My wife asked me on the way into Kingscote yesterday if I thought a double disillusionment was likely.
She meant double dissolution, and corrected herself immediately. But it is a great phrase.
For the Labor Party, a double disillusionment is more likely than a double dissolution.
Malcolm Mackerras predicted on Thursday that the Liberals would lose in Higgins and that Bradfield would go to preferences. This is a big prediction when you consider that both have been safe conservative seats since they were created.
Labor is not running a candidate in either seat. This means the only meaningful opposition to Kelly O’Dwyer in Higgins and Paul Fletcher in Bradfield is the Greens.
The Greens vote in both electorates will increase substantially. This is not because people agree with the Greens’ policies, but because those who will not vote Liberal have no one else to vote for.
But neither electorate will go to preferences. Both will remain safe Liberal seats. There is even a possibility that the Liberal’s primary vote in both seats will increase.
Of course, tomorrow I could be the one suffering from double disillusionment. But I don’t think so.
For the Greens to take the necessary number of votes from both Labor and Liberal in either seat to force a count of preferences would require that:
- Liberals voters turn from the Liberal Party because the Liberals now have a more conservative leader. This is not likely. The Liberals do better, not worse, when they are more conservative, and when their policies can be clearly and easily distinguished from those of Labor.
- Voters in general are convinced that anthropogenic global warming is real, and are more concerned about the impact of AGW than they are about the economic consequences of an ETS, or of Australia signing up to the Copenhagen Treaty. This is a little harder to call. My impression is that most ordinary people do think there is possibly, maybe, perhaps something in the AGW scare. This is hardly surprising – the media has had 15 years to convince them, with very little of the opposing view allowed through the filters. But are they more concerned about this than job losses and increased taxes? I don’t think so.
- Even for Liberal Party voters who do believe in AGW, and think its possible consequences merit action which will slow down industry, increase prices, etc (and this is a minority group), doing something about AGW would have to be more important to them than any other policy matter which has infuenced their vote before. There will certainly be some who fall into this group. But enough to force either electorate to preferences? Highly unlikely.
The ABC says the result will be a voter verdict on the Liberal Party stoush. The change of leadership and the issues that lead to to it have had enough media coverage for this to be true.
But there are other local and state considerations.
Two of those considerations may push votes to Liberal.
Bradfield is in Sydney. Sydney is in New South Wales.
The NSW Labor Party is a train wreck, with even left wing union bosses predicting it will be annihilated at the polls in the next state election. This disillusionment with Labor, even among Labor diehards, will have an effect in Bradfield.
In Higgins, the Greens have run a celebrity candidate, Clive Hamilton. But Clive is not a local, and is not popular. Leftie (but relatively sensible leftie) David Jackmanson wrote in the Age yesterday that:
It’s a sign of the decline of Left politics that a reactionary, pro-censorship sexual moraliser who hates the idea of working people enjoying a higher material standard of living could ever be considered left-wing.
Finally, some former Green voters are disillusioned with the Greens because despite their claims about the urgency of immediate action to stop climate change, they have blocked the government’s ETS legislation at every turn because they could not get their own way.
And Mackerras and other left-wing commentators believe that voters will flock from the Liberals to the Greens because the Liberals under Abbott voted with the Greens to block the ETS?
It is 7.30pm South Australian time and already the ABC is running the headline: Liberal candidate Kelly O’Dwyer expected to claim victory in Higgins by-election.
7.35 pm. The ABC has: Liberals On Verge Of By-election Victory.
At this stage Kelly O’Dwyer in Higgins and and Paul Fletcher in Bradfield both have a slightly higher percentage of the vote than the previous Liberal incumbents. It is still very early though.
7.45. Paying insufficient attention to what is happening in the kitchen, and I have burnt my dinner. Another Crown Lager will make me feel better.
8.25pm The ABC has: Kelly O’Dwyer Claims Victory in the Melbourne Seat of Higgins
Channel Nine News headlines with: ‘I was trying to be cool’ Chubby teacher gets fired after doing striptease for rowdy students. Good to see they are keeping their eye on the ball.
8.35 Kelly O’Dwyer has claimed victory in Higgins. With 58.2% of votes counted, she has 51.5% of the primary vote.
Greens candidate Clive Hamliton has 35.2%. Considering this is the Greens and Labor vote combined, it is an embarrassing result.
In Bradfield Paul Fletcher has 55.5% of the primary vote with 58.5% counted. Greens candidate Susie Gemmell has 26.1%. Again, given that Labor did not field a candidate, this is a dismal result for the Greens.
It should also be embarrassing for Malcolm Mackerras and the rest of his motley mob. Why did they get this so wrong?
Probably a story for another time, but in essence, I think it is because most ABC commentators simply do not talk to anyone outside their own circle. No-one they know votes Liberal, and they are genuinely taken aback when people express an opinion they do not share.
8.50pm SA time. Last update for the night.
Paul Fletcher has claimed victory in Bradfield.
In Higgins with 61.5% counted, the result is Liberal 51.5%, Greens 35.2%, expected two party result, Liberal 57.4, Greens 42.6%.
In the last election the two party result in Higgins was Liberal 57%, Labor 43%.
In Bradfield with 61.4% counted, the result is Liberal 55.5%, Greens 25.8%, expected two party result, Liberal 63.3%, Greens 36.7%.
In the last election the two party result in Bradfield was Liberal 63.5% Labor 36.5%
Postal, absentee and hospital votes in both electorates tend to favour the Liberals by about 70%, so the final result, which will not be known for a few days, should give another half a percent overall to Liberal in each seat.
This would give a final two party result in Higgins of about 58% to 42%, and in Bradfield of about 64% to 36%.
Last ABC headline for the night: Liberals Knock Out Greens in By-elections.
ABC election analyst Antony Green says there has been no discernible swing to the Greens after preferences.