Back to man bites dog: yet another #Ozfail

Yesterday, the Oz ran the headline “Labor fails to win the middle ground”, reporting the unsurprising Newspoll result that high income earners[1] on $150000 or more mostly vote for the LNP.

Today, it’s done a backflip, quoting Joel Fitzgibbon as saying that Labor is losing its working class base.

Nothing too surprising here, but its worth remembering that the two-party preferred vote in the May election was 51-49 for the LNP, whereas the polls predicted 51-49 for Labor. If Labor were losing badly among both the well-off and the working class, this would be impossible.

[1] Recall that in Ozspeak, “middle” means “upper”

Dog bites man: also, high income earners vote LNP

To read political commentary recently, in Australia and elsewhere, one would imagine that working-class voters have deserted Labor and other left parties en masse, and that these parties now depend on the votes of wealthy inhabitants of the inner city.

The Oz (not linked) has just down a breakdown of recent newspolls, which shows this to be pretty much the exact opposite of the the truth. Of course, being the Oz, this is given the negative spin that “Labor fails to win back the middle” (remember that in Ozspeak, and most political commentary, “middle” means “top”[1]. It’s also important to note that most of the discussion compares Labor to the sum of the Liberal and National Parties. This count the Greens, who are effectively part of a fractious left coalition, as well as centrist and right wing minor parties.

The key finding

The greatest margin in favour of the Coalition was among those with household incomes of between $100,000 and $150,000, with a split of 50 per cent to 28 per cent.

There was a similar picture among higher-income earners targeted by Labor’s class war on the wealthy — those earning household income of more than $150,000 — with the government holding a 21-point lead, 50 per cent to 29 per cent.

Under normal circumstances, this would be the ultimate “dog bites man” story. But, given the absurd state of political commentary, particularly from the Murdoch Press, it will come as a shock to many.

An unsurprising implication, given that high income earners tend to live close to the central business district is that the Liberal party holds most seats in these areas (archetypal examples are Kooyong and Higgins in Melbourne and Wentworth and Bennelong in Sydney, but the pattern extends to through the Eastern suburbs in both cities and the North Shore in Sydney). The exceptions are a handful of seats in formerly working class areas very close to the CBD, where a combination of gentrifying young professionals and the remainder of the old working class population vote for either Labor or the Greens (Albanese’s seat of Grayndler for example).

Again, for anyone who paid attention to the outcome of the election rather than the spin put out by (for example), Blue Labor, there would be no surprises here.

Pasokification

That’s a term coined to describe the fate of the Greek social democratic (and nominally socialist) party PASOK, which implemented austerity measures in the wake of the global financial crisis, and was subsequently wiped out, with most of its voters going switching their support to the newly created left party Syriza.

In France, Germany and the Netherlands, much the same has happened with the Greens gaining many of the votes lost by social democrats. Broadly speaking, the more a social democratic party has gone for centrist respectability, the worse it has done. In Spain, the Socialist Party has formed a coalition government with the leftwing populist party Podemos. In Portugal, confusingly there is both a Socialist (anti-austerity) and Social Democratic (pro-austerity) parties. Unsurprisingly, the SDs have lost ground.

Could something like this happen in Australia. I’ve always been critical of the idea that the Greens could replace Labor as the main left-of-centre party. That’s because the policy differences between the two were less significant than the stylistic/cultural differences, which meant that the Greens appealed to a relatively limited section of the electorate.

However, with the massive overreaction to the unexpected election loss in May, Labor under Anthony Albanese seems to determine to test out the possibility of Pasokification. Having waved through the Coalition’s regressive tax cuts, and “big stick” energy laws, Albanese has now failed to offer any response to the fire emergency, opting instead to promote coal exports. He has trained all his attacks on the Greens and has had nothing to say about the government.

Our only hope at this point is to replace Labor with an opposition that will actually oppose the government, and push for serious action in response to the climate emergency. That will take time we don’t have, but I can’t see any alternative.

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Anti-politics from the inside

There have always been lots of people who saw nothing in politics except a bunch of windbags scoring points off each other. And a year or two back, there was a thing called anti-politics which attempted to give some kind of intellectual basis for this sentiment.

Although I’ve known lots of anti-political/apolitical people and paid attention to the discussion of anti-politics, it’s always been something I’ve viewed from the outside, and as a problem to be remedied by doing a better job of explaining the importance of political issues. I’ve often (in fact usually) been highly critical of the political positions of the major parties, but always highly engaged.

But now, I’m suddenly experiencing anti-politics from the inside. The country is on fire, and there’s no end in sight. The government is doing nothing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and actively promoting measures that would make things worse.

But watching the last session of Federal Parliament you wouldn’t know any of this. Angus Taylor is supposed to be the minister for emissions reduction: he’s failed miserably and lied about it continuously. But instead of discussing this, the politicians are arguing about bogus anecdotes and documents Taylor has put out as part of the culture war. Meanwhile, the government’s prime concern is to make life a bit tougher for a few hundred refugees, thereby getting the all-important win to end the year.

If this is what’s on offer, count me out.

The new normal: put up with it

Anthony Albanese has finally responded to the bushfire disaster. On the positive side, and by contrast with Morrison, he has at least acknowledged the role of climate change in turning our historical pattern of episodic bushfires into a new normal in which fires burn for weeks on end in places that have never seen them before. As of today, with the worst of the crisis behind us for now, NSW Fire and Rescue Service reports

At 8.30am there are 129 fires burning, 66 are uncontained. One fire is at Watch and Act level. More than 1,800 personnel are working to contain these fires. Severe and High Fire Danger Ratings continue over much of the state today.

Albo’s response is to call for an emergency COAG which will discuss how to deal with climate related disasters, but not, it seems, look at doing anything about our contribution to climate change. That would, it seems, be unnecessarily divisive.

We now have a choice between two exciting climate policies

LNP: Don’t believe your lying eyes, let alone lying scientists. It isn’t happening

ALP: It’s happening, and we’re not going to do anything unpopular to stop it. Get used to it.

Professional politicians

I plan a response to Nick Dryenfurth’s Blue Labor argument before too long. But for now, I’ll record one point of agreement. Far too many MPs, particularly on the Labor side are professional politicians, who have gone from university to a staff or professional union job (that is, not for a union of which they have previously been a member or activist) and then gained preselection through the faction system.

Worse still, for most of these MPs, political office isn’t the final goal, but a stepping stone to more lucrative opportunities in lobbying or the finance sector. Of course, those opportunities are mainly open to those who pursue right wing policies. That’s entirely consistent with belonging to the “Socialist Left” faction (exhibit A: Anna Bligh).

Following the success of affirmative action for women, Labor should set a target of having half its seats filled by people who have spent at least ten years working in a non-political job or in socially productive activity such as raising children.

Wrong ways to think about elections (slightly updated)

I tried to avoid instant reactions to the election outcome in May. But now that lots of people are making claims I regard as dubious at best, I think I may respond. Before doing that, I thought it would be useful to make some general observations about mistaken/dubious claims that are commonly made in post election analysis, particularly following a close election.

Just about everyone, including me, is prone to these kinds of reasoning. Feel free to discuss, give examples, and so on.

Update: Much of what I planned to write has been covered, much better, by Peter Brent at Inside Story.

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