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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

political differences « Previous | |Next »
March 20, 2006

The conventional media interpretation of the weekend's state elections in Tasmania and South Australia is that they cement a pattern of unprecedented stability in the Australian political landscape.


In The Sydney Morning Herald Steve Burrell says:

No federal, state or territory government elected in the last eight years has been voted out of office since, and the states have been universally Labor since the party regained power in South Australia in 2002.In Tasmania, Labor has again held majority government, despite a swing against it, and the thumping victory handed by South Australian voters to Mike Rann reaffirms strongly this trend of incumbent dominance.

Well yes. It is true that the ALP at a state level is prudent with budgets, socially conservative, business-friendly, quick to play the law and order card, and strong on media management---Mike Rann, Bob Carr, Peter Beattie and Steve Bracks all embody the three Ps: pragmatic, populist and "presidential". They also are opposed by weak and factionally divided Liberal oppositions. And many people who voted Coalition federally have shown they're happy with Labor at state level to deliver public services such as health, education and public transport.

That is not the full story.

What is missed by this interpretation is the differences. For instance, the voters in SA did put strong checks and balances on the Rann Government through giving No Pokies Nick Xenophon over 20% of the primary vote for the Legislative Council. It is the Independents not the Democrats who are the third force in SA politics--the ones who are trusted by citizens to keep the bastards in the House of Assembly honest. Part of keeping the bastards honest is to ensure that Rann does not abolish the Legislative Council to ensure his executive dominance.

Both Liberal and Labor parties have to now adjust to a situation of their own supporters abandoning them to support Nick Xenophon as an Independent. The nastier their attitude to Xenophon and the Legislative Council the greater the support for Independents who do care about what happens to vulnerable South Australian citizens.

John Warhurst, writing in the Canberra Times, offers a variation on the conventional interpretation. He says that:

While these elections are not inherently uninteresting, everything is stacked against them carrying any national interest. None of the usual interest factors apply. On Sunday, when it is expected that both Labor governments will be returned, neither John Howard nor Kim Beazley is likely to have much to say apart from courtesies and platitudes....But even an improved Labor performance in either state could hardly be interpreted as having federal implications. Over the term of the Howard Government, even occasions when state Labor has blitzed the Coalition haven't translated into federal success.

The SA state election has a national warning. Beware the temptation to clip the wings of the Senate.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:34 AM | | Comments (2)


The Westminster system and centralised media do massively favour the incumbent. I am for fixed term election and term limiting of the PM/Premier. Hopefully that will help increase the churn rate. There is a point when stasis directly effects the health of a democratic system.

Even with the warning from voters that they do want a heck and balance against the Rann government, there needs to be devices to increase the churn rate.

SA does have fixed terms elections.

That is why it was held during the Adelaide Arts Festival and Womadelaide.

Murdoch's tabloid, The Advertiser, did establish opposition to the Rann Government early on in the campaign, but there was a massive advertising campaign on free-to-air television by the Rann Government.

The South Australian Liberal Party is a lost cause. This state election was an especially good one for independents, with Nick Xenophon's great vote in the upper house and three independents apparently returned in the House of Assembly.