WHEELER CENTRE: The Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas certainly lived up to its namesake this week, responding to the overwhelming thought in most people’s minds, ‘What the hell happened!, by whisking in George Megalogenis to explain the election result.
The Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas certainly lived up to its namesake this week, responding to the overwhelming thought in most people’s minds, ‘What the hell happened!, by whisking in George Megalogenis to explain the election result.
The gorgeous George is always a treat to see on the ABC’s ‘Insiders’, with his comprehensive analysis and capacity to rattle off numbers so confidently. In this short Lunch Box/Soap Box presentation to a packed audience the numbers were coming dizzingly thick and fast. None the Megalogenis managed to mould them into an enlightening picture. We’re in an awkward threesome it would seem.
It’s not just the three independents or the three parties, it’s the nation as well, the Mining States (WA, NT and QLD), the Southern States (SA, VIC, ACT for convenience and TAS) and that thing in the middle NSW. Megalogenis explained that the ALP went from having a majority of seats in all three blocs to losing nearly half their seats in Queensland – that’s the sort of thing that just doesn’t normally happen. They’ve gone from 24 seats to 12 with the Libs going from 22 to 32. In NSW, however, nothing much happened. The seats the ALP lost were notionally Liberal anyway, thanks to a lot of population movement and electoral boundary redrawing. Abbott failed to garner any noticeable home state advantage, with a flow toward the ALP in some of the coastal electorates. The movement in the Southern states wasn’t that dramatic either. Yet, Gillard has managed to lose the two seats in the country with the highest proportion of working women to a Green and an Independent, so much for the female advantage. So why did the country shift as if on a fault line?
We’ve become quite abruptly aware of the discontent in the bush, through the sudden power the independents are wielding. But in the cities and the south we don’t really get it. The Mining States ‘grumpiness’ as Megalogenis describes it comes from the massive growth the mining boom has created. It’s sucking in all the economic activity around it and putting a strain on suppliers, tradesmen, housing, and infrastructure. Couple that with the GFC, rising unemployment and rising costs of living and you get a very moody populace. Howard recognised this rising toxicity but didn’t know what to do about, Kevin surfed it for a while but didn’t tackle it and the Mining Tax pretty much sunk any hopes for Julia.
The Mining Tax was a point taken up in the first question of the session where Megalogenis suggested that the timing was all off, too close to an election and without enough explanation. Using a TV ad campaign to counter the mining industry wasn’t helpful either. However, neither side of politics can afford not to put a mining tax in place, Megalogenis argued, reminding us that mining is not a competitive market. You can’t just go out and set up another mine, and the price is set globally. The tax was rationalising those duplicated from state and federal levels and in a sense it’s purpose was to leveraging money from China, turn it around, we would hope, and build the infrastructure that’s desperately needed to cope with the boom. It’s economic sense, he says but it was badly explained.
Megalogenis also took swipes at the shift in the current generation of politicians to depending on pollsters for expert advice instead of listening to say, economists. And backing away from important policy decisions when the focus groups didn’t ‘get it’. You can’t hold power if every idea has to be endorsed by a focus group, he said. It’s the job of politicians to talk to people, to convince them to explain why the important decisions have to be taken. It’s this lack of backbone that seems to have turned many people away, and cynicism thanks to too many undeliverable promises, too much negative campaigning,
The first of the two parties he suggests, that works out a way to answer the call for better service delivery and inspirational leadership, will be the ultimate winner.
As we now ponder whether Abbott’s numbers add up, Megaloganis repeated what he said a few weeks ago, that the Liberal costings were some of the shonkiest he’d ever read. Much like the ALPs before the 2007 election. There are only a few places in the country with comprehensive models of the Australian economy capable of analysing the costings and the Liberals didn’t go to any of them, they take weeks to do it – much like counting all the votes.
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