A state election outcome with global implications ?

After any state election with a decisive outcome, partisan analysis shows a predictable pattern. On the losing side, the state party blames its federal counterpart, while the feds say that the election was decided on state issues. On the winning side, there is generally enough credit to go around, with the state party basking in success, while the federal party (particularly if it is in opposition) points to the outcome as a “message to Canberra”.

The recent Victorian election is, I think, rather different. That’s because, on the conservative side at least, the usual state-based issues (health, education, roads) were disregarded in favour of a culture war campaign almost identical to that being run by the Morrison government at the national level and by the political right globally. Notable examples were an overtly racist law and order campaign, a revival of the drug war, and proposals for publicly funded coal-fired power stations aimed at appealing to climate science denialists. Guy’s slogan “get back in control” could just as well have been used by Donald Trump, or by the rightwing advocates of Brexit.

The stunning rejection of Guy’s campaign gives some hope that Australian voters will not fall for this. In part, that’s because Labor ran on its traditional strength at the state level. But the outcome was very similar to Morrison’s drubbing in the Wentworth by-election, where the state level advantage didn’t apply.

It’s only one election, but it’s one of a number, notably including the recent US midterms, where the supposed irresistible force of rightwing identity politics has proved to be not so irresistible after all. It’s too early to start cheering, but it now looks possible that, in a few years time, the whole rightwing upsurge will prove to have been the final spasm of the losing side in the culture wars. The question then will be how to build a better world from the mess we will inherit.

20 thoughts on “A state election outcome with global implications ?

  1. A key issue was the middle class revolt against the Liberals in “ultra conservative” seats like Hawthorn and Brighton. These are some of the wealthiest parts of the city. It was astonishing the way the middle class expressed their contempt for the Liberal Party. A major rethink by conservatives will be necessary. I think the Liberal campaign was weak and based on fear – the axing of Turnbull did have an impact too. The Labor campaign was down to earth – we have done these infrastructure investments that we promised and will do more.

  2. The LNP are a disgusting bunch in most things but Guy’s announcement that he would close the Richmond safe injecting room would have literally killed people. This is what passes for good policy apparently.

  3. Harryclarke

    The “ultra conservative” areas of the kind you mention certainly have a long tradition of Liberal voting, but they are socially liberal, just like Wentworth. They voted yes to same sex marriage. They are not the sorts of places who are likely to be impressed by a fear campaign about African gangs, or whatever.

    The Liberal Party in Victoria has won three elections since 1979, and one of those was by one seat. Before that they were unbeatable but that was then not now and Dick Hamer is not about to walk through that door.

  4. You can add moving the embassy in Israel (which was a weird move given how poorly it worked Federally) and privatising the sewerage (despite it running well and reasonably cheaply). The drug war one was an apriori loser too given the injecting room had local support even from a self-interest point of view since it cleans up the streets (less dropped needles, less addicts wandering around).

  5. Andrews promised to spend a lot of money building roads and railways and to borrow the money to do it. People like the building works and no one cares about the debt, The times they are a-changin.

  6. Conrad, the Liberals actually promised to move the Victorian trade and tourism office from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which makes zero commerce sense, but of course it was never about that.

  7. I’d like to think the reason the LNP vote was hammered had something to do with the farcical extremes they are reaching to suppress any action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but it seems there are too many competing errors of judgement for this to get a mention.

  8. I don’t want to be vainglorious, but I’m glad I live in Victoria today. I follow several African Australian people on twitter, and the fear and anxiety they were feeling in the election campaign was palpable, as was their happiness, even joyfulness, today. It can’t last at that pitch, of course, but it was wonderful to see.

  9. What has saved Labor is its realist policy on border protection . If the ALP adopted a snowflake position on border protection it would now be a demoralised and rudderless rabble as per nearly every social democratic party in Europe.

    I don’t read anything into the Victorian election results- it is just another state election and it hardly makes up for the state ALP being thrown out in SA or the miserable situation in NSW.

    I ‘m also disappointed to see Fiona Patten lose her seat. To make matters worse the propertians aka Lib Dems may have picked up a couple upper house seats.

  10. “……but it now looks possible that, in a few years time, the whole rightwing upsurge will prove to have been the final spasm of the losing side in the culture wars.”

    I hope you are right about that. I would be even more cautious about predicting the end of the right resurgence. I have seen too many similar predictions proven wrong. Also, we progressive have yet to mount a United and convincing alternative to win over the middle ground.

  11. Global implications?? nah

    Federal implications I think so.

    the ALP carefully planted the the thought of Morrison being aligned with Abbott and Dutton and it worked a treat.

    Expect to see plenty of that in the Federal election.

    If I can make a historical analogy, Brice easily won an election primarily on a scare campaign against the ALP and then very soon after ignominiously lost his own seat in an early election he called again on a scare campaign. He was believable in the former but not in the latter.

    The ALP had their own scare campaign last election yet the polls did not move and somehow it was a raging success!

    A scare campaign needs people of credibility to do it.The Liberals have no-one of credibility.

  12. On the scale of the world stage, the Victorian election outcome does not rate. It is not going to affect the course of the USA, Russia or China (for example). There are no global implications unless it is diagnostic of some wider change. Australia is idiosyncratic enough and isolated enough to render any diagnostic thesis highly dubious.

    The outcome is nice for us, for now. Globally, it changes nothing. Neoliberalism still operates from a position of overwhelming dominance in the capitalist centers of the global system. Until and if the peoples of the USA, EU, UK and Canada overthrow neoliberalism, nothing substantial changes.

    Then there’s China, Russia and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a complex of totalitarian states becoming more totalitarian and more economically and militarily powerful by the year. Meanwhile, the West destroys itself and the environment with unchecked neoliberalism. Late stage neoliberal capitalism is also trending to corporatism, legalism and authoritarianism.

    The global production system (neoliberal in form in the West and State Capitalist in form in China and Russia) has immense momentum and immense structural commitment and inflexibility. It is very heavily committed to continuing operations in the current and accelerating mode.

    What could change the game are not good election outcomes (useful as they are) but the now inevitable series of massive climate and ecological disasters we are soon to face. These should convince the (remaining) masses of the absolute necessity of overthrowing the current elites.

  13. There’s a few factors. My friends who usually vote Liberal because they felt both sides were immoral, (numerous issues on ALP side and Guy’s ‘Lobster with a Mobster’), however the ALP had ‘Vision’. Either vision on public transport or Renewable Energy.

    Or they felt that at least the ALP was building stuff and better the Devil you know.

    There were some concerns about the debt that would be raised in the last two days of the campaign where 1.5 million people had already voted, it got little media traction and voters are less worried about debt than 15 years ago.

    In terms of law and order, crime is down like 8% and ALP is hiring 3000 police. Sure violent home invasions are probably up but people dont feel overly unsafe. If anything people are morbidly cynical about terrorism. So, law and order were going to be a tough sell.

  14. “Sure violent home invasions are probably up but people dont feel overly unsafe.”

    Rather like big American cities. They nearly all have very dangerous parts but for the people who live in the safe parts the bad stuff might as well be happening on Jupiter.

  15. I’ve been trying to make sense of some of the jaded comments here, and the only thing I can come up with is that Victoria, while occupied by a significant chunk of the population of Australia, and growing very fast, is just a small bit on the southeastern corner geographically. I can’t think of any other (socially acceptable) reason why some of you dismiss the significance of our election so easily. The Andrews government is centre left, for crying out loud. It’s not centrist! And it just got an overwhelming vote of confidence. One of the reasons the Greens are suffering in this election is the Andrews govt has moved into their territory. In the inner north suburbs, where I live, it’s a genuine fight for left voters. Some really good outcomes,, like Labor’s promised Sydney Road trams will run on solar in a year. That’s pretty good.

    I’m doing this on my mobile so don’t want to scan back, but whoever said that this was something to do with Labor being bipartisan on keeping out ‘boat people’, you could not be more wrong if you tried.

  16. Umm, Val, as a Victorian I flirted with the Greens for a few years when I was in my twenties. One of the reasons I went back to the ALP is that I realised Green policy on asylum seekers would leave us exposed to a much greater terrorism risk, tens of thousands of deaths at sea and reduced social trust and the growth of the populist right.

    The ALP is for grown ups, the Greens are for kids.

  17. Johnno, I’m not sure how long ago you were in your twenties, but I suspect it may be a while before this current election? So relevance of this is not clear. I just checked a number of polls and found that majorities, or at least pluralities, of people don’t like children in detention and don’t like indefinite detention. The one poll that I found showing state breakdowns showed absolute majority of Victorians favoured bringing refugees in Manus and Nauru to Australia http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/7159-asylum-seekers-nauru-manus-island-february-2017-201702222052

    Overall you appear to be trying to generalise from your own views – not very useful in political discussion.

  18. If you ask people if they like kids in detention, obviously many people will say no. Other polls however very clearly show that Australians want our government to control our borders. Poll after poll shows that the Coalition is the most trusted party on border security and that is *because* of, not inspite of its draconian policies on borfer security.

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