In the excellent tale by Randy Shilts of the early stages of the AIDS crisis in America, And the Band Played On… the medical researchers at the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) go through their theories on the causes and nature of the disease by asking what do they think, what do they know, and what can they can prove.
The media at this point should exercise the same practice.
For example many a time and oft this day I have heard how the toppling of Kevin Rudd killed the ALP’s vote in Queensland. This is being reported as a fact. On Sky News one bright talking head mentioned the fact that Rudd had easily retained his seat was evidence that he was popular but his axing was not. Well that may be something that people think, but they sure as hell don’t know it, and they won’t be able to prove – not unless someone does a pre-election poll, and even then it is supposing that those people wouldn't have vote non-ALP anyway.
You see this sort of thing all the time in public policy – a Government initiative give $X million to a program to build widgets. In the year after X million widgets are built and the Government (or whoever) claims it was because of the program , and never considers whether or not that number of widgets would have been made anyway.
It’s the same with the “Rudd-backlash”, people may say that was a reason why they voted against the ALP, but we don’t know that they wouldn't have voted that way if Rudd was still PM.
Well here’s what I know: in his last Newspoll as PM Rudd’s net satisfaction rating was minus 19. That is not popular.
Here’s what I know: the primary vote swing against the ALP in QLD was minus 8.88%. The primary vote swing against Rudd in his electorate was minus 9.11%. That does not suggest he was beloved by his own electorate. The Two Party Preferred swing in QLD against the ALP was minus 5.03%, in Griffith it was minus 4.12%, suggesting he was slightly less hated overall, but not by so much as you would think he was the saviour of QLD for the ALP – especially you consider that Wayne Swann’s two party preferred swing against in Lilley was a pretty similar minus 4.84%.
I can’t prove the ALP would have lost by as much, if not more, but I think you’d be very hard pressed to prove he would have won it for them.
On the way the three independents, Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Bob Katter will jump, no one can prove anything. Listening to all three on the 7:30 Report tonight had me at times thinking they might be open to Abbott back flipping on the NBN, and then for a good deal of the other time thinking these guys sound like they’re more in tune with the ALP.
I think, Tony Windsor’s issues of the NBN and e-Health and climate change would most likely have him close to the ALP, but I also know he did not believe Rudd was any great climate change proponent.
I think Rob Oakeshott’s focus on broadband issues put him more in the ALP camp – and he was well served by the ALP Govt under Rudd – especially on health issues. But I don’t know this.
I think Bob Katter is more likely to favour the LNP side, but listening to him talk on the 7:30 Report also showed that he would have no trouble what soever in siding with the ALP if he thought that would give him the best outcome for his electorate.
I also know that while they were all former National members, that you don’t leave a party just because you’re feel like doing something different.
I think that the crucial number is 73. If the LNP gets over that number of seats, I think the independents will side with them regardless – because at best the ALP would be on 72, and possibly 71 seats if Wilkie gets up. And 74 to 71 would be hard to ignore. But if the LNP only gets 73 seats, and the ALP is on is 73, plus Adam Bandt’s seat, then I think the ALP is going to get the votes.
I think after watching the two press conferences given today by Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott that Julia should be Prime Minister. She was clearly tired from the long night, and yet she stood there for a very long time taking every question the journalists fired at her – from ones about Kevin Rudd, to did she get any sleep last night (yes I know, the big issue) and then why should the independents move to her. She cited the two party preferred figure, but did not go overboard on it, only saying “I think this is a critical fact to weigh in the coming days”
She talked about principles and policies, and she importantly talked about how the game had changed:.
“I've heard the voice of the Australian people in this election campaign - I think that they have expressed that voice very clearly. I think Australians are saying to us that they want to see a change in the business of politics, the way politics is conducted."
“That is the conclusion. The Australian people are talking about changing politics. I've heard the voice of the Australian people. We are clearly at a historic moment…. It is clear that neither party has earned the right to govern in its own right.”
I think that is the right chord to strike.
Tony Abbott on the other hand gave a three minute long press conference where he railed against the ALP and talked up the fact that the LNP had got more vote than the ALP – thus pointedly discounting the votes of anyone outside of the two parties. An odd thing to do given where we find ourselves. It also completely contradicts his statements about the South Australian election where he thought the South Australian people had been robbed because the Liberal Party got over 50% of the vote but were denied government. He said:
“There was a savage swing against this Government. It is historically unprecedented for a first-term government to receive the kind of rebuff that the Rudd-Gillard Government received yesterday."
Well great, Tony, but here’s the thing – you may think that, but I know and can prove the electorate didn’t vote for you guys to govern in your own right – you only got 49.33% of the vote and (currently looking like ) only 73 seats.
I think Abbott will do anything he can to cut a deal with the power-three. No doubt he’ll try and do a deal on the NBN and maybe GP Super clinics, and maybe even climate change. In other words he’ll have to repudiate half of his polices that differentiated the LNP from the ALP. I don’t know how that will go down, but for mine, I think it would make him the biggest hypocrite in Australian politics – and I hope the media would hold him to account. But I don’t know that they would.
If Abbot thinks swings are important, I know the big swing was not to the LNP, but to the Greens. The ALP lost 4.87% of its primary vote. The LNP picked up about 1.2%, the Greens picked up 3.63%. So in effect we know the Greens picked up around three quarters of the votes lost by Labor.
So looking at those figures I think the ALP needs to care more about its left flank than it has this past three years, if they don’t I think after the next election I’ll be able to prove that they should have… because I think the ALP’s vote will only go down more, and the Greens vote will only increase.
What do we think? What do we know? What can we prove?
Important questions to ponder as we look at what is written and spoken about the events that occur over the next week.
Here’s another thing I think. Tonight might be my last night with access to the net till Friday. I am moving house and because of the whole bundling of internet/phone etc, and because of various issues with communications companies I might have to cancel my broadband account tomorrow. This of course will likely send me insane! It will also mean I won’t be blogging this week; which I guess is ok, given there is nothing very important happening in politics at the moment…
And thus perhaps this is it for me and the 2010 Election, in which case thanks for all your comments over the past five weeks. Glad to have been of service.
See you all on the other side!
UPDATE: Cheers for Rowan pointing out this Downfall parody of the election. It’s very good – and one of the very few that actually bothers to use the word “Stalin”!