If you hibernated through the election, what would you be waking up to?

turnbullportrait

Woroni answers your election questions…

Who won the election?
Ultimately, Turnbull. To form government a party needs to secure 76 of the 150 lower house seats. At the time of writing, the Liberal / National Coalition appears to have secured exactly that 76 seat bare majority. This means the Coalition will be able to form a government and Turnbull will be able to remain prime minister. Labor, however, performed unexpectedly well and achieved a predicted 69 seats.

How close was it?
Very. The Coalition appears to have won with the barest of majorities. If it had been any closer the Government would have been denied a majority on the floor of the House of Reps, and would have had to rely on the cross bench for every single vote. Even closer than the seat tally, however, was the national two-party preferred vote. That’s the total number of people who ultimately preferenced either Labor or the Liberal National Parties. With 80 per cent of the votes counted, the Coalition received 50.09 per cent to Labor’s 49.91 percent. In gross terms, this means the Coalition won the national vote by a margin of around only 20,000. That’s close.

Why was the result a surprise?
All through the election the national opinion polls had the two parties essentially tied at 50:50. Despite this, many supposed political experts expected a fairly comfortable Coalition victory. Why’d they ignore the evidence? Here’s three possible reasons. First, the Coalition kept insisting that, despite the national polls, their vote was ‘holding up’ in crucial marginal electorates. Many journalists, therefore, thought that the Government could lose some of the popular vote but ‘get the votes where it mattered’. Second, was the way in which the two parties campaigned. The Coalition’s campaign was described as leisurely. Turnbull kept his campaign engagements to a minimum and looked endlessly confident. ‘You got the impression they were confident and confident for a reason’, offered journalist Jonathan Holmes. Shorten, meanwhile, appeared to embrace his underdog status as he travelled the country – a frenetic campaign suggesting a degree of desperation. All the optics suggested a Coalition victory. Third, was the size of the buffer Tony Abbott achieved for the Coalition in 2013. It has been established wisdom that Australians don’t throw out first term governments, and the landslide result of 2013 seemed to assure the Coalition a relatively comfortable re-election this time around. It wasn’t too be. Political pundits will likely be a lot more cautious in future campaigns.

How did each of the parties perform?
The Coalition as a whole suffered a national swing of 3.4 per cent, shocking many in the party and visibly distressing Turnbull. Internal critics are already judging the campaign strategy harshly. The junior coalition partner, the Nationals, performed markedly better. First term leader Barnaby Joyce successfully defended his seat from a high-profile independent challenger, Tony Windsor, and led a successful campaign which ultimately saw the Nationals improve on the landslide victory of 2013 by picking up an additional House of Reps seat. This result will embolden the Nationals in their coalition negotiations with a weakened Liberal Party, likely netting them an extra Cabinet position.
Despite being emboldened by their improved seat tally, the Labor Party also has much to be concerned about. Their primary vote of 35.2 per cent is the second worst result in the party’s history and reflects a continued inability to engage with a full two-thirds of the electorate. The Greens too, have plenty of reason to be modest. They talked a big game but lost a senator and didn’t pick up any of the multiple lower house seats they spruiked as possible gains. Their primary vote of 9.8 per cent was up from their 2013 showing of 8.7 per cent, but still below their 2010 high watermark of 11.8 per cent.
With more and more Australians opting for minor parties and independents, the established political parties had a relatively poor showing across the board. The continued march of minor and micro parties will be something to watch in coming elections.

Which minor parties and independents won and lost seats?
Despite the changes in the Senate electoral system, a number of prominent cross benchers have won seats and promise to cause the government headaches. The highest profile entrant to federal politics is Pauline Hanson, who secured a Queensland senate seat for herself and likely one or two more for her party colleagues. Hanson is a known quantity in Australian politics; an immensely divisive figure infamous for her racist comments. She’ll likely be the subject of much media scandal over the next few years. Senator Nick Xenophon also did well, appearing to have won three SA Senate seats as well as the lower house seat of Mayo. Alongside these, Melbourne radio personality Derryn Hinch also won a seat. Familiar names returning from the 44th parliament for both houses are: Jacqui Lambie, Bob Katter, Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan. While Glenn Lazarus, Dio Wang, David Leyonhjelm, Ricky Muir, Bob Day and John Madigan each appear to have lost their seats.

Who else lost their seat?
The Coalition appears to have lost a net total of 16 seats. None of these losses were Cabinet Ministers or potential future leaders, though some were noteworthy nonetheless. Among the losers were: Assistant Innovation Minister, and youngest ever federal MP, Wyatt Roy (Longman); Assistant Minister for Productivity Peter Hendy (Eden-Monaro); former Government Whip Andrew Nikolic (Bass); and former Minister for Cities Jamie Briggs (Mayo).

Which topics dominated the election?
Facebook reported the most discussed election issues online as social issues, the economy, the budget, and welfare. Discussion of the economy and budget was fertile ground for the Coalition, who are widely considered superior economic managers. In the final weeks of the campaign, however, Labor gained considerable mileage from their ‘Save Medicare’ campaign. Inspired by the Government’s investigation into privatising the backend payment system of Medicare, the Labor Party mounted a full throated scare campaign about the Coalition’s purported plan to privatise Medicare wholesale. No such plan existed, yet the narrative of the Coalition damaging public healthcare sounded plausible to a sceptical public, and the issue bit them hard.

Will Bill Shorten survive as Opposition Leader?
Yes… though there were rumblings. Immediately after the election loss some of Shorten’s opponents in his party saw it as their only chance to make a move. The Deputy Leader, Tanya Plibersek, declined three-times to support his continued leadership on election night. While Shorten’s most likely challenger, Anthony Albanese, gave a somewhat hedging response in an interview on the ABC’s 7:30. In the end, however, Shorten well exceeded expectations and deserves to remain in place. This was realised on Friday when Labor’s first post-election caucus meeting unanimously re-elected him as leader.

Will the Liberal Party implode?
Maybe. The Liberal Party, like all parties, is comprised of factions – i.e. cliques within the party with slightly different philosophical outlooks. Former PM Tony Abbott is from the conservative wing of the party, while current PM Malcolm Turnbull is from the moderate wing. Conservative members of the party who supported Abbott during the leadership contest last year distrust Turnbull’s politics and blame the moderate faction for the party’s poor electoral showing. Senator Cory Bernardi, a prominent member of the conservative faction, has registered the website ‘Australian Conservatives’ and has begun collecting names and email addresses. For now, Bernardi says his intention is to create a conservative equivalent of GetUp! – a campaigning force for conservatives. But in the future might it be more? Bernardi has said he wants to ‘save the Liberal Party’ from deserting its traditional base. If, however, Bernardi comes to consider the Liberal Party a lost cause, might he launch his embryonic ‘Australian Conservatives’ into a full political party? Watch this space…

How long will the government last?
Nobody knows. A full three-year term would see the government run right through to mid-2019. A straw poll of the academics in the School of Politics and International Relations, however, suggests it’s unlikely they’ll last that long. Asked in the corridor, one senior academic estimated the government would be lucky to last eighteen months, another less optimistically suggested only twelve. Bookmakers, however, will pay $11 for anyone brave enough to bet the government won’t last the year. What is agreed upon though, is that however long it lasts, this parliament will certainly be lively.