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The cold light of morning – Or, where the Liberals went wrong

By johnboy 20 October 2008 99

[First filed: October 20, 2008 @ 08:42]

Both major parties are trying to tell you that Satruday’s election was a ringing endorsement of them. They are both extremely fortunate that there isn’t another election next Saturday if they want to keep up this line. The latest figures from the ABC show a -9.3% swing against Labor and, in that context amazingly, a -3.7% swing against the Liberals.

So even running against a Government massively on the nose with the electorate the Liberals went backwards.

With the wisdom of hindsight I’m going to make some suggestions:

    This is a listing of all the campaign commercials the Liberals put out during the election, I count 28 of them.

    This is a listing of Liberal policies. Most of which appeared without an accompanying media release in the dying days of the campaign. They do outnumber the ads, but only just. And some of them are very narrow documents (West Belconnen Health Centre for one).

    This is a listing of Zed’s media releases. His colleagues were allowed to say even less.

    — By way of comparison here are the ACT Labor campaign media releases. Rather more of them no?

When I came back to Canberra, after a year away, in July I was astonished to see so little public comment coming out a Liberal party supposedly running hard to take Government. A daily camera fronting in the Assembly courtyard is not the same thing as making substantive arguments.

A campaign based solely around commercial electronic media buys is an advertising campaign, not an election campaign. It might have worked in an outer Sydney suburb in the 1960s. But this is Canberra, and this is 2008.

It was an empty campaign of glib sound bites and desperate efforts to avoid hard questions. To finish it off with mobile and landline spamming showed a total lack of understanding of this electorate and our compulsory voting system.

Brendan Smyth as leader did better four years ago in the face of a rising Labor vote. The Liberals have lost a seat from the last election.

Liberals thrive in Canberra when they are socially progressive. Younger, more hardline, social conservatives are just lipstick on pigs.

Losing Bill Stefaniak in Ginninderra might have hurt the party, but that too was a failure of leadership.

To hear either major party taking comfort from this election turns the stomach. A long stay in the room of mirrors is seriously called for.

[On a brighter note we’re rather pleased to see that Matt Watts with an advertising campaign consisting of sitting at the end of the Pot Belly’s bar and advertising with RiotACT (at very reasonable rates) pulled .2 of a quota compared to Gary Kent’s massive TV campaign for the same result.]

Liberal election campaign 2008

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The cold light of morning – Or, where the Liberals went wrong
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Moi 5:42 pm 22 Oct 08

I’m not convinced that either major party won on policy. Policy discussion and reasoned argument seemed to me to be lacking in the campaign. I attended a couple of forums and grew frustrated with promises to consult. That’s find for really big-ticket items but not as an excuse for a lack of research or decision-making.

johnboy 12:53 pm 21 Oct 08

George, when an opposition chooses to stop debating ideas publicly for the months prior to an election they’ll get a much deserved kicking.

I’m just thrilled that the substance free advertising driven campaign has been rebuffed. Because if it had worked our democracy would have stood in great peril.

Kim Beazley at the height of his small target strategy was still rebutting and debating via public media release with nearly everything the Howard Government was saying and his shadow ministers were busy too.

It’s important and sitting it out in favour of low resolution 30 second ad spots pushing empty slogans is not “reaching the people directly” and in any case misses the large chunk of the population who don’t consume much commercial media.

George 11:59 am 21 Oct 08

The ALP lose majority government, two seats and have around a 10% swing against them and JB feels it is necessary to have a post-mortem on the Liberals.

When the funding records come out I think we will be astonished with the amount of money the ALP spent (thanks to the Union Movement and the Labor Clubs) on this election compared to the Liberals.

We have seen so much hysteria in this room about certain candidates. So what if Zed attended a Moonie conference or if Giulia Jones is a pro-family conservative. Good on Gary Kent if was prepare to put his own money into his campaign.

To stand for public office and put up with all the public scrutiny and ridicule, not to mention the disappointment that there is a good chance that you may fail, is not easy.

I commend anyone who is prepared to put their name forward to run in an election. It is easy for most of the contributors to this forum to sit on the side-line and complain and mock.

thetruth 8:28 am 21 Oct 08

caf said :

thetruth (and bd84): Inasmuch as the personal votes mean anything, Stanhope did get the highest personal vote in percentage terms, outdoing Zed and Katy (who both had numerically higher votes, as a result of standing in Molonglo which is a bigger pool of electors).

Yes but he got that percentage in a field of nobody’s – he had already disposedd of his closest rival in Stefaniak (still think that appointment should be investigated)

Zed had the greens leaders and three cabinent ministers (and two potential new leaders of the ALP)

Gungahlin Al 8:22 am 21 Oct 08

And nobody could have missed Gary Humphries’ “a vote for Greens is a vote for labor” ads everywhere, making life pretty hard for Zed now! Your point is that Green voters are stupid enough to fall for such transparent pathetic-ness from either side?

deezagood 7:13 am 21 Oct 08

Zed made an excellent point (as seen on the news last night). Stanhope’s own campaign stated, clearly, loudly and often, that ‘a vote for the Greens is a vote for a liberal govenment’. The message was very clear – ‘if you want a Labor government, you MUST vote Labor. ‘If you vote for the Greens, you risk a Liberal government.’ Nobody in Canberra could have missed that message – and yet people still voted Green.

The tribe has spoken.

caf 11:48 pm 20 Oct 08

thetruth (and bd84): Inasmuch as the personal votes mean anything, Stanhope did get the highest personal vote in percentage terms, outdoing Zed and Katy (who both had numerically higher votes, as a result of standing in Molonglo which is a bigger pool of electors).

GuruJ 11:07 pm 20 Oct 08

Consider this: given that about 80% of Green preferences went to Labor, if the Greens weren’t running the vote would be 49.8% to Labor vs 34.6% for the Liberals.

The Greens would have to be pretty brave to side with the Liberals given that statistic …

Passy 10:50 pm 20 Oct 08

Neo-liberalism is dead; social conservatism is about to be overwhelmingly rejected in the US and has never been popular in Australia let alone the ACT; Turnbull as Liberal leader is sort of vaguely progressive socially.

And what do the Liberals here in the ACT offer us? Very socially conservative neo-liberal candidates. I don’t see how that is the way of the future.

Passy 10:26 pm 20 Oct 08

johnboy said:

“If I was a Green with a short term view I’d be thinking hard about taking Deputy Chief Minister and a ministry.

“But with a longer term view staying out of Government and using the extra resources and staff to aim for government in their own right in four years time might be a better bet?”

I agree totally with that. I think the Greens would be mad to take a Ministry and tie themselves to cabinet solidarity with the ALP.

if they did, they’d end up losing ground at the next election since they will be part of a government that will alienate some or many voters. With the economic crisis possibly seeing the Government reducing services and staff, it would be the wrong time to join an ALP Government doing that.

thetruth 10:00 pm 20 Oct 08

In Molonglo also includes two party leaders and two potential party leaders so the minors are a bit starved for air.

The even more interesting this is that the libs only had a 0.9% in Molonglo – and that can be attributed to Richard Mulcahy. This is a tiny swing given the historically high vote the major parties got in 2004.

The big shift here was to Zed who recieved the highest personal swing towards him of any canidate and holds the most “personal” quotas (could he claim that he is the most personally popular and had the most resounding personal approval rating of ANY ACT politican??). Rattenbury also had a big shift toward him personally.

bd84 9:49 pm 20 Oct 08

To be honest if Zed had not taken over the Libs would have been in worse shape than they wore and you would probably find the Greens with even more seats, gaining their seat back was a good result.

In terms of where it went wrong was probably the last 2 or 3 weeks when stanhopeless came out with the scare campaign and the Libs didn’t hit back, canberrans being canberrans believe anything they can make a mountain out of.

In terms of what happens now.. well the Greens being the Greens will support Stanhope despite being an arrogant prick, as we’ve already seen straight after the election in his speech. Already assuming the Greens will be on side and they’re off, oh he’s scored the most votes out of anyone too so he’s got a “mandate to rule”. Last time I saw he was running a distant third behind Zed way out in front and Katy a bit in front.

So 4 more years of the same.. Good to see some dead wood cleared from the assembly though, too bad it didn’t go further, whoever voted for Hargreaves need to be hunted down and shot. No doubt he will be the new speaker, keep him out of the way before retirement and that way he can hide his bottle of booze under his chair.

caf 9:18 pm 20 Oct 08

thetruth: One interesting thing is how Molonglo differed so substantially from the other two electorates – in Molonglo, CAP barely troubled the scorers at all, and the Motorists were also well down compared to Brindabella and Ginninderra. Pangallo were the top scoring ticket outside of the big three – maybe they should have contested all the electorates?

wombleoz 9:02 pm 20 Oct 08

What the Greens should do

Pick out 3 Libs and 3 Labor they can work with and together with their 3 form a government with Shane as chief minister. Consensus politics, any of them put forward policies, if the majority agrees it goes to the whole house to be voted on.

Would potentially be the end of the 2 party system in Australia – how good would that be 🙂

Libs went backwards when they almost had to go forwards, they can’t expect too much for mine

Swaggie 8:09 pm 20 Oct 08

Agree with Primal re the Spreadsheets – not an easy read but worth poring over. Not much hope for Val J in Brindabella but good to see both Mick Gentleman and Steve Pratt given the heave – both deadwood. Mick’s election leaflet had to be the worst I’ve seen and please to God will the Libs drop those stupid trite slogans?

Funniest moment on Saturday was the Guy interviewed on ABC radio “what influenced your decision to vote today?” “…Err, the war on terror…”

thetruth 7:14 pm 20 Oct 08

I think there is some things here that need to be considered:

What was the impact (and ethics) of Stanhope offering a government appointment to Stefaniak – who was the second largest vote winner and most recognised non-labor canidate. Even with the second largest vote winner out of the race Stanhope got a 14% swing against him personally;

The last election (2004) was unusual in the ACT context as there was a swing toward the both major parties (+5.1% to ALP and + 3.2% to the Libs). It was also the ACT’s first majority government

So despite one of its highest vote winner being removed from the race (very close to the election I might add) the Libs are on par with their 2001 result. The ALP is down about 4% on 2001. It should be pointed out that in 2001 the greens and the democrats contested the election and secured a combined total of 17.1% of the vote. With the Dems out of the race the vast majority of their voters would either vote green or labor.

In this election the Greens got 15.6% – where did the other 2.1% of the Dem vote go? not to labor, greens or Libs but to others. “others” actually recieved a larger swing than the Greens.

The Richard Mulcahy group (1.1% of the vote) would have taken votes off the Libs

The Motorist Party formed in May 2007 got 5% of the vote!!!in its first tilt.

The upshot of all this is:

I think the Lib vote is about normal;
ALP vote is below normal;
The Green vote is unremarkable given the general correction from the unusual 2004 vote and the death of the dems;
The big movers were the motorist party and to a lesser extent the community alliance (which got some backing from traditional Lib voters)

Braggs 6:35 pm 20 Oct 08

My most enduring memory of the election was Katie’s negative disposition as guest commentator on ABC TV’s Election Coverage. I’ve always been a bit of fan of Katie but she was not a happy camper at all; boy she was sour and Brendan Smyth did a pretty good job of keeping her that way too. Not a good night for Katie.

Primal 5:07 pm 20 Oct 08

If you can handle the tortuous spreadsheets on the Elections ACT website, they do make for some interesting reading, e.g. Mark Parton behind Vicki Dunne by 400 votes when he gets nominally distributed (*as of Saturday night), Caroline Le Couteur only 200 behind Jeremy Hanson at the same time (and her distribution gets Barr and Corbell and GJones over the line).

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