Why this man is not Australia's
Anyway, on to the topic at hand - why Mark Latham lost the election, and what happend.
Australian elections today. Howard returned to power, Labor lost. And lost by a surprising amount, given the prediction in the earlier post; I expected this to be a lot closer. Anyway, some thoughts about the vote.
The first thing I noticed was the rise of the "Family First" Party. It looks like Australia, for better or worse, is beginning down the same path that America did a couple of decades ago, with the emergence and growth of the Evangelical Christian right wing. An interesting trend, given that arguably the cornerstone of American president George W. Bush's American supporter base is the Christian right wing.
Why the rise of the Christian right wing as a social phenomena? My first guess is that there are a lot of people looking for meaning in their life. The mainstream churches haven't been able to open themselves up, become compelling and relevant; and people are seeking answers elsewhere. And Evangelical Chistians make a loyal political voice. My prediction is that this will be an important trend to follow.
My next thought is that the ALP needs to take the center ground. The party lost 2 Tasmanian seats in bending over backwards for the Greens, which really benefitted no-one. Look, I doubt that the Greens will be cutting deals with the Liberals any time soon; the ALP getting the Green prefs is a lock, and chasing after it is stupid. A better scenario for all would have been having the ALP running a "We care about the environment, but we care about worker's jobs more" policy. Greens pick up the dissaffected environmentalist vote, which gets passed to the ALP via preferences, while the ALP takes more of the middle ground from the Libs. What the ALP ended up doing inane - i.e. chasing a Green vote which was theirs (via preference distribution) anyway, alowing John Howard to shake hands with card carrying members of the CFMEU!
The other thing the ALP has consistantly handled poorly is the Scoresby Freeway. And I would be hard pressed to think of even one occassion when *anyone* from the ALP has pointed out that if the Liberals were really concerned about the Scoresby Freeway, the shortfall (being covered by tolls) would come from the federal budget. Or that no-tolls assumed that there would be federal money being poured into the project, which was withdrawn to combat the ALP's insistance that workers from the same CFMEU (whose hands John Howard shook in Tasmania) would work on the project.
Labor didn't press the point that Brack's decision to impose tolls was a state issue, not a federal issue. Labor didn't make the point that yes, Bracks did lie; and Howard lied about weapons of mass destruction - which is worse?
Similarly, the Liberals ran a scare campaign centred around interest rates. One of the ads in the campaign looked at interest rates under Hawke and Keating Vs. Howard (interestingly, no mention of interest rates under big Mal), but the government lieing over children overboard was just too long ago. Where were the mentions of this little example of well orchastrated Orwellian Doublethink by the ALP?
Finally, say what you will about John Howard, he is a very shrewd politician. He opperates using divide and conquer tactics, and he struck in the last week over the environment. But this was just a mere repeat of what he did with "Children overboard" and 9/11 at the previous election; and the "For all of US" campaign ('Us' being white, middle class Australia) when he was first elected over Keating.
Note that this is not to say that Labor didn't do anything right, because there was a lot they did excellently. A few months ago, I was thinking about what would make for effective ad campaigns for either party, and I came up with the idea of Auctioning off a University education; and the ALP used that for an ad in this campaign. And Mark Latham did manage to close the gap on Howard, and even pull ahead during the campaign. But. that said, in retrospect it is easy to see why we don't have "Prime Minister Mark Latham".
Finally, what Labor should have tried to get to stick was a phrase like the "John Howard reality distortion field". Pithy phrase that would have earned some ridicule and satire, but would henceforth be bought up every time Howard bought up something that was slightly less than the truth.
Anyway, this is my quick and dirty analysis of the election. Feel free to post a comment to tell me what you think...