What isn’t unprecendented

There’s been a great deal in this election that has been unprecedented, and some of the precedents it sets are good, and some less desirable.

What I think is not particularly unprecedented is the swing. Quite a few commentators, have gone from the observation that first term governments are usually returned to thinking that there is an unusual censure in the swing against this government. Tony Abbott has made this part of his appeal to “legitimacy”.

Here’s a table of the past four federal elections by first term governments and the swing experienced – the 2010 data current as of posting.

Government and election 2pp Swing
Whitlam 1974 -1.0
Fraser 1977 -1.1
Hawke 1983 -1.46%
Howard 1998 -4.61
Rudd/Gillard 2010 -2.04

From this it appears that this election followed ample precedent. If you’re so inclined you’d (fallaciously given the low sample) read a reversal of a trend by which new governments have been censured more over time. The important pattern may be less about 1st term governments being returned than that new Federal Governments always disappoint. Whilst State governments have tended to turn narrow victories into landslides in their second elections, we never invest state governments with hopes for grand policies and plans for the future. If they prove tolerable they stay. We are promised and expect more from Federal Governments.

This isn't really relevant, but I had a spare 15 minutes.

It is unusual that a majority in seats was not achieved (even the severely censured Howard managed that). This might be because of an unprecedented failure for new members to build personal votes, but I think it’s far more likely to be because of the highly concentrated nature of the swing in Queensland, which has a disproportionate number of marginal seats. I attribute the number of marginal seats in Queensland to that state’s rapid growth and new money, which means there hasn’t been as much chance to sort by social and economic group – there’s less in the way of established blue ribbon, blue collar or trendy suburbs that make electorates in other states more safe for either side.

But in terms of backlash across the entire electorate? Well, the mean swing against a 1st term government is….-2.04. On that basis, any censure the government has faced is very much precedented.

A side observation is that the swing in Western Australia (as yest) is -1.75%. This is off a lower vote than the rest of the country to begin with, but it does cast a little doubt on the impact of the rent tax if the state in which media and business reactions were the most vociferous and aggressive swung less than the country as a whole.

About Richard Tsukamasa Green

Richard Tsukamasa Green is an economist. Public employment means he can't post on policy much anymore. Also found at @RHTGreen on twitter.
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Ken Parish
13 years ago

Hi Richard

Yes, the overall relatively modest size of the anti-government swing, and the fact that such swings are the norm for first term governments, is worth pointing out.

However, as I covered in my post on Sunday, the really remarkable aspect is that there were large-ish anti-Labor swings in Queensland and NSW, fairly small ones in WA and NT, and small swings TO Labor in Victoria, SA and Tasmania. Labor really only lost Solomon in the NT because it held it on a knife-edge margin of 0.2% so it was always going to be lost on even a small swing. The aggregate size of the NT swing is misleadingly exaggerated by a very large swing in the very safe bush seat of Lingiari.

As you point out, the smallness of the WA swing is in itself quite remarkable given that one would have expected the impact of the resource rent tax issue to engender a larger than average swing. Labor did well to contain the damage there.

Moreover, in NSW the long-running odium in which the State government is held almost guaranteed an anti-Labor swing, especially given the well publicised role of NSW Right figures (hardly faceless ones) in the demise of Kevie. Again one might reasonably regard it as a creditable campaign performance to have kept the swing as small as it was in NSW and to have managed to “sandbag” several marginals that might well have been lost.

Thus the real story IS in Queensland. Is it that Queenslanders really do resent Kevie’s richly deserved demise so much more than others? I suspect that’s just a rationalisation for hostility that was actually generated from other sources. But what are they? I assumed for the sake of my previous post that it was hostility to the Bligh government because of its apparent unpopularity and (presumably) botched performance. That’s what much of the punditry asserts. But can anyone actually tell me what the Bligh government has done wrong? I confess I don’t follow Queensland politics very closely. From where I sit in Darwin they seem to be a fairly competent government that hasn’t done anything glaringly wrong, a government presiding unspectacularly over an ongoing minerals boom. What am I missing? Is it just that Anna Bligh isn’t as good as Beattie at faking “sincere” mea culpas when something goes wrong (as things inevitably do from time to time for any government however competent), or is there some more substantive reason?

13 years ago

My take is the electorate has broadly moved to the left/green agenda and will remain so until the conservative side of politics has something serious to say on the environment, or else other concerns override enivironmental ones occasionally. How did that pan out in practice? Well in Vic,SA and Tas where State Labor Govts were generally sound managers and resisted over-promising and grand plan visions, the conservative decline was obvious. In NSW where rapid immigration, puts strains on public infrastructure and a State Govt are seen as bloated mismanagers and spin merchants to the contrary, Labor gets punished, or you can always vote Green to express your displeasure. Same in Qld where rapid growth exposes shortcomings in the basics like water, health (Patel?)and public services generally. The Bligh Govt is not any better or worse than Vic SA or Tas but it can’t get a quart out of a pint pot fast enough for the burgeoning influx of punters. In WA that’s not a problem because they’re dripping with mining royalties to ease any burden and they know it, but don’t let the Canberra octopus try and horn in on those royalties or their GST for that matter. They know where their left/green bread is buttered, albeit they’re used to thinking Easterners don’t care they even exist and hence their stroppiness at the tax grab.

Well if conservatives have a problem with not clearly recognising the new Spaceship Earth paradigm and how to deal with it, there’s no shortage of recognition from the left now after taking a massive hit with the fall of the Wall and their years in the wilderness. They’ve roared back with their gotcha moment that nasty capitalism is gunna fry all the grandkids. There’s a problem looming on that front with Climategate, heavyweight statisticians ruling a straight line through the IPCC world’s best temp hockey stick and now the pulling of degraded satellite data, but no matter for now, as the punters never believed because they understood the science of it all. It was the Spaceship Earth nerve it struck and left/greens had the simple answer to it all and there’s nothing like an urgent complex problem looking for a simple answer. Left/greens could simply cap nasty capitalism and their dark satanic mills and redirect the economy to a bright green future with green jobs at no cost to you at all folks and won’t the grandkids be pleased. All economic tosh of course and where will it show up first? Wherever there’s strong demographic growth naturally and they’ve blown the bank on green wet dreams, pink batts, solar panels, rain-water tanks, windmills, hybrid subsidies, green inspectors, Climate Change departments, yada, yada and would you believe economic stimulus on top of it all?

Well if you’re short of real readies as distinct from funny money after that lot, then there’s always plenty more to be dug up and taxed before it’s exported as long as those hardcore Greens don’t spoil the party and on that score Bolty has recognised what the observa had quite some time ago- http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/column_the_greens_are_labors_one_nation/
That was always Kevin07’s problem. Fail to speak to truth and eventually you’ll be caught out and if you get caught out big time like Copenhagen, someone is gunna have to call it. Call it they did and here we all are with the Katters having raised expectations that they can have fibre to every bovine in the electorate at around $4500+ a connection. What? You want water, sewage, roads, public transport and affordable and reliable power too you ungrateful bastards? Shutup and bask in the warm inner glow of being seen to be Green.

It’s why I’m a market green carrot among endless fields of orthodox rows of watermelon empire builders and rentseekers and the sooner we have PR and the national imperative of speaking to truth and acting accordingly the better off we’ll all be. Perhaps this hung parliament will drive that necessary reform. Bring it on.

13 years ago

It’s a big topic that could fill tomes and with the internet it’s easy to wander off round the ether, but sample the witches brew of hardcore left/greens between potash and a cuppa in comment here-
Harry is a typical conservative torn between markets that work (depending on how they’re initially constituted of course) and the nagging feeling that left/greens are the only answer at present to the Spaceship Earth paradigm and the kiddies. He’s not alone as the conservative/market side of politics, lacking a coherent market blueprint for the environment, largely plays ‘metoo’ with graduazzi greening everywhere. That leaves the centre to hard left spectrum to make the environmental running with pink battiness and cash for clunkers and the like until they run out of other peoples dough or interfere in everyones lives enough to produce the odd electoral backlash. Conservatives know deep down that’s inevitable but what’s the answer except to hang about and pick up the pieces occasionally?

The rub is we can piss scarce resources up against the wall chasing green brainfarts as well as building administrative empires and rewarding the new rentseekers, but there’s an inexorable bottom line to it all that can manifest itself in particular electorates from time to time, or even whole economies world wide if you try and print your way out of it. It comes down to seeing the wood through the trees. Price works better than quantitative controls but it must be sensibly constituted and level playing field price. It’s the sensibly constituted bit that needs the hard thinking cap and speaking to truth always.

If you don’t speak to truth you get found out as Kevin07 demonstrated so spectacularly. Fuelwatch and Grocerywatch were the first no-brainers unless you’ve got the command economy to back it and we all know where that ends up anyway. The other quantitative measures and direction from Canberra I’ll leave aside for the biggie in the CPRS. A flimsy veneer of market respectability concealing the new world vision of the ultimate in quantitative control and didn’t the left/green elites pile on in their droves when proper circumspection was required. It was one thing to be alarmed by a hockey stick of ‘world’s best’ temperature record, but quite another to jump to the conclusion that carbon credit creation and trading was the solution to any of that. No matter what all the experts argued, it only needed common sense to see the bleeding obvious. When some fresh faced kid rocks around your place to change some light globes and shower heads for ‘free’, in order to do some quick average calc of CO2 ’saved’ and create some carbon credits to be traded forever more, that was it right there. Blind Freddy could see the gaping holes in any global edifice built on that eminently reversible and overridden nonsense and the more the experts argued for it, the more you knew you were being talked to by academic delusionals, financial rentseekers and shucksters.

Whilst Copenhagen and Blairs Law thankfully put a stop to it all, it’s interesting to recall Bob Brown and the Greens approach to the CPRS. He voted with the Coalition against it and why? Because like so many LGs they honestly believe its all a matter of ‘us’ capping ‘them’ and when the Labor Govt had to recognize the bleeding obvious and hand out the freebies to places like La Trobe, poor old Bob couldn’t see it. Yes Bob they did have the whole gamut of taxation to replace with straight carbon taxing but you know how it is with LG spin that its all about them big bad capitalist polluters eh? Nothing to do with them supplying our demands and having to pass on the costs should we legislatively impose them. Don’t speak to truth and you get found out just as they’ll get found out with all their graduazzi greening going down at present.

How do I know that? Because I’ve got some of their quantitative ‘reshiftable’ energy in a 2.1KW solar feed-in array and know all about fallacy of composition if nothing else. Subsidised to the tune of $9500 in clawback and RECs before Treasury tapped Oily on the shoulder with those composite figures and then there’s the reshiftable 50c/kwhr I get from my fellow power users when Truenergy just upped the peak summer cost nearly 25% to 31c/kwhr. Cold wet day mostly pissing down with rain and at midday that 2.1kw system was churning out a mighty 47watts until a rare break in the clouds and bright sunshine for a few minutes and I trotted out to read 1902 watts for you all. Wouldn’t the lads at Pt Augusta shovelling lignite be thrilled? The irony is with 90km/hr winds recorded the windmills in the windmill State are probably all turned off to stop them self destructing or losing their blade tips as I witnessed recently. And educated people actually believe in this quantitative crap to save the world?

On top of that now they have to deal with some disturbing news on the hockey stick/temp front which threatens the demolition of their whole raisondetre for it all, but not me. I couldn’t care less if AGW is definitively proven or not. I’d still advocate straight carbon taxing in the resource tax mix, although there is an obvious interim upper bound to that at present. I’m a market green and nothing I’ve heard or seen so far has challenged my conceptual blueprint for real environmental action and outcomes. A carefully constituted, level playing field marketplace, that minimises admin and banishes the rentseekers and LG shucksters, gives the whole environment true countervailing market power against its destruction, whilst inexorably driving the world to follow suit. At present it seems to me we’ve all halted at a rather obvious but befuddling fork in that road.