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Saturday, February 24, 2024

How a Labor ‘win’ unfolded

How a Labor ‘win’ unfolded

Labor will form government in some form, but a potential missed opportunity to claim majority will be its own fault. But tonight, that loss won't matter.

Kishor Napier-Raman writes in Crikey

Labor is well on track to form government in some form, despite recording a primary vote of just 31%.

That means that while tonight was a bloodbath for the Coalition all over the country, it was hardly a definitive victory for the opposition. Western Australia delivered a tremendous success for the opposition that exceeded all expectations, but the rest of the country hasn’t swung definitively to Labor.

Labor could still fall just short of the 76 seats needed to form government in its own right, with pre-election predictions of a clear majority looking uncertain. But the reelection of the Morrison government is impossible — and for Labor, that’s all that will count.

“A win is a win is a win,” opposition education minister Tanya Plibersek said as the night unfolded.

The night kicked off with a sense of déjà vu, as the Liberals retained the key Northern Tasmania seats of Bass and Braddon. Early results also saw Liberal challenger Andrew Constance gaining momentum in Gilmore, a key Liberal target.

But Labor nightmares of a repeat of 2019 soon began to fade away. The key marginals in Reid and Robertson fell quickly. Bennelong still looks very close, and there was a hushed feeling of “no way we couldn’t, could we?” as results showed Peter Dutton running neck and neck in Dickson.

“He’s an arsehole,” Labor member Sharon said.

“A scumbag!”

Over in Victoria, as the teals surged, Labor won back Chisholm and Higgins — the latter not considered in play until the final weeks.

But it was WA, for so long a Liberal stronghold, that brought it home for Labor. So far, there’s been a stomping 9.9% swing out west, delivering the party Swan, Pearce and Hasluck — (with Tangney and Moore also looking close).

In the final weeks, Labor insiders tried to temper expectations in the state. Now, it looks like a stunning over-performance in McGowan land.

“Western Australia behaved completely differently to the rest of the country,” ABC election guru Antony Green said.

But a failure to reach a majority would be a situation entirely of Labor’s making. At present, Kristina Keneally is on track to lose the safe Labor seat of Fowler to independent Dai Le. Like the moderate Liberals in the party’s heartland, Labor is paying the price for taking its base for granted, parachuting in an outsider to one of the most diverse electorates in the country.

In inner Brisbane, the Greens could well snatch Griffith, formerly held by Kevin Rudd, off Terri Butler. Those two losses could impede the path to a majority.

But for an opposition satisfied to just about scrape into government, none of those losses will matter too much. The Liberal Party have been demolished, particularly in the capital cities, where their base has been ripped apart by the teals, and where the marginals have gone to Labor. Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s desperate strategy to win over the outer suburbs has gone nowhere.

The historically large crossbench will make the 47th Parliament a potentially strange place. So long as Anthony Albanese is the next prime minister, Labor will not care.

Kishor Napier-Raman is a federal politics reporter for Crikey, based in the Canberra press gallery. He writes news and analysis with a focus on foreign policy, legal affairs and government transparency. Previously, he was a general reporter in Crikey’s Sydney office, where he started in 2018 while completing an arts/law degree at the University of Sydney.

The loss will no doubt trigger much soul-searching, Marija Taflagawrites in The Conversation  and with Scott Morrison standing down as leader and the loss of so many moderates, it will herald a seismic realignment of power within the party.

‘We like our member, not his boss’: Liberals blame Morrison for inner-city carnage

Wentworth MP Dave Sharma did not concede defeat on Saturday night but acknowledged he was “significantly behind” and likely to become the third sitting Sydney Liberal MP to lose his seat to a Climate 200 backed independent in a “teal bloodbath” that ran through the city’s eastern suburbs and northern beaches.

Sharma in Wentworth, Jason Falinski in Mackellar and Trent Zimmerman in North Sydney all suffered significant declines in their primary votes – double-digits in some cases – likely enough to catapult the independents Allegra Spender, Sophie Scamps and Kylea Tink into federal parliament.

harma told the Herald there were clear lessons for the Liberal Party in the rout of moderate MPs in inner-city Sydney and Melbourne.

“We’ve lost sense of what it is to be a broad church and I think we need to rediscover that middle ground,” he said. “We’ve clearly not convinced voters in metropolitan seats that are high income that should be naturally Liberal to go with us again.

“There are some lessons for us in that on any number of issues – climate, integrity. We’re going to have to do a pretty dramatic post-mortem after this.”

Sharma said Spender had run a good campaign but at times voters had not looked beyond her “veneer”.

“I do worry a little bit about what it means for the two-party system in Australia. I’m concerned we’re heading down a Germany model where we’ll need traffic light coalitions to form government.”

Spender arrived at Bondi Bowling Club shortly before 9pm to the Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling and Aretha Franklin’s Respect. The former chief executive did not immediately claim victory, but told her hundreds of supporters the community had made its feelings clear.

he result – Sharma’s primary knocked below 40 per cent and a Spender primary of 38 per cent as of 11.30pm – was “an act of faith [and] an act of defiance”, Spender said.

“Defiance against the status quo, defiance against the cynicism. You’ve called time on the negativity. You’ve given up shouting at the television. We know what we stand for and we will stand up,” she said.

Her sister Bianca Spender told the Herald the result was a win for the Wentworth community.

“The movement of really getting people to care about the climate and feel that they can make a change, it has won. Whatever happens tonight, it will never be the same again,” she said.

“Everyone is activated and once you have an activated community you can do anything. I see huge potential and everyone in the family is beaming with pride at the energy, positivity and momentum it has created.”

Katharine Murphy writes in today’s Guardian

Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison have emptied the Liberals’ broad church

When Tony Abbott invented a carbon tax to win an election in 2013 – an act of political bastardry that poisoned our politics for a decade – I doubt he understood the climate wars he ignited would recast the electoral map and engineer a new progressive consensus in Australia.

But that’s what happened. The events of Saturday night represent the most profound electoral realignment in Australian politics since the Liberals splintered to form the Democrats in the 1970s, conservative Catholics migrated from Labor to the Liberal party, and the environmental movement became the Greens and claimed a chunk of Labor’s vote.

The Liberal party has been routed in its metropolitan heartland. Abbott and Scott Morrison have emptied the broad church.

The moderate wing has been decimated. Jewels in the Liberal crown – Kooyong, North Sydney, Goldstein, Higgins, Curtin, Mackellar – have fallen. The teal independents have put down roots in Liberal territory, and electoral ground, once ceded, is incredibly hard to reclaim.

The Labor campaign, led by Paul Erickson, managed to swim across the rip of this electoral realignment and the ALP will return to government, despite recording a primary vote of just over 30%.

Erickson and Anthony Albanese’s campaign creates a new rule book for Labor victories – not an inexorable sense of a social democratic moment, but an alignment of interests between progressives from the centre right and the centre left.

This was a very difficult line to walk and it required both strategy (as opposed to tactics, Morrison’s speciality) and luck.

Labor erected a signpost pointing to the end of the climate wars but tamped down progressive excitement in an attempt to neutralise an issue that had helped cost it government in 2019. With Labor present but recessed, the Greens rallied the progressive vote and surged in Queensland of all places – the state that destroyed Labor’s hopes of forming government three years ago.

Brisbane turned out for climate action, the Hunter stuck with Labor, and the chief evangelist of the gas-fired recovery, the resources minister, Keith Pitt, suffered a negative swing of 4% in fossil fuel heartland in regional Queensland.

On Saturday night, the fake fight between the cities and the regions was exposed as the unconscionable hyperpartisan con it always was.

Labor, as of midnight, was on track for majority government, with an expanded crossbench that will enter parliament with a clear mandate for climate action and important measures to safeguard democracy, like a federal integrity commission.

It’s not just the lower house. The Senate will likely lean progressive as well.

Albanese made his intentions clear. As he claimed victory in Albo country on Saturday night, he told the true believers the fourth Labor government since the second world war would not be letting the grass grow under its feet. “I am here not to occupy the space, but to make a positive difference each and every day,” he said.

But this transition to government will be difficult with rising inflation, rising interest rates and geopolitical instability. This election campaign also demonstrated implacable institutional forces remain reflexively hostile to progressive governments in this country. These forces can’t ultimately hold back the tide, but they can make life very uncomfortable.

Labor will likely govern with a one-seat majority but Albanese could have to navigate his second minority government.

It is unclear whether or not the Liberal party will be smart enough to learn the lessons of the epochal rout on Saturday night.

Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt
Australian Greens hail ‘best result ever’ with dramatic gains in lower house and Senate
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With Morrison stepping down as leader and Josh Frydenberg one of the victims of the former prime minister’s abject failure to be the serious person serious times required, Peter Dutton is likely the next leader of the Liberal party.

I suspect a newly sworn-in Albanese would have wanted to see Frydenberg across the dispatch box in the hope that a moderate, next-generation Liberal leader might be a partner in finally ending the climate wars and establishing a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous voice to parliament.

If Dutton rises to the Liberal leadership, will he take the opportunity to rebuild the Liberal party’s broad church or will he take the party further down the Trumpian path that Abbott pursued the last time Labor was in government?

Either eventuality seems possible.

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