No comfort for major parties from Saturday's results
Post-election analysis is always sober reading for political parties. History is written by the victors, flattering the outcomes of those who win and diminishing the significance of those who lose.
Yet the objective analysis should reveal that this election was not a triumph for major parties. Quite the contrary.
Let me use the most recent South Australian election by way of example.
In losing government, Labor suffered their second-lowest primary vote in decades (33.8%) and the Liberals recorded their second-lowest ever (37.5%) to win a bare majority of seats.
In the upper house, where only two-thirds of votes have been counted, the result for the majors is even worse. Labor received 29.7% whilst the Liberals topped the poll with 31.5% – a far cry from the 51.8% they won in 1993.
The other parties secured a record 34%.
This is pretty close to the wash up from the last Federal election.
The Xenophon show did slightly worse than expected but is being panned for not winning lower house seats. His mob didn’t perform as expected but managing media-hyped expectations is different to dismissing a substantive and surging no confidence vote.
The Australian Conservatives have been denigrated by self-interested cheerleaders who choose the superficial over the substantive in the quest for a headline.
Whilst our 3.5% upper house vote is less than we wanted, it’s not a bad beginning for a rapidly growing grassroots movement in the startup phase. On those numbers it looks hard for us to retain an upper house seat but it was okay for a brand new political brand in a brutal five-way contest.
Naturally the critics compare our first electoral outing to a previous party, Family First. Even then, the reporting misses some important facts because it gets in the way of some pundits’ wishful thinking.
Politics has changed substantially in the past four years since the 2014 election, particularly in South Australia. Perhaps the best comparison to draw from this state election are the results from the last three federal elections because they include the major political disrupter of Nick Xenophon.
In that time, the major parties’ federal upper house vote has declined from the around 38% to as low as 27%. The Greens have gone from 13% to 6%. Family First went from 4% to 2.6%.
With Xenophon’s return crack at state politics, those figures were pretty much repeated in the state upper house. The majors hovering around the 30% mark, Xenophon around 20%, Greens 6% and the Australian Conservatives actually improving upon Family First’s performance with 3.5%.
With well over a third of upper house votes cast outside of Liberal and Labor, it’s hardly a sign that ‘minors’ are on the decline. In fact, quite the opposite.
Now I know this is an imperfect analysis but it is being repeated all over the country. Minor and new parties are becoming major disrupters of the two party duopoly and are now established landmarks in Australia’s political landscape.
The triumphal claims of commentators and major party advocates are a beat-up. In reality, they are on the cusp of losing a host of seats at future elections as the public’s appetite for new parties continues to grow.
The reason is pretty simple. The major parties are failing the people. Their policies and practices are diminishing, rather than strengthening, our nation.
Right now, discontented voters are casting their ballots in myriad different directions but eventually they will come together. I am betting that convergence will be outside of the Red and Blue teams and that will shake-up the political establishment like never before.