Why what happened happened

Essential Research chances its arm at some post-election analysis. Also featured: musings on the impact of religion and ethnicity on the result.

The first pollster to put its head above the parapet post-election has been Essential Research, though it’s sensibly refraining from treating us to voting intention results for the time being. As reported in The Guardian yesterday, the pollster’s fortnightly survey focused on what respondents did do rather than what they would do, finding 48% saying their decision was made well in advance of the election, 26% saying they made up their mind in the weeks before the election, and 11% saying they made up their mind on polling day. Lest this seemingly high rate of indecision be cited as an alibi for pollster failure, the historical results of the Australian National University’s Australian Election Study – which you can find displayed on page 18 here – suggest these numbers to be in no way out of the ordinary.

The poll also found those who decided in the final weeks came down 40% for the Coalition and 31% for Labor. However, assuming the sample for this poll was as per the Essential norm of between 1000 and 1100 (which I hope to be able to verify later today), the margin of error on this subset of the total sample would have been over 5%, making these numbers statistically indistinguishable from the almost-final national primary vote totals of 41.4% for the Coalition and 33.3% for Labor. This goes double for the finding that those who decided on election day went Coalition 38% and Labor 27%, remembering this counted for only 11% of the sample.

Perhaps notable is a finding that only 22% of respondents said they had played “close attention” to the election campaign, which compares with results of between 30% and 40% for the Australian Election Study’s almost equivalent response for “a good deal of interest in the election” between 1996 and 2016. Forty-four per cent said they had paid little or no attention, and 34% some attention. These findings may be relevant to the notion that the pollsters failed because they had too many politically engaged respondents in their sample. The Guardian reports breakdowns were provided on this question for voters at different levels of education – perhaps the fact that this question was asked signifies that they will seek to redress the problem by weighting for this in future.

Also featured are unsurprising findings on issue salience, with those more concerned with economic management tending to favour the Coalition, and those prioritising education and climate change favouring Labor and the Greens.

In other post-election analysis news, the Grattan Institute offers further data illustrating some now familiar themes: the high-income areas swung against the Coalition, whereas low-to-middle income ones went solidly the other way; areas with low tertiary education swung to the Coalition, although less so in Victoria than New South Wales and Queensland.

Another popular notion is that Labor owes its defeat to a loss of support among religious voters, as a hangover from the same-sex marriage referendum and, in what may have been a sleeper issue at the cultural level, the Israel Folau controversy. Chris Bowen said in the wake of the defeat that he had encountered a view that “people of faith no longer feel that progressive politics cares about them”, and The Australian reported on Saturday that Labor MPs believed Bill Shorten blundered in castigating Scott Morrison for declining to affirm that he did not believe gay people would go to hell.

In reviewing Labor’s apparent under-performance among ethnic communities in Sydney and Melbourne, Andrew Jakubowicz and Christina Ho in The Conversation downplay the impact of religious factors, pointing to a precipitous decline in support for Christian minor parties, and propose that Labor’s promised expansion of parental reunion visas backfired on them. Intended to capture the Chinese vote in Chisholm, Banks and Reid, the actual effect was to encourage notions of an imminent influx of Muslim immigrants, “scaring both non-Muslim ethnic and non-ethnic voters”.

However, I’m not clear what this is based on, beyond the fact that the Liberals did a lot better in Banks than they did in neighbouring Barton, home to “very much higher numbers of South Asian and Muslim residents”. Two things may be said in response to this. One is that the nation’s most Islamic electorate, Watson and Blaxland, recorded swings of 4% to 5% to the Liberals, no different from Banks. The other is that the boundary between Banks and Barton runs right through the Chinese enclave of Hurstville, but voters on either side of the line behaved very differently. The Hurstville pre-poll voting centre, which serviced both electorates, recorded a 4.8% swing to Labor for Barton, and a 5.7% swing to Liberal for Banks. This may suggest that sitting member factors played an important role, and are perhaps of particular significance for Chinese voters.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

1,732 comments on “Why what happened happened”

  1. Sussan Ley absolving the government of all responsibility. It seems that listening not acting is the new black.

    @RNBreakfast

    @sussanley “I intend to be an [environment minister] that listens … and will promote local, recycling, landcare, farmers and the practical things that individuals can do, rather than looking at governments”. #auspol

  2. Lizzie – I also don’t get the deep antipathy some people have towards Shorten. Like you I was not at all inspired but pretty much neutral about him. The way he presented often, but not always, lacked conviction, but to me that was more about style than substance. And yes of course, to win elections, the style thing unfortunately plays a role. I always thought, and still do think, that he had the potential to be a good Labor PM. I think it’s a bit like Dan Andrews – he was also pretty nondescript as Opposition Leader – but the authority of office has made a big difference to the way he’s perceived.

    John Howard was also viewed as yesterday’s man, and a boring suburban solicitor until after his second stint as opposition leader he led the coalition to victory. Jeff Kennet, who’d been Opposition Leader for 10 years was considered a clown and a joke until he won his landslide victory in 1992.

    History alters perceptions.

  3. [‘Victorian Bar president Matt Collins, QC, a barrister regularly before the Court of Appeal, said it was possible the case could end up before the High Court, if the unsuccessful party wants to challenge the Court of Appeal’s decision.’]

    That’s stating the bleeding obvious.

  4. My view on why Labor lost the election is Occam’s Razor.

    Labor was Change and the Liberals were the Status Quo.

    People didn’t want Change so they voted Status Quo.

  5. briefly @ #99 Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 – 10:19 am

    The Right were determined to destroy Shorten. The Blues and the Greens were right into it. They still are.

    And nath has moved swiftly along to demonising Unions now, specifically via targeting the SDA. But it blackguards the association between unions and Labor in general in a knock-on effect.

  6. Millennial @ #104 Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 – 10:33 am

    My view on why Labor lost the election is Occam’s Razor.

    Labor was Change and the Liberals were the Status Quo.

    People didn’t want Change so they voted Status Quo.

    My view is that for the brief time voters were paying any attention at all the Liberal ads scared the shit out of them.
    It ain’t rocket science, and the tories know it.
    Labor on the other hand had their little chemistry set out and their Bunsen burners glowing under the potions with the maps and charts all rolled out….

  7. “Doing whatever the coalition wants when it wants and how it wants is the new black.
    It’s not like anyone’s pushing back.”

    Oh…did parliament go back and i didn’t notice??

  8. Former attorney-general George Brandis, who is now Australia’s High Commissioner in London, said on Tuesday he had been “teased” by members of the royal family – as well as British politicians – “about the frequency with which there was a turnover of prime ministers in Australia”.

    He also said he was now happy to assure them the new Australian government had a clear and stable majority “and the prime minister has absolute and commanding authority in the government party room”.

    Can’t wait for the next rebellion, then. 😆

  9. C@tmomma
    says:
    Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 10:35 am
    briefly @ #99 Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 – 10:19 am
    The Right were determined to destroy Shorten. The Blues and the Greens were right into it. They still are.
    And nath has moved swiftly along to demonising Unions now, specifically via targeting the SDA. But it blackguards the association between unions and Labor in general in a knock-on effect.
    _________________________________________
    Bullshit. Removing the SDA from the ACTU and the ALP would be a terrific first start in strengthening both movements.

  10. People didn’t want Change so they voted Status Quo.

    You have to make the case for change, not just say you’re bringing it.

    And the best way to do that is to make the other side out to be incompetent, immoral, corrupt if not downright criminal, and responsible for the imminent ruination of us all. Basically to declare the current goverment irrevocably broken.

    Labor, unfortunately, didn’t prosecute that case. They made “the big end of town” the enemy instead of “this incompetent, corrupt, shambolic government that’s intent on sending us all to the poor-house”.

  11. Labor’s support for the legislation, which the government has vowed to repeal as a priority when parliament resumes next month, hinges on the successful provision of urgent medical care for sick refugees and the fact that the minister retains discretion to refuse entry of an individual on security grounds.

    “These changes ensure sick people in offshore processing centres can receive the medical care they need, without compromising our strong border protection arrangements,” Keneally told Guardian Australia.

    “(And) the minister has full powers to reject a transfer on security and serious criminality grounds.”

    From this, I take it that Duttton can still refuse treatment on jumped up suspicions. It seems a reasonable caveat until you remember Dutton’s character.

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jun/05/labors-new-leadership-team-stays-firm-in-support-of-medevac-law?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

  12. a r @ #113 Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 – 11:06 am

    People didn’t want Change so they voted Status Quo.

    You have to make the case for change, not just say you’re bringing it.

    And the best way to do that is to make the other side out to be incompetent, immoral, corrupt if not downright criminal, and responsible for the imminent ruination of us all. Basically to declare the current goverment irrevocably broken.

    Labor, unfortunately, didn’t prosecute that case. They made “the big end of town” the enemy instead of “this incompetent, corrupt, shambolic government that’s intent on sending us all to the poor-house”.

    Exactly, and that is something that needs to be prosecuted every day. Not merely during sitting sessions.

  13. lizzie says:
    Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 10:26 am
    Sussan Ley absolving the government of all responsibility. It seems that listening not acting is the new black.

    @RNBreakfast

    @sussanley “I intend to be an [environment minister] that listens … and will promote local, recycling, landcare, farmers and the practical things that individuals can do, rather than looking at governments”. #auspol

    The Greens get the environmental policies for which they were angling. Doubtless they will not take issue with the Blues. Rather, they will attack Labor.

  14. lizzie @ #114 Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 – 11:10 am

    From this, I take it that Duttton can still refuse treatment on jumped up suspicions. It seems a reasonable caveat until you remember Dutton’s character.

    I disagree generally with the concept of ministerial discretion, and certainly with decisions related to medical treatment being subject to ministerial discretion. A government minister is not a (practicing) doctor and has not medically assessed the patient. They should have no say in whether or not someone comes to Australia if actual doctors have assessed the patient and agree that they can only be properly treated in Australia.

    Leave it up to a minister to decide whether or not armed guards should follow the patient around 24/7. But don’t give a politician with no medical knowledge the authority to refuse medical treatment to someone who needs it. That’s just farcical and cruel.

  15. Labor’s decision to divide the job of Indigenous affairs in two – between program delivery and the big picture issues of constitutional reform and a voice to parliament – is a “very powerful thing to do”, according to the ALP’s new spokesperson on Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney.

    “The thinking around it was that quite often one person trying to do nation-building on top of social justice issues becomes too big,” Burney said. “The issues around the Uluru statement are a very high priority.”

    Burney will take the lead on Closing the Gap targets like health, housing and education, while the high rate of suicide in Indigenous communities requires particular focus.

    “The government has to go beyond, to solutions. It’s all very well to wring your hands and say it’s terrible but unless you’re willing to invest in early intervention, prevention and servicing families, then you’re not going to really change very much,” she said.

    “The answers are out there, if we are about to talk to the right people, and listen to the right people, and trust the Aboriginal community-based organisations who are good deliverers of these programs,” she said.

    Burney agreed there is hope for collaboration on Indigenous affairs with Wyatt as minister, “but I don’t like the idea that to try and reach bipartisanship it should be a race to the bottom. Bipartisanship should be about the best outcome, not just distilling to where you can agree with things.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jun/05/pat-dodson-urges-coalition-to-deal-with-indigenous-voice-to-parliament-and-referendum

  16. The calls for a more combative approach from Labor are all well and good. They overlook the response of voters to political fighting – they hate it. Labor tried to run more polite politics, to no avail.

  17. a r

    That’s just farcical and cruel.

    Yup, that’s the Coalition.
    I suspect Labor had to agree to that bit to let the legislation through.

  18. For the Liberals, very sick asylum-seekers are a windfall gain. They can display even more cruelty than usual. By refusing care to the stricken, they can show how truly vengeful they are willing to be. They like conspicuous punishments, especially of the powerless and voiceless. There’s nothing quite like arbitrary cruelty. It’s a Lib special.

    The Greens, who ensured the human hell-holes on Manus and Nauru would come into existence, can take special pride in the part they played in this. Not so long ago, their leader was willing to vote with the Liberals to prevent the passage of the Medevac Bill. They will give a pass to cruelty anytime.

  19. Australian Federal Police are carrying out a raid on the ABC headquarters in the inner-Sydney suburb of Ultimo.

    Three officers entered the Harris Street building just before 11:30am. The plain clothed offices have been met by ABC security and staff in the lobby area of the ABC Ultimo Centre.

    The Blue-Green State in action.

  20. Home Affairs intimidating journalists for exposing their surveillance over reach. Even News Corp concerned.

    https://www.news.com.au/national/politics/australian-federal-police-raid-political-editor-annika-smethursts-home-over-spy-story/news-story/135c27ced2becde0333c0ef61d901007

    So much for freedom of the press. This is what happens when you put a QLD copper in charge. There’s a reason we keep them on a very short leash up north. Expect abuses of power to continue.

  21. A raid by the Australian Federal Police is underway at the ABC offices in Sydney, over a series of 2017 stories known as The Afghan Files.

    The stories, by ABC investigative journalists Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, revealed allegations of unlawful killings and misconduct by Australian special forces in Afghanistan.

    The search warrant names Mr Oakes, Mr Clark and ABC’s director of News Gaven Morris.

    The raid comes one day after the AFP executed search warrants on the home of a News Corp journalist who had reported on secret plans to allow government spying.

  22. John Lyons

    Verified account

    @TheLyonsDen

    AFP RAID: we’ve gone to level 12 where ABC lawyers (and me) meeting the three AFP officers to discuss the warrant which they are executing. Three journalists named on warrant. More to come…

  23. C@tmomma says:
    Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 10:35 am
    briefly @ #99 Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 – 10:19 am

    The Right were determined to destroy Shorten. The Blues and the Greens were right into it. They still are.
    And nath has moved swiftly along to demonising Unions now, specifically via targeting the SDA. But it blackguards the association between unions and Labor in general in a knock-on effect.

    ______________________________________

    For a number of reasons directly related to the postings here I don’t spend much time here anymore.

    There are two in particular.

    One is the interminable Greens-Labor war.

    The other is the ugly thing that calls itself nath shitting stinking faeces on every page. The latter makes me want to throw up. I’ve got better things to do than to read a troll or responses to the vile troll.

  24. The Green leader, RdN, is a medical practitioner. He could be expected to know that medical treatment is beyond politics. But he was quite prepared to put his political campaign ahead of the medical needs of the vulnerable with respect to the Medevac Bill. Why would he do this? So he could prosecute the Green’s Anti-Labor campaign. Why would he do this? Why? Because no price is too great if it means Labor can be disabled.

    The Greens are accomplices of Dutton and the other Liberals. They are the co-authors of the cruelties of the Liberals.

  25. @TheLyonsDen
    6m6 minutes ago

    AFP RAID: ABC lawyers ask whether there is any connection with raid on News Corp’s @annikasmethurst yesterday. AFP say no.

    Now the election is over, release the dog of war.

  26. Jason Om ✊ ✊ ✊
    ‏@jason_om
    9m9 minutes ago

    BREAKING We’re being raided by the cops. AFP just arrived at Ultimo HQ going up the executive side of the building. The raid is over a series of stories known as The Afghan Files from 2017. Search warrants for Dan Oakes, Sam Clark and our news director Gaven Morris #auspol

  27. Now that the election is out of the way Scott/ Dutton black shirts will gather all the dissidents & put them in Sydney Olympic stadium .

    Oh how the ABC will regret all those years of kowtowing to the Libs.

  28. Randall Wray:

    From the MMT perspective, what Japan needs is a good fiscal stimulus, albeit one that is targeted.[i] Japan has three “injections” into the economy: the fiscal deficit (which has fallen from 7% of GDP to about 5% over the past few years—still a substantial injection), the current account surplus, and private investment. But what it needs is stronger growth of domestic consumer demand—which would also stimulate investment directed to home consumption. So fiscal policy ought to be targeted to spending that would increase economic security of Japanese households to the point that they’d increase consumer spending.

    So what is Prime Minister Abe’s announced plan? To raise the sales tax to squelch consumption and reduce economic growth.

    You cannot make this up.

    This has been Japan’s policy for a whole generation. Any time it looks like the economy might break out of its long-term stagnation, policy makers impose austerity in an attempt to reduce the fiscal deficit—and thereby throw the economy back into its permanent recession.

    Clearly, this is the precise opposite to the MMT recommendation. And yet pundits proclaim Japan has been following MMT policy all these years.

    Why? Because Japan has run big fiscal deficits. As if MMT’s policy goal is big government deficits and debt ratios.

    No. We see the budget as a tool to pursue the public interest—things like full employment, inclusive and sustainable growth. To be sure, by many reasonable measures Japan does OK in spite of policy mistakes. Certainly in comparison to the USA, Japan looks pretty good: good and accessible healthcare, low infant mortality, long lifespans, low measured unemployment, and much less inequality and poverty. But Japan could do better if it actually did adopt the MMT view that the budgetary outcome by itself is not an important issue.

    But, no, the Japanese officials are falling all over themselves to make it clear that they will never adopt MMT. Finance Minister Taro Aso called MMT “an extreme idea and dangerous as it would weaken fiscal discipline”.

    One wonders how a reporter could listen to that without bursting out in laughter. Japan’s “fiscal discipline” would be threatened by MMT? The debt ratio is already approaching 250%! By conventional measures, Japan has the worst fiscal discipline the world has ever seen!

    But, wait, it gets even funnier. “BOJ policy board member Yutaka Harada kept up the attack on MMT. The approach proposed by MMT will ‘cause [runaway] inflation for sure’. “ https://asia.nikkei.com/Economy/Growing-Modern-Monetary-Theory-debate-rattles-Japan-officials

    The BOJ has done everything it could think of for the past quarter century to get the inflation rate up to 2%. Quadrillions of QE. Negative interest rates. And the BOJ thinks MMT could produce runaway inflation? I doubt that even Weimar’s Reichsbank could cause high inflation in Japan.

    OK, that’s a cheap shot at Japan’s policymakers.

    What they do not understand is that there are two ways to produce a high deficit (and debt) ratio: the ugly way and the good way. MMT has been arguing this for a long time, but with little progress in promoting understanding. I think that the main reason is because we’ve been using plain English. Economists are not good at reading for comprehension. They need pictures and math.

    Perhaps the following will help.

    Yes, I gave it a name. There’s the Laffer Curve, the Phillips Curve, and now the Wray Curve. I didn’t draw it on a cocktail napkin at a bar, but, rather, jotted it down on a note pad before bed last night.

    Assume the economy is at Point A—for Japan this would represent a 5% deficit ratio and a 1% rate of growth. Now PM Abe imposes a consumption tax, or the USA plummets into a downturn, reducing Japan’s growth rate. The economy moves up and to the left toward Point B as growth slows and the deficit ratio rises.

    Slower growth reduces tax revenue even as it scares households and firms, which reduce spending in an effort to build up savings. The slower growth also reduces imports so the current account “improves” somewhat. From the sectoral balance perspective, the government’s balance moves further into deficit (to, say, a 7% fiscal deficit), the current account surplus rises (say from 4 to 5%) and the private sector’s surplus grows to 12% (the sum of the other two balances).

    That’s the ugly way to increase a fiscal deficit. It is the Japanese way. It is like a perpetual bleeding of the patient in the hope that further blood loss will cure her ills.

    What is the MMT alternative? Measured and targeted stimulus designed to restore confidence of firms and households. Ramp up the Social Security safety net to assure the Japanese people that they will be taken care of in their old age. Recreate a commitment to secure jobs and decent pay. Either promote births or encourage immigration to replace the declining workforce. Undertake a Green New Deal to transition to a carbon-free future.

    In that case we move along the curve from Point A toward Point C. The fiscal deficit increases in the “good” way, while growth improves.

    Note, however, that the boost to the deficit will only be temporary. Households and firms will begin to spend and their surplus will fall. The current account surplus will fall, too, as imports rise. Tax revenues will increase—not because rates rise but because income increases. The fiscal deficit will fall as the domestic private surpluses decline. Precisely how much the deficit will fall depends on the movement of the private surplus and current account surplus—with the deficit falling to equality with the sum.

    In terms of the graph above, the Wray Curve shifts out to the right. Point A will be consistent with a higher rate of growth for a given deficit ratio. There’s nothing “natural” about the deficit ratio at Point A—as it depends on the other two sectoral balances.

    For the USA, Point A is consistent with a higher growth rate but probably a similar deficit ratio to that of Japan. Our current account balance is of course negative—which implies a higher fiscal deficit. However, our private sector’s surplus is smaller than Japan’s for any given growth rate—which implies a lower fiscal deficit. The two essentially offset one another to leave the US deficit ratio at about 5% but with higher growth than Japan.

    Note that we are not proposing a sort of Reverse Laffer Curve. Recall that the Laffer Curve says that tax cuts more than “pay for themselves”—trickle-down growth boosts revenue sufficiently to close a fiscal deficit. I am not arguing that the stimulative increase of government spending will increase tax revenue so much that the deficit ratio returns to its original level (or less). Where it actually ends up depends on movements of the two other sectoral balances.

    Not that the size of the deficit—by itself—is important. What is important is whether government budget policy helps in the pursuit of the public and private interests. The deficit will always adjust to be “just the right size” to balance the other two sectoral balances. But that equality can be consistent with any growth rate—including a rate that is too low (deflationary) or too high (inflationary).

    And the sectoral balance equality holds with any fiscal deficit ratio. So while it is likely that a successful stimulus will shift the Wray Curve out to the right, we cannot predict exactly where the new fiscal deficit ratio will settle as the growth rate rises.

    What is most important about this graph is the recognition that there are (at least) two different growth rates consistent with a given deficit ratio. We can achieve a particular growth rate either in the “ugly” way or in the “good” way—while generating the same deficit ratio. Japan continually operates its economy to produce “ugly” deficits—precisely because it fears fiscal expansion.

    For further discussion of fiscal deficits along these lines, see the new textbook by Mitchell, Wray and Watts, Macroeconomics (Macmillan International, Red Globe Press), Chapter 8, and especially pp. 124-128.

    http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2019/06/japan-does-mmt.html?fbclid=IwAR0dfIjCNw7zuUPek3MGazTNb5ycrHybdrQyGcuRWHyV23v6GSvksN4B-ic

  29. Sceptic says:
    Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 11:51 am
    Now that the election is out of the way Scott/ Dutton black shirts will gather all the dissidents & put them in Sydney Olympic stadium .

    Oh how the ABC will regret all those years of kowtowing to the Libs.

    The Greens deserve a special mention. They campaigned well. They campaigned true. They helped deliver a win for the worst government in living memory. Their reward will be the construction of the Galilee Railway and a new coal-fired power plant in Queensland. They will have their wedges, paid for by the taxpayers.

    The new Minister for the Environment, the entirely docile Sussan Ley, is already acting on the Green policies, which is to do exactly nothing whatsoever that might make a difference to anything.

  30. @TheLyonsDen
    1m1 minute ago

    AFP RAID: AFP say that they will confine their search to “very specific matters” when I say that we are extremely concerned that they are going to try for widespread access to emails and correspondence.

  31. More intimidation of journalists from the Morrison government… where are the opposition comments on this sharply authoritarian turn?

    Considering the role the media played in handing the election to Morrison, I’d not be surprised if the opposition is enjoying schadenfreude. And fair enough, too.

    The media should take note; you reap what you sow. Back fascists and you get fascism.

  32. The government didn’t get the idea it could bully the media in a vacuum. News helped create this culture with its anti-ABC vendetta.

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