Random jottings from election night in the West

I enjoy an election night; I usually enjoy the coverage, for a variety of reasons. Antony Green is one of those reasons, although my earlier belief about him being a kind of Davros figure who lived in a cupboard between elections has been shattered by the ABC’s insistence he now do pieces to camera showing his legs. However, I do believe Green inadvertently said about a WA Labor seat at one point, ‘… so we’ve lost that one’, which ranked right up there with Kerry O’Brien’s reprise of his ‘wins to the ABC’ Freudian slip. (Wonks, please check the tape and tell me if I’m wrong.)

Another thing I enjoy is spotting Labor voters – real, rusted-on ones; the kind of people who hand out how-to-vote cards and wear red T-shirts with their candidate’s name on them. You can see them in the background when the TV coverage throws to a Labor candidate at their sausage sizzle. Given that they’re something of a dying breed in Australia, it’s fascinating to see how alike they all look – and how much they all look like grey-haired schoolteachers, librarians, nurses and unionists.

Mark McGowan’s speech conceding defeat in the WA state elections was actually rather good. This is only to be expected, as he had had plenty of time to practise it. He spoke for 15 minutes, and it was rather sweet to see his little boy yawning uncontrollably towards the end; I was doing much the same. (Colin Barnett’s acceptance speech lasted a mere 6 minutes).

McGowan said ‘I think our values as a Labor party are sound, are very sound … And we also need to always remember we need to protect the livelihoods of people who work for a living. People who have nothing to sell but their labour. We need to always remember that the role of the community, the role of the state is to protect the livelihoods of those people who have nothing to sell but their labour. They’re the core values of the Labor Party; they’re the things that will remain timeless for ever more; they’re the things that make our party great.’

This was greeted with tumultuous applause. It was also greeted by a pretty conclusive trouncing at the ballot box by people who have nothing to sell but their labour. They are heartily sick of the Labor Party being in bed with the very unions who are robbing genuine workers blind with outrageous union fees, which do little else but support teetering mountains of ‘officers’ who make substantial donations to the Labor Party and spend the rest on good times.

They are also sick of the Labor Party’s hangers-on and born-to-rulers. We saw an example of this in the formerly marginal WA metropolitan seat of Riverton, where Mike Nahan of IPA fame held the seat for the Liberals by a whisker. WA Labor hit upon a stroke of genius: why not get parliamentary hopeful Hannah Beazley to run for Riverton?

Beazley’s credentials were impeccable. She is the granddaughter of Kim Beazley senior, and the daughter of former ALP leader Kim Beazley junior. I looked up Beazley’s resume on Linked In, which I recommend you do too. She finished high school in 1996, and there’s a gap of four years, and then in 2000 she enrolled in a BA (Arts Management) at the WA Academy of Performing Arts at Edith Cowan University. When Beazley completed her degree, she went straight into a position as Policy Advisor, Social Policy Division for the Department of Premier & Cabinet under Geoff Gallop’s ALP state government. I will be honest with you – I don’t know anyone who went straight from a BA in Arts Management from Edith Cowan (not even with honours) straight into a position of that sort. And I can’t imagine it happening to someone with identical qualifications whose surname was perhaps Robinson, or Habibi, or Nguyen.

Anyway, Beazley spent a year doing that, and then two years as a speechwriter for the Office of the Premier. Again, I can’t see Ms Robinson or Ms Habini or Ms Nguyen in that role with that degree and that little experience. But then the real world called, and Beazley went into the Byzantine world of wedding planning. She bought a franchise with a company called Wedding List Co, and proceeded to have what looks like a really good time for about five years. Since February, 2010, she’s been working at Penrhos College, a Perth private school, as their marketing, PR, events and fundraising person, but went on maternity leave in June 2011, and was endorsed as the Labor candidate for Riverton in March, 2012.

Hannah Beazley performs well on television; she had practised her lines and rolled them out and sounded chipper and bright, even as her share of the primary vote dwindled alarmingly. But when asked whether she thought the family name had helped her, she simpered about how of course it had, and how her father had given her lots of good advice. It was at this point that I realised that I almost preferred the Emily’s Listers: the women candidates who would have bitten that ABC journalist’s head off and said, ‘Actually, I’m running in my own right, as my own person, with my own ideas, and how dare you patronise me by suggesting that I was running on some kind of family ticket?’

But Beazley couldn’t very well do that, when it was so utterly obvious that this was exactly what she was doing. And this is why the good people of Riverton managed to restrain their enthusiasm for the Beazley family name and return Mike Nahan with a considerable swing to the Liberals. Beazley’s star quality has actually proved a liability, turning a formerly marginal seat into a safe Liberal one. I wonder if Ms Robinson or Ms Habibi or Ms Nguyen would have produced the same effect, or indeed if they would have been approached to run at all, based on their work and life experience.

Even though Hannah Beazley was thoroughly trounced, ABC journalists still enthused over her ‘rising star’ for the future. And this is what’s wrong with Labor. It is no longer the party of those who have nothing to sell but their labour, and it hasn’t been that for decades.

Instead it has become the party of privilege of the most superficial kind – that based on approved family and marital relationships.  The complex working and personal relationships of unionists, lobbyists, journalists, lawyers and their offspring have produced a tightly-knit network of common interest, and that interest is funded by extracting money from people who actually work for a living.

This is what most people would consider an ‘aristocracy’, and that is what the ALP has now become. Julia Gillard was only too aware of this in western Sydney, which is why she imported some of her own kind to eat tartine with, while the plebs carb-loaded in the outer darkness. Perhaps we’ve been wrong to jokingly compare these last days of the Gillard government to Hitler’s bunker; perhaps instead we’re looking at the dying throes of a feudal system, with the blogosphere as the equivalent of the printing press. And as Gillard discovered, the peasants really are revolting.

Colin Barnett nobly went to the media the next day and said that Julia Gillard should have come to WA to campaign for Mark McGowan. Based on Gillard’s marvellous impact on the Anna Bligh campaign in Queensland, I can see where he’s coming from. If Gillard had come to WA, then I doubt whether there would have been more than two or three Labor seats left standing here, instead of the reasonably respectable 18 or so they’ve salvaged.


Philippa Martyr blogs at Transverse City, and will be back there after Easter.

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