the Senate’s Pandora box, where a plethora of single issue “Parties?” could get across the line. We can only hope that the ALA and Liberal Democrats fair well enough to hold any rampant mainstream party to account

  2. sabena says:

    Two things:-
    ‘the vote standing up where it counts” involves a value judgment which might be dangerous given the “delcons” around.
    Second,even the most optimistic result set out(78 seats,majority 6) might well see a leadership challenge to Turnbull before the end of the year.The optimistic result, incidentally, would probably mean the numbers are not there at a joint sitting to pass the bills which gave rise to the double dissolution.

  3. Jody says:

    Unfortunately, the Coalition has trashed its own brand with comprehensive changes to superannuation. This, in spite of haranguing the Opposition about their own plans for super only about a year ago, telling the electorate “Labor is after your savings”.

  4. [email protected] says:

    Alexis de Tocqueville many years ago said “Democracies end when the voters realise they can vote themselves the contents of the treasury.” A little earlier Thomas Jefferson similarly nailed it with his adage – ‘Democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work to give to those who would not.’ We/Australia/Western civilisation are now at that stage. It is for that very reason that the wisest of the Founding Fathers of the US wanted a ‘limited’ republic in preference to an ‘unlimited democracy’.
    None of the current politicians here, or overseas, seem even aware of this problem let alone able or willing to do anything about meaningful it. In Australia, BS and the GREENS seem determined to take Australia down the Venezuela/Greek highway and over the economic cliff in true Thelma and Louise style, while MT will just coast downhill and over the cliff and he seems determined not to even apply the brakes let alone make any effort to grab the wheel and steer a different course.
    Those who say we need a ‘Donald Trump’ are mistaken. I suspect that Donald actually believes that ‘government power’ will be able to achieve things rather than trusting the free market. To achieve success Donald and his businesses actually ‘bought political favours’, usually from those aligned with the Democrats, and now he thinks it’s his turn to cash in. To my mind the free market is the ultimate/only true democracy.

  5. pgang says:

    At least Xenophon is putting up reps for election. No matter what you think of his politics, he is being democratic. Compare that with the totalitarian-minded ALA, who claim to represent conservative values yet whose goal is to sneak into power via un-elected senators.

  6. en passant says:

    pgang: how do you equate your statement that the ALA want to sneak into power ‘via un-elected senators’ when they can only enter parliament by getting enough votes? Check your dosage!

    • pgang says:

      Rubbish. The Senate is all about preference deals for these power-hungry leaches. Have you heard what happened at the last election? Have you observed the current make-up of the Senate and the balance of power? Do you remember what happened to Abbott? Go ahead, throw your support behind the ALA. I can guarantee that if they achieve their goal via preference deals for the upper house, which is the only way they can win power, they will disappoint you. These people aren’t interested in democracy. You can’t polish a turd simply by giving it the label ‘conservative’. If these people were serious in their beliefs they’d be running reps, not senators.

  7. en passant says:

    I wrote the following analysis in December 2014:
    “Sadly, for almost the same reasons described here concerning the Victorian election disaster, the Federal Liberal Government will also lose the next election as it has seemingly adopted the same failed strategic course as the Victorian Liberals and is setting out to prove that one of the ‘joking’ definitions of insanity is correct: ‘Insanity is repeating the same failed actions and expecting a different outcome’. If they continue for just a few more months on their present track the Abbott Government will also be a one term government. Failing to understand why it has lost, the Federal Party will then lean Left behind Malcolm (as happened with Fraser) and disappear altogether as a footnote of history, replaced by one or a coalition of new conservative and libertarian parties such as the Liberal Democrats, Family First, Australia First, the Christian Democrats, the Shooters and Fishers Party, the ALA and others yet to arise.
    How unfortunately easy it is to foresee the future and draft the sad obituary of the great creation of Menzies before it happens!”

    In another part of my analysis I stated:
    “One statistic provided by Tim Andrews at the ATA Forum says it all. Let me paraphrase (to shorten) his quote from the video recorded at the Forum: “… approximately 400 of those who responded to the online survey recorded that they were Liberal Party members, but over 40% (160+ voters) of these did not give their primary vote to the Liberal Party.” Let me further add that there were approximately 80+ people at the Forum. When Tim asked how many were former members of the Liberal Party who had resigned in the past year 20+ put up their hands. Yet they were still sufficiently interested in conservative politics to spend a Friday evening at this event.
    As if to demonstrate beyond doubt that the mindset of the Party Royalty cocoon is impenetrable, panellist and former federal Liberal Senator Helen Kroger saw this mutiny as a temporary lapse ON THEIR PART that would soon be resolved and reversed now that Michael Kroger is taking over as State President. Unreality reigns.
    In my conversations about the ill-Liberal lapse I can state with the conviction of first hand evidence that the departure and decline is not temporary as one ex-Liberal, who raised his hand as having resigned last year, (and who was formerly on a Branch Committee) is now the voluntary state director of the LDP. I suspect he is not going to see any error in his ways and return chastened and apologetic in the foreseeable future. I really must watch the YouTube of “Downfall” again as it seems appropriate to the 104 Exhibition St Liberal Bunker mentality.”

    The Liberal Party is NOT the answer as Turnbull cries “”Have you seen them? Which way did they go? I must find them: I am their Leader!”

  8. en passant says:

    pgang: Thanks for your explanation. I was going to put LDP first, but now (tanks to you) it will be the ALA