Make a Difference

Tag: by-election

Last Word on the Mayo By-election

If you are voting in the by-elections tomorrow, who should you vote for?

The key question is: “What do you want Australia to be?”

When you have a clear image in your mind of what you hope our future will be, you need to compare the candidates and ask which of them has the education, experience, tenacity, energy and intelligence to help make your vision a reality.

This is a Federal election. That means we are electing people to be part of the government of our nation. Local issues, and “What can you do for me?” should be a long way down the list.

I know that often they are not, and Liberal/National candidates are just as bad as anyone else at pandering to the notion of electorate X deserves more, without ever asking “More than who? Which electorates deserve less?”

The idea that Federal members are elected primarily to look after their electorate is not only alien to our history and constitution, it can have disastrous results. This is sometimes called pork-barrelling. It means that more needy electorates are neglected, or projects which would benefit the country as a whole are mismanaged or left undone entirely.

I will just add at this point that I am not a “rusted-on” Liberal supporter. I have never been a member of the Liberal Party. I did not vote for the Liberal candidate at the last Federal election, and sometimes when I have, it has not been with any enthusiasm, but simply because all the other parties and candidates were worse.

I am still not entirely enthusiastic about Malcolm Turnbull’s government. But in terms of candidates this time, there is one who is clearly more likely to form part of an effective, positive national government.

There are seven candidates in the Mayo by-election. Only two, Rebekha Sharkie and Georgina Downer, have any chance of being elected. Neither Family First nor Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives have a candidate this time.

There have been suggestions about both Sharkie and Downer that they do not belong, or are ring-ins. I don’t accept those arguments on either side.

Rebekha Sharkie lives in the electorate and clearly cares about the community. I wish she had sorted out her citizenship issues before causing this expensive and frustrating election, but now that she has genuinely revoked any citizenships other than that of Australia, she is clearly entitled to stand.

Georgina Downer’s family has lived in, worked in and been part of the Mayo electorate for over 100 years. She was raised here, went to school here, was married and had her early working and family life here. It is just silly to suggest she does not belong or cannot represent Mayo. By that argument, anyone who left Kangaroo Island for whatever reason; work, family, education, and then returned, would never again be a local or belong, no matter how long they had lived here, or what their family connections to the Island’s history. Some of those who make that absurd argument about Georgina would be rightly upset and angry if the same reasoning were applied to them.

I have never met Rebekha Sharkie. I get the impression from those who have that she is pleasant and well-spoken, and is genuinely concerned about the needs of the community. That is great. So is Georgina. At the same time, it is impossible to pin down what Ms Sharkie really believes, or what are her guiding principles.

She was a member of the Liberal Party, then deserted to join Nick Xenophon. That in itself is an issue, because apart from trying to stop poker machines, a cause in which he was completely ineffective, Nick’s political career seem to have been a mixture of self-promotion and following whatever issues he thought might win him votes. When Nick failed to get elected, Rebekha became an independent who votes mostly with Labor and the Greens. If you think Bill Shorten and Adam Bandt have the answers, then by all means go ahead and give her your vote. But think about what this means, both for the nation and for our electorate.

I will just give two examples of why this matters.

Small businesses include fishing, farming, tourism, medical practices, retailing and service. Small businesses are important. They belong to their communities in ways that big business cannot. They are responsive to their communities’ needs in ways that big businesses cannot be, and they employ locals when there are no big businesses to do so.

Small businesses are in trouble. The number of Australians employed by small businesses decreased by 330,000 (-7 per cent) between 2007 and 2016. High taxes, high energy costs and growing red tape have all contributed to this. A reduction of costs and of compliance burdens will help family businesses and help employment, especially in smaller communities.

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Enterprise Tax Plan) Bill 2016 reduced the tax burden on small businesses. Rebekha Sharkie voted against this. There are nearly 20,000 small businesses in Mayo. If she and the Labor/Greens alliance had had their way, every one of these businesses would now be worse off.

Ms Sharkie also voted with Bill Shorten and the Greens against legislation to tighten Australia’s immigration policy. This is not to stop legal immigration. No one has a problem with that. Most of us, if we are not immigrants ourselves, are the children or grandchildren of immigrants. The Migration Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 stopped people applying for visas which could lead to citizenship after they had arrived in Australia illegally. This is about security, fairness, and economic cost to legal immigrants and taxpayers.

Of course we have a duty to welcome genuine refugees and asylum seekers from neighbouring countries who are desperately fleeing war or famine. That legislation did not apply to those people, but to those who tried to shortcut the rules, enter the country illegally, and once here, apply to join a process leading to citizenship. That is wrong, unfair to Australia, and unfair to those who want to come, who have skills to offer, and who make the often time-consuming and expensive effort to do the right thing.

Rebekah voted against this amendment. If she and Bill Shorten and the Greens had won that vote, those who show no regard for our rules and attempt to jump the queue would have been treated better than those who show their respect for Australia by acting in accordance with our laws.

Because of these kind of votes, and because Ms Sharkie has so frequently changed her mind about her allegiances, it is not possible to have any confidence in her future votes or actions, regardless of how nice a person she seems to be.

There could not be a greater contrast with Georgina.

Georgina, as I have noted before, gained degrees in Law and Commerce in Melbourne and a Master’s Degree from the London School of Economics. She has worked as a solicitor and consultant, was a director of the Indigenous arts project The Torch, was a researcher for US Senator Chuck Hagel and for Baroness Howe of Idlicote in the House of Lords in the UK, represented Australia as a diplomat with the Australian Embassy in Japan, and has been a research fellow at the IPA, Australia’s leading free market, small government, evidence-based policy research and lobby group. And on top of all that has raised two young children, Henry and Margot. She has an exceptional degree of education, experience, commitment and skill.

What is just as important for Mayo and for her role in our national government is that she is clear and consistent about the principles that guide her thinking. She is committed to freedom of speech, to free markets, to small government and lower taxes, and to evidence based policy.

It comes down to this. What do you want Australia to be? Who of the candidates can you best rely on to make this vision a reality?

Mayo by-election …

I note with concern the report in today’s Islander in which candidates in the current Mayo by-election are asked “What will you do for us..?” as if this should be the key factor in deciding who to vote for.

I cannot fathom why anyone with any understanding of our Federal parliamentary system would think this question has anything to with the reasons for which a Federal member is elected.

Of course local members should know their electorates, and where possible, should have life, work and educational experience in them. But imagine every member thinking their job was to gain every possible advantage for their own electorate. It would be chaos.

We are not electing a lolly lady. We are, or should be, electing the person we believe has the experience, education, energy and intelligence to make a strong, long-term, positive contribution to an effective national government.

“Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests;
which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates;
but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole;
where, not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide,
but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole.”
Edmund Burke

A Teensy Little Gloat

Despite the morbid prognostications of Mr Mackerras and the left-wing locos, I said before the Higgins and Bradfield by-elections that both seats would be retained easily by the Liberals, that neither would go to preferences, and that there was a chance both candidates would be returned with increased majorities.

I even gave a fairly detailed analysis of why I thought so.

By 8.30 on Saturday night it was clear the Liberals had won both seats easily. It was not clear then what the final two party result would be. I said that increased majorities were still likely after postal and absentee votes were counted.

My guesses on the night were:

Higgins 58% to 42%. Actual result 59.6% to 40.4%.

Bradfield 64% to 36%. Actual result 63.9% to 36.1%.

About half a percent increase in the majority in Bradfield. About what I expected – 64% is a pretty decisive result and will be difficult to better.

But a nearly 3% increase in Higgins – the seat Mackerras said would be lost to Clive Hamilton and the Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden Party.

When you consider both seats had lost long-time, high profile, popular incumbents, this is an an amazing result.

And I did pretty well, too.

Double Disillusionment

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

Double disillusionment.


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.

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