Like many left leaning progressives, I’ve been living under a self imposed rock about the results of the Australian 2013 election. Last Saturday, the LNP managed a convincing electoral win, with Tony Abbott becoming the Prime Minster. Kevin Rudd successfully managed to bore our collective brains out with his concession speech (prompting the question “Does this guy ever shut up” to be answered with a resounding no). But now it’s time for the ALP to lick its wounds, the newly elected senators to read “Australian Parliament for Dummies” and the LNP to … govern I guess?
I am just a curious observer of the theatre of the absurd known as Australian Politics. But may I present my four pillar explanation of the election result. Or was it a six point plan? I know it had something to do with stopping the boats. Where’s Jaymes Diaz when you need him?
1. The Lackluster ALP Campaign –
I will admit it’s difficult to create an inspiring campaign when you consider the internal conflicts that ravaged the ALP for many years. You don’t need a politics degree to know that the byline “Vote for us, and this time, we might actually keep our leader for the full term! (subject to Bill Shorten’s temperament)” on political posters isn’t exactly a vote winner. Worse still, many of the accomplishments under Gillard couldn’t be referenced at all because, well, it’s Kevin’s party now.
The lackluster campaign also lacked a cohesive message for the country. There was something about a national broadband network, “jobs, jobs, jobs” and school kids getting an education. There was also some vague form of support for marriage equality, but not really. It had a strong vibe of “we’ll just introduce a bill into parliament and see what happens, lol”. It’s even more difficult to run an effective campaign when all the opposition needed to do was show up and disagree with anything the ALP were standing for.
The ALP made a considerable misstep in emphasizing the LNP costing issue. Guess who finds the budget interesting? Unfortunate eople like me. People with Arts / Economic / Law Degrees who watch so much ABC it constitutes a health hazard. The average punter is generally disinterested. It’s ok, I understand. Numbers really are hard. The ALP weren’t as effective as driving the message of potential cuts home, as they were under the Keating campaign of ’93, where many swinging voters made the last minute switch to the ALP due to concerns of cuts to medicare.
And guess what – the cuts weren’t even bad. I mean, sure there were cuts to the Aid budget and other minor sources, but they weren’t as horrific as what Kevin Rudd, I mean, the ALP hinged their political hopes on. Plus, who really cares about aid anyway? Or the budget surplus for that matter?
Oh, and in case you didn’t get the memo, we’re no longer in a budget emergency. That’s another win for the LNP! Hurray!
2. Kevin Rudd
I understand that blaming the leader of the ALP for the election result is something of a cop out. But, as a well renowned cop out, I’m going to venture down that path anyway.
Kevin Rudd took the helm, it ceased to be the Australian Labor Party. Instead, it turned into the Australian’s for More Kevin Rudd Party. Let’s just say I wasn’t exactly rushing out to get a membership form. I will generally consider myself to be a Gillard supporter. She had won me over with her dazzling red locks, her ability to negotiate a hostile parliament and a certain speech she made about sexism and misogyny. Julia Gillard, to me at least, seemed like a person of substance and embodied what the ALP could be. It was a shame the circumstances in which she ascended to power, but for those three years, I was still proud to call her my Prime Minister.
Everyone was triumphant when Rudd returned. He was the comeback king, the John Farnham of Australian politics. But our jubilation quickly morphed into cynicism – it was clear he hadn’t learnt from his previous time in office. The damage was done and the honeymoon was over. In the hearts and minds of the Australian people, the ALP were not only a risky bet, but so unstable you wouldn’t leave a schooey of Carlton Draught resting on it.
3. Social Media
Believe it or not, most of Australia’s population are older than 40. At my age, being over 40 means you might as well fade away in a home somewhere to drink Earl Grey tea and crochet. But apparently these remarkable people find the inner strength to carry on. As people over the age of 40 generally aren’t the latte sipping, instagramming, hashtaging hipsters I affiliate with, social media is something of a lost cause for a large section of this demographic.
Rudd’s campaign was heavy on the social medial. He did an AMA or “Ask me anything” session on reddit a week ago, pledged to swing last minute undecided voters on twitter and instagram images of a certain razor cut I’m still trying to forget. Personally, while he was out kissing hip babies and taking #selfies with the “kidz”, his message seemed lost on those who were still committed to traditional media. He was preaching to the more or less converted.
Which brings me to another point. The reliance on social media by the ALP was primarily underpinned by the rampant editorializing in the mainstream stream media. But the topic of the media is too complex to deconstruct in my under-caffeinated state.
4. It’s not the Economy, Stupid
When considering the defeat of the ALP, it’s quite remarkable to look at the economic conditions of the past year. Our economy, despite international volatility, has still be growing at a steady pace and has done so for a remarkable 21 years.
That’s right. 21 years. There are people in this country who have never lived through a recession. Or VHS, cassettes and the Backstreet boys. Good God.
Contrary to popular opinion, our economy is relatively strong. This is despite the Global Financial Crisis, reconciliation, Industrial Relations reform, pink bats, the school hall project, the lies and the carbon tax. We also have relatively strong employment growth, low interests rates and a triple A credit rating. The ALP also received broad sweeping support for the economic policies – even The Economist gave them the thumbs up as economic managers. The moral of the story is that Governments loose elections, even when said government has left a legacy of strong economic credentials.
Let’s not continual to swim in the perilous tide that is the collective failures of the ALP in the recent election. The ALP clearly need time to pick itself up, dust itself off, put the king maker aka Shorten, as leader, Albo as deputy and work out who they’re going to represent. Meanwhile, the next three years will be interesting under a Conservative, but not necessarily a Liberal Prime Minister with a micro-party lead senate.
Oh dear. In unrelated news, the stock value of various alcohol manufacturers has been on the up, with analysts predicting dramatic increases in alcohol consumption. Political satirists are also expecting strong economic growth, with the lowest rate of unemployment since the Howard years.
We’ll just have to wait and see what happens I guess.