Lessons from North Sydney for minor players

27 December 2015

 

Both sides of politics have much to think about as a new year dawns.  With a Federal election coming next year, the Turnbull Coalition Government looks assured of victory, with the Opposition looking unelectable, at least as far as opinion polls go.  But it won’t be easy for the Liberal-National Coalition, as it’s got to make hard decisions about public spending and employment laws, among other things, even with the Labor Party hardly looking like a viable alternative.

Neither side looks like taking much out of the North Sydney by-election, which happened earlier this month.  Triggered by the resignation from Federal Parliament of former Treasurer Joe Hockey, it resulted in a fairly comfortable win for the Liberals.  There was a swing against them, but because Labor didn’t contest the by-election, conclusions weren’t so clear.

There were also more candidates contesting the by-election than had contested the seat at the last Federal election, in 2013.  As such, the vote went all over the place!  The Liberals had a swing of about 12-13 per cent against them on primary votes, and Independent candidate Stephen Ruff came second with 18-19 per cent of the vote, while the Liberals finished about 60-40 ahead of Ruff after preferences.

The big swing against the Liberals should’ve been troubling for them.  But there wasn’t really an appealing alternative candidate to North Sydney, so the swing seems less damaging.  And with more candidates running, even excluding Labor, voters can look elsewhere if they wish.

The rise in candidates contesting North Sydney made me think of a by-election in Victoria long ago.  It followed the resignation of Pat McNamara, who’d previously been leader of the Nationals and Deputy Premier in Victoria.  At a state election in 1999, McNamara won the rural seat of Benalla fairly comfortably from Labor candidate Denise Allen.  She was actually the only candidate running against McNamara.  When he resigned the following year, several candidates ran in the resulting Benalla by-election against the Nationals and Allen, who again stood for Labor.

With the Nationals out of favour in Benalla, there was a swing against them both on primary votes and after preferences, and Labor won.  However, probably due to the larger field of candidates than in the previous year’s election, Labor’s primary vote also dropped.

Benalla voters clearly had doubts about Labor, although they were unhappier with the Nationals.  It might be that at the previous year’s election, with only the Nationals and Labor to choose from, voters unhappy with both options basically made their choice by first rejecting the option that they disliked more – hardly an inspiring way to vote.  But Labor still finished first on primary votes, ahead of the Nationals, before winning the by-election on preferences, and you can’t fault that.

The Benalla by-election result back then makes me think that this month’s North Sydney by-election, had Labor run, might’ve seen swings on primary votes against the big political players.  When more candidates contest an election, voters have more choice, and if they’re unhappy they can naturally look elsewhere.

However, if there are lessons from this by-election in North Sydney, they’re really for minor players, be they minor parties or Independent candidates.  These lessons are important ahead of next year’s Federal election, especially if voters are unhappy with both the Coalition and Labor.

With Labor skipping the by-election, I’d have expected the Greens to win over people who’d otherwise voted for Labor in North Sydney.  After all, it’s a wealthy electorate with people tending to care more about issues like human rights and environmentalism, as they don’t worry about losing their jobs or their homes.  But support for the Greens barely changed, and their candidate finished behind Ruff.  Are the Greens now less strong than before?

Mind you, because the vote went all over the place, I wouldn’t strictly conclude that Ruff won over those who’d have otherwise voted for Labor.  If Ruff chooses to run as a candidate in North Sydney at the next election, would his vote from the by-election rise or fall?  With Labor having no chance of winning North Sydney, would voters unhappy with the Liberals support an alternative like Ruff?  Most North Sydney people didn’t vote for him in the by-election, so would they even consider him at the next election?

Voters usually don’t support Independents unless they feel like they really know them.  It’s not enough just to have “Independent” or the letters “I-N-D” after your name on a ballot paper.  If voters don’t feel familiar with minor players, even disliking the major parties won’t necessarily sway them.

Federal Independent MP Andrew Wilkie was widely known, as an intelligence analyst, before his election in 2010.  He’d contested several elections before finally winning a seat, and now looks like he’ll hold it for some time.  Having a high profile also helped the late Peter Andren in 1996, when he was elected as a Federal Independent MP.  He was a television newsreader in central New South Wales, so people in that region knew who he was, and he held his seat comfortably until his death.  Of course, countless Independents have lost elections despite being widely known, but being known often helps.

The lessons from North Sydney seem clear.  Minor political players in particular should heed them before the next election comes.

 

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Crossbench negotiations won’t end soon

21 December 2015

 

The change in leadership in September might’ve been, at least at this stage, the best thing to have happened to the Federal Coalition of late.  With the unpopular Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, polls consistently showed the Coalition heading for a major election defeat after a single term in office.  But after Malcolm Turnbull challenged Abbott for the leadership and beat him, the Coalition’s fortunes have turned around.  Now another Coalition election win looks beyond question.

But one thing won’t change after the next election – the need for the Prime Minister, whoever it is, to negotiate with the Senate, where minor parties and Independents hold the balance of power.  Currently, the Coalition needs support from six out of eighteen Senate crossbenchers to pass legislation.  After the next election, these numbers might change, but the need for crossbench negotiations in the Senate won’t end soon.

To understand the Senate situation, it’s worth noting when the last few Federal elections have happened, in reverse order.  They’ve been held in 2013, 2010, 2007, and 2004.  The reason for noting these election years will be explained shortly.

Elections generally are for all seats in the House of Representatives and a majority of seats in the Senate.  I say “a majority” advisedly, because in theory election include half-Senate elections, meaning half of all Senate seats going up for grabs, but this isn’t totally accurate.  This is because Parliament was set up before the territories, namely the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, even existed, let alone had representation.

Both the Northern Territory and the ACT have two Senators each, and the Coalition and the Labor Party always win those four seats.  Mind you, had Abbott still been leading, I’d have rated the Coalition’s ACT Senate seat as vulnerable, with the ACT considered less conservative than other parts of Australia, as well as less tolerant of Abbott.  But under Turnbull, the Coalition’s ACT seat looks safe.

The terms of state-based Senators end at every second election, with half of them facing voters on a rotating basis, hence the description of half-Senate elections.  Therefore the Senators who won seats at the last election, in 2013, won’t face the voters at the next election, due next year, but at the one after that, probably coming in 2019.  These Senators include the popular South Australian Independent Nick Xenophon, originally elected in 2007 before being elected again in 2013, so he’s not facing the voters next year.

The Senators who won seats at the 2010 election, the one prior to the last, will face the voters next year.  So we should note what happened with the Senate in 2010, specifically in the states.  The results back then show the Coalition now having little ground available to make up in the Senate.

The 2010 election saw mixed Senate results in the states, which have six seats each up for grabs at election time.  In Tasmania, Labor won three seats to the Coalition’s two, with the Greens winning one seat.  In Victoria, the Coalition and Labor won two seats apiece, with the Greens winning one seat, while another minor player, John Madigan, also won a seat.  In every other state, the Coalition won three seats to Labor’s two, with the Greens winning one seat.

Usually the Coalition and Labor together win five out of six available Senate seats in each state, with minor players often winning the sixth seat.  The stronger of the major parties will likely win three seats in those circumstances, though this varies from election to election and from state to state.

As such, the Coalition can’t increase its Senate numbers by much at the next election.  It’s defending three Senate seats apiece in four states, and it can only improve its numbers by one in both Victoria and Tasmania, where it won only two seats apiece.  I tip the Coalition to pick up those extra seats in those two states, but it won’t get a vote strong enough in any state to win a fourth seat, notwithstanding Turnbull’s popularity.

The Coalition will probably gain its third Victorian seat at the expense of Madigan, who snuck into the Senate on preferences in 2010.  Its third Tasmanian seat will probably come at the expense of Labor, which won three Tasmanian seats in 2010 but is now on the nose with voters.  But this would still leave the Coalition, assuming that it wins the election overall and three Senate seats in every state, needing maybe four crossbench Senate votes to pass legislation.

Turnbull’s rise has left Labor in such bad shape that it’ll probably lose ground in the Senate.  But Labor might only lose one seat in Tasmania, as it won two seats in every other state and isn’t likely to improve or worsen.

The Greens will hold most of their seats, as their vote remains quite strong across the country.  I rate them vulnerable in Queensland, where their vote seem less as in other states, but they may hold, as the major parties together hold five seats there already and no other minor players look that appealing.

Delicate Senate negotiations, with the kind of people once described by one of Turnbull’s predecessors as “unrepresentative swill”, look like continuing beyond the next election.  The rise of Turnbull as Prime Minister hasn’t made this possibility less likely as such.

 

Rocky road confronting the Greens

19 July 2015

Victoria looks like becoming the new power base for the Greens.  Their vote has seemed better there than in any other states, except perhaps Tasmania, and having won several Federal and State seats in Victoria in recent elections, it won’t surprise me if their centre of power ends up there.  But the road ahead for the Greens, now led by Senator Richard Di Natale of Victoria, looks rocky.

People have long thought of Tasmania as the home of the Greens, at least when former Senator Bob Brown was leader.  Brown was for years a State MP in Tasmania before he was elected to the Senate in 1996.  But before his election to the Senate, two other Greens were already there, namely Christabel Chamarette and Dee Margetts, both of Western Australia.  At the same time of Brown’s election, however, Chamarette lost her seat, while Margetts lost her seat a few years later.

The Greens actually didn’t seem entirely unified in those days.  Despite fielding candidates nationwide, past election results show that they sometimes ran under state-based banners, until about 2004.  Indeed the Greens from WA had won their Senate seats under state banners, while Brown was originally elected as a “Tasmanian Green”.  After Chamarette and Margetts departed, Brown was the only Green in the Senate for a few years.  He held his seat at two further elections, and more Greens joined him in the Senate over time.

I should point at this point that not all Senators face the voters at election time, because of how Federal Parliament has been constituted.  Usually when general elections are called, they include what are known as half-Senate elections, although this term might confuse people.  The reason is that, while there are seventy-six Senators made up of twelve from each state and two from each territory, the territories didn’t have Senate representation until many decades after Federal Parliament first opened – only the states had Senate seats, and as only of half of those seats would usually go up for grabs at election time, the term “half-Senate election” was accurate.  Although not entirely accurate now, given that the territories now have Senate seats, of which all rather than half go up for grabs at election time like seats in the House of Representatives, the description of a half-Senate election has survived.  For decades it was also common for half-Senate elections to be held separately from House elections, but this hasn’t happened for a few decades.

Only in certain circumstances, such as the refusal of the Senate to pass pieces of legislation more than once, can the Prime Minister of the day call an election whereby all Senate seats go up for grabs – this is referred to as a double-dissolution election.  It’s rare for double-dissolution elections to happen, the last of these to have been in 1987.

This means that, unless Prime Minister Tony Abbott is so fed up with his inability to get the Senate to pass legislation that he calls a double-dissolution, we can expect a half-Senate election as part of the next general election, due in late 2016.  But those Senators elected at the last election, in 2013, won’t face the voters this time – they’ll do so at the election after next, due in about 2019.

To assess how the Greens might go, it’s worth noting their record at past elections.  Using the election of Brown to the Senate in 1996 as a starting point, there have been six elections.  They were in 1998, 2001, 2004, 2007, 2010, and 2013.  After winning a seat in 1996, Brown next faced the voters in 2001 and then 2007, before resigning in 2012, with Peter Whish-Wilson replacing him and facing the voters in 2013.  Another Green won a seat along with Brown in 2001, and two more Greens won seats in 2004, by which time the Greens in WA were now competing under the national banner with their counterparts in other states.  After winning three seats in 2007, the Greens hit their peak with six seats in 2010, and despite a falling in their vote they won four Senate seats in 2013, giving them their current total of ten.  They also won the seat of Melbourne in the House of Reps in 2010 and held in 2013.

Those Greens elected to the Senate in 2010 will face the voters at the next election, unless it’s a double-dissolution election.  Because 2010 was their peak, a fall in their vote might cost them seats, but their vote in several states has been reasonably strong.  They’ve polled double-digit percentages of the vote in Tasmania since 2001, twice well above the required 14.3 per cent of the vote to win a Senate seat in any state without needing preferences, and they also got above 14.3 per cent of the vote in Victoria in 2010, while in other states they’ve either come close to or gone above double-digit figures a few times.  Indeed Di Natale was the Victorian Senator elected in 2010, while Tasmanian Senator Christine Milne also got a high vote and led the Greens for a few years after Brown departed.

Attitudes to the Greens may have changed over the years.  But I suspect that their vote will strong enough, despite the rocky road confronting them.  Not many Greens will be lost from the Senate in the foreseeable future.

Some surprises in Baird’s unsurprising triumph

31 May 2015

The recent state election in New South Wales turned out pretty much as predicted.  Premier Mike Baird and the Coalition parties survived a large swing against them to win the election with a comfortable majority.  They were always going to suffer a large swing, since the previous election in 2011 had seen a massive swing to the Liberal-National Coalition as voters comprehensively tossed the Labor Party out of office amid a stench of incompetence and scandal, but the swing to Labor now wasn’t thought likely to defeat the Coalition.

It’s not uncommon for a large swing in one direction at one election to be followed by a large swing the opposite way at the next.  I saw such swings and reversals in the Federal elections of 1996 and 1998, and more recently in the Queensland elections of 2012 and this year, so I expected this to happen in NSW.  Mind you, the Queensland scenario was different because both elections saw the governing party lose office, both the Labor Party in 2012 and the Liberal National Party this year – it’s probably rare to see two consecutive elections resulting in big swings and changing of governments.

Nonetheless, the NSW election had the Coalition fighting for privatisation of electricity assets to fund upgrades to roads and schools and other things.  Voters weren’t keen on electricity privatisation, which they might’ve perceived as resulting in higher electricity charges under private operators who cared more about profits than providing a reliable electricity supply, but an anti-privatisation campaign by Labor didn’t really scare voters away from the Coalition.  There was talk about other issues possibly biting, like the unpopularity of some planned road tunnels in inner Sydney and concerns about alleged corruption by MPs, but they turned out to be local issues in just a few seats.

The unpopularity of Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Federal Coalition was also tipped to hurt Baird.  Indeed both Baird and Abbott represent the same region in different parliaments – Baird holds the State seat of Manly and Abbott holds the overlapping Federal seat of Warringah.  And after Queensland’s election had earlier seen the defeat of the Newman LNP Government, whose leader was an attacker like Abbott, many tipped an “Abbott factor” to hurt Baird.  But this didn’t occur.

Helping the Coalition was a whopping parliamentary majority – it won the previous election 69-20 over Labor in terms of seats, and the loss of a few seats in by-elections, as well as several MPs over corruption allegations, didn’t reduce the Coalition’s majority by much.  The Coalition also had a popular leader in Baird, who seems more energetic and likeable than many other leaders.  Having a popular leader and a strong parliamentary majority shielded the Coalition from any major backlash, over electricity privatisation or corruption or whatever.

In the end, unsurprisingly, the Coalition won comfortably, albeit just in the Lower House of Parliament, namely the Legislative Assembly.  It didn’t win enough seats to control the Upper House of Parliament, the Legislative Council – here it won nine out of twenty-one available seats, and its legislation won’t get through here without enough minor parties’ support.

Out of ninety-three Assembly seats, the Coalition won fifty-four and Labor won thirty-four, while the Greens won three and Independents won two.  In terms of my predictions, the Coalition won three more seats than I’d tipped and Labor won three less, while my prediction of two seats for the Greens and three for Independents turned out to be the reverse.

I correctly tipped Labor to win Blue Mountains, Campbelltown, Granville, Londonderry, Macquarie Fields, Maitland, Prospect, Rockdale, Strathfield, Swansea, and Wyong from the Coalition.  My tips for the Coalition to win back Miranda from Labor after losing it in a by-election, and for the Greens to hold Balmain and win Newtown, were also correct.  And I got right three seats which had changed hands at by-elections in the previous two years – as per my tips, the Coalition by-election winner in Northern Tablelands was returned, as were the Labor by-election winners in Newcastle and Charlestown.

But I also made many incorrect tips, and some results were surprises.  I didn’t tip the Coalition to hold off Labor in Coogee, East Hills, Holsworthy, Kiama, Monaro, and Oatley – some of these seats should’ve gone to Labor quite easily.  Nor did I tip the Coalition to hold off a well-known Independent in Tamworth.  I also didn’t tip Labor wins in Gosford and Port Stephens and The Entrance, where Labor had swings above the predicted statewide swing of 9-10 per cent from the Coalition.  And I never expected the Greens to win the rural seat of Ballina, because the Greens seldom poll well outside inner suburbs of capital cities and I doubted that they’d win in the bush, notwithstanding their strong opposition to coal seam gas, a major issue in some regions.

The result of the NSW election shouldn’t have surprised anybody.  Baird now has a fifteen-seat majority in the Lower House, though he needs crossbench support in the Upper House to pass legislation there.  But in Baird’s unsurprising triumph there were definitely some surprises, so Baird may have to address issues that he might’ve preferred to avoid.  His popularity remains strong, though how he handles some issues will direct where that popularity goes.

Senate crossbenchers can be persuaded

23 March 2015

Quirky fortune got David Leyonhjelm elected to the Senate in 2013.  Now he’s among eighteen crossbench Senators holding the balance of power there, although some people put that number at only eight.  So you might wonder what the fortune was for Leyonhjelm, a Liberal Democrat from New South Wales, whose name is pronounced “Lion-helm” and can be remembered if you think of a “lion at the helm”.

When Australians cast their votes at the last Federal election, in 2013, the Liberal Democrats won 9.5 per cent of the Senate vote in NSW.  This was well above their second-best share of the vote, about 3.5 per cent in South Australia.  At the previous election, in 2010, they won only about 2.3 per cent of the Senate vote in NSW, and then a similar share in Queensland.

How was this surge from 2.3 per cent to 9.5 per cent in NSW possible?  Some people argued that, when parties and groups were drawn to select the order in which they’d be listed on Senate ballot papers in different states, the Liberal Democrats were lucky enough to draw first place in NSW.  Many NSW voters saw the name “Liberal” in first place on the Senate ballot paper in that state and voted “1” in the box under the name – they presumably thought that they were voting for the Liberals and Nationals in the Coalition, led by Tony Abbott, when in fact they were voting for Leyonhjelm’s Liberal Democrats!

This outcome really peeved the Coalition, and particularly the Liberal Party.  I actually thought that I heard speculation of the Liberals apparently seeking to legislate to prevent the use of “Liberal” in the name of any other political group – if true, this sounds petty.

Nevertheless, Leyonhjelm is now among eighteen crossbenchers holding the balance of power in the Senate.  But some people put that number of crossbenchers at only eight, because the Greens hold ten of the eighteen Senate seats not held by either the Coalition parties or the Labor Party, and the Greens are more likely than not to vote with Labor in opposing the Coalition Government on any piece of legislation.

Even so, the Coalition parties only need the votes of six crossbench Senators to get legislation passed.  In a sense, they can afford to ignore Labor and the Greens.  And they’ve managed to get some bills passed, such as the abolition of controversial carbon and mining taxes.  But they’ve failed to get other things passed so far, and it seems frustrating.

My point about Leyonhjelm is that he’s spoken about how the Coalition’s ministers deal with the crossbenchers in seeking to get the votes needed to pass legislation.  Late last year, I saw Leyonhjelm on television, and he said that some ministers were better than others in terms of persuading the crossbenchers and negotiating with them.  He cited Senator Mathias Cormann as the best in that respect, and he also praised Scott Morrison, although he didn’t mention any other names in either a good or bad light.  And last week he reiterated his praise for Cormann and Morrison in a report in a major newspaper.

Admittedly, Leyonhjelm is only one of the Senate crossbenchers, and he can’t necessarily speak for the rest of them.  I don’t know if the other crossbenchers have spoken similarly about the Coalition’s ministers.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if they have similar stories to tell, if they choose to say as much publicly.

The Senate crossbenchers can be persuaded to support legislation, but only if the Coalition plays its cards right.  At least one crossbencher has already indicated that Cormann and Morrison have clearly done some things right.  What have they done right that other ministers have done wrong?  Maybe the way that Cormann and Morrison have gone about their business would need to be used as a guide for their ministerial colleagues.

Hot air from anti-CSG candidates

20 March 2015

The notion of coal seam gas as an election issue seems like nothing more than hot air.  Nobody should tell you otherwise.  Recent history, albeit brief, doesn’t show any elections changing course because of coal seam gas, often referred to simply as CSG.

I’m not downplaying CSG as a public issue.  I don’t like the idea of this gas being extracted from underground, chemically or otherwise, in a manner which potentially releases hazardous chemicals onto surrounding land or into underground soils.  It poses major hazards to rivers and underground water catchments.  And it should be a firm no-no on lands considered perfect for farming, especially for growing crops and fresh produce.

My point is that, as an issue, CSG is yet to swing an election.  For several years, I’ve heard stories about the hazards of CSG extraction on prime farmland in particular, with parts of New South Wales and Queensland being mentioned a lot.  But in that time, there have been elections in those states, along with a Federal election in 2013, and while all have resulted in changes of government, little looks different in relation to whether or not CSG extraction in these areas has begun.  It hasn’t mattered whether the Labor Party or the Coalition parties were in power.  And it isn’t like there haven’t been chances for CSG opponents to make their concerns swing elections.

Realistically, CSG opponents shouldn’t believe a single bit of rhetoric from either Labor or the Coalition parties.  It’s true that when I first heard about CSG becoming an issue of public concern, Labor was in government in most states and nationally.  Certainly it would’ve been Labor giving extraction projects the go-ahead.  But even after governments have changed from Labor to the Coalition parties, the noises still prevalent to this day suggest no change on the issue.  Therefore CSG opponents should seem more inclined to vote for minor political players.

However, this is where problems regarding elections begin.  The Greens have naturally been critics of CSG extraction everywhere.  But they have little traction among voters outside the inner suburbs of state capitals like Sydney and Melbourne and Brisbane – if anything, they’ve often seen rural voters as environmental vandals killing trees and rivers, and rural voters largely hate them.  On the other hand, Federal MP Bob Katter has also been a CSG critic, but even though he set up his own political party a few years and has fielded candidates at several elections, they’ve seldom made any difference in areas where CSG has been an issue.

The recent state election in Queensland showed Katter’s party as almost meaningless.  With much anger surrounding CSG extraction on prime farmland in the Darling Downs region around Toowoomba, to the west of Brisbane, Katter’s party really should’ve won several seats there if voters were so angry about the issue.  But Katter’s party got nowhere in that area.

If unhappy with the major parties’ positions on CSG, voters in the regions would be more likely to vote for Independent candidates, should there be any of substance running around.  And some Independents either against or concerned about CSG are contesting the coming state election in NSW.  But they face the usual challenges faced by Independents at election time – needing to get themselves well known among many thousands of voters across relatively small areas, having personal beliefs that those voters will tolerate, or being able to cherry-pick what voters like and dislike about the major parties’ other policies.  Voters don’t always support candidates simply with the letters I-N-D in brackets after their names, unless they know them well beforehand, and generally they’re unlikely to support single-issue candidates.

Ironically, perhaps also hindering anti-CSG candidates is a vocal CSG industry critic, namely broadcaster Alan Jones.

Thought strongly supportive of the Coalition parties generally and of Prime Minister Tony Abbott in particular, Jones has been part of a long-running war against Independents.  This dates back to late 2010, when Abbott narrowly lost a Federal election to Labor leader Julia Gillard, who managed to govern in a hung parliament with the support of two Independents from Coalition-leaning electorates in the bush, despite the unpopularity of Labor at that time.  Filthy at this result, Abbott and the Coalition have repeatedly used the Independent-Gillard deal to scare voters into voting against Independents, painting votes for Independents as votes for Labor.  These tactics have been dishonest, but they’ve worked, costing many respected Independent MPs their seats.  And Jones has been among the Coalition’s media cheerleaders in that respect.

Coalition bias aside, Jones has been savagely critical of both mining and CSG extraction on prime farmland.  Indeed he’s from rural Queensland himself, and he’s spoken of how mining has desecrated the area where he comes from.  He was very vocal during the Queensland election.  But his words seemingly had no impact in areas where people had concerns about CSG.  In any case, given his leaning to the Coalition, how could he also support anti-CSG Independents?

There might be a first time for everything, of course.  As such, will anti-CSG candidates actually have enough support to win seats in the coming NSW election, or will they be merely letting off hot air?  The day draws closer when CSG will get hot or stay cold.

Trouble in victory for Labor in Victoria

30 December 2014

This year of politics in Australia has ended with a rarity, the defeat of a one-term government.  Voters rarely throw out first-term governments, be they federal or state – they usually give governments at least two terms.  But last month’s state election in Victoria saw the Liberal-National Coalition Government voted out after one term, with Daniel Andrews leading the Labor Party to victory, marking the first time in ages that voters had tossed out a first-term government.

Having unexpectedly taken office at the previous election, in 2010, the Coalition ultimately looked like it had no agenda for government.  It actually governed well, but several scandals, notably involving Liberal-cum-Independent MP Geoff Shaw, coupled with the Coalition’s narrow parliamentary majority, made the Coalition look worse than it was.  Worse still for the Coalition was that in 2010 it not only won a majority, albeit narrow, in the Lower House of Parliament, where governments are formed, but it also won a narrow majority in the Upper House of Parliament, meaning that it could’ve pursued whatever policy agenda it chose, without needing to negotiate with minor parties or Independents in the Upper House.  As such, the Coalition arguably wasted a rare opportunity, which the Labor Party now won’t enjoy.

As for the predictions by this election tragic for the Victorian election, I’d tipped Labor to win forty-three of eighty-eight seats in the Lower House and the Coalition to win forty-three.  In the end, Labor won forty-seven, two more than I’d tipped, and the Coalition won thirty-eight, five less than I’d tipped, while the Greens won two seats and an Independent won one seat.  In the forty-seat Upper House, the Coalition had twenty-one seats and Labor had sixteen and the Greens had three, and I was only tipping the Coalition to lose a few seats, though I wasn’t sure who’d win them – ultimately both the Coalition and Labor lost seats to minor players, which I’ll look into later.

I’d tipped Labor to win Wendouree, Yan Yean, Carrum, Bentleigh, Monbulk, and Bellarine from the Coalition.  I’d also tipped Labor to win Frankston from the rogue Shaw.  These predictions came true.  But my incorrect predictions were for Labor to lose Eltham and Ivanhoe and Macedon to the Coalition.  I also didn’t tip the Greens to win the inner urban seats of Melbourne from Labor and Prahran from the Liberals, and I didn’t tip an Independent to win Shepparton from the Nationals.

Why did some of my predictions go wrong?  My predicted Labor losses stemmed from my belief that departing Labor MPs and a controversial road tunnel proposal, which Andrews had promised to scrap any contracts for, would cost Labor those seats – in the end, they didn’t matter.  I wasn’t expecting the Greens to win Lower House seats, even though the Greens had won a Lower House seat in inner Melbourne at last year’s Federal election off the back of major disillusionment with the major parties – I just didn’t believe that there was as much disillusionment at state level with Labor in particular in inner Melbourne, where the Greens had been tipped to potentially win seats.  And the Coalition’s willingness to use Independent support for unpopular Labor governments in other parts of the country as a means of scaring voters away from Independents made me reluctant to tip Independents to win.

The unpopularity of the Coalition at Federal level certainly hurt the Coalition at state level, particularly regarding cuts in health and education spending, but the Coalition in Victoria simply didn’t look good.  Mind you, Labor didn’t really give voters a reason for endorsing it.

I’d also thought that Labor might lose the election off the back of promising to scrap road tunnel contracts.  Voters stuck in traffic jams often see new roads as a means of a faster commute to and from work, and the notion of scrapping a road project implies nothing changing, and I doubted that they’d like that.  But it had little or no impact in the end.  Yet the cost to taxpayers of scrapping the road might bring trouble for Labor.

As for the Upper House, the Coalition lost five seats to fall to sixteen and Labor lost two seats to fall to fourteen.  The Greens gained two seats to go to five, and the other five seats went to minor players.  Labor must negotiate with the crossbench to pass laws through the Upper House.

Victoria might look messy for Labor as a result of this election.