Politics

Victoria votes: Labor pushes Coalition to obscurity

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Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is re-elected by a huge majority. (Screenshot via YouTube)

The Andrews Labor Government not only won the Victorian State Election it won in a "Danslide".

On election night, there was a State-wide swing to the Government of not quite 5%. With pre-polling and postal votes to be counted, the figures and seats might tighten a little but will not change the historic result overall — a landslide win for the ALP

There are 88 seats in the Legislative Assembly. With 71.1% of the vote counted, Labor has, according to the ABC, won 52 seats, with their analysis predicting 55 seats but some thinking it could be as high as 61 seats. The primary vote for Labor across the State was almost 43%, while for the Liberals it was just 30%.

Very safe and very affluent State seats like Sandringham, Caulfield and Hawthorn are possible losses for the Coalition. What happened in them is typical of what happened in many seats in Melbourne. While in regional areas the swing to Labor was small, the big swings to Labor were in metropolitan Melbourne. 

At the 2016 Federal Election, Labor’s primary vote in Victoria was 35.58%. If Labor in the next Federal Election were to receive 43% of the primary vote in Victoria, it would possibly win enough seats to form government without any seats in other states and territories having to change hands. According to my back of the envelope calculations – and in line with others speculating on the federal implications of the massive loss for the Liberals, Victorian Liberal seats in doubt for the Coalition Government at the next Federal Election include Aston, Casey, Chisholm, Corangamite, Deakin, Dunkley, La Trobe and McMillan.

Of course, you cannot just translate the 35% primary vote Labor received in the 2016 Federal Election in Victoria to 43% in 2019, let alone to the whole country. However, the swing in metropolitan Melbourne in the Victorian Election is so pronounced that some of it will follow Labor in the 2019 Federal Election. The disquiet among voters in Victoria with the Liberals is shared by many across the country and will be reflected in swings against the Federal Government in other states. A swing of only 2%, for example, will see Peter Dutton lose his seat of Dickson in Queensland.

Even some safe federal seats in Victoria like Kooyong – held in the past by Liberal leaders Bob Menzies and Andrew Peacock and currently by Treasurer and after the 2019 Election, potential party leader Josh Frydenberg – overlap Victorian State seats which have swung heavily to Labor.

As if the loss of the formerly safe New South Wales seat of Wentworth were not enough, the Victorian State Election sends a message to the Liberals that its voting base, unlike sections of its membership, has not warmed to a fear campaign based in part on Islamophobia and racism.

As Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews put it, voters in record numbers have rejected:

"The low road — the politics of fear, the politics of division, which is not leadership." 

It is a message the more intelligent and liberal sections of the Liberal Party will understand; others, like the Abbott and Dutton faction, are unlikely to get it at all.  

What about the Prime Minister? While Morrison wants to give the impression of being "fair dinkum" and down to earth, he is, in fact, a creature of the right wing of the Liberal Party — the suppository of populist elitism. This means he is very open to the messages from his fellow conservatives, Abbott and Dutton and their faction.

Like Dutton and Abbott, the Prime Minister thinks a bit of rhetoric about cutting immigration numbers by 30,000 will win votes. He targets immigrants instead of the infrastructure failures of his and previous governments. He pontificates that our "roads are clogged" and schools and public hospitals are "full" because 190,000 people a year, in net terms, emigrate to Australia. This lie conveniently ignores the failure of governments to adequately and intelligently fund transport, health and education spending and infrastructure. One lesson from the Victorian State Election is that a party in government that is seen to be doing something on infrastructure will win votes.

The racist dog whistle about cutting immigration is from the man who as Treasurer argued strongly against doing precisely this. He argued it would undermine economic growth and jobs and do absolutely nothing to ease traffic congestion in Sydney or Melbourne, or to ease the backlog of public patients in our hospitals. Cutting immigration will not improve funding for public schools. Redirecting the excess funding currently going to rich private schools would.

When the Bourke Street attack happened two weeks before the Victorian Election, the Prime Minister, without any convincing evidence, jumped on the terrorism bandwagon. He pandered to Islamophobia with his calls on Muslim leaders to do something about extremist radical Islam. In Victoria, at least, his racist strategy has not worked.

There is a logic, twisted as it may be, to Morrison and his ongoing appeals to fear and division. He and his Government have nothing else to offer. He can talk all he likes about the low unemployment numbers. These disguise the reality of underemployment and the fact that for every vacant job there are on average about six or seven unemployed people.

Even when people do get a job, or are in employment, the nature of the work can be and often is very precarious. As real wages fall or flatline, paying the bills becomes harder and harder for many workers. These are systemic issues Morrison cannot address.

Morrison and his Government attempt to hide this reality by their fear and division agenda. African gangs, immigrants, Muslims, asylum seekers for example, are all attempts to shift attention from the problems of neoliberalism to a small group of "outsiders" in society. The result in Victoria shows that many people are not buying the shit sandwich that Morrison is trying to sell us.

Workers and other Australians are mainly to the left of politicians and most care about other people — citizens and non-citizens. The re-election of the Andrews Government offers hope that in the future political dog-whistling will not win.

Now it is up to those opposing the Morrison Government, in particular, the Labor Party, to reject all aspects of the fear campaign the conservatives have been using for years to dupe workers into supporting them. Refugees and asylum seekers would be a good place to start, Mr Shorten.

You can follow Canberra correspondent John Passant on Twitter @JohnPassantSigned copies of John's first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformed (Ginninderra Press 2016), are available for purchase from the IA store HERE.

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