Winners and losers

Reading between the lines of the Liberal Party’s post-election reports for the federal and Victorian state elections.

In the wake of Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill’s federal electoral post-mortem for Labor, two post-election reviews have emerged from the Liberal Party, with very different tales to tell – one from the May 2019 federal triumph, the other from the November 2018 Victorian state disaster.

The first of these was conducted by Arthur Sinodinos and Steven Joyce, the latter being a former cabinet minister and campaign director for the conservative National Party in New Zealand. It seems we only get to see the executive summary and recommendations, the general tenor of which is that, while all concerned are to be congratulated on a job well done, the party benefited from a “poor Labor Party campaign” and shouldn’t get too cocky. Points of interest:

• It would seem the notion of introducing optional preferential voting has caught the fancy of some in the party. The report recommends the party “undertake analytical work to determine the opportunities and risks” – presumably with respect to itself – “before making any decision to request such a change”.

• Perhaps relatedly, the report says the party should work closer with the Nationals to avoid three-cornered contests. These may have handicapped the party in Gilmore, the one seat it lost to Labor in New South Wales outside Victoria.

• The report comes out for voter identification at the polling booth, a dubious notion that nonetheless did no real harm when it briefly operated in Queensland in 2015, and electronic certified lists of voters, which make a lot more sense.

• It is further felt that the parliament might want to look at cutting the pre-poll voting period from three weeks to two, but should keep its hands off the parties’ practice of mailing out postal vote applications. Parliament should also do something about “boorish behaviour around polling booths”, like “limiting the presence of volunteers to those linked with a particular candidate”.

• Hints are offered that Liberals’ pollsters served up dud results from “inner city metropolitan seats”. This probably means Reid in Sydney and Chisholm in Melbourne, both of which went better than they expected, and perhaps reflects difficulties polling the Chinese community. It is further suggested that the party’s polling program should expand from 20 seats to 25.

• Ten to twelve months is about the right length of time out from the election to preselect marginal seat candidates, and safe Labor seats can wait until six months out. This is at odds with the Victorian party’s recent decision to get promptly down to business, even ahead of a looming redistribution, which has been a source of friction between the state and federal party.

• After six of the party’s candidates fell by the wayside during the campaign, largely on account of social media indiscretions (one of which may have cost the Liberals the Tasmanian seat of Lyons), it is suggested that more careful vetting processes might be in order.

The Victorian inquiry was conducted by former state and federal party director Tony Nutt, and is available in apparently unexpurgated form. Notably:

• The party’s tough-on-crime campaign theme, turbo-charged by media reportage of an African gangs crisis, failed to land. Too many saw it as “a political tactic rather than an authentic problem to be solved by initiatives that would help make their neighbourhoods safer”. As if to show that you can’t always believe Peter Dutton, post-election research found the issue influenced the vote of only 6% of respondents, “and then not necessarily to our advantage”.

• As it became evident during the campaign that they were in trouble, the party’s research found the main problem was “a complete lack of knowledge about Matthew Guy, his team and their plans for Victoria if elected”. To the extent that Guy was recognised at all, it was usually on account of “lobster with a mobster”.

• Guy’s poor name recognition made it all the worse that attention was focused on personalities in federal politics, two months after the demise of Malcolm Turnbull. Post-election research found “30% of voters in Victorian electorates that were lost to Labor on the 24th November stated that they could not vote for the Liberal Party because of the removal of Malcolm Turnbull”.

• Amid a flurry of jabs at the Andrews government, for indiscretions said to make the Liberal defeat all the more intolerable, it is occasionally acknowledged tacitly that the government had not made itself an easy target. Voters were said to have been less concerned about “the Red Shirts affair for instance” than “more relevant, personal and compelling factors like delivery of local infrastructure”.

• The report features an exhausting list of recommendations, updated from David Kemp’s similar report in 2015, the first of which is that the party needs to get to work early on a “proper market research-based core strategy”. This reflects the Emerson and Weatherill report, which identified the main problem with the Labor campaign as a “weak strategy”.

• A set of recommendations headed “booth management” complains electoral commissions don’t act when Labor and union campaigners bully their volunteers.

• Without naming names, the report weights in against factional operators and journalists who “see themselves more as players and influencers than as traditional reporters”.

• The report is cagey about i360, described in The Age as “a controversial American voter data machine the party used in recent state elections in Victoria and South Australia”. It was reported to have been abandoned in April “amid a botched rollout and fears sensitive voter information was at risk”, but the report says only that it is in suspension, and recommends a “thorough review”.

• Other recommendations are that the party should write more lists, hold more meetings and find better candidates, and that its shadow ministers should pull their fingers out.

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.

2,754 comments on “Winners and losers”

  1. Said without a hint of self awareness. And he’s always the victim!

    President Trump on Tuesday slammed as “very very nasty” and “very disrespectful” recent comments by his French counterpart about the diminished state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

    Referring to comments President Emmanuel Macron made last month in an interview with The Economist — in which Macron described the “brain death” of NATO due to lack of American support — Trump attacked Macron during his first remarks on the first day of the NATO 70th anniversary summit in London, calling the comments “very insulting.”

    “You just can’t go around making statements like that about NATO,” Trump said, sitting next to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at a one-on-one meeting between the two leaders Tuesday morning.

  2. William said
    “…Gilmore, the one seat it lost to Labor in New South Wales outside Victoria.”

    Pedant alert. New South Wales is always outside Victoria. ☺

  3. frednk:

    [‘1) What is the difference between sex trafficking and prostitution.

    2) Is the issue that she was 17 and not 18?’]

    Q1. Although there can be an overlap, sex trafficking involves a sex act(s) induced by fraud, force or coercion or in which the person induced is under 18 years of age; whereas prostitution involves voluntariness to engage in a sex act(s) for a commercial return.

    Q.2 Yes. Where the person induced is under the age of 18, Virginia Roberts being 17 when Andrew allegedly forced himself upon her in New York, London and Epstein’s private island.

    See also Victims of Trafficking and Violence Act, 2000 – a US statute.

    At this stage, the complainant is seeking a share of Epstein’s estate, but that could change if US prosecutors consider the evidence against Andrew is sufficient to lay criminal charges, which would result in an extradition hearing. I suspect, though, for obvious reason, such won’t ensue.

    The legislation is a tad complex thus I apolgise for referring to you as a fool.

  4. @AntonyGreenABC
    At Sydney airport heading off to London for the UK election. Before accusations of ABC waste get thrown around, remembering the inaccurate stories at the time of Prince Harry’s wedding, I’d like to point out i’m paying for the trip myself. #auspol

  5. Mavis I don’t mind being called a fool. It was just an interesting response.
    Did she allege force? From my skimming, she was asked to, she did, he can’t dance and he sweats.
    It was in 2001,2002 and the legislation came in 2003.

  6. A moment of brightness to start the day. Listening to Trevor Chappell (No, not that one) on 774 this morning. Elderly lady rings in to say how good Canberra hospital was on a recent stay. Nattering on with Trevor. Lets drop her son’s a cartoonist. Bit more talking.
    Her son is David Rowe.
    Trevor says he’s brilliant.
    Mum. Oh yes.
    But “he’s a naughty boy”
    Walking through Central station I broke up with laughter.
    Good start to the morning 🙂

  7. A Canadian pension fund has bought a huge parcel of Australian permanent water rights for $490 million to irrigate almond trees, in a move that puts the spotlight on foreign ownership of farms and water resources as drought continues to ravage the country.

    The Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments), one of Canada’s largest fund managers, has also acquired 12,000 hectares of Victorian almond orchards in the Sunraysia district in a separate transaction.

    The chairman of the Victorian Farmers Federation’s water council, Richard Anderson, said that the 89,085 megalitres of permanent water rights fell well short of satisfying the annual irrigation requirements of the 12,000 hectares of orchards.

    He said mature almond orchards in that part of Victoria would need 14 to 16 megalitres of water per hectare per year. Sixteen megalitres per hectare multiplied by 12,000 hectares of orchards equals 192,000 megalitres per year, which is far in excess of the entitlement bought by PSP Investments.

    “Really, all you’ve got is a change of ownership, it (the water) has gone from a Singapore-owned company to a Canadian pension fund,” he said.

  8. Former NSW premier Kristina Keneally was to be dispatched to Washington as Joe Hockey’s replacement by Bill Shorten if Labor had won the May 18 federal election.

    It can be revealed Mr Shorten and Senator Keneally hatched a plan for the now-home affairs spokeswoman to become Australia’s next ambassador to the United States as reward for contesting the Bennelong byelection in December 2017.

  9. Morning all. Lizzie thanks for that story on water trading, which highlights a basic problem with many farmers demanding help now.

    First many of them sold their existing water allocations, for a very good price, when water trading was introduced. Now they want it back, but do not intend to return the money.

    Second, in a drought, there may be no water to be had. And the environmental flows were bought with taxpayer funds, so they should not be given away.

    Third, in many cases, especially SW NSW, the original water allocations were way beyond what was environmentally or economically prudent, and at some point we were always going to have t0 call time on pouring large amounts of irrigation water on what, per litre of water, are low value crops. Many areas of Australian farmland have been over valued for decades. Without the water it is worth little. Tim Flannery pointed this out in one of his books.

  10. One Nation’s shock decision last week to block key industrial relations legislation means crooked bankers now face tougher sanctions than “union thugs”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says.

    Echoing calls by ministers to try again in the new year to secure the passage of the union-busting Ensuring Integrity legislation, Mr Morrison said he believed One Nation leader Pauline Hanson betrayed the government by reneging on an assurance to vote for the bill.

    Consequently, he said there was now no union equivalent to the Banking Executive Accountability Regime that he introduced as treasurer, and which could be applied to Westpac executives following the bank’s money laundering scandal.

    More lies from the prime Minister today. These laws ALREADY apply to union officials. Union officials are ALREADY disqualified for this behaviour.

  11. Lizzie

    Morrison’s statement on tough penalties for bankers is a lie in multiple respects. As I said yesterday, none of the bankers are being charge individually with the jailable offences they have committed. Worst case they lose their job, bonus intact. The bank pays a large fine, which is really a penalty on shareholders. Meanwhile Federal coffers get nicely topped up to help claim a surplus.

  12. Socrates

    Katrina Hodgkinson was on The Drum last night (over-confident b.s.artist) and I think she was the stubborn NSW water minister who gave out too much in water rights.

  13. Soc

    Absolutely correct. For contrast, the ABC interviewed a farmer on the Murray whose family had moved into almonds. He wasn’t complaining about the drought, because they had put together a plan when they changed their crop, and had purchased enough permanent water to get them through.

    Ironically, too, the rise in almond production is related to the move away from dairy products, almond milk being one of the replacements for cows’ milk.

    Regardless, dairying was, until relatively recent times, recognised as an enterprise best suited to areas with high rainfall. When my neighbour in the seventies moved to irrigated dairying, it was seen as a risky enterprise. Now it’s common practice.

    Irrigating to grow grass – which is what dairies in these areas are doing – is far from best practice.

  14. Well, this is a false comparison —

    ‘ behind their Chinese counterparts..’

    China does not allow PISA access to all its students, but to a select cohort, who (cough) coincidentally come from one of the oldest University towns in the country.

  15. Socrates
    1. Yep. And if you decide to manage your irrigation farm around spot prices, you wear the risk. They had the Millenium Drought to learn from. Spot prices now are more or less the same – astronomical. But in wet years they pay low spot prices for their water – nice little de facto boost to farm profitability. You do not hear them screaming then. The initial response of the Government – 50 megs of water @ $100 per farm – is a giant rip off from the taxpayer.

    2. Water inflows in NSW have been extremely low because of the drought.

    3. Environmental water has been bought and paid for. Diverting it to irrigators is simply more money stolen from the taxpayers. Fortunately the 2007 Act will make it difficult for the Morrison Government to find a way to bastardize environmental water it controls. Even if they did decide to bastardize environmental flows then there would be a massive environmental problem. A lot of the flow is being used to shandy the 2 million tons of salt that enters the Murray each year – most of it from NSW. Where does the salt go if it does not go into the sea?

    4. Re: overallocation, yep.

    5. Irrigation land without irrigation basically sits there as rough grazing.

    6. There is one gripe for which I have some sympathy. The water sharing agreement provides a fixed amount of water for South Australia regardless of the drought. NSW and Victoria are bound to provide half of this flow each. With the drought smashing the MDB catchment in NSW, they can only deliver their SA water by granting zero water allocation to NSW general security water licencees. So… SA irrigators are still going full pelt while the NSW cuzzes watch the Barmah choke flow a-banker while they themselves have zero water.

  16. zoomster

    Yep. The irrigation dairy farmers are suffering a quadruple whammy: low global dairy commodity prices, a long term growing trend in dairy milk replacements, the big supermarkets (and hence the Urbs and the Inner Urbs consumers) screwing them on farm gate prices, and extremely high spot prices for irrigation water. The latter, in turn, is due to two long term trends in the MDB – increasing temperature and decreasing rainfall leading to a significant reduction in run off.

    It is no wonder that 30,000 milkers have already been slaughtered.

  17. Boerwar, zoom

    Yes we are in agreement on the water issue.

    I also agree on the change from dairy. Xanthipe and I have tried a few different milk substitutes including soy and almond milk. I now pour oat milk on my morning cereal quite happily. It is a much more environmentally benign option and tastes OK. (I couldn’t handle the taste of soy milk). Plus the oat farmer still gets paid.

  18. Socrates @ #411 Wednesday, December 4th, 2019 – 6:56 am

    Yes the educational performance of our schools is continuing to decline with SA “leading the way”. I suppose the students can always become policy advisors. Lots of jobs for those.

    Excellent outcome. More still to be done.

    The education divide proved decisive in Morrison’s election win
    Scott Morrison’s appeal to those with a lower level of education more than compensated for his lack of appeal to highly educated Australians.

  19. Just two side notes.

    Victorian water managers tend to be more conservative with allocations. This means there tends to be some water in the pot for the following year. NSW water managers habitually allocate far more of the available water in any given year. This means that the Victorians have a buffer if there are two dry years in a row. The NSWelshers have very, very little. This is another reason why NSW general security holders have zero allocations for the second year in a row. This is one reason why Victorian Goulburn spot prices are a couple of hundred dollars cheaper than Murray Valley spot prices.

    Between 650 and 1000 Gigs get lost in ‘conveyancing’ between the Hume Weir and the South Australian border. on the spot prices that is worth between half a billion and a billion dollars for the annual allocation. It is not exactly certain where that water is lost.

    Now, if your friendly banker announced that he were to announce that they shifted twenty billion dollars and lost a billion dollars during the shift but they don’t know where it went, there would be an uproar.

    So, where does the conveyancing water go? A lot evaporates. (Surface water in an average year in the MDB can easily lose a meter of water to evaporation). Some is soaked up by the trees that line the Murray and evapotranspired. But some… and this is the interesting bit… drains away into prior watercourses. What happens to it then? It is pumped out by irrigators who pay extremely low prices for underground water. How much of the (extremely expensive) conveyancing water ends up as extremely cheap groundwater for irrigators?

    No-one knows. Except for the irrigators themselves. And they are not talking.

  20. Socratres

    First many of them sold their existing water allocations, for a very good price, when water trading was introduced. Now they want it back, but do not intend to return the money.

    The good old “take the money and run’ from the farmers. They can join the dairy farmers who grabbed the money on offer for their co-ops as soon as they could.

  21. Another side note.
    One way that irrigation farmers can manage the vagaries of MDB run off, flood plain harvesting, and varying water allocations is to build on-farm storages. And some of them are massive. The general structure is important. Typically they are contained by earth bunds in clay soil areas. What this means is that typically they are shallow with a large surface area. These are now everywhere. As far as I know no-one has done the calculation for the additional losses to evaporation across the Basin.

    But wait, there’s more. Several large dams in the MDB are to have their walls raised. This has the impact of increasing the surface area which in turn will have the impact of increasing the evaporation losses.

    As far as I know, no-one has calculated the additional loss but my view is that they are likely to run into thousands of megs in an average year.

    So, two responses to water management have the cumulative loss of considerable amounts of water. But neither of these losses have resulted in reductions in water licences.

    In effect, they are actually making a bad problem worse.

  22. Bit sad : would have been a good ‘partner’ to Joe Biden

    Kamala Harris is dropping out of 2020 presidential race: CNN

    Multiple sources told CNN on Tuesday that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is ending her presidential campaign.

    Harris, who was initially seen as a major candidate in a crowded Democratic field, has struggled to gain traction with voters, as polls have shown Democratic primary voters have greater interest in the campaigns of former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).


    The image of Michael McCormack standing stony-faced as a large, angry, protesting farmer tears strips off him outside Parliament House is the epitome of the Coalition’s problems with the drought and rural Australia.

    For a start, the Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister is not popular in rural Australia. The Coalition’s handling of the drought — despite more than a billion dollars in extra aid — is not appreciated and there is widespread sympathy for the farmers’ call for more water to grow food.

    Just what Mr. Whatsisname (McCormack) is supposed to do beats me. Maybe sort out the swindles, scams and ripoffs.

    The placards and slogans on the side of hay trucks saying they are fighting a “man-made drought” are not referring to man-made climate change but the misallocation and corporate exploitation of water allocations made all the more precious by the drought.

    Yet in the final parliamentary week of 2019 they are besieging Parliament House, making McCormack look like an ineffectual goose, getting a review of water allocation rights, causing a split between the NSW and federal Coalition governments and, like the red bonnets and yellow vests of France, vying with the Extinction Rebellion climate change activists for public attention and government decisions.

    When Nationals leaders have travelled to France, their party has been described as a “peasant” party.

    Well, the peasants are revolting, they want water, bread and the heads of the Nationals.

    For sale torches suitable for soaking in oil and lighting plus high grade pitchforks.

    P.S. Please see comments from Boerwar, Socrates and Poroti.

  24. House Intel Report Nails Trump On Conspiracy, Witness Intimidation, And Obstruction of Justice

    According to the report:
    The impeachment inquiry into Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States, uncovered a months-long effort by President Trump to use the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election.

    The report also detailed Trump witness intimidation and witness tampering:

    He issued threats, openly discussed possible retaliation, made insinuations about their character and patriotism, and subjected them to mockery and derision—when they deserved the opposite. The President’s attacks were broadcast to millions of Americans—including witnesses’ families, friends, and coworkers.

  25. poroti

    Yep. 70% of dairy processing in Australia is now owned by Chinese interests. No-one has done an analysis but I would be reasonably certain that some of these at least have dairy interests in China.

    I can see several theoretical opportunities for the self-interested interests (is there any other kind?) to screw Australia by of cost/shifting tax minimization, and Australian dairy farmers by way of pay low here and lift the charges there.

    Long term national insanity comes to mind.

  26. He issued threats, openly discussed possible retaliation, made insinuations about their character and patriotism, and subjected them to mockery and derision—when they deserved the opposite. The President’s attacks were broadcast to millions of Americans—including witnesses’ families, friends, and coworkers.

    But according to Trump and his cult, he’s the victim!

  27. Confessions says: Wednesday, December 4, 2019 at 7:39 am


    That is disappointing, but she can still be tapped for VP at some point.


    Many US political commentators opinioned that Trump feared Kamala Harris the most …… she is very intelligent and sharp minded with a very personable nature

  28. KayJay

    In one way the Coalition has been too successful with its culture wars. For years it has fostered it has fostered a sense of entitlement and stoked the rage.

    As ye sow so shall ye reap.

    IMO one direct result of the drought and the fires will be for significant sections of the rural and regional vote to shift further to the right – the Shooters and Fishers, PHON and Palmer Inc – are going to hoover up lots of votes.

  29. Morning all

    Lots happening in the USA with impeachment etc..
    Meanwhile with respect to Devin Nunes, who was a ranking GOP member on impeachment hearings and accusing Adam schiff of all sorts of crimes……..

    Rick Wilson
    I guess Devin Nunes was too busy suing imaginary cows to mention to the committee but he was having late night “Love you! Love you more! You hang up first. No you hang up first” calls with Lev F@@king Parnas.
    7:07 AM · Dec 4, 2019·Twitter for Android

  30. Julia Davis
    Call records included in an impeachment report released by House Democrats show that Devin Nunes had a number of contacts in April with Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas, an associate of Giuliani’s who has since been indicted for campaign finance violations.
    Call records show Devin Nunes in contact with indicted Giuliani associate
    The call records constitute some of the only new revelations in the Democrats’ impeachment report.

  31. Kronomex

    The question of out-of-date is an interesting one. Does a medicine suddenly lose its potency immediately, or is there a slow decline? Are the dates chosen with a wide buffer to prevent legal action in the case of suspected failure?

    It is advising parents to use the EpiPen in an emergency, and then to use an expired one if a second dose is needed.

    There is no doubt parents will be scared.

  32. So the Agrarian Socialists are revolting?

    They always have been. 😐

    Plus, I can detect the silent hand of one, Barnaby Joyce, behind these protests. He was the one that organised the book burnings of the MDB Plan and helped organise the Convoy of No Consequence to Canberra to can the Carbon Tax. He also wants the Nationals leadership back and would be happy to have Michael McCormack abused in public. He’s probably also casting an eye around the world and noticing that philandering populists are the flavour of the moment and so thinks that he can waltz back in regardless of his past history with women.

    I’d put money on the eventuality that there’ll be movement at the station over the long break and both Michael McCormack and Bridget McKenzie will be sent to the knackers.

  33. Victoria says: Wednesday, December 4, 2019 at 7:51 am

    Morning all

    I guess Devin Nunes was too busy suing imaginary cows to mention to the committee


    Greg Olear‏Verified account @gregolear

    Q: What’s Devin Nunes’s favorite kind of bovine?

    A: A Mos-cow.

  34. On the home front, my dad is making great progress, which is amazing.

    Also number one daughter who completed her masters in mid November has received her results. She has passed with flying colours.

  35. Manu RajuVerified account@mkraju
    1h1 hour ago
    Report: “Over the course of the four days following the April 7 article, phone records show contacts between Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Parnas, Representative Devin Nunes, and Mr. Solomon. Specifically, Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Parnas were in contact with one another .. and with Mr. Solomon”

    If Democrats hadn’t regained control of the House last year, all of this would’ve been swept under the rug.

  36. Victoria says: Wednesday, December 4, 2019 at 7:52 am

    If Biden gets the nomination, he will tap Kamala Harris for VP


    Bill Palmer – – Kamala Harris drops out
    – At least she’ll get to be the Attorney General who puts Trump in prison

  37. Fess

    And I believe there are going to be more bombshells in the next month.

    Will be interesting to see what games are played with respect to NATO.
    What happens there is pertinent to this whole shit show.

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