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Some uncomfortable facts

By Syd Hickman - posted Thursday, 7 July 2016

The post election blather has been almost as bad as the campaigning.

There are a few things I have not seen mentioned that deserve to be noticed. Tony Abbott had a nine per cent swing against him on the primary vote in his own seat, with the ALP and The Greens also losing votes. That makes him one of the most unpopular Liberal candidates in NSW if you take primary swings as an indicator. And that's in a safe, very conservative seat that he has held for a long time. Turnbull had a 2% swing against him on primaries. Anyone who claims Abbott has something to offer in future should explain that result.

Then there is the question of the missing voters. According to the AEC website (I am using some rounded numbers for simplicity and because some of these figures are not final) there are 16 447 262 people eligible to be enrolled to vote in Australia. However there are only 15 676 695 enrolled, leaving 978 933 missing. Formal votes cast in this election will total over 11 million, with more than 580 000 informal. Counting continues but that leaves millions of voters who are enrolled but did not vote.


The ALP achieved a primary vote of around 4 million, or roughly 34% of the formal votes cast. But of the people eligible to enrol and vote it is probably less than 25%. The Coalition was not a lot better.

Clearly the idea that we have compulsory voting is now a joke. For a start it has never been compulsory to vote; it is simply compulsory that you turn up at a polling booth and get your name crossed off. But now millions of Australians, given the options they are presented with, would rather risk a $20 fine than do even that.

The Liberals left themselves open to scare campaigns from the ALP and are horrified that with Mediscare the ALP has equalled children overboard and all the other appalling lies that conservatives have told over the years. So we now have two major parties prepared to spin any yarn for votes, no matter how destructive to the national debate. Both side started with policy ideas but they were so puerile they both gave up on that and reverted to the deep cynicism that political operatives on both side equate with genius.

Neither side can present solid policy platforms to the voters because John Howard used the mining boom to raise voter expectation of government largesse to a level that can't be maintained, let alone improved on, now that the boom is over. Then the ALP governments did nothing but increase spending using the GFC as an excuse. The truth is that spending has to be cut and revenue increased, with most of the losses being felt by the wealthier half of the population because they were the big beneficiaries of Howard's idiotic largesse. Neither side wants to deliver that message so scare campaigns are all that's left.

Turnbull's 'agile and innovative' story was pathetic, most obviously in Tasmania, Queensland and parts of western Sydney. It could have been a nice positive bit of icing on the cake but it turned out there was no cake. The claim that a small tax cut to small business, plus defence contracts, was a plan for growth and jobs had to be a joke. Nobody even noticed that the new submarine contact for the design phase (meaning a period when nothing happens) was extended during the campaign from three to six years.

Meanwhile the ALP put union officials first while promising voters the world, safe in the knowledge they would not have to pay for it because victory was out of the question. In fact, the worst result for Shorten would be a narrow victory where he was held to all his promises. He would be the Boris Johnson of Australia.


Pauline Hanson bounced back, completely missed by the pollsters, at least in part because the name 'One Nation' does represent a concept that is fundamental to the Australian big picture. Unfortunately the ALP left this all behind years ago and the Coalition explicitly repudiates it.

The Liberal Party could change its name to Two Nations. It wants half the population to enjoy publicly subsidised private health insurance, send their kids to publicly subsidised private schools, have lots of means of tax minimisation, particularly negative gearing of the houses they rent to the other half of the people. Those non-wealthy suckers have to make do with run down public schools and hospitals, have their jobs, wages and conditions continually cut back 'for the good of the economy' and live with the results of our absurdly high immigration program. The Howard-era political advisors Turnbull relied on seem to have assumed that because people ignored all this during a boom they would continue to ignore it when times got tough.

In fact, the voters who hoped Turnbull was different quickly realized he was a strong two-nation advocate. This was demonstrated early on when he floated the idea of handing all public funding of State schools back to the States while continuing to fund private schools. And then he lauded the man who had bought, and negatively geared, a house for his small child. I was amazed at how many liberals could not see how deeply insulting this was to people struggling to pay their own mortgage and other bills. It was clear proof of Labor's claim that Turnbull was out of touch. It was not that people minded the guy having the money to buy the house. It was Turnbull talking about it as if that was the sensible thing to do and anyone with any brains would do likewise.

For a lot of low-income conservatives, who would not vote ALP, the clarity of the Liberal two-nation plan for them was enough to drive them to extremes. The deluded belief of the mad religious right that it was all based on moral issues is complete nonsense.

It is hard to see either major party demonstrating any desire to represent the people of Australia or show real leadership. Both want to trick voters into giving them a shot at looking after their mates and imposing out-dated ideas. There were fifty parties competing in this election. Most of the new ones represented single issues or single egos. Maybe it's time for a new party with a comprehensive, realistic set of policies. 'The Mob' as we are called in Canberra, may be just about ready to respond.

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About the Author

Syd Hickman has worked as a school teacher, soldier, Commonwealth and State public servant, on the staff of a Premier, as chief of Staff to a Federal Minister and leader of the Opposition, and has survived for more than a decade in the small business world.

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