Not just change

Tim Dunlop has had enough of excuses from the Liberals and Nationals about the fickle, silly electorate that apparently didn’t have a single good reason for voting the Howard government out.

[quoting Mark Vaile] “There seemed to be a sense of just wanting to change for change’s sake in Australia.”

As I say, they are kidding themselves. Australian’s are notoriously reluctant to change governments having previously done so only five times since WWII. They will only do so when two factors coincide: when they have lost faith in the incumbent and they sense the Opposition as a viable alternative.

I mean, how much clearer does the electorate have to make it than to vote out the prime minister himself in his own seat (even if he holds by a few votes at the end of counting, the point stands)?

This wasn’t change for change sake. It was the biggest swing against an incumbent government since Malcolm Fraser beat Gough Whitlam in 1975. It was larger than the swing that brought Mr Howard to power in 1996, the election often referred to in terms of baseball bats. It left the National Party with their lowest representation ever, with a smaller percentage of the vote than the Greens. It saw Labor record its highest vote ever in Victoria and Queensland. It left the prime minister himself—the greatest politician of his generation we are told—beaten by a candidate dismissed as a so-called “celebrity” ring-in, the first time that seat has ever been held by Labor.

The sooner the Libs digest the nature of their loss, the sooner they’ll have a chance of reinventing themselves and becoming a legitimate alternative.

As I said last week before the election, the idea that all we wanted was a change, rather than wanting to repudiate the Howard agenda since they’ve had control of the Senate, is hugely insulting. They just don’t get it, and until they do they won’t deserve to be viewed as an effective opposition, let alone a viable alternative for future elections.

I’ll probably have something to say when the Liberals and the Nationals respectively choose their new party leaders, choosing who to give the thankless task of shepherding them through their current disarray before they shaft them for the next election, but it won’t really matter. They will be toothless wonders. Although I guess that’s one reason I hope that they won’t choose Julie Bishop as leader, and it has nothing to do with her personally: she can’t turn the Libs around into a credible force for the next election, nobody can, but whoever is leader now will be blamed for not regenerating the party sooner than it can naturally happen. If Bishop is the leader, they won’t just say “Bishop couldn’t lead the Libs effectively”, what they will say is “women can’t lead the Libs effectively”: it will blight the chances of any other women being taken seriously as senior party figures for a decade. Be clever, Julie Bishop: bide your time like Joe Hockey is doing.

Update: Rudd’s ministry has been announced. Giving Julia Gillard both Education and Industrial Relations is a good move: with the likely makeup of the Senate all but the most basic of IR repeals and reforms are likely to be stymied, but she can do a lot in Education using purely ministerial rather than legislative powers. The new star recruits are given useful parliamentary secretaryships, and some strong performers are given junior ministries. The division of environmental responsibilities between Garrett and Wong is very clever. All in all, strong choices.

And poor old Brendan Nelson has the poisoned chalice. I give him 18 months before Bishop challenges him, and when she does a few others will throw their hat in the ring as well, so will she get up? I doubt it, really. Turnbull won’t be the only one biding his time.

Categories: culture wars, Politics

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8 replies

  1. I agree. Howard was part of the equation, but for anybody from the Coalition to suggest that their policy approach was in shipshape condition after last Saturday is just plain wrong – and insulting.

  2. You had me until the last sentence, when the thought of Joe Hockey laying low and biding his time as a credible candidate for Liberal leadership made me snort tea out of my nose 🙂

  3. Arleeshar, I reckon that anyone avoiding the poisoned chalice of the Liberal leadership at the moment is playing it smart, and Hockey will definitely have more credibility than Abbott ever will.
    I reckon that in 6 years time he will be viewed as an extremely marketable candidate, and that the electorate at large will have forgotten his defences of Workchoices and will just look upon him as Genial Joe.
    Doesn’t mean he’ll win a general election of course, but he might run a good race.

  4. I like Zoe’s take on today’s vote for the Libs. Will it be Lockhart or Kreacher?

  5. I always thought that Joe Hockey sold himself well as a Minister doing his best in a difficult position. He gave a fairly convincing impression of believing in Workchoices, but I was never entirely sure. I think he would still have a lot of fans from his time on Sunrise. I certainly like him, and I don’t think it did Kevin Rudd any harm at all.

  6. Hockey did do a good job – a number of Coalition Ministers were saddled with, well, ‘difficult’ portfolios. Kevin Andrews was another: (his response seemed to have been to run and hide from the media when they started asking difficult questions!)
    Hockey did – occasionally – lose it. As part of my job, I get to listen to lots of political interviews. A few months ago, I heard a dreadful interview Hockey did on a regional ABC station. He started bitching about ABC bias; the interviewer, meanwhile, seemed at first confused, and then coldly hostile. He sounded every bit the Liberal prat, an image I’m sure he works hard to avoid!
    I do think change for change’s sake is an element in the thinking of some voters, but perhaps it’s not the determining factor. We’ll see how the Liberals go under Nelson, anyway.

  7. Gotta love this one (H/T to Mindy in comments at LPIE)

    With Liberals divided over whether to abandon the policies that caused their defeat, Mr Howard used a farewell lunch with frontbenchers at the Lodge to urge them not to denigrate the legacy of the past 11½ years.
    Sources said there was no hand-wringing as a philosophical Mr Howard told them to be proud of what was achieved and to move forward without regret.
    Janette Howard told them to conduct themselves with grace and dignity as they handed the trappings of office to Labor.

    Can’t you just imagine them grinding their teeth as Hyacinth delivered that line?

  8. The post has been updated with some musings on today’s announcements about the Cabinet makeup and the Liberal leadership.

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