Saturday, August 21, 2010

Australia's election, or how Julia Gillard led Labor to defeat

Getting in the partying mood at Labor's election HQ

Being the odd duck that I am, I stayed up until 6:20 am this morning to watch the results roll in for the Australian election. And while I missed some of the more exciting moments, including both PM Julia Gillard's defiant speech and Tony Abbott's smug rant, I did see the night progress and the storyline build - and even from early on, it was clear that tonight would not be the Labor Party's best.

The night ended up where it began - no one really has a clue. In their first "hung" Parliament since 1940, the Australians gave the Liberal/National Coalition, led by Tony Abbott 73 seats, up from 59, while the governing Labor Party, lead by Julia Gillard, sits on 72, down from 88. The Greens won 1 seat (that's a trend, eh? First Britain, now Ozzie, is Canada next?) and Independents make up 4. 3 of those independents are former National Party members (conservatives, essentially), and one is a former Green. If all three Nat independents vote with Tony Abbott, then he has his majority. But, I suspect it will not be that easy. The ''Gang of Five" hold all the cards, now.

What has led to this apparent change in government is the fact that in the states of Queensland and New South Wales, Labor's vote pretty much collapsed. In Queensland, the home state of deposed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (I'll get to that in a moment), Labor had a 9.4-point swing against it - massive, massive losses, dropping from 43% in 2007, to 33% now. In New South Wales, the state which has Sydney in it, a 7-point swing dropped Labour from a comfortable 45% to 37%, while the Coalition jumped up to 45%.

The fact that this was occurring was obvious even early in the night, with some key seats turning Liberal blue (makes you think eh), including the riding of Longman, which elected Australia's youngest MP, LNP candidate Wyatt Roy, in Queensland.

And while the fight isn't over - there are still postal votes to count - it does appear that, for all intents and purposes, Labor has lost this election. But that doesn't mean Gillard will give up trying to form a government, and as with Britain and Canada, the sitting Prime Minister exercises a prerogative to try and form a government before the Opposition. However, I have some doubts about Australians taking a liking to the idea.

Gillard brought this upon herself, in the end. After ousting Rudd in a bloodless coup, because people were worried he would lead them to defeat, Gillard has led Labor straight into the doldrums. One of the biggest concerns of Australians this election was leadership - and Gillard's and Labor's apparent opportunism has not served them well. Abbott, who wasn't in the best of situations only a few months ago, now has the chance to send Labor back into Opposition after only 3 years in power.

There are other issues that influenced the vote - the mining tax helped the Coalition win some votes in Queensland and Western Australia; the flip-flop on climate change by Labor led the Greens to their first seat in a Labour stronghold; and though it wasn't a "Top 5" issue, the boat people doubtless played a part in helping Abbott secure somewhat of a victory. But Gillard's opportunistic coup helped bring her to defeat.

That goes to say something about sticking with leaders, eh? No matter what polls say, sometimes staying with what you've got can help more than changing it at the next possible chance. Hopefully, Labor, who managed to break the Coalition's hold on power from 1998 to 2007, will learn back in Opposition.


  1. The thing is Labor won that election in the two party preferred vote 50.7% voted Labor over Liberal/National. That means that people would rather have Labor vs. the Liberal/National.

  2. Yet, popular vote, as you well know, doesn't matter - seats do.

  3. yes true, but I believe Labor has won that election because there party has won more votes than Liberal/National in the two party preferred vote. I think that was the result of the election. On who was most wanted to be elected, but also I believe everyone has the right to form a government seat wise.

  4. You have to remember that their system is constituency based, not country-wide. Labour may ultimately rack up more votes, but they can do so in constituencies that they win big in, eg. their version of Crowfoot or Mont Royal. Those votes win the constituency, but sit there otherwise; if they were moved to another seat where they needed the votes, that's different.

    However, like FPTP, they simply sit in that constit. They could end up winning the popular vote but not have enough votes to win in enough seats.

  5. True but mathematically there is no perfect democracy. I agree with your idea and election wise (but so far it is too close to call in Australia) because of some not yet given seats. I have a moral belief that to win an election in a instant runoff election is to have a party win more support than it's competitor. Gillard won that by having 50.7% Australia picked Labor over the Liberal/national. That is why morally I believe Labor won, but as the results show that may not be the case, because again mathematically there is no perfect democracy. That does not mean we should not try to make it close.