April 30, 2012 | Nick

A change is gonna come

On the weekend, Graham Quirk led the LNP team to a massive victory in the Brisbane City Council with a significant swing to the LNP. At the same time, Jackie Trad came very close to losing the South Brisbane by-election with a further swing to the LNP on top of the massive swing at the recent state election.

The results from those two elections destroy any theory that the electorate might snap back after giving Labor a kicking. There appears to have been a significant shift in voter loyalty.

There are only two states in Australia – South Australia and Victoria – where Labor has any realistic expectation that it might win the next state election. It is still behind in both of those states according to Newspoll, just not so disastrously far behind as it is everywhere else.

The Gillard Government is terminal. Those who think otherwise are kidding themselves. The results in Queensland and Brisbane make previously unthinkable results possible. There is a real possibility that the ALP is headed for something similar at the federal level. There is a real possibility that it will not hold a single seat in Western Australia or Queensland at the next federal election.

So what’s next? If the Labor Party is wiped out at the federal election as seems likely, it will have major structural problems. It won’t be able to raise money because no one will seriously entertain the possibility that they will be in government any time soon. They will not have the infrastructure that comes from having a critical mass of elected officials.

That lack of infrastructure will put the Labor Party in an historically weak position. It has been in a similarly weak position, but not in competition with another serious left-wing force. Now the Greens are devouring the Labor Party from the left and represent serious competition for the left wing vote.

So, before long, the opposition to the Coalition, now increasingly identified by the Queensland moniker “LNP”, will consist of the of two parties, the ALP and the Greens, neither with the wherewithal or the popular acceptance to make a go of things alone.

Where does all that lead? My guess is that within this decade, we will see the left have its equivalent of Menzies’ 1944 conference that saw formation of the Liberal Party. It’s at least a couple of elections away, I think. The Greens will not be able to accept for a while yet that there dreams of governing in their own right will not come true. The Labor Party has a lot of baggage of which it must let go before it could subscribe to it.

What will be necessary (and what I think likely) is a couple of big drubbings in a row at the federal level, and continued bad results in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia. After that, the left will not be able to bear things any longer. They won’t be able to bear what I suspect will be an extended Abbott supremacy. That is when the re-alignment is likely to happen.

Posted by Nick at 4:23 pm | Comments (8) |


  1. Good article Nick. Trevor Cook has argued for a similar Menzian figure for the Left to emerge here: http://trevorcook.typepad.com/weblog/2012/04/from-grandeur-to-farce.html

    Comment by Alexander Drake — April 30, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

  2. Have you seen the Victorian polling Nick? http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/state-politics/double-blow-as-baillieu-poll-plunge-puts-partys-support-on-a-knife-edge/story-e6frgczx-1226342180946.
    I wouldn’t be so sure that everything is bleak for Labor, anymore than it has been for the Liberal Party in the past.

    Comment by Graham — April 30, 2012 @ 7:31 pm

  3. Graham

    I did see that polling, but it still has the Libs ahead 51 – 49; hence my comment about the ALP not being disastrously far behind. I’m not certain, it’s just my best guess on things at the moment.

    Comment by Nick — April 30, 2012 @ 9:00 pm

  4. On the basis of today’s newspoll, Labor would lose about 38 seats.

    Comment by Nick Ferrett — May 1, 2012 @ 4:26 am

  5. Labor will bounce back in time, unless of course the Coalition can produce a policy mix legacy that makes long-term appeal. As Graham points out, the recent Victorian experience shows that tough times lie ahead for all elected govts which means that Oppositions can may quickly claw back lost ground from dissullionsed voters looking for the best alternative.

    Comment by Chris Lewis — May 1, 2012 @ 7:55 am

  6. Labor has destroyed itself through personal greed, corrupt morality, lies, treachery, and cabinet dysfunction (schism) that saw to the ‘political assassination’ of Rudd, the man that brought Labor back from oblivion. The current Labor mop’s behavior makes Howard (the horrible) smell sweet. What double-nailed Gillard’s Labor coffin was the recent “wading through Rudd’s political blood” by some of her myopic cabinet colleagues (gutter-politics), the Speaker-saga, the repulsive Thomson-corruption and the stranglehold of union mafia on Gillard. Labor is not managed by elected reps, rather run by union power brokers. The sooner Labor is rid of their union masters, treacherous Gillard etal, and corrupt Labor MPs, the sooner Labor will come to life again. But wimpy Labor leaders will not have the guts or the vision to embark on this battle and so Labor will remain an unattractive, untrustworthy, unelectable, corrupt entity for many years to come.
    Nothing this Labor mob says or does will save it. Labor is dead!!

    Comment by Jolly — May 10, 2012 @ 12:05 am

  7. Hmm the Trevor Cook piece was silly for a start Despite this the ALP has tended to see its prbleom as being one of winning back the green vote. This seems the only plausible reason for Gillard’s decision to abandon an election promise and introduce a carbon tax (which I think is good policy but bad politics having specifically ruled it out in an election campaign just a few months previously), handing the political initiative to the Abbott-led Oppposition and ensuring that she is unelectable (what value would her 2013 election promises have?).Plainly wrong all over the place. Putting aside the Murdoch lie which Cook falls into on the carbon tax (CEF is not a tax, and also pretty much what she promised minus the Citizen’s Assembly nonsense) it was the circumstance of minority government with Greens support that moved her to legislate an explicit carbon pricing structure, rather than an attempt to win back the Green vote. Carbon pricing was a dealbreaker for the regime, particularly as many of us were seriously appalled at her stance on asylum seekers, the rolling back of the mining tax, the continuing Afghanistan occupation, the likely pandering to irrigators on the MDB and a range of other issues. Indeed, she spent much of her early term abusing Greens supporters as cosmopolitan alarm clock-free inner city elites who took no moral pleasure in authentic work. No prizes for guessing whom she was pitching at. The trouble was, they saw in her either some dishonest lefty or else the part of themselves of which they were most ashamed between Bob Brown’s B|tch and Bogan Queen they were not buying. That crowd was not and is not willing to give a female PM anything like the latitude they’d give a male. Cook continues, parroting the Murdochracy If it reverts to Rudd, does that mean more pink batts and exorbitant scholl dunnies? (sic) What can one do but sigh? Pink Batts ? Really? For all of the disingenuous wailing and gnashing of teeth on the right, HIP was a success. About a million premises were insulated, employment in regional areas was underpinned and the benefits will continue to flow years later.At to the BER, I don’t recall even Barnaby Joyce mentioning toilets. As someone working at a school that has received state of the art science labs through that program, it’s disgusting that this lazy troll can be recommended here.And the mining tax was a surprise? For pity’s sake! This chap can’t manage to get the terms right, leave aside the history. The Piping Shrike piece seemed positively thoughtful by comparison. It avoided obvious absurdities and raised some interesting points. I don’t share its optimism over a Rudd return and a renewal of a crisis in the Libs. I can’t see any good outcome for the ALP following yet another panicky change of leadership whoever gets the gong. For better or worse, the ALP just has to guts it out and continue to argue the next election is about policy not personality.Abbott is not going to have it easy if the election takes place late in 2013 or perhaps even early 2014, and if the focus is on policy what he can and can’t deliver then the gloss will wear off. He won’t be able to avoid questions on policy as he largely has so far. He is going to be running both on achieving a bigger surplus than the ALP and handing back MRRT revenue, CEF revenue, deferring tax cuts, possibly lowering the tax threshhold, getting rid of NBN (or admitting he can’t) . He’ll have prbleoms on CSG and on Murray Darling. He will also have a hostile senate. Gillard must be able to run as the author of the last 3 years of policy something she couldn’t do in 2010. If she does, she only needs one slip up from Abbott and with the above list, who will say he won’t and she is locked in front. Moreover, by late 2013, the memory of Beattie/Bligh and Keneally will be fading, to be replaced with the reality of Campbell Newman in QLD, BO’F in NSW and Baillieu in Victoria. The unwillingness of some to have wall-to-wall Coalition regimes ought to ensure at least some bounce for Federal Labor.The worst thing from the ALP’s POV would be an early election (i.e before late 2013). That might well produce a political landslide (as well as wipe out the pro-ALP Independents Windsor and Oakeshott). From their POV, they need to hold their collective nerve and hang on. They need to keep putting policies in place that will be messy and expensive to undo and which seem reasonable to all but tribal Libs. They also need to stop giving respect to the media and go over their heads to speak directly to the public about their policies rather than tap dancing to the local gunslingers’ pistols. It’s the only way they can control the narrative. It might not work, but since current media policy is failing abjectly, there’s simply no downside to giving this a shot.

    Comment by Ashish — May 19, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

  8. In an effort to make more priticdeve sense of the leadership speculation I sat down and tried to see what options were available to the government in the coming period. I did not come up with any “nice” options, but then I’m not a political analyst either, so maybe my options are flawed or incomplete. No offence taken by being corrected.Options include:•Gillard remains unchallenged, but without the full confidence of her party. ‘Makes no changes to her leadership quality or style, and leads Labor to a massive electoral loss.•Gillard remains unchallenged, but without the full confidence of her party. ‘Changes her leadership quality and style, and tries to be an effective PM. ‘Would need to pull a few rabbits out of the hat to avoid loss of government to Abbott.•Gillard simply resigns and a new ballot is taken. Done immediately, like NOW, this would reduce the time for Ruddites (he is the only contender right?) to fully marshal their forces and draw their plans, and increases the chances of another choice of new leader.•Gillard faces a spill. Rudd fails to unseat her. He goes away for another day like PK. Government continues as it is, but lacking internal and external cohesion. The electorate knows this.•Gillard is tipped by Rudd, but not by an overwhelming majority. Division, albeit altered, continues. Electoral confidence is weak.•Gillard is tipped by Rudd, by a substantial majority. Rudd, as it happens has learnt some lessons and is now an extremely happy Vegemite. But lacks public credibility and has limited time to re-build that before facing an election. That Mr Rudd has not truly changed is a possibility entertained by many politicians and voters alike, and that suspicion alone, founded or unfounded, is a considerable liability.•Gillard is tipped, but Rudd is not re-instated. The conch is now held by another figure that must somehow unite the various factions and loyalties.And my winner is: The Press. Their orgiastic feast will continue unabated because the whole drama is entertaining grist for their mill. They aren’t supposed to be king-makers, but when freedom-of-the press and cross ownership conditions are at stake, editorial content might show bias.The losers: Australia the nation, and its quality of governance. The political process has been denigrated further with this (Gillard situation) but has been losing respect for many decades now.

    Comment by Andrew — May 22, 2012 @ 5:28 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.