Three more years

Well, there’s not much joy in the election results, with the outcome looking a bit worse than the status quo ante. That means another three years of a government that didn’t even deserve a second term, let alone a fourth. Latham ran a pretty good campaign, but couldn’t beat the interest rate scare, and should have bitten the bullet on forest policy much earlier. In addition, the problems of state Labor governments didn’t help.

As for the Liberals, they’ll have an interesting time of it, I think. They’ve made expensive promises, which will be hard to keep and costly to repudiate. And their credibility is now completely tied to low interest rates, something over which they have no real control. As I said in my chapter in The Howard Years

In 1964, Donald Horne described Australia as ‘a lucky country, run by second-rate people who share its luck’. This epigram could be applied, with equal or greater justice, to the Howard government and its term in office, particularly as regards economic policy. Sooner or later, however, this kind of luck will run out.

It hasn’t run out yet, though.

58 thoughts on “Three more years

  1. the triumphn of cynicism, scare-mongering and outright bribery over the idealism and adventure of the uncharted. this is the election that split australia’s spirit asunder. a sad, sad day …

  2. Too true, John and Jason. I just posted this at Backpages.

    “The times are good. Inflation is low. Unemployment is the lowest it has been for years. Interest rates are low. The stock market is booming. The value of people’s main asset, their house, is high.

    Its little wonder they were in no mood to throw out the government. But these times are good because we have put it all on the national credit card. Household debt is at an all time high. No wonder people were scared stiff by the mention of higher interest rates. All those investment properties, Macmansions, home theatre systems were paid for by borrowing cheap money. If the money becomes expensive, a lot of people are going to be ruined.

    But as with all borrowing splurges, the day of reckoning will come and whoever is in government when it does come is going to feel the wrath of a vengeful people.”

  3. Husic in Greenway is farked. Teach them to preselect YAT (yet another timeserver)in a “safe” seat.

    Why the f*** didn’t they run a mover and shaker in farking Greenway instead of commiting suicide??????????????????????

    That is to say you don’t hafta be a weatherman to see which way the wind blows.

    Lemme tell you folks THIS FEELS WORSE THAN ’63, “66 and ’69. Farking combined!!!!!!!

  4. I would have said “business as usual” if it wasn’t for the frigging Senate results…

    To lose the election is one thing. To almost hand over the keys to the senate is unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable. Latham’s head should roll for this.

  5. There’s nothing Latham coulda done. Howard stood up and lied through his teeth to his own people so often, he started to resemble Dick Cheney a little. It’s not Latham’s fault they believed the rodent; is it really a good idea, politically speaking, to scream “bullshit!” at one’s opponents?

    The idea of the tories in control of the Senate scares me too, though. Patriot Act equivalents, anti-marriage statutes, and stuff we can’t even imagine could be just around the corner; good economic management, OTOH, won’t be any more likely if the Coalition controls both Houses.

  6. Hmm I’ll second that the senate is the real loss, especially if the FFP are to hold the balance of power.

  7. The Senate is a fucking tragedy.

    Fucking Fucking idiots.

    Just you watch, you idiots who’ve put him in. Telstra, interest rates, industrial relations – the next three years will be a fucking disaster.

  8. OK amigos – what’s goin’ on. At my booth in a country W.A. town all the young kids, first time voters, went for the Christian Democratic Party. There was no Family First party in W.A. The Greens were getting all their rise in votes from ex Democrats. The mood was spooky, superstitious, argumentative, and angry.

    The only positive is the growing awareness of our democratic traditions.

    Minchin just said that we shouldn’t take the Family First seat in the Senate for granted as a Liberal Party clone – it’ll depend greatly upon his or her character – also the Libs have the option of a rogue Democrat vote. Either way I don’t think the Libs will go overboard with their social agenda although they’ll try and sell Telstra (but more likely they’ll end up selling off parts of it). Getting the sale of Telstra through the Senate has more to do with testosterone than policy.

    I wouldn’t wish the next three years on anybody.

    But you know the real reason that people voted for Howard is because he’s got luck and unconcsiously we all agree with the Chinese in appreciating the value of a lucky leader, shh! don’t tell Pauline.

  9. Let’s not for a minute lose sight of the fact that the Liberals have NOT won this election FAIRLY by any stretch of the imagination.

    I doubt if more than 20% of those who voted for the Coalition parties would have understood the basic facts behind any of the contentious issues, and if they had, the outcome would have been very different. All major dailies, except The Canberra Times(opposed) and the SMH(neutral), endorsed John Howard, with misleading dishonest editorials. For more information, see the posting on Margo Kingston’s web site:

    If we don’t think it is possible to do anything about this perversion of democracy we have just witnessed, then the value of any political discourse can be no more than academic.

    I actually believe that it is and always was possible to do something, even with the seemingly overwhelming power of the Media magnates.

    If anyone’s interested, here’s my thoughts about housing values

    Whilst Howard clearly was able to use housing market values, and interest rates to his advantage, I don’t believe it to be a completely inteactable political problem.

    Can I also again draw your attention to another greatly neglected issue in this campaign, namely, Telstra, where none of Anderson, Anthony, Causley or Coonan accepted Lindsay Tanner’s repeated challenges to debate the issue:

  10. Common on. Its a positive day. Lie, cheat, invade. The Australian public will forgive you. Now we can get ready to invade Iran.

  11. It looks like we have become One Nation under the Assemblies of God.

    Where’s my brown shirt and my rose coloured glasses?

    What have we done?

  12. Slave wages for all and military Conscription probably won’t be far behind the Telstra sale with these self proclaimed great economic managers. After all, their ability to create full-time jobs anywhere apart from their artificially created housing price bubble is pathetic.

  13. The Liberals will sell off Telstra and that will rid them of any money problems. Brilliant! Truly Brilliant!

  14. Three questions come to meind:-

    – Whereas crikey had an opinion without letting its judgment be clouded, to me it looks as if a lot of people around here – JQ included – have let wishful thinking cloud their judgment, at least in this area. How then are seekers after truth to weigh up the offerings round here, assess them for information and interpret them? The post mortems may well be as clouded themselves.

    – In the same vein, how long until certain sorts of people start implying or even outright asserting that the Australian people got it wrong? So far I have mostly seen a creditable respect for the Australian people, but given the nature of the political animal I expect a Whitlam style reaction sooner or later, a claim that they wuz robbed.

    – And in the same generous political spirit, I expect the ALP knives to come out, just as soon as being first to put the boot in no longer seems tactically unwise. LAtham might do a night of the long knives, or he might be quietly dropped in the ALP’s own Bosphorus by their own equivalent of the Topkapi eunuchs. What are the odds on either outcome and how long it would take? That’s on the assumption that Latham’s health problems truly were minor and temporary.

    Cheer up, things could be worse. Latham could have got in. By any direct measure and by any reasonable system of estimation, he would have been a disaster for both the ALP and the country, in the form of a bet we couldn’t afford to lose. The public’s judgment was not that he had not yet failed to prove himself, but that he had and been found wanting. With this I heartily concur, although claiming no especial merit for the coalition beyond being a lesser evil

    Of course, that begs the question that, for someone like me of a conservative temperament seeking solutions without scrapping what we already have, the coalition is structurally predisposed to fare better under such criteria. I am not in denial about the problems, though I reject social democrat proposals as being cures worse than the disease.

  15. John Quiggin has scored the trifecta:

    1. He expressed great confidence in a great Labor victory

    2. He claimed that betting odds quoted before the election didn’t fully reflect inside information, when they were in fact extremely good at predicting the actual election outcome.

    3. He claimed the “death of economic rationalism” (or “neo-liberalism”) in Liberal Party policy – and yet the very first reforms that both Senators Minchin and Coonan mentioned tonight when the Senate results started to come in was the sale of Telstra and industrial relations reform.

    Care to make any other brilliant predictions, Professor?

  16. what could be better than latham winning with greens running senate??
    Libs with FFP doing deals!
    Can hardly wait. Man this is what class warfare is all about! we gunna burn ya christian ass down!
    Im so excited by this result. Ive been playing RATM all damn night long. Just waiting for Howrads genuis last years move. Man I could not wished for anything better. All we need now is for that idiot Bush to win…
    This election has turned up all that is great about Australia: John Howard.

    Now Im looking for the ghost of Tom Joad.

  17. What a load of codswallop! I have copped it every which way for being a conservative voter.

    This is a victory for the “true believers”. Not the pathetic moaning I have heard from Every left wing Labor supporting blogger.

    Well, eat this. The vote is in and the PEOPLE have spoken loud and clear. Howard’s way is better than the Latham way.

    However, I expect the usual diatribe about how this election was stolen, how negative politics won out against positve politics. The fact that Latham tried his “hate” out against the private school system, how he torched the blue collar forresters in Tassie for a few Sydney votes means nothing, I bet.

    Well, Prof. Have a good lie down and cry.

    Well may we say God save the Queen, because nothing, nothing will save Mark Latham!

  18. wretchard at Belmont Club has an excellent analysis of Howard’s re-election.
    To those who can’t accept the umpire’s decision and embrace Howards brillance and celebrate his political strategic genius, all I can say is take a Bex and have a good lie down…………..on Pitt St.

  19. The coalition may end up controlling the Senate. Mourn the passing of the Democrats.

    All that contentious legislation may get through now.

    Time to batten down the hatches!

  20. The HoR turned out as I expected it to run. People are not going to vote against a guy who they believe doubled their net wealth in seven fat years.
    I was shocked by the extent of the LN/P victory in the Upper House. I expected tactical voting in favour of Senate wets to counter-balance HoR dries.
    Howards pre-emptive strike against the Greens cultural policies and ALP’s economic inexperience was very politically well tuned & timed. The Greens were looking to have balance of power and Howard worked on the majorities fear of empowered luvvies who might go soft on AUS border-protection/hard on US alliance-consolidation.
    I dont think Latham was a big issue one way or the other. His total vote is barely above the average achieved by Crean.
    The timing of the ALP-GREEN forestry deal was irrelevant. The real problem was that the majority distrusted the Greens and did not want them to be empowered as an unofficial ALP Socialist Left, which is in fact what they are. ie Reds under the Bed.
    Its hard to see ALP State governments as being a big negative influence. The Fed ALP did worse in VIC, which has a satisfactory State ALP government, than it did in NSW, which has a rancid one. TAS State ALP is conservative yet the Fed ALP did very bad there.
    The total luvvie (Green) and worthy (Dem) vote has declined from about 9% (2001) to about 7% (2004). The Cultural Lefts constant Howard-hating attacks, in regards to alliance-consolidation and border-protection, have obviously back-fired.
    This translated to a shift of the whole political spectrum to the Right and a turnaround of potential, but spooked, Green preferences from the Centre-Left to the Centre-Right. It looks like bourgeois national socialism-lite all the way down, sonny.
    As regards luck: A whole lot of people have been underestimating Howard for more than a generation and all those people are now dead or gone. Howard makes his own luck, at least in the political sense. Things like the Tampa, 911, interest rate declines, occur in the life of every govt. But so do things like the Asian economic crisis, One Nation etc. They balance out.
    Still, I agree with Pr Q that the Anglo-American polity is still insulated in a bubble from the consequences of its reckless terrorist-provocation security, and asset-inflation prosperity, policies. One day soon, the chickens will come flying home to roost, with a vengenance.

  21. The awful folly of the right-wing ALP fixers in Victoria is no betrer illustrated than in Victoria where in order to get DLP and Family First preferences in the Senate the ALP preferenced Family First ahead of the Greens Thisa was done because Jacinta Collins,a very right wing ALP senator,who came from one of the old DLP unions into the ALP was very anti-abortion,etc. Now with Labpr falling well sdhort of 3 quotas,the Labor Surplus will flow to Family First. As the Greens have only half a quota in Victoria,they may fall short,where if they had had Labor preferences they would have been certain of Victory…as it is Labor may put Family First into the Senate and give Howard a very right-wing ally indeed. What utter folly…and the right wing fixers in this state must bear the shame!!!

  22. “Let’s not for a minute lose sight of the fact that the Liberals have NOT won this election FAIRLY by any stretch of the imagination.”

    Because they lied? This isn’t the first time either major party’s done that, nor will it be the last. If you start proclaiming this an illegitimate victory and all that sort of codswallop you’re just heading down the path to becoming one of the first real “Howard-haters” out there. Remember the Republicans in the 90s, with their “Clinton isn’t a legitimate President!” bullshit? You wanna be the Australian equivalent, James?

  23. Steve,

    “What a load of codswallop! I have copped it every which way for being a conservative voter.”

    Well, good. You can stick your moral relativism and hypocrisy where the sun don’t shine, mister.

    “This is a victory for the “true believers”. Not the pathetic moaning I have heard from Every left wing Labor supporting blogger.”

    Care to explain?

    “Well, eat this. The vote is in and the PEOPLE have spoken loud and clear. Howard’s way is better than the Latham way.”

    They fell for Howard’s blatant lies. That doesn’t mean the rodent stole the election, that his victory was illegitimate, or any other left-wing fantasy; but it does mean that he did not win on the superiority of his ideas. Accept it.

    “However, I expect the usual diatribe about how this election was stolen, how negative politics won out against positve politics. The fact that Latham tried his “hate” out against the private school system, how he torched the blue collar forresters in Tassie for a few Sydney votes means nothing, I bet.”

    You said something about codswallop?

  24. Let the postmortems and the mythmaking begin.

    Me, I clearly know nothing about the Australian populace. What was the key winning factor? Surelu (hopefully) not the lies.

  25. The deciding factors were

    1) the skill of Howard
    2) the private media’s complete support for the “pro-business” party
    3) the interest rate scare campaign

    The ALP did not lose by much. It is an unremarkable election. Given the above three factors, the ALP did alright.

    The senate is a worry, but it will lead to a hubristic crash and burn now for the Libs. If Howard retires (I don’t see why he should though) then the Libs will go next time for sure as they will have no alternate leader. If he stays all bets are still off.

  26. Prof,

    While part of Howard’s win can be attributed to happy, accidental economic circumstances, I think it was (as “tipper” says) more due to his extraordinary talent for winning the trust of people who largely don’t know and don’t care who runs the country.

    Oh well, only another 1100 days until the next election.


  27. What about a bit of self criticism? The reasons for losing are Howard’s luck and the scare campaign? What about that Labor was incapable to convince people of the contrary because of its own flaws? Down here in Tasmania the forest policy was the stupidest possible move, independently of timing. Did Labor gain anything for alienating workers down south? The only beneficiaries were the Liberals and the Greens…

  28. The key economic policy factor in the maintenance of the LN/P electoral advantage was Peter Costellos housing boom-enabling CGT cut. This dwarfs hamburger scale tax cuts and Santa Claus handouts.
    Since Tampa 911 the medias and moralists have subjected Howard’s cultural & national policies to a huge polemical tirade. The ALP tried to steer away from these issues, but the media and moralists could not let go.
    The most important campaign political factor was Howards pre-emptive strike against the Greens. This party served as proxies for Cultural Progressives of all parties.
    Howard’s cultural counte-attack on the Cultural Progressives has kept the total 2004 luvvie vote down, when all pre-campaign indicator tended to show an increase since 2001. Family First’s Senate seat victory has only rubbed salt into the wound.
    The fact that the LN/P has made mainstream electoral gains in the heart-sleeved wearing Senate makes this election the biggest vindication of Cultural Conservatism since the DLP split.

    This is either a wake-up call, or a pink slip, to the Cultural Progressives.

  29. The result is a sad comment on Australian society. But the ‘luckiness’ of being in a good economic cycle combined with Howard’s housing policies has caused many Australians to accrue huge amounts of personal debt. I know of people who would be forced out of their homes if interest rates went up by only 1 to 2 percent. We have been living in a fools paradise for the past three years. I said during the campaign that it may be prudent for Labor to lose this one as the economic grief to come would undeservedly damage their chances of re-election in 2007. The inevitable economic downturn combined with the hubris that the public will see from Howard should ensure their downfall in 2007. I’m glad I own my home and everything else that I need (not want).

  30. Mark, whilst you are not concerned by the fact that a huge proportion of the electorate was successfully misled by the Prime Minister and our news-media, I do. My concept of a healthy functional democracy includes informed choice, and Australia failed that test abysmally yesterday, in my humble opinion.

    I suggest you have a look at the Doonesbury cartoons of July, in regards to the journalistic practices of Murdoch’s media in the US here.

    … and then contemplate the fact that this is how 70% of Australia’s print media and a high proportion of our TV and Radio media are run.

    Of course, if a large number of those, who voted Liberal and National yesterday, don’t soon come to realise just how badly duped they were, we are indeed in for three very grim years under John Howard.

    I do happen to agree with those who suggest that some self criticism by those oppposed to John Howard is in order, although I am not sure if the sort of self-critcism I would like to see is what they had in mind.

    Those out there who who genuinely care for others and the future of our planet, need to decide if they will go on for the next three years, just as they did for the last three years, and the three years before that, and the three years before that, in which case, in 2007, we will be exactly where we are today …

    … or whether to take a good hard look at themselves and apply the lessons from the terrible experience we have just been through.

    A good start would be to counter the pernicious influence of the media empires, which I believe is possible, if the evidence, such as that presented on Margo Kingston’s web diary were to be made more widely understood.

  31. The Liberals scored a big increase in their primary vote. The reason appears to be that they benefited directly from the collapse of the Democrat vote. Nobody predicted this. Everybody assumed that Democrat voters would just go the Greens and then preference Labor.

    It didn’t happen this way at all. The Democrat vote is gone. The Labor vote is stagnant. The Liberal vote is up by the amount the Democrats are down. The Greens gots 7% rather than the 9% per cent predicted. With Labor relying on every single Green preference to get them across the line, the missing 2% green votes was a huge negative for Labor.

    It shouldn’t be forgotten that the Democrats were born out of the Liberal Party. Just because a lot of their senators over the years acted like a watered down version of Bob Brown doesn’t mean their voters were anything like green voters. Democrat voters were were a combination of middle class small business types, with small l Liberal values, and apolitical voters who liked the idea of “keping the bastards honest”. In their Reps HTVs, the Democrats always gave their voters the option of preferencing the Liberals, and at least 1/3 of them always did.

    John Howard’s big achievement in this election has been to bring back the Democrat vote to the Liberal fold. (That this most right wing of Liberals, who was instrumental in driving the small L Liberals out of his own party could achieve this, is testament to his political skills.)

    The Liberals now have a primary base that in itself will just about win them elections. Add preferences from Family First, One Nation, or whatever fringe right wing group with 2%-3% of the vote, is around at the time, and they have a winning strategy for years to come.

    Meanwhile, the left of centre vote is split between Labor and the Greens. But the Greens are not a left wing version of the DLP. They won’t automatically preference Labor. To get green preferences, Labor has to buy them. But as we saw in Tasmania, this comes at a heavy price.

    Labor managed to win the 1990 and 1993 elections with less than 40% of the primary vote by getting home on Democrat and Green preferences. Labor’s failures in 1996, 1998 and 2001 were also largely due its poor primary vote, but the losses were obscured by other factors.

    Now that the Democrats are gone, Labor can never again hope to win an election with less than 40% of the primary vote. It needs 44%, at least.

    Labor faces an interesting choice. Does it go the Left and try to increase its primary vote by capturing green voters, or go the right and try to win Liberal voters? I think it will go to the right, Tony Blair style, for two reasons. One, there are a lot more votes to be had on Labor’s right than on its Left. Two, if it goes the Left, it may well lose some of its own voters, as the former Labor members for Bass and Braddon found out to their cost, last night.

    Jumping to the right will appeal to Mark Latham, who has pretty right wing instincts anyway. He will want to make a big statement early this time that Labor is changing in a major way. I think he will support the full privatisation of Telstra and the government’s IR legislation.

  32. It’s democracy. I congratulate the winners.

    However my interpretation follows that of JQ and Jason (at the top.) Howard is well on the way to turning Australia into a two tier divided society, where doing well requires actively exploiting your fellow Australians, not just carrying out your job. That’s what the real estate boom and the attacks on workers mean. It’s a betrayal of the Australian ethos that was established in the late 1800’s.

    I’m sympathetic to the claims that a healthy economy benefits the underprivileged most of all, espoused nobly by Vanstone last night, but I don’t believe that’s how it really works. In strategic terms, the Howard economy is about diverting income from one group to others, rather than actively contributing to real international productivity. The real estate boom is effectively selling our and our childrens’ future.

    As to Labor’s campaign, I think Latham invigorated it. In retrospect, we see the importance of having “good economic figures,” regardless of what they mean or whether they arise from people working two hours per week. I would say now that Labor should have been much more aggressive in examining and attacking the housing and negative gearing issue, starting a long way out.

    Possibly industrial relations should have been included in that. The Howard government seems to have gotten away with the incredible claim that looking after the interests of wage earners is counter to the interests of those wage earners.

    In some rural areas, people were scared that Labor would implement what they saw as horrific Greens and environmental policies, including depriving farms of river water and stopping the live sheep and cattle export trade. Labor could have communicated better. It also missed the chance to communicate about the increasing inequality in rural Australia, which mirrors the trends in our big cities.

    In Victoria, I would not be surprised to see Labor suffering from some moves by the Bracks government. Many well meaning Bracks initiatives have been nothing short of arrogant with the hallmark of city idiot stamped all over them. For example, when Bracks introduced legislation to make farms safer for children – and farm machinery is deadly indeed – the effect was that grandparents had to get special police checks and licences, and that visting children could not help on the farm. Little, easily avoided things like that.

  33. Well,the australian people have certainly spoken.
    In these times of economic plenty,why wouldn’t one vote for howard?
    Particularly if one has no grasp of economics and australia’s funniest home video is your favourite TV programme.
    All I know is that our children’s children will want to know why we so stupid as to woodchip australia’s last great forests.
    The woodchippers children’s children will want to know where their jobs have gone.
    Still,there is one compensation.At least we know that interest rates will never go up again.

  34. As in all great third world countries, interest rates won’t matter to those who can afford property.

    The important issues will be keeping the servants in line and making sure thieves don’t get into the walled enclaves or past the front-desk security guards.

  35. Dear Mark,

    Winners are grinners.

    And my grin stretches from one ear to another.

    Have fun trying to explain how a fourth term government could get an across the Board swing in every state to it. I am sure it was the big lie.

    It’s simple really. The punters have spoken. And as usual the losers don’t like it. Don’t complain if the policy debate is full of trickery and deceit. Look what happened to Hewson when he tried the direct this is what I am going to do approach. He was done over very slowly and publicly.

    I remember watching my old man nearly crumble under 17% interest rates and the “recession we had to have.” He worked hard all his life and was nearly broken by it. My mother still speaks about those times with a tear in her eye. I have never voted Labor since then. And I have never been the worse for it.

    About Iraq, the punters have spoken. If they disagreed, then Latham would surely have won. Personally, I think Howard has served Australia well. We never should have invaded the country. The US forced him to send troops and he did. First chance he had, he pulled them out. If you think the US would come to our aid if we welched on that deal; your dreaming.

    The tragedy of policy debate in Australia was what happened to Hewson. If you think Howard has told a big lie. What about what Keating did to Hewson.

    The lessons of Hewsons’ demise: Do not spell out everything in detail. Spin it. Now you see why that loss was a tragedy. No pollie will dare to come up with big public manifesto ever again.

    And guess what, what major part of Hewson’s grand plan has not been put in place? That’s right. Lies beat policy and that’s Labor’s legacy. If you don’t lie, you lose.

    And how do you explain how the Coalition has gained control of the Senate. A fluke? A lie?
    Or perhaps a reward for effort?

    Face it. The Coalition, out-politicked Labor and used Latham’s desperation against him. I have never seen a diehard Liberal leader go into the lion’s den of CFMEU timber workers and come out being cheered and applauded.

    I know it was all “cynical politics” but it wasn’t the coalitaion that publicly coined the phrase, “whatever it takes”, it was Labor. Now suffer the consequences.

    Enjoy the next TWO ELECTIONS, because if the Coalition has a 20+ seat majority it will be along time before we here from you again.

    I am not gloating. Not much. Really.

  36. John,

    Your mission, should you choose to accpt, is …

    (If it is not too much trouble, please replace my previous posting with
    My apologies, for the awful grammatic error in the fiorst sentence.)

    This posting will self destruct in 10 seconds ,,,

  37. Labor lost not because the electorate were a stupid people living in a ‘lucky country’ but because the policies Labor put forward were rejected by sensible citizens. The slur on the Australian people by Donald Horne should be understood for the intellectual arrogance that it is.

    Among Labor’s disasterous policies:

    1. Cut and run policies from Iraq when Iraq is under threat from terrorists. Policy made by Latham without reference to his colleagues — what a joke for a potential PM.
    2. Private schools policies that released more resources to public schools rejected in favour of a class-based stab at the so-called ‘rich’ who want to send their kids to private schools.
    3. Forming an alliance with the Greens which cost votes net for Labor because Labor is supposed to represent many groups in Australia (not just chardonnay socialists) including, remember, workers. And just dumb politics — leaving Howard with a treasured second-mover advantage of being able to present himself to all Australian workers as someone who (unlike Latham) who targeted their interests.
    4. Funding free hospital care for the aged, a poorly thought through and regressive policy.
    5. etc, etc, etc…. Late, complex policies that gave the impression of being thrown together in a rush.

    Howard has delivered economic prosperity and been prepared to take tough decisions on illegal migrants and on terrorism. The sustained and repetitive personal attacks on him are attractive only to like-minded, ‘true believers’. The rest of us just see them as reflections on the people making the comments.

    It really is simple. If Howard is the stupid, lying, unimaginative twerp that the Left present him as how can he win four elections in a row?

    The Left can sit down and have a good sob and rant to each other. They can tell the world that once again Labor lost because the electorate was stupid and believed the lies of the Liberal Party. ‘We wuz robbed’ yet once again. They can also say they will stick to their ill-considered and four times rejected so-called ‘principles’.

    This only shows their contempt for the views of ordinary Australians. Moreover these attitudes won’t win elections.

  38. While many of the tactical issues pointed out in previous comments (Tas. forests late and poorly sold, backwash from State Labor mistakes, poor media coverage, mediocre Greens performance, Democrat collapse, etc. etc.) had impact, let’s not forget the policies altogether. Labor policies are, in many areas, almost indistinguishable from the Liberals already. Differences are in the areas of scale and emphasis, not fundamentals.

    As I commented yesterday (under “The Issues That Haven’t Made It Through”) it is the policy similarities which led to important issues like the war, the FTA and unemployment being left out. The ALP had nothing different to offer. If, as Spiros (probably correctly) predicts, Labor now lurches further to the right, the policy problem will get worse, not better.

    As to “our children having to pay” (Tony Healy), a good deal of the desperation obviously showing in many facets of Australian society is directly traceable to people’s strong desire to accumulate enough to ensure that somebody else’s children have to pay.

    Since 1996 I have advocated a Labour split. I just don’t see how the uneasy Right/Left coalition which is the contemporary ALP can survive in a world in which, like Europe in the 1930s, politics is increasingly polarized. Every year for which this necessary split is postponed means more years in the wilderness for the ALP.

  39. In all such opinions I stand to be corrected, but one thing the election is clear that the election was not a referendum on Iraq. Had foreign policy entered into the frame, then the government’s incompetence would have quaranteed its demise. In regard to Iraq, as much as possible, I think the ALP followed a small target policy.

    The policies that Labor did promote, in particular Aged Care and the Tasmanina Old Growth forests did not get the traction with the electorate that I expected. I do not share the concern with interst rates that many people apparently have. As prime minister, Latham would have been an unknown quantity. On this occasion, the Labor campaign failed to neutralize the negatives.

    I am astonished that some people do not appreciate, or want to understand, that Howard’s policies relating to IR, or workplace relations, are class-based policies, as is inevitable. It is not obvious that these policies promote good management or productivity outcomes. Perhaps you feel more relaxed and comfortable, as you should, while you look at this part of the world and the people who suffer its consequences, through rose-tinted glasses.

  40. Spiros at October 10, 2004 08:52 AM utterly nails it:

    The Liberals scored a big increase in their primary vote. The reason appears to be that they benefited directly from the collapse of the Democrat vote. Nobody predicted this. Everybody assumed that Democrat voters would just go the Greens and then preference Labor.

    I think this analysis is spot-on. Howard’s Tampa moment came with the attack on the Greens at the beginning of the campaign. Moderate luvvies were spooked away from the Greens and could not vote for the moribund Democrats. So they fell into the loving arms of the Liberals.
    This spells the end of the Liberal Wets. They have abandoned Cultural Progressivism because of Howards (unfair) association of liberalism with Cultural Weirdoism.

  41. Two excellent comments:

    1. Jack Strocci’s observation about the temporary nature of conditions that made those aspirational voters pleased to support the Coalition.

    2. Brian McKinlay’s denunciation of that cynical and disastrous ALP-FFP preference-swapping deal in Victoria. Many tears will flow as a result.

    The advent of the Family First Party is Howard’s guarantee that he will be remembered, as he was proud to proclaim, as the most conservative PM in Australia’s history. There is now no place in the Liberal party for liberal social values.

  42. Howard has supported multiculturalism, he launched the last national agenda on multiculturalism and implemented an immigration policy that with its strong business migration program supports Asian immigration. All of this is on the DIMIA website in great detail. This is a long way since the mid 1980s. As for the decline in the Democrat vote the most likely explanation is that it has gone to Labor. In 2001 Democrat voters’ mean ideological position was very close to Labor (see Ian McAllister’s work on this). Imagine a world in which right-wing and left-wing commentators actually did social science research or even examined what governments actually did. Much of the left has been obsessed with Howard’s cultural rhetoric, however little it means in practice. I wasn’t a supporter of Labor’s forestry policy but Tasmania is the only state to return a majority ALP vote. The right should move on from their homoerotic rough trade fantasies about spunky rednecks, they are nowhere to be seen in the outer suburbs. Labor’s problem is that with the demise of the protection/arbitration couplet it struggles to persuade voters its policies can improve their living standards. The line from the commenteriat I expect is that Labor should now support all of the policies of the Howard government, much like how in the 1980s the commenteriat wanted the Liberals to support Labor’s policies.

  43. Howard won on fear:

    a) Unwanted immigrants
    b) Unwelcome terrorists
    c) Unbearable interest rate rises

    None of which can be justified by further analysis, but hey, not everyone has the free time or interest to be well-informed. A vote for more-of-the-same-thing-as-long-as-the-same-thing-doesn’t-hurt-oneself is pretty unremarkable.

  44. Howard ran on fear of Greenies and greed for Properties.
    One Nation and the Democrats were the Big Losers. Half the red-neck and half the wet-worthy vote reverted back to the Liberal Party.
    The Big Winners were the Goddies, Greenies and the Prince of Darkness.

  45. Now Jack, who exactly are you calling the “Prince of Darkness”, surely you don’t mean a certain machiavellian rodent?

    One of the Christian Democratic Party volunteers said to me that he thought that ‘the government’ was left wing – labour or liberal. What he saw, was the global conspiracy theory of capitalism. Paddy Embry MLC was handing out cards for the New Country Party and I had a nice chat to him about the Greens in the W.A. Upper House. The one piece of legislation that they’ve worked together on is National Competition Policy.

    Jack S was exactly right about the cultural shift to the right that this election presages. I think that this is a response to the invasion of global culture into living rooms and bedrooms. Paedophile scares are a manifestation of a deeep unease about the loss of barriers that the internet, in particular, creates. People have turned to 1950’s style certainties (Kath and Kim are a female kind of ‘ocker). The way in which the word ‘family’ was used in this election – as if there is no such thing as a bad family, is a measure of this unease. Along with a general sense of gloom and futility about their individual helplessness.

    As I said early on, the Greens only picked up the left wing of the democrats and have been transformed in the east into a repository of innner city radicalism. The 10-20% votes in Melbourne and Sydney did not occur in W.A.

    I think the Greens need to think carefully about what’s important to them.They’ve reached a cross road.

    They can try to maintain a regional support based upon environmental issues and form alliances with people like the Nationals and the Christian right by being more involved in solving the ‘brown/green’ issues like salinity,water supply etc anhd by opposing Free Trade sellouts and the like . Or they can become a left wing bastion for cultural reformers centred around the inner city. The latter option would appear doomed to failure by becoming irrelevant and being meat for the rodent, the former will involve some major challenges for their membership and policies.

  46. Those of us with economic training should hold our heads in shame. If you combine a housing bubble with ultra strong credit growth and people who have never encountered a recession then you get a swing to the Libs in those very areas in Brizzy, Sydaneee and Melburn.

    This explains the reluctance of the RBA to raise rates when they should have this year. Also when pollies start talking about budget supluses from here to eternity then a recession is right around the corner.

    with a compliant or even helpful senate howard has no excuses concerning his reforms. It is a shame he has not the money to reform the tax system.

  47. As I walked into my polling place on Saturday I realised that the Governemnt would be returned. There in full living colour was the ALP banner and what thinking (swinging) voter is going to vote for a Charlie Brown look alike.

    Would you buy a used car from a salesman who looked at you like that with his can we be quick this smile is hurting my ears expression.

    Whoever convinced the ALP to put that picture on the banner and the hand outs must be in the pay of the Libs.

    I was going to vote Labour in HOR but when I saw that pic it recalled a personal broken promise of my local labor member so he ended up as number 3.

  48. PML, Sunday morning is a great stimulus to rational thought, after the tears of the night before – holds true in all sorts of situations! I’m wondering if I should resign my membership of the Australian Political Science Association – since my prediction was clearly hope rather than reason driven. However, I suspect that as of Thursday or Friday, the thing was up for grabs. I think we have an answer to the quandary of whether Australian undecided voters break for the incumbent, now.

    Albatross2147, no idea whether or not Husic was a good candidate, but what depresses me is that his loss probably means that no party will preselect a Muslim candidate again, just as Ingrid Tall’s loss in Brisbane makes it less likely that an openly gay candidate will be preselected.

    On that, James Jupp observed in the late 70s how ‘Anglo-Celtic’ Australian parliaments were. I make the point because gender balance is much more frequently commented on (not that I discount its importance). Not much has changed since Jupp wrote – if you don’t believe me – have a think about the surnames of pollies you can remember off the top of your head – Latham, Howard, Hawke, Keating, Beattie, Goss, Carr, Rann, Abbott, Costello, Vanstone, Ruddock, Peacock, Fraser, etc etc. There might be the odd Georgiou or Theophanous, but when are we going to get a Clinton who says “I want my cabinet to be representative of the diversity of Australia”?

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