We expected that in the wake of devastating loss of Labor and Greens in last Saturday’s election, the loss will promote these two parties to admit their failures and work on correcting them. Surprisingly, leaders of both parties resorted to cover-up and hide these devastating results under many arguments. The Labor claimed (maybe rightly) that the loss could have been worse. But they claim that this loss was due to “disunity” in the party over Rudd-Gillard revenge fight over leadership.
On the Greens side, the party could outrageously claim that they achieved “outstanding results” despite the fact that their primary votes collapsed by 30% of their previous results.
The real story behind the loss:
- For Labor:
The Labor was quick to blame the infighting between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard since mid 2010 for the loss of their popularity and scoring the worst results since WWII. This argument can be refuted easily by pointing to the fact that the opinion poll since the beginning of 2010 was worse than what they actually got after the infighting started. This is very clear indication that the real reason behind the loss of popularity was the Labor’s inability to deal with the issue of boat people, at that time. The Labor was quick since April 2010 to retreat on this front. The Labor under Kevin Rudd was quick to cave-in for the Liberals racist attacks by freezing the processing of applications of Afghani and Sri Lankan asylum seekers, April 2010. This sent clear sign that Labor is ready to back down on this issue and so cannot offer real alternative to the coalition racist arguments about boat people.
Instead of Labor understanding that Australians expected Labor to act more bravely on this issue, the Labor strategists thought that leaning more right on this issue would bring back to them some of their lost popularity. This is why these strategists thought that the leadership change would fix everything by replacing the PM, change the policy on boat people by adopting the Liberals racist harsh approach and then blame the previous PM for the leniency on boat people issue.
The move back clashed. We can prove this for second time by pointing to the fact that Rudd’s return to PM’ship saw surge in Labor’s popularity. This popularity evaporated the day Rudd announced the very harsh policy of adopting “PNG solution”.
The second most important issue in this election was the economic standstill. The voters saw the deteriorating financial circumstances in Australia and witnessed the Labor’s inability to do anything to try and stimulate the economy.
The third main important issue which lead to these devastating results was the voters’ outrage for the Labor weakness to manage minority government and succumb to Greens “black-mailing”. Many analysts indicated that introduction of Carbon Tax was not major issue in this election on its own. It was important as it was seen to be clear evidence that Labor was under Greens influence, or even control.
The Labor post-election post-mortem did not recognise these issues. And I think that the Labor’s popularity will remain low until they acknowledge these factors and work to correct them.
For the Greens:
The primary votes of the Greens were collapsed in ALL states. Nationally they got around 8.7%, when in fact they got more than 13% in the previous election. This means that the Greens lost around 4.4%, i.e. 33% of their popularity. Yet, the Greens MPs were outrageously claiming that they got “outstanding” results.
We believe that the Greens leadership will justify these disappointing results by resorting to their traditional cover-up argument of “in an election where voters was leaning to the right, it is very good that the Greens could keep the current level of popularity”. They did this to justify their failure to capitalise on the total collapse of Labor popularity in Victoria 2010 and NSW 2011, where the Greens failed to increase their voting base.
I think that the real reasons behind this collapse of voting were the fact that the Greens was seen as the small partner of the Labor government and share many responsibility for its failures. The largest failure attributed to the Greens is the introduction of Carbon Tax and the Liberals continuous link of this to the deteriorating life-style of Australians and the increase of life-costs.
In addition to this, the Greens, a party that controlled on its own the balance of power in the senate and shared in controlling the balance of power in the house of representatives (in addition to the fact that the government was dependent on Greens support of it) for the last three years could not prevent the government from going to the far-right on boat people issue. The Greens was able easily to introduce Carbon Tax, where the previous PM Gillard promised before 2010 as “will never be introduced under any government I will lead”, but was unable to move the government to ease its extreme dealing with thousands of desperate boat people.
Instead of Greens facing these failures, admit them and promise to work on correcting them, they deny that they in fact lost heavily in this election (even if their luck will see their representation stay the same or even increased by one senator). The reason behind this is the fact that the Greens party is still betting on the argument that there is no alternative to them on the left spectrum of the political scene. The Greens will be surprised to realise that this argument is not valid anymore. Many progressive voters are resorting to voting informally (informal voting was increased significantly in the last 6 years). We also believe that many progressive people will be able to create more progressive alternative to the Greens.
SO what is about Liberals?
The Liberals won in increasing majority because the other side failed, and not because any voters were convinced that they would be better government that will find solutions to the Australian challenges. We need to remember that the Labor massive loss in NSW was not because the opposition Liberals had better plan for the state. On the contrary. The Liberal government made more damage to the NSW residents’ lives than ever. The voters just gave up on Labor government, and did not trust the Greens, and wanted to send them strong message.
The Liberals did not present during the course of the election campaign any alternative plan to lift the people’s life-style and financial security. The Liberals campaigned on the failures of the Labor and Greens.
The practical results of the election:
The Labor-Greens after this election became powerless totally. The two parties have no influence (by numbers) in both houses. In the House of Representatives, the Liberals has absolute majority of 88 seats (they needed 76 to govern on their own).
In the senate, the Labor-Greens combined seats won is less than 39 seats needed to be able to stop important controversial legislations. While I do not think that “Balance of power” does exist at all as the majority of legislations (more than 85%) were passed by bipartisan support for the last 2 decades. Even this was lost in the last Saturday’s election. The balance of power is now in the hands of few senators mainly defected from Liberals and Nationals, which would be easier for Liberals to convince them to pass controversial legislations when Labor would not support them. Again, NSW LC is very clear example, where Liberal government did not have any legislation defeated in the LC for the last 2 years, where it depended on MLC from small conservative parties.
We hope that the Labor will admit the real reasons for their defeat last Saturday and start working on correcting them. Without doing this, we believe that Labor is heading for long time in opposition by repeating Beazley’s mistakes on the same issues.
We also understand that the Greens will find serious rivals in the next elections. If the Greens want to increase their voting, I believe that they need to start “putting their mouth where their money is” by acting on issues and not vending rhetoric and lies. We believe that the Greens party is not able to do so, and this is why we expect the Greens to head to more electoral defeats in the next 2 years. The first would be Tasmanian election next year.