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Dust settles: history mostly vindicated

TJ Ryan Foundation Research Associate, Paul Rodan, writes in Inside Story (15.7.16) that, after a long campaign and a long vote count, the result isn’t so surprising after all. The author singles out how the voting results in Queensland remained largely true to past form, highlighting Labor’s disappointing return from the several marginal seats it had targeted there throughout the election campaign.

‘In the end, history had a reasonable election. Once again, a first-term federal government was re-elected: it was ever thus, or at least since 1931. Once again, a first-term opposition secured a swing. Bill Shorten’s 3.2 per cent (at the time of writing) was the second-best on record, beaten only by Kim Beazley’s 4.6 per cent in 1998. His seat haul (a gain of eleven) was also at the high end of achievement for a first-term opposition leader and in line with the rumoured internal party benchmark of ten.

‘… Queensland and Western Australia maintained their reputations as electoral deserts for federal Labor. Only three times since 1949 has it secured a majority of the two-party vote in Queensland, and just four times in Western Australia (three of those down to Bob Hawke).

‘On election night, Labor seemed to be doing well in several Queensland regional seats, but the later count revealed slim pickings, with only Longman (margin 6.9 per cent) secured and an apparent near miss in Herbert. The vote in Capricornia (Labor unable to secure a mere 0.8 per cent swing) was especially poor. The Brisbane area was a disaster, with a swing to the Coalition in four seats, perhaps suggesting that Malcolm Turnbull’s agile hipster/innovator types live in the Queensland capital rather than further south.

‘The prospects for a federal Labor renaissance in the two frontier states seem as remote as ever. If those states were magically excised from the nation, Labor would have won this election fifty-eight seats to forty-four. Party realists probably accept that a future Labor federal government will be structured around the regular majorities in the southern states and further improvement in New South Wales.’

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