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CHECK the voting numbers in this article, amazing …

NOW we will be watching to see the reward Clive receives.


AND when did the erosion of the Australian political system begin … with the perpetual campaigning?



After his federal election victory, the hard part begins for Morrison



It was John Howard who brought perpetual campaigning to Australian politics: the regime where a government and prime minister spend their entire terms campaigning, rather than just leaving it to the actual election campaign, or a few key annual events like the budget.

It changed the political landscape and, of course, raised the question of when exactly anybody had the time to, you know, govern?

Along with a disdain for actually coming to, or living in, the seat of government (Canberra, even before the bubble) it has had all sorts of implications for our sense of what politics is about.

The decline in the apparent importance of the Parliament is one outcome, and the rise of government merely as a more effective platform from which to campaign is another. The need for politicians to perpetually look like Bob the Builder as a way of razzing up imagery in the news is a further result.

And it puts the role of the actual, formal election campaigning period in a slightly different place. Politicians go into the campaign having already said most of they are going to say about a million times before, forgetting that most of the population has, perhaps sensibly, not been listening.

The end of another chapter

Much has been said already about this year’s campaign, and about its outcome.

But first, it’s worth observing how formal election campaigns now seem to provide particular forms of punctuation for the national political discussion.

That is, the start of the formal campaign restarts the discussion for a lot of people who haven’t caught up.

The end of the campaign, and the result, whichever way it falls, seems to close the book on all that went before;  the victor is seen inevitably as a political genius.

One sense of one chapter closing and a different one opening is the almost mechanical moving on by the losers, with a lack of sentiment that can sometimes take your breath away, particularly given it is being done by people who are usually in a state of shock, denial and/or depression

The view in the Labor Caucus this week that Bill Shorten was engaging in factional manoeuvrings to thwart Anthony Albanese replacing him as leader was a particularly notable example. It cut short the usual reverence shown to fallen Labor leaders. Instead, it prompted notable and clear public and private warnings from across the factions that Mr Shorten risked losing all that goes with the status of former leaders if he persisted.

(The move by the existing senior figures in the parliamentary party to avoid the next leader being seen to be just another product of the left/right factional divide, by the way, is not an insignificant development).

Another sense of an election closing one door and opening another is how the result tends to encourage a certain reverential tone about the winner’s policies and leader.

The electorate has spoken, is the argument. And the electorate is always right. And if it has voted for one side or the other, the winners’ policies, by definition, must also be right.

The pull of minor parties

So what to make of an election where the mechanics of the result were driven by minor parties stripping primary votes from the opposition, rather than more people voting for the government or the opposition?

The Australian Electoral Commission tells us that the primary vote for the Coalition, in its various forms around the country, suffered either a fractional swing against it (0.63 per cent) or, at best, a blip towards it (+0.18 per cent).

Labor nationally faced a swing against it of 1.12 per cent. Around the country, it received 433,447 less first preferences than in 2016. The United Australia Party picked up 3.38 per cent of the national vote — 429,102 first preferences — and One Nation 383,558.

So should we all be thinking that this was an endorsement of Clive Palmer’s policies (go on, name one if you can), or Pauline Hanson’s?

Thanks to the two party preferred system, we look at who ended up in a position to form Government on the back of the preferences of these parties, and thus end up with the Coalition.

Which brings us back to polls. There has been considerable angst this week about how the polls got things so wrong this time around. But the focus on them tends to suggest that they alone set expectations for what will happen in an election.

It is certainly true that they play a disturbingly important part in day-to-day politics in Australia, particularly when it comes to the recent fashion for dispatching prime ministers between elections.

So the polls being so wrong about the election result leaves that uncomfortable question: are they ever right anymore? Have prime ministers who have fallen on the altar of opinion polls been seen off for the wrong reason?


Veteran Labor pollster John Utting spoke of this when he raised the question on 7.30 this week of whether “we’ve been living in a parallel universe, perhaps, with a toxic narrative”.

“If the true situation was Labor was ahead, [then] the Coalition was ahead, Labor ahead, Coalition ahead, and it was all a lot closer than it looked, we would probably still have Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister.”

“Given how critical it is — the thousands of hours of media coverage, the untold forests that are felled, all the energy that’s consumed in talking about issues from polling — it’s really important that the issues we’re talking about are the reality,” he said.

Polls aren’t everything

So, yes, polling can be important.

But was it the only thing that fed into the expectation that the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison government of the past six years had passed its use by date in 2019?

Well, no. It might have been its slender hold on office, it’s need to not just hold seats but win them to get a majority. It might have been yet another change of prime minister. It might have been the cabinet ministers heading for the door.

It might have been the bitter divisions which left it unable to talk in any detail, let alone form substantial policy, in crucial areas of policy. It might have been the huge swings against the Coalition in recent state elections which were said to show a great disillusion in the bush with the Nationals and with a dirty campaign in Victoria against a Government that had got stuff done.

The only reason it matters why there was an expectation that the Government might fall last Saturday is because it frames how we think about what it does next.

Many observers have noted it wasn’t a good government.

The only thing that should be on Scott Morrison’s agenda for the next three years is being a better one.

Laura Tingle is 7.30’s chief political correspondent.


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