On the night of the 2 July Federal election there was much back slapping within the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and among its supporters. Shorten had brought the party back from the abyss and the predicted likelihood of a hung parliament, according to the opposition leader, meant that Malcolm Turnbull’s COALition did not have a mandate for its agenda.
As Australians entered the working week after the election weekend some 10 marginal seats were too close to call. Labor was ahead in most with postal votes to come. Throughout the ABC’s election telecast Scott Morrison stuck steadfastly to his expectation that the COALition would maintain most of those seats as the postal votes flowed in. And guess what? Scomo, not being one who kicks many goals for anything he is charged with, was right on the money in this instance.
Labor leads evaporated as the postal votes heavily favoured the government. Seats that Anthony Green had written off as Labor gains suddenly appeared in the COALition tally as it marched towards a clear cut but significantly reduced majority.
I was staggered to hear Morrison say that at the last election, in a seat I can’t recollect, the COALition had distributed more than 2000 postal vote forms against Labor’s twenty-one. I reside in the marginal seat of Latrobe and received Liberal postal vote material but nothing from the ALP.
One can only assume ALP resources were directed elsewhere and that tactically it was assumed postal votes were incidental. As increasing numbers of the electorate, now 30 per cent, choose to avoid voting on election day it is of critical importance that the ALP redress this disastrous oversight. Some of Labor’s strategists need a good kick up the bum or, more brutally, need to be moved on.
Make no mistake about it, this was an election that could have ensured a hung parliament and a seriously compromised government had the ALP held its own or even marginally lost the postal vote count.
The reality for Labor is that Turnbull now does have a mandate and, while still not owning the Senate, is buoyed by an upper house that is far more attuned to conservative views than those of the opposition. Tough times lie ahead for Australia’s underprivileged who will not be the beneficiaries of any sympathy or empathy from the contemptuous disregard practiced by of the COALition and, of course, union bashing will reach new heights.
The tragedy is that it didn’t have to be had ALP strategists examined past trends in postal voting and done something to address it.