Most people I speak to think that as a nation, we just dodged a bullet. And even those who voted for Labor would agree that this was probably the most significant election since World War Two. But as a friend of mine said—alluding to an infamous scene from the movie Tropic Thunder—Labor’s fundamental problem was their failure to realise that you’re supposed to go the “full left”.
Now, while I’ve already published ten reasons as to why van Onselen and Waleed Aly—as well as every pollster in the country—got the result wrong, I’ve realised that there were even more reasons than I first thought. And so, here are my second decalogue as to why The Australian Labor Party lost the ‘unlosable’ election:
1 What media bias? Not unexpectedly, former Labor Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, immediately blamed the evilMurdoch media, tweeting:
Is it just me or has Rudd become more than a little paranoid since he left parliament? But the ABC’s Media Watch also ran the same line, with Paul Barry arguing that Murdoch media were biased when they should have been “opinion free”. But as Andrew Bolt was quick to point out in The Herald Sun:
What Barry should have said is:
“The ABC, meanwhile—meant to be opinion free—was often as one-sided.”
The difference is the ABC, being taxpayer-funded, must by law be impartial. News, being private, can be as biased as Nine newspapers and the Guardian Australia are to the Left.
Note that Barry never complains about their bias, either.
Take this complaint:
“In The Daily Telegraph, just four small front pages favoured Labor while 19 attacked it, or boosted the Coalition.”
Four front pages of the Murdoch Daily Telegraph favored Labor? Name a single lead story of the Guardian Australia that favored the Coalition.
And… here is the biggest-selling daily newspaper of this wicked Murdoch empire:
“In a state that swung towards Labor, [Melbourne’s Herald Sun’s] front pages split evenly between the two main parties.”
And Paul, try to find a single conservative among the six people the ABC assembled on The Drum to discuss the election result:
The election after party took place on The Drum well after midnight last night!
Ellen [Fanning] was joined by Magda Szubanski, Layne Beachley, Stan Grant, Jamila Rizvi and Graeme Innes.
6-0? That is the ABC not even pretending to be unbiased. No Sky News panel would be so outrageously unbalanced. On my own show last night I had two of the Left – Bruce Hawker and Claire March.
But it is an astonishing truth that for the Left, only the Right is biased.
Bolt makes more than a valid point. But, somewhat strangely, later on in the same piece Barry quoted Emeritus Professor, Rod Tiffen, from the University of Sydney, Government and International Relations, who told Media Watch—before the upset—that News Corp’s influence was on the wane:
I think their impact declines with each election — it’s partly shrinking circulation … partly the ageing demographic of their readership. If they were going to convince anyone, they would have been convinced a decade ago.
So, who exactly influenced the outcome of the election more? The privately-owned Murdoch media, or the government funded ABC? By the way, has anyone heard from Emma Alberici?
2 Franking credits. Make no mistake, the whole franking credits policy was a fiasco. For an excellent analysis see this article by Glenda Korporaal. Because all of a sudden, the superannuation nest egg of self-funded retirees—who were now pejoratively labelled as being part of the “top end of town”—was up for grabs.
Now, the divisiveness of class-warfare is bad enough, but for many older Australians who have not enjoyed the benefits of the modern superannuation system over the course of their working lives, this was a bridge too far.
But then, to make the controversial policy even worse, shadow treasurer Chris Bowen—who was the architect of the scheme—doubled-down on the issue when he arrogantly challenged voters that if didn’t like Labor’s policy then they could vote against the Labor Party. Which is precisely what they did.
3 Labor’s ‘Queer Revolution’. The Director of Research for The Australian Christian Lobby, Elisabeth Taylor, wrote a brilliant article during the campaign outlining how Labor would introduce a ‘queer revolution’. And while the majority of Australians voted for same-sex marriage, the sweeping changes that Labor was seeking to implement were more than a step too far. As Taylor explained:
The proposals in the 2018 platform therefore are only the latest articulation of Labor’s consistent record of advancing a socialist agenda. We all await the publication of the finalised ALP platform but the draft is replete with examples of support for queernormativity. These include:
# nationwide implementation of “anti-bullying” programs like the Safe Schools program.
# ensuring that all children can transition genders freely at school.
# genderless identification documents such as passports and birth certificates.
# limiting medical and psychiatric professionals in their treatment of LGBT patients “to prevent # misinformed and misappropriated treatments and procedures”.
# public funding for “gender affirming” services as a health priority.
# including LGBT content into all sex education classes to make “sex education inclusive of all sexualities and gender identities”.
# ensuring access to assisted reproductive technology (ART) to all “regardless of relationship status, sex, gender, identity or sexual orientation and similar provisions for inter-country adoption agreements”.
# removing exemptions to discrimination law that currently allow religious schools to teach traditional sexual ethics.
# limitations on freedom of religion where these might be used “as an instrument of division or exclusion … condemning anyone, discriminating against anyone, vilifying anyone is a violation of the values we all share, a violation which can never be justified by anyone’s faith or belief”.
# removing government funding from sporting bodies that differentiate between men and women on the basis of biology, rather than gender identity.
# establishing “a Commissioner for Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status issues, to work across government and private sector to reduce discrimination”.
# limiting freedom of speech wherever “Homophobic, biphobic, transphobic and intersexphobic harassment [and this is understood as any disagreement with the new state-imposed truth of SOGI] by the written or spoken word causes actual harm, not simple mere offence, to people who have suffered discrimination and prejudice, and causes particular harm to young same-sex-attracted, or gender-questioning and intersex people, and considers such harmful harassment is an unacceptable abuse of the responsibilities that come with freedom of speech and must be subject to effective sanctions.
4 Clive Palmer. Even though he failed to win a single seat, Palmer spent in excess of $60 million dollars in advertising during the campaign. The ABC reported that Palmer’s plan all along was to stop Labor from being elected and that, as such, Scott Morrison should thank him for the win. Labor Deputy Leader, Tanya Plibersek, definitely believed that was the case. And as Palmer—Mr Ozymandias himself—said:
The goal for the United Australia Party was to ensure the Labor government did not get into power, introducing more than $1 trillion of new taxes…This has been achieved.
5 The promise (finally) of a plebiscite. During the same-sex marriage debate Bill Shorten opposed Australians being given any opportunity to participate in a plebiscite because, he said, “I don’t want to give the haters a chance to come out from underneath the rock…” Instead, we were consigned to a voluntary-non-binding-postal survey.
However, when it came to voting on becoming a Republic, Shorten suddenly changed his tune, even promising to spend $160 million. But in the wake of a royal wedding and then subsequent hugely popular royal tour with Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, this was more than a little dumb.
6 Electric cars. What could have been a signature policy undermined the public’s confidence in Labor to deliver. So many questions were left unanswered such as their cost, the ability of the power grid to handle it, impact on the environment but most of all how long they would take to charge. As Chris Kenny explained in The Australian:
But then Shorten also said on radio that electric vehicles can be recharged in about 8 to 10 minutes.
“How long does it take to charge it up?” Jackie O asked the alternative prime minister in an interview on the Kyle and Jackie O radio show this morning.
“Oh, it can take, umm … it depends on what your original charge is, but it can take, err, 8 to 10 minutes depend on your charge, it can take longer …” Mr Shorten replied unconvincingly.
“Is that all?” Jackie O pressed.
“Well it depends how flat your battery is,” Mr Shorten said. You can listen to the audio here.
Oh dear. No wonder he thinks this stuff is so easy. In reality, it takes more like 8 to 10 hours to recharge your EV at home or, if you have access to a special fast charger, about an hour.
7 Penny Wong. Every election campaign has a ‘moment’ that lives on in people’s memory. For instance, who can forget Mark Latham’s all-too aggressive handshake of John Howard? Ironically, one of the more poignant moments of this election was Penny Wong’s refusal to shake Simon Birmingham’s hand after a debate. It not only showed a distinct lack of grace but illustrated for many precisely how anyone who disagreed with a Labor government would be treated.
8 Kristina Keneally. Who was the policy advisor that suggested Keneally be made ‘captain’ of the ‘Bill bus’? Because as The Australian reported, “One Nation MP and former federal Labor leader Mark Latham said, he could not believe Labor had attempted to use Senator Keneally as an electoral advantage during the campaign given her unpopularity in NSW and lack of electoral success.”
I said this during the campaign — they must think they’re so far ahead having someone as unpopular in NSW as Keneally wouldn’t make any difference,” Mr Latham said.
Why you would want her to remind people of NSW’s worst government?
She was at a press conference, Shorten would speak and she would step up,” Mr Latham said, adding that Scott Morrison had been able to do the press conferences all on his own.
9 Climate change. Many commentators—in particular, Rowan Dean—have argued that this was “the climate cult change election”. And I think he may be right. But it was the rhetoric used by Shorten that really turned undecided voters on the issue off. As Miranda Devine wrote in The Daily Telegraph:
Sick of being derided as morally inferior if they didn’t embrace Labor’s divisive cultural agenda and socialist economics, they staged a precision strike at the ballot box. Shorten called them “knuckle draggers” and “cave dwellers” if they didn’t agree with his utopian climate agenda and “haters [who] crawled out from under a rock” if they were among the 40 per cent of Australians who voted against same-sex marriage.
10 Bill Shorten. Yes, I know, I know, I mentioned this point in my previous article (twice no less!) but it really was that integral in understanding Labor’s comprehensive defeat. Ultimately, I just don’t think the majority of Australians trusted him. His rise to power had been littered with just too many political assassinations of former Prime Ministers for the electorate to entrust Shorten with it. As journalist Joe Hildebrand tweeted:
So, those are my ten—make that now, twenty—reasons why Labor lost the unlosable election. I don’t know about you, but I’m still waking up each morning with a feeling of relief and joy. Especially when I recall statements such as the one by Peter van Onselen, who said on “The Professor and the Hack”, Ten Speaks, April 15, 2019:
There’s no way Scott Morrison can win it and I’m happy to have that replayed time and time again to my shame if he does win it.
Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield.
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