So it looks like Labor won that one, then. Which is good, because the main narrative I’ve seen floating around the place has been that Victorians rejected the politics of fear and racism, and that Andrews won by being strong on policy and infrastructure (and, it must be said, on the back of four years of actually achieving a fair bit of what he set out to do).
Is this narrative true? Well, partially, at least. I’m sure the mess in Canberra didn’t help Matthew Guy any, though amusingly neither side of politics really wants to admit that – Labor, because it takes away from their victory, and the Liberals because then they’d have to admit to getting that wrong (which Mary Wooldridge very nearly did, in fact). But, while I’d love to think that my fellow Victorians are all highly-evolved individuals who are too intelligent to fall for a fear campaign and too kind to be motivated by racism, I suspect that this is not wholly the case.
Still, true or not, it’s a good narrative, and one that I hope will take root. “Fear campaigns don’t win in this country” is an idea that I would like to become true. I mean, wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone in politics went, right, OK, fear campaigns don’t work, let’s make the Federal election about policy instead of about racism and being mean to LGBTQI people.
Of course, from what I’ve seen, the far right is not showing any signs of learning from its mistakes. From Peta Credlin lamenting that they really couldn’t go hard on terrorism after the Bourke Street incident for fear of looking insensitive to Miranda Devine claiming that they didn’t go hard enough on demonising Safe Schools (not to mention that fabulous headline in the Australian blaming Malcolm Turnbull for the whole thing), there is a definite sense that they really believe we voted against them because they weren’t extreme *enough*. Oy.
Personally, I think Mary Wooldridge was right on the money when she said:
“There has been a takeover of the administrative side of the party — the membership side of the party — by a small but dominant group who are very right-wing, and we need to make sure that those members who are liberal, genuine Liberals, are empowered not to desert the party but hunker down with us to make sure that we can get back to being that broader party that we were in the past, and need to be in the future, in order to be successful.
“If the trend of the membership level of the party continues … we won’t be elected to government in this state again in the future…
“The party needs to be broader, and that’s the party that Menzies set up — it is a party of liberals, not a party of right-wing conservatives.”
Obviously, we have no idea as yet who is going to wind up in the Legislative Council, but the projections when last I saw them were looking like a bit depressing for the left side of politics. I gather that below the line voting is up somewhat this election, but only to around 10-15%, which is really saddening.
At my booth, at least, things were looking suitably progressive (and also well-equipped with democracy sausage, cake stalls, toy stalls, and more). The people near me in my queue were all planning to vote below the line, and in terms of who they were putting first, well, the man behind me was wearing a T shirt wearing a hammer and sickle and said that it was pretty obvious who he was going to vote for. (I turned around and suggested, poker faced, ‘The DLP?’, and he laughed and laughed and laughed…)
There was some dubious logic from one of the people handing out how to vote cards, who explained to me that if I was really a Green I should vote for Kavanagh – indeed, most of the senior Greens were voting for Kavanagh, because they knew they couldn’t win this electorate, but their preferences could push Kavanagh past Yildiz, and then Yildiz would push Kavanagh into first place. This… came as a surprise to my friends who were handing out how to vote cards for the Greens, so I declined to follow his advice.
I did collect a full set of how to vote cards, however, which in our booth included Labor, Liberals, the Greens, Yildiz, Kavanagh, the Socialists, Hinch’s Justice Party, and Patten’s Reason Party. The Liberals guy looked quite grateful – it’s a tough gig in an area like ours, and I was not the only one to notice that in this unwinnable seat we got a woman for our candidate. Interestingly, the Socialists were the only group who had information on their How to Vote card in all the community languages; the Greens had a brief sentence in each language directing people to their website, but nobody else seems to have bothered. I was surprised at the lack of How to Vote cards from the Animal Justice Party, which usually polls fairly well in our area.
And then I went home and napped, because I’ve been working all day and blogging all weekend and evening, and it turns out that I’m exhausted.
We watched the ABC election coverage, which turned out to be both informative and slightly painful. I really felt for John Pesutto, the Member for Hawthorn and one of the two designated Liberal commentators who spent the evening slowly losing his job on national television. He had actually come across as moderate and reasonable from the start of the evening, and he was impressively gracious and dignified as the evening progressed (and the initially triumphant Labor commentators became increasingly subdued in their commentary, because really, nobody wanted to kick the poor man while he was down). He also had a few home truths for the Federal and State branches of the Liberal Party, in particular the fairly biting comment about Peter Dutton that it’s never a good idea to comment on issues interstate (and also that you can’t run a Queensland election campaign in Victoria, which is mildly insulting to Queenslanders, but played well with a Victorian audience). He, too, feels that the Liberals need to move back to the centre if they want to survive.
I’m also feeling pretty sad for the Greens, who look like they are going to lose a lot of their upper house seats and most of their lower house ones. One of the oddities of writing this blog is that because it consumes absolutely all my free time in the leadup to an election, I actually have very little idea what is going on in terms of political campaigns. So I was aware that Bad Stuff was happening with the Greens, but not of what it was (I’ve caught up now, and ugh. Though I do think that Samantha Ratnam did a pretty good job of explaining where they were coming from, and they were right to stand down that candidate in Sandringham.). I do think this narrative that they have a woman problem is slightly disingenuous – I can’t think of a party in recent times that hasn’t had issues with sexual harrassment and worse, which is pretty poor, but it does, at least, look like they are trying to do something about it rather than sweeping it under the carpet.
I’m not sure what to make of the inevitable media spin that this is the end for the Greens, principally because I can’t remember an election after which they have *not* said that it was the end for the Greens. This is certainly a worse result than usual, but looking at the numbers on Saturday night, it seemed to me that the Green vote hadn’t actually sunk by very much. What seemed to have hurt them most was, ironically, the collapse of the Liberal vote. In previous elections, the Greens have largely won off Labor preferences where Labor was third in a three-cornered race, but this time round, it was the Liberals coming in third, and they certainly weren’t giving any votes to the Greens. This has been Liberal Party strategy for a few elections now, but it’s the first one where I’ve seen it work so well. If recent events cost them seats, it’s because their margin for winning was really, really small in the first place. And that’s disappointing, but I don’t think it’s the end of the road.
I liked Richard Di Natale’s spin of the situation – that Labor had, in fact, put a number of Greens policies in place (safe injecting rooms, voluntary euthanasia), to the benefit of all Victorians, and that this was more important than whether the Greens themselves got seats. Which is a smart reminder to the public of what the Greens stand for and have helped achieve – and also a reminder to Andrews that yes, he has captured the centre this time, but he needs to keep on holding on to the left if he doesn’t want the Greens to get those seats back.
I’m sure I had more thoughts, but honestly, after two and a half weeks of non-stop tiny parties, interspersed with some rather stressful times at work, my brain is basically porridge. I shall try to return once we have a Legislative Council, to talk about the new and exciting flavours that we have there, but since we are at the start of Advent, which means I’ll be singing pretty much non-stop from next weekend until Christmas, I make no promises.
Just in case I don’t return before then, I wish you a good Christmas Break and a Happy New Government!