March 20, 2018

Horse 2386 - SA Votes, Batman Votes, Russia Votes... Everyone Votes

Over the weekend Australia went election crazy in the 2018 Festival Of The Democracy Sausage as we had both the South Australian state election and a by-election for the federal seat of Batman on the same day; and do you know what we learnt from all of this? Nothing!
It is completely normal that after sixteen years of one party being in power that the electorate will change; which is what happened in South Australia. It is also completely normal that when you have two roughly left to centre parties running for the same seat, that one of them would win; which is what happened in Batman. The clouds didn't split, the sea didn't divide, and there was no earth shattering kaboom.
The two contests which were in theory supposed to be wildly different, with the phrase "a referendum on" for just about every political topic that you can possibly think of, turned out to be so mind numbingly alike and boring that neither of them even so much as registered a peep on the national newspapers on Monday. Maybe there was some residual celebration in the Adelaide Advertiser but as far as the rest of the country was concerned, it was yawn and crick time.

This bears further discussion and so, in a post election analysis special, I'm going to look at the two most boring Festivals Of Democracy Sausage in living memory.

South Australia.
As at the time of writing, the Liberal Party has got 24 seats to Labor's 18 (2 are still in doubt) and even though there was a really strange narrative that the Adelaide Advertiser was trying to spin, the Nick Xenophon Team made virtually no strange noises at all. When South Australians hollered for a Marshall, they got Steven Marshall as the new Premier instead of Elon Musk's massive battery. As far as the Liberal Party is concerned, this is the election which a drover's dog could have won and the fact that they made good on that is no surprise at all. Also not surprising is that former Premier Jay Weatherill will stand down as leader of the Labor party in the state.

The Nick Xenophon Team has gone the way of most third parties which ride on the back of someone's name. Just like Clive Palmer's or Jackie Lambie's parties before it, when faced against the problem of winning seats en masse, the order of magnitude of difficulty is simply too much. Historically the way to break into a two party system is to do it over many election cycles and then hope that the movement outlives its founders and is able to stand on its own. Nick Xenophon is a nice enough chap but that of itself doesn't win tens of seats.
Absolutely before the next election, the Nick Xenophon Team should be rebranded as NEXT if it is going to ever achieve anything interesting. I think that it should absolutely take confidence from winning 13.7% of the vote, to be best of rest and even beating the Greens.
Conspicious by their absence is the National Party, who after just receiving a paltry 1,328 primary votes in the 2014 election, quite rightly didn't bother to contest the 2018 election. Once again, Duverger's Law which says that single-member districts tend to favor a two-party system, continues to hold true.
The South Australian election tells us nothing because a change election was expected and we got a change election. To win 5 elections in a row is rare and as far as I know, only the Nationals in Queensland under Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen with seven and the Coalition federally under Menzies, Holt, McEwen, Gorton and Mcmahon have gone further with nine.
Apart from the two majors there are three independents, and although there is the vaguest of possibilities that they might end up holding the balance of power, I think that that chance is slim to non-existant.

Batman By-Election.
We learned even less about the state of politics from the Batman by-election than we did from the SA State election.
After the Section 44 citzenship "crisis" claimed David Feeney (who couldn't be bothered to read a form properly), his resignation triggered the by-election and former President of the ACTU Ged Kearney, was put forward as the candidate.
After what seemed like weeks of News Corp trying to run a scare campaign against both Ged Kearney from Labor and Alex Bhathal from the Greens, Ged was returned as MP; after the Labor party strengthened on both first preferences and on a two-party preferred basis.
The really weird thing was watching Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop trying to paint this as a win for the Liberal Party on ABC1's Insiders, despite them not actually fielding a candidate in the election.
The Batman by-election tells us nothing because those people who would have usually voted for the Liberal Party, had to put their votes somewhere and it seems that they hate the Greens more than they hate Labour but we already knew that in the 2016 election when on first preferences, Alex Bhathal led with 36.2% of the vote to David Feeney's 35.3%. In 2016 the 19.9% of people who voted for the Liberal Party had to put their number preferences somewhere and here, they just distributed them straight up.

How do I think that this fits into the wider game of Australian politics? Perfectly. These two elections are the respective electorates acting completely within expectations. Neither of these results was out of the ordinary at all. If there is anything to be drawn from these results it's that the Australian electorate as a whole is far more stable than the rest of the Anglosphere.
The next major shockwave to come through Australia's parliament will probably be at the next federal election which by my reckoning will occur on Saturday 11th May 2019, which is after the 2019 Budget gets handed down and is the only Saturday after that date which is possible because of the rules surrounding when the writs for the next election must be delivered.

Mostly by-elections swing against the government that's in power but seeing as the Liberal Party didn't bother to field a candidate, then that was more or less a fait accompli. State elections mostly follow the same kind of logic except that the timing of those changes things a bit. In theory, the 2010 SA State election should have installed a Liberal Government but it didn't; so that has been delayed until the point where the existing Labor Government wore out its welcome. I would expect that following the 2019 Federal Election when Bill Shorten is likely to be the next Prime Minister, then the subsequent state elections should begin to start returning Liberal Governments to State Parliaments; those results in the foreseeable future should also be kind of mind numbingly boring.

Russian Presidential Election
Vladimir Putin got 76.69% of the vote running as "Vladimir Putin" on the ballot. His re-election also tells us nothing because that had all the inevitability... of Putin winning the Russian Presidential Election.

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