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October 10, 2004


news6.jpg Well the results of the federal election have certainly turned out so very differently to what every one had predicted, apart from the bookies.

See this ALP dreaming (Latham by 8 seats) over at Road to Surfdom. Tim says that the dead hand of Howardism would be overthrown and Latham would renew and reinvigorate the body politic with a win by 8 seats.

I had reckoned that Howard would be returned to a historic 4th win with a reduced margin and without the control of the Senate. Others held to the cliffhanger position.

How so very wrong that cliffhanger judgement was.

I had never imagined that the LNP would be returned with a big swing to it (around 3.5%), an increased majority (probably greater than 7) and control of the Senate. It is a resounding victory. A huge win for the LNP. Devastation, tears and recriminations for the ALP (especially from Tasmania).

The election expresses a major historical shift. The centre of electoral politics has collapsed completely and then polarized into conservative and progressive. Social conservatism is in the ascendancy in a now deeply divided nation. Chris at Back Pages sees himself as an exile on main street.

The Greens won less than expected: 8 per cent of the lower house vote across the nation. They failed to gain any lower house seats which was expected, but they did not do as well as expected in the Senate. It is unclear how many Senate seats they will get in addition to the won by Christine Milne in Tasmania.(Or will it also be one each in NSW, Queensland, WA and SA? Will they become the new political force?)

The Howard Government only needs one extra vote to pass its legislation in the Senate. That will come from the Judaized Christian conservative Family First, after it gained a Senate Seat in Victoria. The 4 Democrats in the Senate are irrelevant in terms of balance of power. They are now on life support for the next 3 years, when they quietly fade to black.

So why Family First and not the Greens as expected in the Senate?

Suprise suprise. The ALP preferenced Family First ahead of the Greens in Victoria (in order to prop up their social conservative Senator Jacinta Collins?) The Greens have only half a quota in Victoria. If they had gained the Labor preferences from the .6 surplus (after the ALP failed to gain a third Senate seat), then the Greens would have gained the Senate seat in Victoria. So a socially conservative ALP (remember the DLP mentality?) helped put Family First into the Senate, thereby giving Howard the control of the Senate. The ALP preferred Family First to win the seat than the Greens.

So it is not simply the case that the Labor Party didn't make a convincing enough case to bring people around to the need for progressive change. Why do people keep on seeing the ALP as socially progressive? That is only one strand within the party. Why is the dead hand within the ALP ( its anti-progressive, pro-life, Catholic strand) ignored.

And the upshot of a Senate without a balance of power? Telstra will be sold, industrial relations reform will go through, as will cross media ownership and disability pension reform. After June 2005 a massive agenda of social change will take place during the next three years. That is the significance of this election.

So the ALP has shot itself in the foot. It's strategy should have been to block Howard gaining control of the Senate, not help to give him control. Their party machine is concerned with short-term tactics at the expense of long-term strategy.

Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at October 10, 2004 01:30 AM

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From California here.
We are just as surprised at Howard's big win.
Your writing seems very informed and we will mark your site for a return.
The polarization of the voters is happening here, too.
We are about a fifty-fifty split between Bush and Kerry.
Question to you:
you write - the results of the federal election have certainly turned out so very differently to what every one had predicted
Who is everyone?

Posted by: Gary at October 10, 2004 08:00 AM

'everyone' is the media, commentators and most pollsters.

'Everyone' is misleading. I was very tired last night from my tour of duty on the polling booths.

The consensus was that Howard's LNP would lose some seats and that Latham's ALP would gain some seats. The ALP would not gain enough seats to win power. So Howard had done enough with his fear and bait tactics to hang onto power. Hence the 'its too close' to call scenario.

I have to say that this consensus was not accepted by the bookies and the odd political scientist. The bookies consistently gave it to Howard, especially in the last week.

John Howard thought that he would win in the last week and most senior ALP strategists concurred with that judgement. They reckoned they had not done enough to claw back Howard's cushion of 12 seats. But they did not expect to go backwards, which is what actually happened.

The ALP feared the worst about a year ago when Simon Crean was leader, Kim Beazley challenged and Mark Latham eventually got the leadership. They feared a wipe out of 20-30 seats. Hence the change in leadership to limit the destruction.

Most of the commentators are going to say that Howard won because of the forest wedge tactic in the last days of the campaign and the interest rate scare that the ran throughout the campaign.

It goes far deeper than that: it is a subterranean shift towards social conservatism within the body politic. This makes families the bedrock of politics.

Posted by: Gary Sauer-Thompson at October 10, 2004 08:53 AM

Well, that says it.
Consider me a contact in the U.S. if you are in need of any info, and I hope I can consider you a contact, likewise.

Posted by: Gary at October 10, 2004 09:00 AM

Gary, I think you hit it right on the head - the ALP (and the Dumbercats) shot not only themselves but all progressives in the foot by trying to block the advance of the Greens in the Senate. Tired political fixers and hacks have now put the entire country to ransom of the religious right. Progressive Labor? We wished.

Posted by: Mark White at October 10, 2004 10:06 PM

I missed the Australian Democrats who had promised to keep the bastards honest.

The Democrats leader Andrew Bartlett said today that he was very disappointed with the result, which would prevent the Senate from fulfilling its traditional role of checking and balancing.

"The fact the Government can now prevent any inquiry being set up and prevent any amendment from being passed, it does look like it will make the Senate's job a lot more difficult."

But, in the end, Bartlett preferenced Family First before the Greens.

When does he take full responsibility for undermining the Senate's role that he said he was protecting?

Posted by: Gary Sauer-Thompson at October 11, 2004 04:45 AM

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