If I was to have written about the last two weeks in Politics it would read as a repeat on any of my previous blogs on the SSM Postal Survey, the Constitution Issue, North Korea or the murky area of Asylum Seekers. I think however there is enough commentary on these issues already so I will instead focus on where we stand Electorally in the States and Federally as we are due for 6 elections in the next 18 months. As much as I’d like to talk in the coming paragraphs about the Economy will play a large role in the upcoming elections in these states that sadly is not where the focus is for a lot of media coverage in this Political climate. Now I think that is a pity, however a lot of the Economic conversations we have been having on both sides of the fence have been slogans and simplistic arguments that don’t account for the nuance that the Economy is.
An example of this was when we had the GST debate a few years ago. Those of the left side of Politics argued that GST is a regressive policy that impacts those who are less well off as by covering things like basic groceries it will be those with the tightest budget that end up being impacted most. This was considered by John Howard when he introduced the GST in 2000 (1) and he introduced income tax cuts and an increase in Family Benefits to offset the pain parents might feel at the shopping centres, this was similarly the likely approach that Malcolm Turnbull would have taken with any planned GST increase however the notion of the Liberal Party not being a taxing Government and the Labor Party ready to whack the Turnbull Government meant that this plan was quickly shelved. Now some pundits would say well why don’t we come up with more Economic Plans like this and my argument would be okay what do you say to the nervous backbencher who has to sell this plan to a seat they won by under 1 percent when they are being whacked by the other side of Politics.
Similarly the Liberal Party tend to attack those on Welfare as needing to get to work sooner as they can then start paying the Government more tax and it lowers the amount of welfare that Governments need to outlay on Welfare. This ignores a couple of points. Firstly that once on Welfare it becomes a lot more difficult on Welfare to then make the steps to get off Welfare, I.E how do you afford to service your car to get to that interview that is not reachable by public transport. Then you have a modified job market where work for dole might keep you in some form of work in the interim but try selling that as experience to a lot of potential employers and they will say it is negligible experience. Also and the biggest issue, people are finding work but in an environment where employers are cutting back budgets your four days of work might now be only 3, the full day of work might now be go home at lunch time instead and so you then have the equally worrying problem of underemployment. Indeed the Australian Bureau of Statistics as part of their Labour Force Survey (2) collect statistics on the underemployment numbers in Australia and there has been a definitive uptick in underemployment even as employment numbers have gradually improved post financial crisis. My comment on this would be that after the GFC in 2008 many employers moved to let go employees or if not that then lessened hours for their employees. This created a situation where the employers had a large amount of power over their workers and rightfully so at the time but I feel since that time that power balance has not returned to a more equilibrium state and the larger underemployment and the wages growth flatlining are at least in part a consequence of this. The Labor Party have taken these concerns on to run an effective attack on the Government pursuing policies that further inequality, an attack that many Socialist Parties across the world have been having success with. Now that’s all well and good but are we chasing some bad eggs and punishing the people who are making a dollar but doing it cleanly at the same time. Indeed I think (3) sums up the basic flaw that if you take away the aspirations of people to try and be more profitable and successful you limit productivity, people willing to try something new and that leads to reduced money for the Government to then put back into people’s services. It’s why the Scandinavian Countries have some of the more like Economic circumstances in that they embrace a full capitalist market of being as profitable in business as possible without government intervention however that extra money is then invested back into government services for those less off. That might sound nice in theory but again when I browse posts from people discussing these countries I still see many complaints about high taxes that people don’t want to embrace.
So with that interlude out of the way I will now briefly outline some predictions on the state of play of upcoming Election races in Chronological order of when an election will likely be held.
Queensland are due for an election by May next year however most pundits believe that Annastacia Palaszczuk will go to an early election late this year. This is due to what Labor believed at the time was a good move by reintroducing compulsory preferential voting (4) does not come into force until early next year. The wrinkle for the Labor Party was that One Nation did not appear to be the big force that they were then so the Labor Party were hoping that Greens voters just voting 1 would no longer exhaust and they’d pick up an extra vote. This is a more flawed proposition if it also means that One Nation votes are no longer exhausting and propping up Liberal votes. The current poll (5) has Labor up 51-49 which would probably see them stay in power however it assumes that One Nation Preferences split 50-50 and that’s a dangerous assumption in Queensland as Liberal party members have been less shy than their federal counterparts to embrace One Nation in order to hopefully pick up their preferences, I can see why in North Queensland particularly where Pauline Hanson is polling up to 30 percent in some seats. I also have to note that Labor Party last time reversed a 78 out of 89 seats won performance of the LNP to win 44 seats. My prediction at the moment is that the LNP are probably still not recognisable enough to win the election but that it will be close.
I wrote extensively about the state of play in South Australia a few blog posts ago so there is not much to add. Probably the most important change is the arrest of the Mount Gambier Liberal MP for multiple theft and fraud charges. This is a big deal as in an election where the Liberal Party need to win seats to take office this seat now is very much in play for an independent or Nick Xenophon party member to take and given the seat was held by an independent from 2002 to 2014 the LNP would be rightly worried about that seat. I also give some kudos to the Labor Party for timing some of their big policies to be enacted in this 12 month stretch before the election. Now it’s a blatant vote grab in many people’s eyes but a new Royal Adelaide Hospital, new Power Generators, a battery to help store renewable energy and a new High School to be built on the grounds of the old RAH will appeal to many as they head to the polls in March next year.
Tasmania and ACT are weird regions election wise as they use the Hare Clarke voting system rather than the one used by the rest of the country. I think the easiest way to describe the electoral system is that they elect members to their lower house like the rest of the country elect senators. So for instance you might have five members to elect in an area so you need 20 percent vote to elect a member. So if we just limited ourselves in this example to three parties and say it’s the Liberals and Labor get 40 percent each and the Greens say got 20 percent then an allocation in this fictitious case would be 2 Labor, 2 Liberals and 1 Green member for the particular elector, repeat that for four regions say and you have 8 ALP, 8 LNP and 4 Greens. Seeing that split you immediately see the issue for the LNP to win Government under this system. Because 9 times out of 10 the Labor Party will go to the 4 Greens in that case and say hey want to be in government and rule with us and the answer sure, sign us up! So for the Liberals to win in this scenario they really need to run up the score to get a 3 or even 4th seat at an expense of a Labor or Green or both member. Tasmania voted like this example in the 2010 election except with five members elected in five districts. In the 2014 election (6) Will Hodgman was able to win 15 of the 25 seats. Worryingly for Hodgman the second Labor leadership change to Rebecca White appears to have lifted the support to the party to a level where the Liberal Party may drop their 3rd seat in enough areas to put them at risk of going into a hung parliament which would then most likely see the Greens back a minority Labor Government (7). The one good thing for the Liberals in the poll is that they are still favoured to run the economy which suggests the large debt that the Labor and Green Party gave the state has not been forgotten however the Liberal Party are coming off a Federal Election where they were wiped out in the Lower House of any Liberal members and that would be of concern to the Liberal Party.
Australian Federal Election
In a lot of my recent posts I have focussed a large amount of my time on the failings on both sides Policy wise however in terms of Electoral Prospects I think one graphic shows just how bad a shape the Liberal Party are in.
(8) shows that the Liberal Party are on track to be in the same position as the Labor Party were after the 2013 election. The wipeout of the LNP in Tasmania, NT and ACT and a near wipeout possibly for SA is a huge concern for the LNP, that takes away a lot of resources to improve your stocks in those states and that’s even more the case if all of these areas remain or become Labor States. Some might also wonder why I have listed this election to occur in 2018 when three years would take us to a 2019 poll however the senate half term expires July 2019 and so to avoid a seperate Senate half Election the Government would need to go to the polls before then. The Government would then want to avoid a poll that clashes with either Victoria or New South Wales and so that’s why a mid 2018 date is most likely.
Victoria in 2014 started the trend of States swinging Parties after only 1 term when the Liberal Party under Denis Napthine lost office to Dan Andrews. This was following a period of government that had seen the turmoil of trying to govern with a 1 seat majority that vanished with Geoff Shaw becoming embroiled in a scandal and then refusing to continue supporting the speaker. This effectively could have caused a constitutional crisis as not being able to elect a speaker of the house is one of the tests of a governments hold on power. However after the election Dennis Napthine was replaced by Matthew Guy and with Labor seeming to be waging war with many union organisations that should arguably be favourable to the Labor movement and with money being paid not to go ahead with building West Link the Labor Party had floundered. Matthew Guy had also opened up a good line on a Liberal Government being strong on Law and Order which was another perceived weakness of the Labor Party with some gang activity and unfortunate terror incidents. In the face of 2PP votes of 54 and 53 percent it was looking like we might see another one term government however Matthew Guy has recently had a massive brain fart. (9) uncovers a meeting held between Matthew Guy and alleged mafia boss Tony Madafferi having a Lobster dinner together to discuss the Madafferi family continuing to help fund the Liberal Parties tilt to win office. This has been a huge to Matthew Guy and puts a huge credibility hole in his efforts to be tough on crime. (10) shows that the Labor Party are in a much better shape in marginal seats since the Red Lobster scandal and it shows that the Liberal Party now have a lot more to do before the election in November next year.
New South Wales
Rewind to the 2015 New South Wales and despite Tony Abbott being a drain on the Liberal vote nationally people still were confident in the power of Mike Baird and his popularity would easily see him re elected to Parliament from the near Queensland sized Election landslide that Barry O’Farrell won in 2011. While pundits were right about Mike Baird winning the 2015 Election, fast forward two years and Mike Baird is completely out of Parliament having resigned for family reasons but certainly having the gloss shined off him. I think a lot of what happened to Mike Baird shows a lot of the issues of modern day Politics and how difficult it is to govern in this environment. His big issues that he had to deal with were Fracking, Greyhounds and Midnight lockout laws. Fracking is a contentious issue that I’m not expert enough to discuss here, however I can comment that both the Liberal Party and Labor Party under Luke Foley were broadly supportive of Fracking and the Labor Party had previously seen it’s merits as an economic measure to bring jobs to rural areas where employment has flatlined however Labor then reversed their policy position as Opposition to the policy would go down well in the Country. The Greyhound issue is another topic that the Labor Party flipped their position on but my criticism isn’t mainly levelled at them here. After a powerful 4 Corners Episode (11) on the harms of the Greyhound Racing Mike Baird reacting by banning Greyhound Racing. Now while the outrage from the Shooters and Fishers Party and people involved in the Greyhound industry were expected and strong there was not much praise from green groups for closing the industry. This culminated in the Nationals losing the State seat of Orange to the aforementioned Shooters and Fishers Party and then led to Mike Baird reversing the ban. This of course cued outrage from Greens groups on why he reversed his decision to which I argue well where was this passion when the original decision was made! Mike Baird was in a lose lose position. The last policy decision was the Lockout Laws and again for a city that had previously been known for Kings Cross and Gang Warfare I would have thought laws that lessened violence on Sydney Streets on Saturday Nights would be respected, again it wasn’t and again Mike Baird got a hit in the polls for actually trying to take a Political Decision. It’s hard to make policy decisions from Opposition and I would comment that if you want Politicians to make tough decisions then we need to let them have clean air to make these decisions without whacking them with a stick at the next election and changing to a party that promises us nice things!!!! With that backdrop Gladys Berejiklian is now the Premier of New South Wales and (12) shows that the Liberals are probably still in an election winning position albeit a much smaller one than they probably had hoped.