Well, after seventeen excruciating days, we finally have a result to our federal election. Or do we? What will really result from this national experience? Most elections have winners and losers, although it’s hard to spot a winner anywhere this time. So who are the losers?
Firstly, Julia Gillard. She called an election following her coup to take over from Kevin Rudd, to seek a mandate from the Australian people for her leadership. She didn’t get one, so now remains in the job with even less of a mandate than before the election. Given the turmoil and instability within the Labor Party itself, who knows how long she can survive. This will be a huge test of her leadership.
Some people might say the Greens were a winner. After all, they won a Lower House seat for the first time, have the balance of power in the Senate, and a much higher primary vote. But were they just the beneficiaries of the backlash against Labor? Many seats showed large swings away from Labor and to the Greens, although Labor effectively got those votes via preferences. Time will tell as to how they use their position in the Senate.
The Labor Party were definitely losers, in several ways. The voters rejected them, and now they sit in minority government. How long can this last? I think we may see another election within twelve months. But far worse than that, Labor may be losing their positioning as a political movement. With both major parties shifting toward the centre, it is often difficult to tell them apart on a policy level. The swing from Labor to the Greens may reflect the wishes of voters from the Left who don’t like where Labor is these days.
The fracturing of support away from the majors may see the formation of a new party that is positioned to the Left of Labor. Rather than having impactical policies like the Greens, it would represent more traditional socialist values, and may be a better alternative for disenfranchised Labor voters, in a reverse situation of the DLP some years ago.
The Liberal Party might also be judged as losers. They fought a lack-lustre campaign, showed little leadership, yet nearly got over the line if not for a botched, short-sighted, Broadband policy. Maybe they will learn something and do better if there’s another election soon. In the words of Get Smart, “missed it by that much“.
Finally, to the Independents. Usually elected on local issues, they have spooked the nation with their protracted haggling, and disenfranchised anyone who isn’t in a seat that has bargaining power. There are at least three people who will not be able to go to the next election campaign and claim they are decisive leaders! Voters in their seats will struggle in future balancing the local versus national needs.
So who is the biggest loser? The Australian people. We have spoken, and all we could muster is a mumbled “ummm … I don’t know”. If people get the leaders they deserve, then we are a sorry, undeserving lot. Let’s hope as a nation, we can learn from this experience.