Traditionally, the Liberals have been better at organising their postal votes (before election day) than the Australian Labour Party. So, the Australian bookies who gambled in favour of a Liberals victory may still prevail, despite losing a couple of nights sleep since Saturday. Likewise, when vote counting resumes tomorrow, Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp.
On current counting the Liberal-Nationals coalition holds 72 seats to Labor’s 67, with four independents and one Green on the crossbench. But six seats remain in doubt: Chisholm, Forde, Herbert, Hindmarsh where Labor leads, and Dunkley and Gilmore where the coalition is ahead. The prime minister put the number of undecided seats at 12, with recounts likely in a number of other close battles.
In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals, who have somehow frittered away the huge majority they won only three years ago. Earlier this year, changes were made to the voting system to trim the role of tiny minority parties – yet regardless, the voters have delivered a Senate result even more unpredictable than the current odd crew. (Plainly, the new voting system proved to be too difficult for many voters : a record 530,000 informal votes were cast, nationwide.)
As many as nine or ten crossbench MPs of various political stripes may now have to be wooed by Turnbull to ensure he can get his legislation through the Senate, in the face of Labour/Greens opposition. (On current counting, the split in the 76-seat Senate is running at 30 Liberals, 27 for Labor and nine for the Greens.) Oh, and after 20 years in the political wilderness, Pauline Hansen is back. And Derryn Hinch, the 72 year old self-titled “Human Headline” has also won a Senate seat. The support of these shy and retiring types will come only at a price.
Is any of this a real surprise? It shouldn’t have been. During the last week of the campaign, the polls had been consistently predicting a 50/50 tie, but the professional analysts – and the bookies – kept insisting that the ruling Liberal/Nationals coalition was sure to be returned with a governing majority. This may still happen, but via a hard road. The regional party led by the centrist Nick Xenophon seem likely to be crucial – currently, his NXT ( for Nick Xenophon Team) grouping has won one lower House seat, and three seats in the Senate.
Turnbull is copping the entire blame for the Liberals’ decline. Rolling Tony Abbott – definitely a good idea at the time – is being revisited by some, as if the loathsome Abbott would not have lead the Liberals to an even worse outcome. Basically Turnbull’s attempts to placate the Abbott wing within his own party managed only to sabotage his wider electorate support:
Turnbull had some of the highest poll ratings of an Australian leader on record shortly after he snatched the top job from Abbott last year. But that popularity soured as he appeared to bend his center-right values on issues like climate change and same sex marriage to the right-wing powerbrokers in his party.
Turnbull’s campaign mistakes – eg mooted changes to superannuation – damaged the Liberals, and Labor also ran a successful scare campaign around the Liberals’ plan to privatise the delivery of medical benefits. To cap off his awful horrible, very bad campaign, Turnbull delayed his election night speech, and then gave a frenzied performance entirely out of synch with the Australia’s need for calm, confidence and unity. Despite the drift away from the Liberals, the Greens did not – as expected – benefit greatly from the national mood, with only a 1.3% swing to them in lower-House voting nationwide and no net gains, on balance, on election night.
Where’s the Queen ?
Interesting piece in the Guardian about the invisibility of the Queen, post Brexit. During the referendum campaign, the Queen was – allegedly – a closet “Leave” supporter, if you can believe the British tabloids. Yet since the votes have been counted and alarm has spread about the future of Great Britain, the Queen has gone AWOL. As columnist Catherine Bennett pointed out, there are interesting parallels between this current royal no-show, and the early days of desperate silence evident back in 1997, after Princess Diana died:
If the Diana hysteria now looks harmless, compared with the folly of being mesmerised, en masse, by a comedy chancer and his repellent sidekicks, the 1997 convulsions were considered alarming enough to require intensive interventions by the prime minister and finally, after “Show us you care” headlines, a soothing royal address.
“We have all been trying in our different ways to cope,” the Queen said [back then] “It is not easy to express a sense of loss, since the initial shock is often succeeded by a mixture of other feelings: disbelief, incomprehension, anger – and concern for those who remain.” The grieving crowds were mollified and that broadcast, however awkward, has been identified as the moment the Queen exchanged rigidly observed reserve for the more Diana-like, emotionally literate, much more popular strategy, of reflecting the public mood….
As Bennett says, a bit of judicious recycling of the old Diana speech might do the trick:
If ever there was a time when the Queen-loving majority of this nation might benefit from sight of the old rock of strength, a little reassurance that complete constitutional and economic chaos, accompanied by political dereliction, is no reason to repine, a sign that not everyone who represents this country is a dolt, a rogue, or both, then this, surely, is it. To save time, her speechwriters could borrow from the Diana broadcast. “We have all been trying in our different ways to cope… initial shock is often succeeded by a mixture of other feelings: disbelief, incomprehension, anger… ”
…[The] British would not be alone in appreciating some evidence of underlying integrity, from our full-time rock, to balance the woeful impression of a nation of Farages. Aside from impending doom, how is the pre-Diana phlegm going to look in the films that will be made about all this? Helen Mirren needs something more challenging, having already perfected these skills, than queenly frowning, pursing and gazing at majestic stags.
The longer the silence, Bennett concludes, the more the monarchy looks like an expensive ornament that a ‘floundering and bankrupted nation’ could well do without.
Malcolm On The Menu
Meanwhile, up above the Liberal Party, the vultures are circling… Here’s Melbourne’s psychedelic art band King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizzard with a video that looks as if it was shot at a Liberals/National emergency meeting on Sunday: