LNP not racist enough for Longman?

The Liberals’ disastrous result in the recent Longman by-election obviously played a major role in bringing an effective end to Malcolm Turnbull’s Prime Ministership. But the lesson drawn from the outcome by nearly all political pundits, and particularly those on the political right seems to me to be totally unfounded.

The central claim is that the Liberals lost votes to One Nation, which more accurately reflected the views of their conservative basis. The corollary is that to win seats in Queensland the LNP needs to become more overtly racist, most obviously by elevating Peter Dutton to the leadership.

I won’t comment on the morality of this, but simply on the electoral mathematics. Let’s look at the electoral results for Longman, conveniently collected by Wikipedia. First, compare the by-election to the 2016 result. Obviously, the LNP vote collapsed. But what’s more striking is that the combined LNP-ONP coalition vote also fell by around 3 percentage points, while the Labor-Green coalition gained 5 per cent. The combined vote for each side was about 44 per cent. So, even if ONP preferences had flowed more strongly to the LNP, the outcome would have been very close.

The other part of the argument seems to be that Longman is representative of Australia, or at least Queensland as a whole. In reality, it’s classic One Nation territory*. In its first outing  in the 1998 Queensland election, One Nation won the state seat of Caboolture (central to Longman), one of only a handful of wins in the South-east. In the  Federal election the same year, One Nation got 18 per cent of the vote, more than this time around. That compares to a Queensland average of 14 per cent and a national average of 8 per cent. Interestingly, the One Nation vote in Dickson (now held by Dutton) was just 8 per cent.

The real problem is not that LNP voters as a group have suddenly become racists (or, at best, anti-anti-racists), but that the party’s members, activists and intellectual base have done so, but have had to conceal or blur the fact until relatively recently**.  That’s why they are eager to adopt an interpretation of the Longman outcome that justifies them in coming out.


* To be absolutely clear, I don’t mean that most, or even a large minority of residents of Longman are racists or Hanson fans. Rather, whereas the average proportion of such people in Australia is around 10 per cent, in Longman its closer to 20. Whenever a Hanson-type candidate looks plausible, they can expect to get a fair few of those votes.

** I tried to think of someone who could reasonably be described as a small-l liberal in the way this term was once used. My best candidates were Peter van Onselen and Chris Berg, neither of whom really fit the bill in the way that, say, Ian McPhee did. Any others?


18 thoughts on “LNP not racist enough for Longman?

  1. Ian Macphee was exceptional even in his day, let alone by today’s standards. So you’ll have a lot of trouble finding someone like him. Reasonable facsimiles of small l Liberals in the Federal parliament include Warren Entsch, Russell Broadbent, Trent Zimmerman, Sarah Henderson and Paul Fletcher.

  2. I tried to think of a small l liberal. I tried searching. Maybe hmmm… MT! Entsch? As smith9 states there are others but low profile in electorate it seems to me. Peter Baume tho long gone.

    JQ ” but that the party’s members, activists and intellectual base have done so, but have had to conceal or blur the fact until relatively recently**.”

    Perhaps this is when MT had to go, and the small l was simply to much cognitive load for the big L conservatives …
    ” The comments were part of a speech delivered in London overnight where Mr Turnbull was receiving the Disraeli Prize awarded by UK think tank Policy Exchange.
    In his speech, the Prime Minister made the case that his party’s longest serving leader Sir Robert wanted to create a progressive party not a conservative one.”

    Maybe you missed this JQ? (mild sarcasm yet I’d love to read it) Is it time for a paper with pvo on the difference between socialism, democratic socialism and ‘Nazism is national socialism which is considered a branch of socialism.’ 1,500 comments and counting.

    Peter van Onselen on twitter.
    “”There have been plenty of criticisms of Paul I’ve been reading on social media, pointing out Hitler was a fascist not a socialist. Nazism is national socialism which is considered a branch of socialism.”

    To fair-ish further down the pile on he states ” I know, but I am blown away by the hostile abuse I’ve received. I’m not defending it, I’m not linking it to democratic socialism. People are reactionary and vile. I’m done engaging on twitter, this is it. Only posting links from now on, not reading or engaging with mentions, ever”
    Ever. Near never ever land.
    But he kept writing.

  3. David Barry – PHON does not stand in all seats, so statewide figures for state elections are misleading. Their Senate vote may be a better indicator, but as is well known, Senate voting does not necessarily reflect lower house voting patterns essential for determining government.

  4. Hal9000: JQ’s comment that I quoted was about the federal election, and One Nation ran candidates in all Qld federal seats in 1998.

  5. I believe that nationally Lib party numbers are down which must lead to a diminishing pool of talent – for preselection committees, policy discussion and other matters. These members recently voted to privatise the ABC and other somewhat provocative measures but the voting numbers were small, only about 80 all up.

    A pretty sad turnout.

  6. Re: Know Teeth says, August 22, 2018 at 3:24 pm – Peter van Onselen, also see:

    Nazism, Socialism and the Falsification of History

    “…Murray – himself no historian – seems not to understand the war, yet his erstwhile Sky News colleague, political scientist, Australian columnist and now ABC commentator Peter van Onselen, leapt to his defence on Twitter late on 16 August. “There have been plenty of criticisms of Paul I’ve been reading on social media, pointing out Hitler was a fascist not a socialist,” he wrote, adding: “Nazism is national socialism which is considered a branch of socialism.” Claire Lehmann, founder of the Quillette magazine, fashionable blog of the right-wing commentariat, chimed in: “I thought everybody knew this already.” The Australian parallel universe was coming into view.

    Well, thankfully, not “everybody” is an adherent to the jejune News Corp view of history, despite the fact that Sky News streams into public places across the continent. Van Onselen’s cavalier tweet provoked a firm Twitter response from over 1,500 people (including us). Feeling exposed, he quickly composed an opinion piece on the “Socialist Roots of Nazism” for the Australian, which duly appeared online the next day.

    Emboldened, van Onselen also took to Twitter to promote his intervention, but confused readers by sending mixed messages: “This piece explains how the Nazis turned on the socialists in their own ranks in the 1930s” (actually, it was much earlier than that, as we detail below). And in another tweet agreeing with a U.S. think tanker that fascism “is a fatal combination of nationalism and socialism,” he added: “I know, but I am blown away by the hostile abuse I’ve received. I’m not defending it, I’m not linking it to democratic socialism. People are reactionary and vile. I’m done engaging on twitter, this is it. Only posting links from now on, not reading or engaging with mentions, ever”. [ I note that P van Onselen has elsewhere been referred to as “the oscillating fan”. S]

    But is it really fair to call the response van Onselen received “hostile abuse”? His position was criticised, to be sure – and for good reason. He blamed “mainstream socialists” for misconstruing his words. He then went on to note that the left-right spectrum is actually “more of an incomplete circle,” with the extremes of both ends almost connecting with one another. As a rarefied theory of political science, such sweeping revisionism might pass muster somewhere, but it has nothing to do with the history of Weimar or Nazi Germany, where both Nazis and socialists understood perfectly well where they stood in relation to one another.

    Put bluntly, van Onselen’s position not only confuses history, it also echoes some of the broader, more malign attempts at historical falsification abroad at present.
    Liberal fascism?
    So if the Nazis were so obviously anti-socialist, and believed so ardently in the virtues of private property and entrepreneurship, and if socialists were among the earliest and hardest hit victims of the Nazi party prior to the Second World War, why is Hitler being proclaimed by some as a socialist?

    Peter van Onselen may not equate democratic socialism with national socialism, but his argument makes precisely this association: they are both different “branches” of the same family – “socialism” – thereby making the Jewish Democrat Bernie Sanders an ideological cousin of Adolf Hitler.

    If the absurdity of this style of reasoning is all too apparent, it is nonetheless widely believed.”

    (Linked therein, a Prof A. Dirk Moses review has “The Long First World War: The Vanquished” by Robert Gerwarth now firmly on the reading list – sydneyreviewofbooks.com/the-vanquished-why-the-first-world-war-failed-to-end/ )

  7. To respond to comments here on Warren Entsch as a ‘liberal’ voice. I don’t disagree and should also point out that Entsch was a favourite of conservative John Howard. Maybe he should be a pragmatic voice more than liberal. I should also point out that regional Queensland is a somewhat amorphous mass.

    I don’t like posting links on other peoples blogs but posted this after the last Qld election: https://cairnseconomy.com/2017/11/27/quick-election-review-for-fnq/

    Was listening to ABC radio today where the journalist presented FNQ in the Queensland conservative stereotype box in all regional Qld. I don’t deny the regional ON influence. However urban Cairns represents something of a microcosm of the entire SEQ urban area in a single electorate.

    Despite many deficiencies I think at least Entsch gets that Cairns is different from all other regional Qld electorates outside SEQ.

    In 1998 state election ON won Mulgrave on the southside of Cairns. Demographics have resulted in continual intrusion of Katter’s Kennedy into the southern suburbs of Leichhardt as the Cairns population grows faster. This takes more of the traditional One Nation area into Kennedy.

  8. I think the by-elections showed a shift in the rural vote, driven by the LNPs climate change denialism and inaction. People in rural areas have long felt that their concerns are ignored by city-centric Liberal and Labor parties, and even by the Nationals. Hence the occasional rise of independents (Windsor, Oakeshott). They are now feeling the effects of drought, and climate change is not just about turning up the air-conditioning when your livelihood is at stake. If this is a climate/ environment conscious shift in voter sentiment, it would explain a higher Labor/Green vote, and could well be seen in rural seats nationwide. This is not a view I’ve heard from any pundits, and perhaps I’m being too optimistic. However Malcolm Turnbull seems to have suddenly noticed farming communities since Super Saturday.

  9. More broadly, I think the troglodytes genuinely – and absurdly – believe that there is a “silent majority” of troglodytic voters out in the real Australia. This despite such things as the same-sex marriage vote. But then these people are superbly skilled at reality avoidance (witness their climate denialism), thinking that if Andrew Bolt wishes something three times it will come true.

    If they go off into the far right wilderness, the loss of votes for deposing a sitting and reasonably popular PM will be as nothing to the long term loss of votes from disgust at their chronic stupidity and nastiness. “Mobilising the base” only works in systems of voluntary voting and where you control the electoral system to make sutre that base gets more than their fair share of seats.

  10. @David Barry Thanks. I’ve updated to incorporat this

    @DD Out of morbid fascination, I sometimes read comments threads in the Oz. In one of them, where the readers were all praising Dutton, one said something to the effect of “given the frequency with which people here refer to their grandchildren, we may not be typical. Perhaps you should ask your grandchildren how they feel about Dutton”.

  11. Let us not forget that political genius Dutton said Longman was in the bag for the Libs!!

  12. DD, the idea that mobilising the base doesn’t matter assumes that if the base votes for let’s say One Nation it doesn’t matter because they’ll give their second preference to the LNP anyway.

    But often they don’t give their second preference to the LNP. Perversely they give it to Labor. So
    It matters, electorally. And in Senate votes it really matters because One Nation Senators can’t be relied on to vote for LNP legilslation, like say corporate tax cuts to pick this weeks example.

  13. Perversely they give it to Labor.

    Eh. PHON voters want herrenvolk democracy. “The government is responsive to the population” is actually not that distant from “the government is responsive to the white population”, and better than “screw you, peon!” than the LNP currently offers. I figure Dutton wants to play to the herrenvolk side, move to “screw you, white peon, but we’ll let you screw the subaltern peon harder!”.

  14. It’s all over. Turnbull’s fate is almost Shakesperean. He had self-belief in spades, too much, in fact, but he was done in by his own lack of judgement, lack of courage and lack of character. But it’s not really a tragedy in the true sense, because he was from the beginning a bullshit artist with no substance.

  15. Svante. Great articles. I was not aware of Dirk Moses. I urge all to read the last 2 paras in the link…

    Moses, being able to draw an arc from before ww1 through ww2 and to today was for me, chilling.
    His last sentence “This is a global conjuncture that requires a new vocabulary rather than unhelpful historical analogies.”, put paid to my hope that we can, via dialogue and diplomacy, sort this out.

    If Moses is calling for a new vocabulary, it almost implies we are back to square one.

    Any links to ‘a new vocabulary ‘.

    ** off topic, as this is historic day in Australian federation… Tony Burke just said…
    “”He says no government in living memory has done this.
    No government has decided ‘this is too hard, let’s go home’””

  16. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells blamed the same sex marriage issue for the erosion of the party’s base. As the vote for same sex marriage had been preceded by a plebiscite, which attracted a substantial majority, I can only assume that her base is only concerned with their own welfare and not concerned with the nation as a whole.

    This seems part of the ‘broad church’ schtick – Australian conservatives are a mixed bunch united by their anger at not being very popular.

  17. rog, IME (and its now considerable experience) it is the end for pollies when they believe their own bullshit. And the Duttonites were fed an awful lot of their bullshit by the Murdoch press, most especially that somewhere out there was a “real Australia” in which middle aged under-educated Anglo males in regional Queensland were the majority.

    The new PM is an awful lot smarter than Dutton but quite unprincipled. ScoMo has the personality of a good used car salesman – he’s an Oz version of Richard Nixon, not Donald Trump.

    I still think Shorten will probably win the next election, but the Libs correctly chose the candidate who will give them their best chance. Don’t forget too that ScoMo was the favoured candidate of both the Murdoch press (they wrote puff piece after puff piece) and Alan Jones until Dutton took over in their affections. I think they will rapidly return to their old flame.

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