November 21, 2015

Horse 2028 - North Sydney By-Election; Labor's No Show

The by-election for the seat of North Sydney which became vacant after the resignation of former Treasurer Joe Hockey, will be held on the 5th of December.

Realistically the only candidate who stands a chance out of the field of 13 is NSW Liberal Party President and former Hockey staffer, Trent Zimmerman, as the Federal Electiral Division of North Sydney, has been held by conservative parties since the nation's inception in 1901 except for a bried period of six years when Ted Mack held the seat from 1990 to 1996.

If you look through the list of parties contesting the election, there is one party which is conspicuous by its absence.
For those people reading on interesting readers and devices, I warn you, a kaleidoscope of colours follows.

Sustainable Population
Liberal Democrats
Voluntary Euthanasia
Christian Democrats
Palmer United
Bullet Train

The only one notable exception which would usually contest an election is the Australian Labor Party. For reasons which I can only assume are apathy and defeatism, the ALP hasn't even bothered to field a candidate; which I think inadvertently speaks volumes.

I suspect that the Turnbull government will want to show its credentials before it goes to the next Federal Election by passing a budget. Arguably the budget is the biggest single event in the life of a political year; so that means that we're unlikely to have an election before the 10th of May 2016 in my not very well paid opinion.
The latest possible date than an election can be held is the 14th of January 2017 but that's only if a parliament runs to the absolute end of its term and the writs are drafted on the very last possible date. 
For some reason, Australia likes to hold its elections in September. This is either because a budget has just passed or because it means that a government once it has won an election can wave about the magic word "mandate" around as though it were a weapon. Both sides of the divide are guilty of this and its disingenuous to pretend otherwise.
Assuming that a the next Federal Election is in September 2016. Then maybe the ALP's decision not to contest the North Sydney By-Election is purely economic. If it doesn't, then it can fold its money in half and stick it back into its pocket for use later; that seems sensible to me.

The problem in not contesting an election though is that it does effectively give a harry-handpass to the Liberal Party and if politics is about scoring political points and scoring goals, then that's either equivalent to an uncontested mark or a rushed behind. If the Liberals win the seat, the numbers don't change an iota in the House but they do win bragging rights.

I know that this sounds strange but even though an MP is elected to represent a local constituency, almost never do the people in the electorate think of it that way. If you ask most people who their MP is at any level of government, I'd bet that the majority of people don't actually know. What they do know is which party they voted for and even though the electorate likes to complain that they didn't vote for John Citizen as the Prime Minister or Billy Wonderfish if there's a spill, that's kind of a disconnect anyway because they did vote for a member of a party. The 150 little elections aren't really fought on "local issues" at all. 

Given Labor's disinterest to contest a local election, what does this say about a potential national election? Are we to assume that by inference that they actually don't care? It's worth remembering that even during the period of the the beginning of the Menzies Government in 1949 to the 1972 election, Labor did bother to field candidates at every election. Doctor Herbert Evatt and Arthur Calwell who were the unluckiest Opposition Leaders in Australian political history, did both manage to win the popular vote even though their parties lost elections.

For Labor not to bother in North Sydney, I think either highlights a party which has lost its fervour or has for the moment lost its way.

1940 - Curtin
1954 - Evett
1961 - Calwell
1969 - Whitlam
1990 - Hewson
1998 - Beazley
On six occasions, a majority of the popular vote didn't translate into a majority of seats. These six are Opposition Leaders who lost elections but won more votes.

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