In tonight’s counts, it appears clear that the ALP has narrowly held on in South Australia, containing the swing against the government to 1.7% in the marginals, with much of the state wide anti-Labor swing washing through safe seats, while Tasmania, as predicted, is up for grabs.
On the ABC’s latest figures, the Tasmanian vote split is 37.1/39.1/21.3 for Labor, the Liberals and The Greens respectively, with a 10-10-5 allocation of seats predicted. It’s interesting, in passing, to observe that The Greens didn’t come anywhere near as close to Labor’s vote as polls might have indicated, though nevertheless scoring a handy swing of 4.6%. The swing against Labor in Tasmania was -12.1%, compared to -7.4% in South Australia, where the great majority of the swing has gone straight to the Liberals, with only a small increase in The Greens’ vote of 1.6%.
I’m going to be very interested to see whether those members of the commentariat who were proclaiming that a Labor loss in one or both states would spell doom for Rudd, further embolden Abbott, and claiming that “state results have federal implications and feed into the psychological battle in Canberra” will now rewrite their scripts for tomorrow’s papers.
In truth, there is very little point pouring over state tea leaves to concoct a federal brew.
The first term Rudd government is at a very different stage of the electoral cycle than the state administrations, and the range and scope of issues quite distinct. Those seeking to weave a narrative of Labor decline based on state results should pause and reflect that there is great particularity to each state’s political culture and history, before we even get to the fact that historically there is little correlation between election results at Commonwealth and state levels.
The only real point of interest, because it will involve many of the same players and techniques, is the performance of the campaigns. SA Labor obviously ran a well targeted marginal seat effort, so a move in the statewide vote could be contained to seats where it didn’t count. The political dynamics of the Tasmanian contest are very different, driven by its unique electoral system, but the ALP campaign appears, from a distance, to have been both ineffectual and unprincipled.
So, to the degree that there are lessons to be learned, Labor, the Liberals and The Greens will be seeking to understand what the campaigns’ implications are for the mechanics and technics of the federal contest.
Incidentally, speaking of observing at a distance, I wasn’t surprised to see Christopher Pearson coming closest of any of the commentators to picking the SA result. I’ll never forget Peter Van Onselen writing just before last year’s Queensland election of ‘many marginal Labor seats in South-West Queensland’. My belief that local and historical knowledge is crucial to electoral commentary led me to decline a kind invitation from Crikey to join in the conversation on these elections. I think it’s worth remembering that principle when evaluating the worth of comment on politics in our very large, variegated and complex continent.
Elsewhere: John Quiggin:
Given the extent to which Abbott’s bogus “authenticity” campaign relies on momentum, this could be a big problem for him. Or maybe not. Despite the Libs pre-election spin, tonights votes had very little to do with Federal politics, and rightly so.
People who get excited about the News Ltd / Newspoll excitement about the so-called Abbott rise ought to see this as a reality check.