Monday, August 11, 2008

Northern Territory Election Lesson

There's been a lot of guff about how the NT election on the weekend, which saw a 9% swing to the Country Liberal Party, is a big wake up call to the Rudd Government.

There's this from Julie Bishop:
"It's [the Rudd Government] raised expectations that it won't deliver on, it's failed to live up to those expectations and they will be punished"
or this from Malcolm Turnbull:
"This is a big wake-up call for Mr Rudd. This is an extraordinary swing and it underlines the disillusionment Australians are seeing and feeling with the lack of leadership from the new (federal) Labor government - a government that promised so much."

OK let's look closer (and try to ignore the fetish like need of Julie Bishop to punish people). Firstly, if Rudd is so on the nose it must have happened in the last two weeks, because a fortnight ago the newspoll had the ALP ahead by 14% (i.e a bigger margin than at the Nov 07 election). And also let's remember we're talking about the NT - there are only around 120,00 on the entire roll, and usually only about 75% of them bother to vote. At the 2005 NT election a grand total of 89,646 voted. To put that in perspective, the seat of Bennelong won by Maxine McKew over John Howard had 92,700 voters. So we're not talking a big vote - basically it's the equivalent of one seat in a federal sense (which is why in the federal election NT has only 2 seats). So it doesn't take many votes to make a big swing.

Second it is actually not an "extraordinary swing". In 2005, the ALP won the NT election with an 11% swing. So basically in this election things have just gone back to where they were in 2001.

Now lastly; let's just cut the kitty litter - NO state elections mean anything federally. Voters may make odd choices, and may constitute the same people who keep watching Australia's Funniest Home Videos, but they can tell the difference between state and federal. No party goes to the state polls saying "we got nothing, so just vote on whether or not you like the federal govt".

Next month WA goes to the polls, and most likely the ALP will take a hit (still should win though). What will it mean for Kevin Rudd? Exactly the same as Iemma winning NSW, or Rann winning SA or Beattie winning QLD or Bracks winning VIC meant for John Howard when he was PM - NOTHING!

I could never work out why the ALP kept winning in the states and losing federally - and then it finally hit me (it took a while as the obvious things often do) - in the states, the ALP was actually doing well and the Libs were utterly crap; in the Federal sphere, the Libs under JWH were doing ok and the ALP was utterly crap. So yes, there are lessons for Rudd - but they are not anything he didn't already know:
1. Don't be like the NT and WA govts and go to the polls a year early; voters don't like it.
2. Don't be useless.

Yep that's it: Do your job for the full time you were elected, and do it well.

Here endeth the lesson.

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