While Bill Shorten has been standing up and announcing triumphantly “Labor is back”, in fact, it’s not quite that simple. Certainly, Labor is now competitive in a way that they were not against Tony Abbott in 2013. But it is only competitive because of the flow second preference votes.
But Shorten has not managed to arrest the decades long decline in the ALP’s primary vote.
With the ALP’s primary vote now stubbornly in the mid 30s, it would appear highly unlikely it will ever gain power without relying on second preferences mainly but not exclusively, from the Greens.
Malcolm Turnbull has been claiming that he will be able to form a majority government. This is appearing less than likely and a minority government with the support of one and possibly two of the cross benchers in the lower house is more likely.
But like Shorten, Turnbull has not been able to arrest the decline in the Coalition vote. It’s not as bad as the decline in the ALP vote but it scarcely a cause for rejoicing.
This graph will be of great concern to the thoughtful strategists on both sides of politics.
It shows that majority of Australian voters want neither major party: 58% voted against the Coalition and 65% voted against the Labor Party. And these numbers are likely to get worse for the two major parties if current support for “Other” parties continues to increase.
The reality at present is that while neither of the major parties has a majority on first party preferences, the Coalition will probably be able to scrape a majority vote on preferences and cross bench support. But this is an accident of history given that the cross bench contains Bob Katter and the Liberal-leaning Nick Xenophon Team.
If present trends continue, the lower house will see increasing numbers of Greens whose preferences and cross bench support will go to Labor.
NXT is essentially a South Australian phenomenon and probably does not have the national reach of the Greens. It also lacks the party structure and discipline of the Greens so it will be interesting to see how well it survives.
Clive Palmer’s PUP was a marvellous illustration of the way that elected representatives of pop-up parties begin to respond in the rarefied atmosphere of Canberra.
PUP: Only one survivor
They very quickly forget why they were elected. Normally it’s because the voters didn’t like the other mob very much or their political sponsor spent multi-millions of dollars getting them elected.
But they soon begin to believe that it’s because they have particular access to the wellsprings of political wisdom and popularity. Day, Madigan, Lazarus and to a lesser extent Lambie, fell foul of this particular disease.
We can probably expect to see political tensions developing in the neophyte politicians of NXT in the coming months. But, I’d be putting my money on One Nation erupting in an explosion of bile and vituperation within weeks.
Does Pauline Hanson have the political skills to hold One Nation together?
Our new parliament may not be pretty but it’s going to be fun.