KIM WINGEREI The Battle of the One Percent

This election proved to be no exception after all – politics is a battle over small margins, apathy reigns supreme among voters, the particracy rules and democracy is the loser every time.

When I wrote Game of Votes on the eve of the election, I had no inkling that my prophecy of “the more things change, the more they stay the same” would be so true. Like most commentators I thought it was a question not of a Labor win, but of how much of a win.

After Bill Shorten, the next casualty of this result may be the pollsters who all not just got it wrong, but so consistently wrong for so long. Funny though, how suddenly everyone knows why – talking about sampling errors, changing telephone habits and statistical inaccuracies.

The reality of this election is that despite the outrage, despite the incredulous comments about “how Australians could get it so wrong” and those clamouring for one-way tickets to the current wonderland of Jacinda Ardern, not much has changed since the last election in 2016.

Unlike Scott Morisson, these numbers of primary votes don’t lie (with 77% of votes counted):

– The Liberal Party down 0.9 percentage points to 27.7%
– Labor down 0.9 to 33.9%
– The Nationals and the Liberal National Party combined up 0.3 to 13.4%
– Greens down 0.2 to 10%

In our preference vote system the Greens continue to suffer from their inability to do preference deals and maybe also spreading themselves too thin contesting every seat. Despite getting one in ten primary votes, the Greens still only have one of the 151 representatives in the new lower house.

Clive Palmer’s expensive self indulge got him 3.4% of the primary vote, and equally inexplicable to those of a rational disposition, One Nation almost doubled their vote. Thankfully, neither got a seat, but the preferences from those voters undoubtedly helped swing the two-party preferred vote to the Coalition.

Independents/Others will probably keep their 5 seats.

In other words, not much changed. The election was won or lost by changes of less than one percentage point primary vote. The Liberals/National won by retaining their seats and winning one more seat compared to 2016*. At the time of writing Labor will have lost one seat* if the predictions are true.

To quote Maxwell Smart: “Missed it by that much!”

The recalcitrants crow about their great victory – The Australian’s headline of “The Messiah from the Shire” sending shivers down the collective spine of the progressive side of politics on Monday. The losing side of the one percent argument decries Labor’s policy failures, the Clive Palmer effect and the Murdoch domination of the mainstream media while calling for Queensland to secede as it is the state where – in effect – Labor lost the election.

It is all also part of a narrative of a divided nation, of an increased polarisation reflecting how politics are conducted.

Morisson took to the campaign trail with his simple messages short on substance. Ably supported by mainstream media – sadly including the ABC – who consistently failed to question the half lies and half truths all designed to tap into people’s biggest fear – the fear of change.

Shorten and his team presented a message of big policy shifts, much of it commendable, some quite brave, mostly ignored by the mainstream media.

The mainstream media kept pushing the “Shorten is not likable” line, Morisson made it all about him and his contrived larrikin ways – deflecting difficult questions at every turn with his cheesy grin and baseball caps.

None of this should surprise. It is how party politics have been conducted for decades – shifting from one side to the other – always on the margin, focused much more on the personalities rather than the realities, policy debate always taking a back seat to politics.

And it worked for Morisson and his largely invisible and incompetent colleagues. In the end – despite the misgivings about ousting Turnbull, despite the scandals that kept cropping up about corruption, Murray Darling watergate, the shenanigans of his former drunken deputy leader and others of his National Party allies, the scathing of the Royal Banking Commission and mountains of debt, the vast majority of people did not see the need for change.

Labor did not dear to play the refugee card, their policies too similar to the LNP anyway. Nor was it able to forcefully take on the banks, take up the watergate mantle or announce a Federal ICAC with real teeth. The franking credit was always going to be an own goal. Not because it wasn’t good policy – albeit half baked, the change makes sense – but because it was so easy to attack and it was not seen as part of a bigger picture of much needed tax reform (or rather, tax simplification).

The reality is that neither Morisson nor Shorten are particularly well liked. They are both products of a flawed system where politics is merely a game of winning or losing, not a forum for exploring and debating real change.

In the end, Morisson convinced his base that change would bring uncertainty and Shorten’s more positive messages were not compelling enough, nor given enough airtime.

And as we continue to let politics be dominated by the two major parties/coalitions, in three years time we’ll go through it again, the costly and divisive battle of the one percent.

We live in a particracy, not a democracy. Until we realise that and collectively decide to look for ways to change it, apathy will continue to reign supreme while career politicians “run” the country for their own benefit.

* – comparison to 2016 election, ignoring later by-elections.

Kim Wingerei is a former business-man, turned writer and commentator. Passionate about free speech, human rights, democracy and the politics of change. Originally from Norway, lived in Australia for 30 years. Author of ‘Why Democracy is Broken – A Blueprint for Change’. Follow @ kimwingerei.com / Twitter @kwingerei

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2 Responses to KIM WINGEREI The Battle of the One Percent

  1. Richard Ure says:

    To be fair, one can hardly complain about the Greens being under-represented while being thankful Clive and Pauline are too. And if is hard for the ABC to play its role when the candidate to lead one of the contestants refuses to appear. However, that could have invited a report card on his team’s stewardship each time he failed to front.

    As to the larrikin persona, it was usually accompanied by the word “fake” but that did not seem to make a difference.

    And as to the franking credit own goal. A thoughtful, responsible electorate would have acknowledged the less well off were about to be done over by Tim Wilson and opportunistic government members who sat by or assisted while taxpayer funds were used to finance a national roadshow to spread misinformation, fear and loathing about Labor’s excess franking credits reform. The final two lines on the table at https://theconversation.com/its-hard-to-find-out-who-labors-dividend-imputation-policy-will-hit-but-it-is-possible-and-it-isnt-the-poor-116370 shows how concentrated was the distribution of the amount of the imputation tax refunds being given to the smallest number of citizens (they hardly qualify for the title “taxpayers”). Any Opposition would be expected to correct the distortion when it comes to dealing with the burden of the task of budget repair. If they are ever inclined to reflect on their votes, those who voted against the reform should reflect on the fact they are the ones paying for this largesse. Possibly after the result in the election, indefinitely.

    But there is one more thing. The rort has now been institutionalised and Saturday’s decision may well result in even more people changing their affairs (apparently irrevocably) to take advantage of this medicine ball size loophole. Or possibly this large, influential group will rise up at the next election and restore the playing field?

    Now the nation has even more reason to blame John Howard for this middle-class welfare time bomb thus reducing his prospect for a Hawke type valedictory when the time comes.

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