Australia dodges a bullet

Scott Morrison has pulled off one of the most stunning Australian electoral feats in decades, coming from way, way behind to defeat a Labor party that almost every pundit was tipping to win. No-one doubted that Labor would win: the only doubt in the media has been about just how big their winning margin would be.

Well, Oilers, I’ve been suggesting for weeks that Scott Morrison’s Liberal-National Coalition might have it in them to pull off the biggest upset since 1993. Damn me if they didn’t go and do it. I wrote as far back as February that Labor might be about to repeat the same disastrous mistakes as the Liberals’ John Hewson did 26 years ago. I was right.

The Coalition have won the election that everybody said Labor couldn’t lose. In fact, they’ve almost certainly won a majority government which should deliver the stability that Australians are yearning for after ten years of come-and-go prime ministers.

Labor ran a disastrous campaign, from start to finish. While their climate policy excited some, mostly younger, voters, Bill Shorten’s refusal to address its costs ranged from the inept to the arrogant, when he bluntly dismissed such questions as “stupid”. Voters who might otherwise be sympathetic to climate change action were left worrying about the likelihood of their electricity bills skyrocketing yet again. Meanwhile homeowners and especially pensioners vehemently rejected Labor’s big-taxing policies on negative gearing, pensions and franking credits.

Its climate policies probably cost Labor the most. It had a choice: pander to the watermelon wing of the party to try and stop votes leaking to the Greens, or stick with their blue-collar base and support jobs-generating coal projects in Queensland. Ultimately, Labor threw in its lot with the watermelons – and paid the price. Labor was savaged in Queensland, winning only five, possibly six seats out of 30.

But Labor’s biggest Achilles’ heel was undoubtedly its leader. Voters simply were not prepared to hold their noses and vote for Prime Minister Bill Shorten. In perhaps the only positive for Labor, Shorten has announced that he is stepping down from the leadership.

But if anyone can lay claim to this win, it’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Morrison was almost a one-man band for the Coalition’s campaign. Morrison deserves all credit for not just burying the disastrous Turnbull experiment which alienated so much of the Coalition’s conservative base, but for helping soothe voters’ anger at yet more of the instability that had turned the prime ministership into a revolving door. Morrison’s authority as party leader should now be unassailable.

Possibly the worst sour note for the Coalition is the loss of Tony Abbott’s seat of Warringah. But it shows the extraordinary derangement that cripples the Australian left that so much money, not to say bile, was poured into a nasty, hateful campaign to oust a backbencher. As I’ve reported, this has been an extraordinarily nasty campaign, but the antics of Labor and GetUp in Warringah beggar belief. From an attack so vicious that even Abbott’s opponent publicly decried it, to posters which are being investigated by police, to faeces being sent to electoral offices.

In the most shocking turn, one of Abbott’s campaign volunteers was stabbed while setting up at a polling station.

Luckily for both democracy and decency, GetUp’s desperate campaigns to take down two other targets of leftist hate failed spectacularly. GetUp invested incredible resources to try and take down Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton, whom the left revile for running Australia’s strong border protection strategy, and treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who was subjected to disgusting anti-Semitic graffiti attacks. Dutton retained his seat with an increased majority, and Frydenberg saw off a challenge from one of the left’s poster boys, Julian Burnside.

For the minor parties, the Greens failed to boost their vote at all, while Pauline Hanson’s One Nation increased its vote. Clive Palmer’s megabuck spendathon campaign resulted in a swing of 3.4% for his United Australia Party, although it’s unlikely he’ll win any seats.

Senate results won’t be known for probably days, yet, but it will be interesting to watch how the upper house swings. This is the first “normal” Senate election under new rules that were brought in, designed to kill off “preference whispering” and nobble micro-parties. So, what happens in the Senate could be anyone’s guess. The most likely result is that the government will still be left to negotiate its legislation past a possibly more friendly cross-bench than in this past term. Either the government or the opposition winning a majority in their own right in the upper house seems unlikely.