Labor in denial

So, I just went and voted (Green) in Indooropilly, a seat held by Labor until the last Parliament[1]. In the entire campaign, I’ve seen no sign of activity on the part of the Labor candidate (a commenter tells me he’s a law student). This continued at the polling booth, where there was no-one handing out Labor how-to-votes, the first time I’ve ever experienced this. I’ve heard from other sources that the party machine has been desperately trying, and failing, to round up volunteers.

This is a disaster worse in many ways than the wipe-outs of the 1970s when at least the party faithful were, well, faithful. The Bligh government’s sellout on asset sales wiped about 10 percent of its support overnight and, except in the immediate aftermath of the floods, that hasn’t changed.

And yet, the ALP is still in denial about the whole thing. Wayne Swan is expressing his hope that Andrew Fraser, the main driver of the asset sales can be saved. And Bligh’s defenders are pushing the line that electors are finally responding to their desire to punish the government for the sins of the Beattie era. The idea that you lose votes by doing something that’s directly opposed to your platform, that you’ve promised not to do, and that voters hate, seems not to compute

I said in my last post that I wasn’t looking forward to two terms of Newman. But unless Labor wakes up to itself, they could be out for a lot longer than that.

fn1. The Labor member, Ronan Lee, defected to the Greens before the 2009 election, which was won by the Liberals.

54 thoughts on “Labor in denial

  1. I had to go from Tweed Heads to Ipswich yesterday. To judge from the absence of signs etc you would not have known there was an election at all.

    Labor is not showing any signs of life in NSW and Queensland will soon be equally comatose. It’s hard to see where any revival will ever come from; not in terms of leadership (most commentary is obsessed with the impact of named individuals to the point of absurdity) but in terms of people with a vested interest in getting the ALP elected. The conservatives’ constituency will always be with us, ready to spend money to get a friendly government, but in this era of the vanishing union movement it’s not clear who has sufficient self interested motives to work for the election of Labor.

  2. I was handing out HTVs for the Greens at Fairfield (in Yeerongpilly) this morning. Labor did manage to put a reasonable team of the faithful to work on that booth, but I overheard one of the younger Liberal workers telling his friend that Labor was thin on the ground in Indooroopilly. The vibe from voters was telling. A surprisingly high proportion weren’t taking HTVs from anybody and were proceeding to the polling booth with the kind of grim resolve of people who have come to do a disagreeable duty. This at a booth which is normally a strong Labor/Greens booth.

  3. I just voted in Indro about ano hour ago myself. I knew nothing about the Labor candidate until looking him up a couple of weeks ago. He is, as you say, a student (Law at UQ, I believe). He doesn’t provide much for anyone wanting to vote Labor. He greeted us at the booths and asked us to vote for him. I’m sure his voice cracked as he spoke. Emerson will wipe the floor with him.

  4. The law student may be a very nice chap, but if he is to busy to be a candidate maybe he should have leftover it to somebody else.

  5. It’s looking like both Bligh and Fraser have been booted.

    At 7:32pm Antony Green has ALP at 4 seats.

    Just after I said “Tomorrow we’ll hear that Qld has embraced the LNP and given them a sweeping neo-liberal mandate”, Jeff Seeney on ABC said “Queensland has embraced the LNP model resoundingly”.

    As I said yesterday, everything that happens in Queensland from now on is Labor’s fault.

  6. JQ “…you lose votes by doing something that’s directly opposed to your platform, that you’ve promised not to do, and that voters hate…”

    Spot on Prof. If Labor stopped the spin and implemented honest policies for the bottom 90% they would win easily most times, perhaps all times. Only the top 10% are really advantaged by Liberal policies and maybe not even that. Maybe only the top 5%.

  7. After many years of state labor government and the chattering class claiming that the Liberals will never hold a state again because …., it looks like we are going to get Liberal state governments across the board, and column miles; of labor will never hold a state again because ….

  8. The same thing happened in NSW. The ALP bent over backwards to try and privatize their electricity industry. It’s bizarre

  9. According to the ABC coverage, the ALP no longer qualifies for “party” status in the Qld parliament (the requirement is 10 seats).

    It looks like the LNP will be “gracious” (according to Jeff Seeney) and waive the rules to allow them to maintain “party” status, along with all the trimmings such as extra staff etc..

    Why? Probably because to do otherwise might betray the reality of our monochromatic polity.

  10. I wouldn’t be too depressed about progressive politics. While ‘the issues’ may have been individual nails in Labor’s coffin, the coffin itself was something else. My observation of the locals (central Queenslanders) is that while life is not impossible, it is not easy either. Housing is way too expensive (but not making money), super is stagnating or declining, costs are constant and pernicious, while productivity keeps going up with no perceived dividend. That is, there is something structurally wrong with the system. Labor in no way ever voiced this underlying anxiety in any way that resonated. And no, working families and cost of living and all the other weasel words are shibboleths, not engagement. The LNP will have the same issues, and will face the same disquiet. I look at Victoria, where if Labor did not continue to make themselves unelectable (Daniel Andrews is a machine clone with added whine) they could actually win. But who will grasp the zeitgeist.

  11. Sadly, the Labor hacks who have been booted will be recycled into plum jobs elsewhere, and the LNP will implement worse policies than those Labor was dumped for. Choice would be nice …

  12. This pretty much sums up the problem:

    If true, the story is about ALP operatives in Fraser’s (ex) seat handing out bogus “how to vote” material in rainbow colours – to try to get the anti-gay-hate vote, and in green (handed out by people ‘dressed like hippies’???) – to try to trick anyone stupid enough to be tricked by that type of stunt.

    That’s not even tragic or cunningly evil, it’s just sad.

  13. Yes. If Labor once stood for something, now its simply become a vehicle for a handful of not very likeable individuals to advance themselves.

    Lets hope the Greens develop into a serious party..

  14. Given the election was a landslide for the LNP winning a predicted 76 seats (89.6%), this dominance in Parliament is not reflected in electoral support reflected by first preferences.

    According to The ECQ with almost 70% of the count completed, the LNP had attracted 49.51% first preferences.

    I am not sure how the KAP will figure in the final outcome when preferences are fully distributed, but it is clear they would have had a greater role in the new government if proportional representation had applied.

  15. The predicted result is now, at 5:20 am, LNP 76 – Labor 6. From the very little I could bear to watch last night on the idiot box, Labor were still in denial about why they lost the election. There was no admission I saw that said “We did things directly opposed to our platform, that we promised not to do and that the voters hated.” All Qld Labor pollies should repeat that 100 times.

    What’s the bet Andrew Fraser will find a plum job with his mates at the top end of town. You know the ones for whose benefit he ran the sell-offs. Anna Bligh deserves the gong for the worst government and worst campaign (by results) in the history of Qld and maybe in the history of Australia.

    I voted Green (for what it’s worth) used my preferences and gave second preference to Labor just to try to ensure some kind of effective opposition remained. Mind you Labor didn’t deserve that second preference but it was Hobson’s choice.

  16. Correction, I find I was not faced by Hobson’s Choice but by Morton’s Fork;

    “A Morton’s Fork is a choice between two equally unpleasant alternatives…” – Wikipedia.

  17. I grieved for the Labor Party a long time ago. The Party that lost last night was something else: under the Labor banner it advanced the interests of a wealthy elite and the business lobby, while neglecting the sort of progressive policies that would advance the lot of the average voter. Of course grubs like Andrew Fraser will move on to the business realm – perhaps a consultancy with Macquarie Bank or in the mining industry. That is the ordinary course of things these days, on both sides of the Chamber.

    So, what is the alternative? I’m watching the campaign of Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts with some interest. If she gets traction, I suggest we draft JQ.

  18. JQ I wonder if you and the rest of Queensland are now happy with your exhausted preferential votes in a state without two houses.

    Parliaments are supposed to have oppositions. Upper houses have the advantage that actions of fury are moderated. Forcing people to give a second preference adds a little to the score of the losing governing party, when people are angry.

    The ship isn’t going where I want, lets sink the bloody thing you cried. You and your fellow Queenslanders succeeded.

  19. Richard denniss
    March 24th, 2012 at 20:13 | #9
    Reply | Quote

    The same thing happened in NSW. The ALP bent over backwards to try and privatize their electricity industry. It’s bizarre

    I bet any money there are two things that won’t happen.

    1) The privatization will not be undone.
    2) The subsidy on petrol will not be restored.

    As to privatizing electricity. Queensland’s and NSW’s problem is they didn’t do it quickly enough. If you haven’t noticed there is a thing called global warming, those in denial may be able to hold of acceptance of reality for a while, but reality will just roll on. In such an environment holding coal fired power stations as an asset makes no sense.

    Victoria sold them when you could still get a good price for them.

  20. The Greens got little more than half the vote of Katter. Welcome to the one party state in company with Iran, North Korea etc.

    Now we’ll have to put up with the neanderthals like Palmer and Abbott telling us it was a vote on the carbon tax and a national election must be held tomorrow. Gawd spare us.

  21. @Megan

    Why? Probably because to do otherwise might betray the reality of our monochromatic polity.

    Or possibly on the basis of why deprive them of the very things that separated them from reality? These were a part of the system of cossetting that debauched them.

  22. @wmmbb

    Given the election was a landslide for the LNP

    more like a mud-slide.

    You probably need to be a Queensland resident to know what is going on, but Queensland’s decision to get rid of a upper house, but not change the electoral system to a proportional system, leads to an unrepresentative outcome.

    The vote for the Green’s represents the same progressive body in most electorates that in other contests has fed into the NDP or independent candidates such as Phil Cleary. The vote for Katter’s clique shows another reactionary body in electorates which has fed into Harradines, Niles, and Hanson.

    In the long-run, it is the Queensland electoral system that, has received the most damage – it must be changed. The ACT unicameral PR system seems preferable.

  23. @Freelander
    Nobody put their hand up for the ALP in many seats and so Young Labor types were drafted in. This isn’t unusual in rural constituencies, but is extraordinary in urban seats recently held by the ALP as Prof Q says. Young Mr Schlamowitz’s short and unresourced campaign at least gave rusted on Labor voters someone to vote for. I’m in Moggill, where the only high profile campaigning came from the Katter party, which blitzed the electorate with anti-gay marriage literature in the last week and managed to achieve 7 percent of the vote (Greens and ALP on about 15 percent each).

    The truth undoubtedly is that the ALP branch structure has largely collapsed as disaffected members withdraw their volunteer labour. I have heard it said by an ALP official that there are no operating branches between Caboolture and Rockhampton. This can only be caused by the heartbreak felt when core policies and ideological positions are cynically abandoned for crude political tactical reasons. Public servants throughout the state – normally a reliable source of Labor support – have long ago shifted their allegiances when confronted by the reality of government as an inept, blustering, bullying gang of careerists and chancers: Paul ‘I’m not a quitter’ Lucas’s retention of his job while those public servants who had advised against going live with the Health payroll system were sacked was the last straw for many.

    Bligh’s refusal in her concession speech to admit error shows in the end she’s utterly blinded by hubris. Her failure to announce her departure from the leadership shows she’s deaf as well. Gillard had better not make the blunder of finding her (or her repellent partner) a job.

  24. I don’t follow Queensland politics much but I suspect that JQs assessment is correct. Fibbing to the electorate simply doesn’t go down well. Federal Labor is next to get judged accordingly. However whilst that is probably the major factor I think there is more at play. The inability to put volunteers around booths has been a phenomena for some time. This was very visible in the NSW election. The Labor machine has basically collapsed. This can also be seen in declining membership.

  25. Hi John, I would not worry too much.

    It is ‘the end of the world’ and the winning party will be in for half a generation were comments widely made after the 2007 Australian election and the 2008 U.S. elections.

    All this unprecedented landslide shows is that the swinging voter is making up a very large part of the electorate these days. There are fewer and fewer rusted-on voters.

    Elections vote parties out rather than vote parties in, as Schumpeter argues. Voting is mainly retrospective rather than prospective.

    Schumpeter’s theory of democratic participation is voters have the ability to replace political leaders through elections. Citizens do have sufficient knowledge and sophistication to vote out leaders who are performing poorly or contrary to the electoral majority’s wishes.

    The incoming party has to pass some minimum standards and that is all, but the new lot can be thrown out just as quickly, as Rudd and Gillard proved, if they do not pass muster.

  26. The true tragedy of the election is that in the face of a swing away from Labor of more than 15%, the Greens’ share of the vote went BACKWARDS. This has pretty much killed any hope that the Greens might form the nucleus of a new progressive movement now that the ALP is in terminal decline.

    A lot of the votes Labor lost went to Katter’s bunch of Tea Party wannabes. Now perhaps non-conservatives will face up to the reality that lots of voters support Tony Abbott because of his ideology, not in spite of it.

  27. Apparently Bligh was asked during the campaign about staying on if Labor was defeated and promised that she would.

    She just announced that she is quitting politics and forcing a by-election in the seat she just won.

    The arrogance and blatant dishonesty is unreal.

    It’s probably more ‘deception’ than ‘denial’.

  28. Overall result is a classic example of how the electoral system can distort representation. A simple proportional system would have seen on a rough estimate, without seeing final figures the LNP with around 45 seats, the ALP with 25, KAP with 10, Greens 6 and Independents 3.

    The disproportion between this and the distribution of seats under the existing system is staggering.

  29. For goodness sake, Megan. That is a bit over the top.

    Anything that was said prior to the election was in the framework of the polls. This result is way worse and Bligh’s decision is almost certainly in response to things said to her by others. She takes responsibility for the trashing in the way that the LNP normally would demand. The bi-election can line up with local elections and be a minimal cost.

    You cannot have it every which way.


    We are going to have to hope that you are wrong. There is a massive amount of social damage that a tight fisted 8 years of Abbott can do. Let’s see..kill of education and health programs…foster private schools and bring forward extended user pays for tertiary education….re-envigorate the property market with further deregulation of financial institutions….further deregulate the press and allow greater consolidation for “efficiency”….demolish unions even further and reinvent individual contracts for higher worker “productivity” per dollar….and lots more.

    All of this will further exacerbate an already bad youth unemployment situation. The file would not down load but here is the banner.

    File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – View as HTML
    Western Australia’s youth unemployment rate was 18.9 per cent in February 2012 . The national youth unemployment rate was 26.4 per cent (original data).”

    So after 8 years of tight fisted government with declining returns on work effort in a rising capital market how is this picture going to look?

    Do the kids of the future really have any hope of the life that the baby boomers, the ones holding most of the propewrty today, had?

  30. BilB #31 I suspect lots of people will remember 11 years of Howard Government as a time when things were pretty good. Then they’ll convince themselves this talk of global warming is a load of crap (Warragamba Dam is overflowing! Coolest summer we can ever remember we never even got to the beach once!!) and resent having to cope with all this new tax stuff. The result will be an Abbott landslide. But the bigger problem is that there is no longer a functioning ALP infrastructure that can rebuild an effective opposition. Top-down management is OK until the top gets demolished; serious problems then emerge.

    I could not believe the Americans would return a Republican majority in the House in 2010 and almost give them the Senate, but it happened. We have to reconcile ourselves to the reality that the conservatives have been consistently giving the (majority of the) people what they want for a long time now. Labor’s successes have only come because it has been prepared to adopt largely conservative policies. It gives me no pleasure to say all this but any rebuilding has to start with an accurate understanding of the current situation. The self-delusion I see everywhere in the blogosphere about the future prospects of Labor and the Greens is staggering.

  31. @Ken_L

    Well, I am wondering just what will happen when people realise that;

    (a) Resources ARE running out (just like the Greens said);
    (b) Global Warming is real (just like the Greens said); and
    (c) Austerity (pro-cyclical) budgets do plunge a weak economy into deep recession.

    The neoliberal side of politics is probably going to look very sick when all these chickens come home to roost. Could there finally be a major Green Party with a real chance of government? Having been right about all these issues for thirty years plus ought to count for something.

  32. Bligh’s choice Do I hang around in Parliament working for my constituents or resign now probably to be recycled into a plum job elsewhere.?

  33. Obviously there will be many local and national factors to the Queensland mudslide. However much of it reflects on the middle class, commentariat, and their projects of modernising and gentrifying the ALP project. Tanner’s Open Australia and Latham’s Civilising Global Capital typify this cancer. The warnings of Andrew Scott (Running on empty) and Michael Thompson (Labor without class) now manifest in an Qld Labor Party which now has to run on an empty parliament. As I see it, Labor in denial equals Labor in exile.

    Running off to the Greens or spitting-the-dummy does not help.

    It is very strange that elements of the ETU and CFMEU have bankrolled Katter, although according to unionists – Katter has better industrial relations policy and opposed the Construction Commission.

    If the ALP does not support workers, workers will not support Labor. Its that simple, simple, simple.

  34. As I’ve pointed out in the past, i think to Chris, Michael Thompson (a corporate lawyer, IIRC) uses a cultural notion of “class” to push an agenda very similar to that of the US Republicans who similarly present themselves as the defenders of the (white) working class, while acting to promote the interests of the 1 per cent.

    OTOH, I endorse the recommendation of Andrew Scott, and Chris’ view of the Latham and Tanner books.

  35. I would agree with Terje’s comments on declining Labor party membership. Not only declining, but narrowing. I was once a member, and of those others I knew from uni days who were, none remain. Only unionists and machine operators remain now.

    There is no point to being a branch member. You don’t choose the candidate in a winnable seat, you don’t influence policy. You just sell raffle tickets and hand out how to votes, plus fill out the audience at conferences. I once tried to go to an economic policy committee meeting to observe, and couldn’t even find out when and where it met, or who was on it. At the time I was a branch office holder, and had a degree in economics.

  36. The situation is such that the Liberal versus National Party elements will fight over which part of the party becomes the opposition. It is likely to be a case of be careful what you wish for. Whatever happens however the environment is likely to be the loser. I hate to think that the Murray Darling will become even more of a political football and killed off by stupid decisions that make the 1% wealthy.

  37. As with Ken L, Socrates and the rest, I find the response of people like Beatty and Bligh utterly incomprehensible.
    Install Andrew Fraser into unspeakable Bligh’s seat, wtf?
    And it’s not hard to work to contemplate the underlying motives of a dumbed down and dog-whistled QLD public, demoralised by Labor’s deceitfulness and still reverberating with horror at tabloid confected tales of boat people, aborigines, welfare recipients and global warming.
    Such a confluence of peasant ignorance, envy, greed, fear and loathing, the stew compounded by the sort of rubbish Abbott was peddling on tonight’s news, that you wonder if this is 1612 rather than 2012.

  38. I’m in the electorate of South Brisbane, so will vote in her by-election. Yesterday I voted 1 Green, 2 Labor. I did this mainly because of the Wild Rivers legislation, and in spite of Bligh the person, not because of her. With Wild rivers effectively decided in the general election, the upcoming by-election allows me to express my opinion of her leadership in general. For this reason, i will be voting 1 Green.

  39. It’s funny to think back over all the little events that have all been arrogantly glossed over and met with Labor’s now inbuilt “stuff you” attitude.

    Anyone remember Reeves and Saunders quitting the ALP over asset sales and Schwarten’s “Good riddance.”?

    Schwarten had this to say about Reeves who was in Labor for 40 years (No, this isn’t a typo – he actually said this):

    “He’s never value-added one thing to the Labor Party ever since he attached himself to it.

    “Quite frankly, he should have been expelled in my view for his anti-Labor stances over the years.”

  40. @Megan

    Seriously Megan — she had to say she was going the full term no matter what because to do otherwise would have been seen as subverting the ALP campaign by putting her seat (which was seen as a likely hold) in doubt.

    OTOH, now that the ALP has been shattered, what she does now is entirely moot.

  41. You just sell raffle tickets

    With government funding of political parties members are not even needed for fund raising. Could it be that the ALP, a once great voluntary institution, will be one more institution destroyed by state encroachment? I suspect so. Just as it has been the success of the ALP legislative agenda that has helped destroy the relevance of trade unions. People are looking for purpose in life. Take away that sustinance and they will go looking elsewhere. The virtues of a society based on voluntary action and voluntary contribution are seriously under estimated.

  42. @TerjeP

    Charming concept the all-voluntary society. I wonder could you expand your argument just a little to explain why the Liberals, Nationals, Greens and Katteristas, who also accept public funding, are not collapsing in the same way as the ALP?

  43. Fran,

    Your point seems to be: “Seriously, she had to lie.”

    Obviously she had to say that, if re-elected, she would serve her constituents as their local member regardless of the overall outcome.

    The problem is that she apparently had no intention of actually doing so. Especially because she was not going to sit on the opposition benches and suffer the type of verbal abuse she dished out to the, now, winners when she was on the government side.

    Imagine a world where someone’s word carried value. Imagine the ex-Premier turning up to parliament as a simple ‘local member’ and arguing for the interests of her constituents.

    Flying pigs aside, unless the plan was to destroy Labor’s support all along a “true believer” would take her medicine and turn up for work and honourably wear the slings and arrows.

    Flying pigs. But imagine the impact, if that person had ever had a single ‘working class’ value in their entire life.

    Sorry ALP supporters, you’ve been neo-conned.

  44. Terje

    Good questions, and I agree with you on both Labor and unions. In my view unions could still be relevant if they genuinely focused on worker justice issues. But most don’t as the Craig Thompson affair shows.

    As further evidence in favour of your thesis, I think Howard’s reforms to welfare service funding has done similar damage to many charities. We now see turf wars with paid chaplains over who teaches ethics in schools, and charity “CEOs” with ever larger pay checks. Hardly encouraging.

  45. One qualification to my previous comment Terje – if Labor members really did have a chance to influence party policy, then there would be a great point to membership. But in my experience some years ago that influence was nill, and anecdotally has even declined further since. So yes, membership without influence is pointless.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s