The Devine Comedy

The most enjoyable thing about a Miranda Devine column is the unintended irony.

Devine’s latest piece – ‘Riding the Conservative Revolution’ – starts off by making fun of Daily Telegraph letter writer, Petrina Frost. Silly old Petrina couldn’t understand how John Howard could have won the election when everyone she knew had voted Labor. Obviously she spends too much time watching Survivor and not enough reading the results of opinion polls.

While poor puzzled Petrina sat in front of a haggard looking Kerry O’Brien, Miranda was off to John Howard’s victory party at the Wentworth Hotel. "Each year the crowd as been getting younger, rowdier and more patriotic" she wrote. And perhaps in an attempt to rub still more salt into Ms Frost’s wounds Devine goes on to describe the fashionable menu – tempura prawns and Peking duck wraps (Frost is a notorious foodie).

And it’s not just the Howard groupies who are young and hip. The Prime Minister has young hip sons who female journalists allegedly think are ‘hot.’ Apparently the Howard boys are even turning down invites from the Hilton sisters. Even super-hip youngster Ben Williams finds the idea of a Howard victory "fantastic" and "mind-boggling."

So as she watches the "willowy beauties in dazzling frocks" mill around the "handsome young men in dark suits" Devine herself succumbs to Petrina Frost syndrome. Obviously those crazy hippy boomers have offered their kids a reductio ad absurdum of the 60s social revolution, she thinks. Kids today are sick of being lectured about the virtues of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll. They’ve seen what’s happened to their parents and teachers. What they want is Howard. They want monogamy, family values, and the biggest mortgage they can afford (and with a mortgage the size of Burkina Faso‘s GDP who’s got time to think about sex, divorce or having children).

Maybe it’s true that Howard’s victory party was crawling with fashionably dark-suited young Liberals whose greatest desire in life is to see a hip young Pentecostal social worker get to Canberra. But just because Miranda Devine doesn’t know any young people who voted Labor it doesn’t follow that most young people are voting for Howard these days.

In fact according to Andrew Norton at Catallaxy, the Liberals need to get a move on with reform because their base is literally dying off. The Coalition have failed to recruit large numbers of voters born after 1980 and are instead relying on the support of people who think the PM is in early middle age. If Norton is right, the Howard majority has a use-by date. It will last only as long as PBS subsidized pharmaceuticals and heart bypass operations can keep the faithful alive and writing outraged letters to the editor.

And who knows, maybe it wasn’t youth and enthusiasm Miranda Devine witnessed on election night. Maybe it was just an illusion created by botox, cosmetic surgery, and the delirium of rocketing property values.

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Scott Wickstein
2024 years ago

I think Miranda, Andrew, and indeed you, might be off the mark a wee bit. There are plenty of younger people voting Liberal, and there always have been. It is the way of the world. There might be a slight bias towards the Left on the young’s part, but it evens up as people get older.

The good news is that The Prime Minister’s offspring have a modicum more taste then Melbourne society.

2024 years ago

Scott, Andrew Norton looked at the voting patterns of particular generational cohorts over time. He’s not talking about a gut feeling or an old wive’s tale, but a sociological phenomenon that can be measured. I think the CIS is looking into it in some detail at the moment.

Scott Wickstein
2024 years ago

I’m sure I read something in the torrents of election coverage this week that said the ‘yoof’ vote is actually up for the Libs this time round. Should be interesting to see which ways the numbers crunch.

2024 years ago

A significant proportion of my first year uni students voted Liberal, and out of the 60 or so I’ve talked to this week, none of them were willing to say they voted for Labor, the Democrats or the Greens.

The other academics I’ve spoken to are reporting similar unscientific results.

I said this in a comment at BP, that I don’t think these students are firmly conservative, but more that they see no point in disturbing the status quo.

What would an 18-20 year old know of a federal Labor government? Hell, I’m 29 and the memories are growing dim…

Another pajama guy
Another pajama guy
2024 years ago

There are 35 people in my local Liberal branch (outer metropolitan Southeast Queensland). The sitting member recorded a 9% swing to him in primary votes. If people keep voting this way, it won’t take many Liberal’s to keep the conservatives in government.

Andrew Norton
2024 years ago

Miranda is getting carried away. Young people are a hard group to poll, but my estimate based on published polls is that about 25% of young people regard themselves as Liberals, and 30-40% end up voting for them. That’s more than enough to get a decent turn out to a party, but not enough to represent a confident future for the Liberal Party.

2024 years ago

Unlike the over 50’s young voters are not yet rusted on.

Jeff Kennett was hugely popular with young voters because he gave them things that they liked like the C.a.s.ino and the Grand Prix, while older people were left in hospital corridors because the hospital were under-funded.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2024 years ago

“Miranda is getting carried away”

She certainly is. The notion that the youngsters gathered in the Sofitel Wentworth were – inter alia – celebrating the demise of promiscuity had me laughing out loud. I think it’s far more likely that they were hopeful of increasing their promiscuity options :)

Jason Soon
2024 years ago

let’s not be too critical. if miranda didn’t get too carried away, she would not write any columns and we’d have less to talk and laugh about.

Robert Merkel
2024 years ago

Loofer, I’m on campus in Melbourne, and I find your claim very difficult to believe. What kind of university, and what kind of course? Commerce/Law at a sandstone uni? A business IT course filled with ambitious overseas students?

2024 years ago

Robert, I’m not pulling your leg.

It’s an art campus in Paddington, Sydney…. which is what depresses me even more. About as far away from a business IT course as you can get…

I’ve had another two classes since then, and the results haven’t been quite so bad in those, more young people expressing their opinions, and more upset about the election result.

2024 years ago

I also find the idea of a Howard victory “fantastic” and “mind-boggling”, only in a different way to Ben Williams.

As for Miranda Devine, her hubris will come back to bite her on her fashionably conservative bum.

2024 years ago

It’s no secret that there are a lot of young Liberal voters around nowadays. Just look at the bloggers like Marty, Troy Nelson, Gareth Parker, Dylan Kissane, Vikki McNaughton etc. All of them are under 21 and vote Liberal.

I don’t have an explanation of it except to refer to a similar phenonenom in the US, the “South Park Republicans”.

I know a fair number of young labourers and construction workers courtesy of my local pub, the majority of them are extremely anti-union and voting Liberal.

2024 years ago

Gotta go with Sam here — I’ve noticed a lot of young Liberal supporters lately, even around uni. However, the “South Park Republicans” stuff is presumably bullshit, referenced as it is by TCS (but no doubt there’s a reputable source somewhere…).

Perhaps the phenomenon here in Australia is similar to the well-known instances of poor people voting Republican, because they just don’t realise that Tax Cuts For The Insanely Rich make them worse off.

2024 years ago

God you’re a dickhead Mark. What is your basis for dismissing anything appearing at TCS as “bullshit”? Have you even ever fucking read anything from there?

Pull your head of your arse for a change.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2024 years ago


No doubt you disbelieve Tim Lambert on principle because he’s a leftie, but he and others have done some pretty convincing exposes on Tech Central Station, demonstrating that it’s little more than a “gun for hire” propaganda outfit for large corporations disguised as a legitimate opinion website. I share Mark’s view that anything found at TCS should automatically be treated with profound suspicion. They write what their commercial sponsors pay them to write e.g. tobacco is harmless; global warming is a myth; open source software is a bad thing – because Microsoft is a sponsor; CFCs are perfectly harmless and the hole in the ozone layer was a load of greenie bullshit etc etc.

If you believe an outlet peddling that sort of stuff has any credibility at all, I’d have to wonder exactly who has their head up their arse.

2024 years ago

can anyone else explain to this young leftist the relevance of the death of derrida in all of this? i mean devine’s thesis is kinda nonsensical as it is [“i don’t know any people who voted liberal” = opinion of boring people with no friends; “i don’t know any young people who voted labor” = her opinion], but of all the dumb things she’s said, citing derrida’s death as having some kind of profound significance for left politics in australia is surely…somewhere in the middle.

Jack Strocchi
2024 years ago

Andrew Norton expresses pessimism about the secular prospects of a LIB party depending on the aged cohort vote:
Young people are a hard group to poll, but my estimate based on published polls is that about 25% of young people regard themselves as Liberals, and 30-40% end up voting for them. That’s more than enough to get a decent turn out to a party, but not enough to represent a confident future for the Liberal Party.
But Andrew, one thing about young people that we know for sure is that they get older and wiser. Thus todays youthful progressives will be tomorrows ageful conservatives ie Shaw-Briand dictum.
The man who is not a socialist at twenty has no heart, but if he is still a socialist at forty he has no head.
How else can one explain the fact that the majority of the first wave of drug taking, draft-dodging baby boomers – born 1945-55 and now 50-60 years old – now votes for John Howard?
I would not be too dismissive of Miranda Devine. She may be onto something. The ABC took the CW “red youth” line before the election, but seems to have missed the mark:
One of the latest Morgan opinion polls shows that most first-time voters will go for Labor, the Greens or the Democrats on election day, with only 29 per cent backing the Coalition and about 15 per cent still undecided.
The anti-conservative vote among the young appears to have become a fixed trend.
ANTONY GREEN, ABC ELECTION ANALYST: Every poll has shown since 1970 that first-time voters tend to vote either for the Labor Party or parties further to the left like the Greens.
The Coalition hasn’t paid much attention to this trend.
I think they tend to the view that you might as well wait till they start a family and then put more effort into them.
The issue is not so much whether or not youthful voters are more progressive than aged voters. It has always been thus. It is whether current AUS youth is now more or less progressive than AUS youth was in the previous generation.
My impression is that the proportion of AUS youthful cultural progressives is now at a post-war low. This is anecdotal, based on observations of university life, popular culture and the generally more politially apathetic and economically selfish tendencies of young people. Does anyone have any hard data on this?
I have argued that there is a secular decline in the AUS Cultural Progessive party vote, reflected in the collapse in the AUS-DEM party and underwhelming performance of the GREENS. Young people are no longer automaticly culturally progressive, or Howard-hateful. As election analyst Tony McCall says:
“A lot of traditional voting patterns were thrown out in the 2004 election, particularly Australians’ attitude to the Senate,” he told ABC radio.
“For example, in previous elections, we’ve seen a tendency to put a safeguard in the Senate.
“I think it might be a transition period away from the traditional arrangements where state governments and federal governments tend to have been counterpoised in terms of political allegiances.”
Dr McCall said young Australians were attracted to the Liberal Party because they believed their lifestyle and employment prospects would be better off than under a Labor government.
“These are the young, aspirational voters.
Moreover, given trends in increased longevity and reduced fertility, society as a whole is likely to age. This will only help the Cultural Conservatives.
As Bob Dylan would say, this maybe a good thing or a bad thing. But it is certainly a thing.

Andrew Leigh
2024 years ago

I’ve recently completed a study on (among other things) the age and cohort patterns of voters. See if you’re interested.

2024 years ago

Yes, there are young Liberal voters out there and I am one of them. But just to correct a claim made by Yobbo, I am not under 21 – instead, I have just turned 25.

Darp Hau
2024 years ago


The Liberal Party were advertising in Bennelong for new members.

Every friggin local rag you could name.

2024 years ago

Where have all the young fogeys gone ?

One of the features of the post-election that has struck me is its similarity to themes that emerged in the Thatcher years in the UK. For example, Miranda Devine’s claims about youthful support for the Liberals, taken down here by…