October 20, 2018

Horse 2479 - Wentworth: The Immovable Blue Sapphire

Thanks to the Festival Of The Thirsty Knife of 2018 which saw the 30th Prime Minister of Australia knifed in the back and removed from office, Malcolm Turnbull's subsequent resignation of his seat in parliament has triggered a by-election.
On radio 2GB, Alan Jones went on an almost breathless rant for the entirety of my bus ride from the City to Mosman yesterday, in which he berated the people of the Division Of Wentworth and told them off, saying that unless they voted in the Liberal Party candidate, then the rest of Australia would hate them. If they vote for Dr Kerryn Phelps who is running as an independent then that would be very bad indeed and if they did the unthinkable and vote in either the Green or Labor candidate, then they would be damaging democracy itself despite doing so through the ballot box.
I personally think that either Dr Kerryn Phelps or the Liberal Party candidate David Sharma will be elected and we're probably going to go to the polls in a general election in about March or April next year. Dr Phelps is still broadly speaking a mostly economically rightist candidate and I don't think would join a motion of no confidence in the government despite the wishes of the Australian public who by this stage are royally sick of it all.

This by-election looks very different to by-elections in days of yore. I don't think that I've seen quite the same level of desperation from the Daily Telegraph and The Australian, and talkback radio to quite the same degree before and this is probably because if a Liberal Party candidate doesn't win, then their majority of one on the floor of the House of Representatives is blown wide and the vultures start circling for a vote of no confidence and the threat of an early election. The general sentiment from the media that is obviously cheering for its team, is that team isn't trying hard enough and they have resigned themselves to the loss; as though this wasn't always up to the voters of the electorate anyway.

There is this phenomenon in American politics where the sitting president has either been voted out of office or has already served two terms and is no longer eligible to sit in the next one, called the "lame duck". Lame duck Presidents have the job of handing over the task of the administration of the nation to whoever the next person in the job is. We don't have that in Australia but it has been generally considered that since Malcolm Turnbull was knifed, that Scott Morrison was always on a hiding to nothing. The Morrison Ministry had various people resign their previous cabinet posts before it was assembled and ever since day one, it has kind of looked a bit of a shambles. This also hasn't been helped by their partners in the coalition, the National Party, having something of their own leadership sort of crisis, and ongoing issues such as the Nauru Government kicking out Medicenes Sans Frontiers is making them look even worse.
Despite all of this, the Treasurer Josh Frydenburg has been touting further cuts to company tax for small businesses, which is beginning to look like preelection bribery.

Former Prime Minister John Howard has been in the electorate of Wentworth trying to talk up the Liberal Party, former Liberal Party leader Doctor John Hewson has been trying to talk it down, as has Malcolm Turnbull's own son. Meanwhile the Daily Telegraph and The Australian is reporting about this by-election as though anyone who is disloyal to the Liberal Party is a traitor and should be hurled into the sea.

Apart from people going independent, the Division of Wentworth has never really changed hands since Federation. The worst result for any Liberal candidate was Malcolm Turnbull in 2004 who still 41% of first preferences and was easily driven to a majority in the two-party-preferred result. This is the 8th safest Liberal seat in the country, the richest electorate in the country and contains all 10 of the top 10 private residential property sales in the country.
This is a seat so dripping with blue blood that even stepping down and becoming a Member of Parliament is a distinct pay cut for anyone serious. I can't even imagine what possible universe that this seat would defect to Labor; so the worrying and wretching from the conservative media is just plain alarmist.
What Wentworth represents is like the St Edward's Sapphire which is set into the Imperial State Crown. It was supposedly taken from Edward The Confessor's ring when Edward's body was re-interred at Westminster Abbey in 1163 and the Division of Wentworth is as equally full of old money and prestige to the Liberal Party.
The Division of Wentworth is going nowhere; it certainly won't be turning red in a hurry.

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