Now that Trump has won the US presidential election, all the political wannabes in Australia, from the Prime Minister down, are claiming that his victory in some way justifies their existence.
You wouldn’t have expected anything better from the likes of Pauline Hanson and her climate-denying nutcase colleagues. But you would expect better of Malcolm Turnbull who has taken Trump’s victory as as an opportunity to attack the “elite media” (Trump’s term) and, in particular, the ABC.
According to Malcolm Turnbull “The ABC and “elite media” are to blame for distracting people from the government’s focus on economic growth”
When questioned about four successive polls showing the Coalition trailing Labor and when he would apply the same rule to himself as he applied to Tony Abbott, his reply was that we can’t believe Australian polls because the US polls didn’t predicted a Trump win.
Now this is nonsense that is not befitting a man of Turnbull’s intellect.
There are massive dissimilarities between Australia and the US that make this bandwagoning simply ridiculous.
The first is the voting system. In Australia, voting is compulsory.
This means that in a general election, it becomes clear who the vast majority of the Australian electorate supports and indeed, who they have supported and what the trends are likely to be.
The figures are roughly.
- Coalition 42%
- Labor 35%
- GIMPs 25%
There are no “forgotten people” lurking in the midwest or in deepest darkest Queensland who are likely to come out and bite any of the three major political blocs on the bum.
Whereas, in the US, voting is not compulsory and roughly 50% of the population doesn’t vote for a range of reasons. It only requires a small shift in the support for either of the two major parties or a slight mobilisation of the apathetic to produce a result like the one they got.
So we are highly unlikely to have a populist demagogue like Trump emerging in Australia, no matter how fervently Pauline Hanson may believe that Armageddon is nigh and that she and her fellow One Nation Senators will be the Four Horsemen.
The other very important difference between Australia and the US is that, while manufacturing is declining in Australia, the decline has been nothing near as severe and as devastating as that in the US where whole communities and industries have effectively been wiped out.
Industrial and urban decay in the US Midwest
If this hypothesis is correct, there is simply not a cohort of deeply dissatisfied and disenfranchised voters in Australia who can produce results like that in the US.
The surprisingly good showing of the Shooters Fishers and Farmers’ party in the Orange by-election is an indication resilience of the Australian political system and the way in which it is able to respond to significant local dissatisfaction.
Immediate post-election analysis indicates that council amalgamations and the ban on Greyhound racing may have led to the National party losing the seat for the first time since 1947.
The other massive difference in our political systems is the proliferation of minor parties (GIMPs) and their representation in the Senate.
Like it or not, the way the Australian Senate is elected means that GIMPs have a good chance of being elected and also exercising an influence disproportionate to their numbers.
Ironically, the very fact that One Nation has four senators is the very reason why they will never be in a position to have anything more than nuisance value. Having them in the Senate, with the responsibility of taking policy positions, means that the Australian electorate never give them more than about 4% of the popular vote. Representation of GIMPs is a sort of political pressure valve.
The US appears to lack this and will now have two spend four years with a highly unpredictable and erratic President endeavouring to steer the ship of state.