Sometimes democracy makes you want to bang your head against the wall — notably when our leaders seem deaf and blind to our cries.
For most Australians, regardless of their political leanings, the message from the Wentworth by-election was clear. An electorate that had voted Liberal since time began, made up of voters who most closely fit the Liberal Party target voter modelling, gave the Morrison Government the biggest thumping since time began.
STAGGERING LOSS IN LIBERAL HEARTLAND
With subsequent by-election voter analyses of the 19 per cent swing rivalling post-mortems of Kennedy’s assassination, the reasons for the staggering loss of votes in Wentworth can safely be categorised as deep voter disaffection with the Government’s policies — or lack of them.
"And let's hope for a bit of commonsense on climate change."
Phelps identified at least three key areas in the lead-up to the election on which the people of Wentworth wanted action: the treatment of asylum seekers in Australia's offshore detention centres; climate change; and the constant undermining of the ABC.
As much as the Coalition tried to ignore these election issues by throwing trinkets and distractions at Wentworth, the voters dug their heels in only further, turning what may have been a slight marginal hiccup into a demoralising defeat.
Of course, most analysts (probably even the ones the Liberal Party employ) know that an electorate with a higher than average educational attainment like Wentworth is not likely to be influenced by transparent tokenism — and indeed it wasn’t.
What is interesting, however, is whether, had the Government listened to its constituents and done something concrete to address their chief concerns – particularly on climate change action – we would even be having this conversation.
WENTWORTH AND THE WIDER ELECTORATE
Also significant is the extent to which this by-election is indicative of the wider electorate, with the most recent Newspoll indicating the result overwhelmingly reflects the views of the majority of Australians. Of course, for many Australians, these are not the only issues on which they want change but certainly, they are pertinent issues.
The residents of Wentworth may have higher disposable incomes, bigger houses and higher education attainment, but they still reflect the greater community on climate change, on how Australians are judged on our compassion with respect to vulnerable asylum seekers and on maintaining a thriving and independent public broadcaster.
Those who dismiss Wentworth as not representative of the majority of Australians are missing the point. Of course, all electorates are not the same and Wentworth is one of the most privileged areas, but if the Liberal Party has been rejected in its heartland so brutally, it follows that the less enamoured among us will likely do worse at the forthcoming federal election.
Poll after poll has shown that Australians want real action on all the above issues, particularly on climate. Yet the Coalition, even after getting annihilated in Wentworth, are sticking to their no-action plan.
Now led by a man whose background is in marketing, it is extraordinary that Morrison, at least, can’t recognise that a complete rebrand is necessary.
Scott Morrison, seemingly completely immune to the foghorn cries of the Liberal heartland has, since the by-election, continued to scream to anyone within earshot about magically reducing power prices while ignoring climate change, reneged on his pre-Wentworth olive branch of reconsidering the plight of (at least) children on Nauru and has not even attempted to change his shouty, same-old-same-old rhetoric.
Indeed, unable to change to save itself, even the Victorian State Coalition branch has decided to go further right-wing in the lead-up to the State Election, with Morrison offering his winning marketing moves to assist Matthew Guy's bid to be Premier.
It was Sigmund Freud who first described denial as a state of 'knowing-but-not-knowing'. Denial, according to Freud, is 'rational apprehension that does not result in appropriate action'.
This theory certainly provides some insight into this particular iteration of the Coalition Government.
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