Sunday, 1 February 2015

Palaszczuk win shows us that governments cannot rely on the old rhythms of government

Tony Abbott thought he was John Howard and counted on at least two terms. Like Howard, Abbott has worked away on deconstructing the old socioeconomic settlement underpinning the demos in Australia, and like Howard he has been punished by the electorate (in the unofficial polls). It looks certain that Abbott will lose the leadership of the Liberal Party within the next couple of weeks. Campbell Newman, Queensland's erstwhile premier - who has just lost his own seat of Ashgrove in the leafy suburbs of Brisbane - tried to stave off the effects of the corruption within the federal Liberals by bringing the state poll that was due forward by two months. But it didn't work. Newman, who might have thought back in 2012 when he took the reins of government in Brisbane that he had three terms' clear air, is out and his party is about to concede defeat to Labor.

Another factor guiding events in Queensland is the fact that there is no senate in its Parliament. Voters in the state must take on the additional responsibility of keeping the bastards honest. They have showed us twice in a row now - the 2012 election result was also a landslide, to the LNP - that they are quite capable of turfing the pricks out on their arses if they don't behave.

Asset sales turned out to be a big issue for voters. While LNP pundits in the period of reckoning after the polls closed complained again and again that their Queensland ministerial team was unable to "bring people along with them" to do the "necessary" reforms facing the state - thus virtually laying the blame for the election defeat on voters themselves - the fact is that most voters are aware that the global economy is stuffed right now and government just has to get used to raising debt to pay for things until the cash flow kicks in again at some indeterminate point in the future. Government has a few jobs, and one of them is supporting the economy in times of crisis. We are still in a period of crisis following the 2008 GFC. Most voters also know that it was conservatives who got us into the GFC mess in the first place anyway with "necessary reforms" - those weasel words again.

With the Greek result also front of mind, it appears that the world is "turning against austerity", as Jason Wilson argues in the Guardian. Whatever the reason, as Wilson writes, "All over Australia, the electoral see-saw is accelerating, with short or nonexistent honeymoons, and more governments in trouble within a single term." First it was Victoria, then it was the federal government, now it is Queensland. New South Wales has an election due in March. Will NSW Labor recover from its own malaise of collusion and corruption and return to power there, too?

But there's another element in play as well. As @boeufblogginon said last night on Twitter, "No-one's factored in the changing nature of media coverage of campaigns. Social media's role has to be recognised in countering MSM." Instant access to the public sphere via social media is something that has really only matured as a force in the past few years, as more and more people sign up to the publishing platforms available online. Their willingness to engage in socmed is matched only by their awareness of their rights and prerogatives. Australian socmed users are an entitled bunch. It might just be that their relationship with the politicians who are elected to represent them in Parliament has changed in a material way because of the success of Facebook and Twitter.

Certainly, the mainstream media in Queensland appears to have lost yesterday's battle in grand style.

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