On Election Night, ABC’s election guru Anthony Green sounded very much like Norman – the election analyst on the famous Monty Python Election Night skit. On election night, Anthony Green seemed to be regularly repeating Norman’s famous words……. “The voting went pretty much the way I predicted except the other side won”.
So what did we learn from this election? Why were Anthony Green and all the other pollsters so wrong? Will anything change now that the LNP Government has been returned? What does it mean for Longman? Here are some thoughts from MyBribieIsland and its volunteers.
WHAT DID AUSTRALIAN VOTERS HIGHLIGHT AS CONCERNS?
One of the most comprehensive surveys of voter concerns ever undertaken in Australia is that undertaken by the ABC’s 2019 Vote Compass survey. Some 1.2 million people participated in this survey. Those wishing to compare their views with the views of Vote Compass participants were able do so from the Vote Compass page at https://votecompass.abc.net.au/survey
According to Vote Compass, some of the major concern areas of Australian voters going into this election were:
- Cost of living pressures – voters are concerned that the cost of goods and services is rising at a rate far greater then the rate of inflation. In particular voters are concerned about rises in the cost of electricity, the cost of food, the cost of fuel, and the cost of services from all levels of government.
- Lack of wage increases – voters are concerned that wage rises have not kept pace with the rate of inflation. In real terms, wages have declined. This is despite the claims that the economy is one of the best performing economies in the world and that company profits have grown. Those achievements are not “trickling down” to give benefits wage earners.
- Job security and fear of unemployment – In various ways voters expressed concern about the security of their employment. They are concerned that more and more jobs have become casual, more have become part time, and wage theft has become a major concern.
- Decline in “quality of life” standards – voters are concerned with what they perceive as declines in lifestyle quality as shown by congestion on roads and public transport, crowding in places like hospitals and schools, lack of environmental protection and the resulting environmental destruction, and general deterioration of public infrastructure.
- Lack of action on climate change – voters are frustrated by lack of action in this area and the inability of our political parties to agree on just about anything. Voters are concerned that “climate deniers” are dictating the agenda in this area.
WHAT HAVE OUR POLITICIANS PROMISED THE AUSTRALIAN VOTERS?
In this election campaign, the Coalition pointed to its economic record and the promise of a balanced budget next year. It made very few major promises and essentially asked for a mandate to continue its current plan “to make Australia great for all Australians”. There were limited expenditure promises here and there to address special issues. The Coalition pointed to its plans to reduce the tax burden on many Australians and it repeatedly claimed that the Labour Party is a “big tax” party that was coming after voters’ wallets and that Labour Party policies would ruin the economic progress made to date.
The Coalition failed to explain why it dumped its leader when things were supposedly going so well with the current policies. It failed to explain that the much-hyped expansion of the GDP was primarily due to an expansion in the population due to migration. And it failed to explain that the prime reason for the improved budget position was not due to inspired economic management. It was primarily due to a rise in royalties as a result of increased exports of coal and iron ore and favourable prices for those commodities.
In this election, the Labour Party pitched its policies as bringing a “fair go” for all Australians. To achieve this, it proposed a wide range of changes – many of them very significant changes. It made no secret of its intentions to increase taxes for “the big end of town” and to focus on tax avoidance strategies used by so many corporations and high-income individuals. It promised to review franking credits used by many pensioners as an income source and it promised to clamp down on negative gearing. It focused on ways it would redistribute those additional funds to achieve its “fair go” of reduced taxes for lower income earners, improved social assistance to those left behind in society, increased expenditure to improve schools / hospitals / public transport, reduced emissions, and increased protection of the environment.
The Labour Party was quiet on how it would achieve the growth in the economy that would be required to pay for all this expenditure. But to be fair, the Coalition was also silent on its efforts to grow the economy too. Both parties talked in big-picture terms about such things as lowering taxes, growing the economy, increasing spending on schools, hospitals and roads, and creating 1.25 million jobs. But there were very few specifics ever mentioned on how this will be done.
The Newman Government here in Queensland went through a process to outline what the future Queensland would look like. In summarising the resulting master plan, some analysts commented that the plan saw the future of Queensland as a farm, a quarry or a gambling casino. In many ways, neither of the major parties has painted a vision for the future of Australia that is much different. Many analysts bemoaned the lack of any long-term vision with so many of the election announcements.
The industries that create the major portion of new wealth that underpins the health of any economy are primarily mining, farming, fishing and value-added manufacturing. Manufacturing far and away has the greatest job-creation potential but it has all but collapsed in Australia due to high costs – in particular high energy costs. The only way manufacturing can survive in Australia today is by having access to, and implementing, state-of-the-art technology. But incentives for this have been lacking in the past and this has led to the virtual collapse of the sector (such as the collapse of car manufacturing). Nothing proposed in this election addressed this. Australian universities and research laboratories rate among the most productive in the world for new discoveries and creation of new intellectual property. But Australia is among the worst in the world for implementing that new technology. So instead of having a healthy Australian manufacturing sector using the state-of-the-art technology developed in Australia, we are left with options like new coal mines and cruise ship terminals and casinos and clearing of native vegetation to create new agricultural production as growth options. These are not high-paying, high-skill industries or major employers and are not sustainable in the long term. As a result, the promises made in this election like balancing the budget, creating new jobs, raising wages, providing a greater social security net, and reducing taxes have to be viewed with great scepticism.
WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS FACING VOTERS IN LONGMAN?
It is not possible to extract local issues from the Vote Compass results. Presumably many of the concerns raised by Vote Compass also apply in Longman. But some issues specific to Longman that MBI respondents have mentioned in the past have included:
- Unemployment (ie people working less that 1 hour a week) and underemployment (ie people working less than 40 hours a week) – The unemployment rate in Longman is +10% and underemployment is probably +10% also. These are among the highest rates in Australia
- Youth unemployment (ie people under 25) – Youth unemployment in Longman is +20%. Again, this is also one of the highest rates in Australia
- Health services – Health workers have commented to MBI that they estimate that +50% of the cases reporting to Caboolture Hospital are the result of life-style choices – obesity, diabetes and drug related issues. This is placing an enormous strain on the ability of the health systems to deliver timely and appropriate support
- Environmental concerns – MBI respondents point to the continuing decline of the health of the environment in Longman. There are more trees cut down and more koalas killed in MBRC than in virtually any other Council area in Australia. The health of Pumicestone Passage and Moreton Bay continues to decline (as shown by the annual Moreton Bay Scorecard prepared each year by Healthy Land and Water). Fishstocks are continuing to decline in the Pumicestone due in a large part to destruction of habitat. And inappropriate tourist activities are a major contributor to the decline in the health of the foreshore and surrounding waters.
WHAT HAVE OUR POLITICINS PROMISED LONGMAN VOTERS?
Like their Federal counterparts, candidates in Longman pointed to the broad promises being made by their respective parties including a stronger economy, better schools healthcare and roads, more jobs, lower taxes, keeping Australia safe, and investing in infrastructure.
The Labour Party made a number of specific promises including a chemotherapy unit at Caboolture Hospital, a medical care centre on Bribie, funding towards the new university campus at Petrie, funding for Woodfordia projects, upgrades to Bribie Island Road, and funding for public schools in Longman. Labour campaign material repeatedly pointed to claims that the LNP had removed funding from hospitals and schools in Longman.
The LNP matched some of those Labour promises including the chemotherapy unit at Caboolture Hospital. There was $20m for the roundabout on Bribie Island Road at Old Toorbul Point Road to address the traffic concerns. There were a raft of promises made to various sporting and other community groups. But there was no mention of the medical care facility on Bribie so presumably that initiative will not proceed now. A very large part of the LNP election material claimed Labour had a poor record of dealing with money and was not to be trusted.
Neither party made any comment on the issues that are negatively impacting the local environment. There was no mention of addressing the ongoing destruction of habitat that is the principal cause of decline in fishstocks. There was no mention of efforts to support improving habitat health even though both recreational and commercial fishing are such an important part of the local economy. There was no mention of addressing those inappropriate tourist activities that are downgrading the environment and causing havoc on our roads. While both parties promised increased job creation, specifics were hard to find. Neither party addressed the issue of the large number of 457 visas being issued for work in Longman when there is such a high unemployment rate.
SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW? WILL ANYTHING CHANGE?
It is often said that opposition parties do not win elections. Governments lose them. This election was different according to the “experts”. The Government did not win this election, they claim. The Opposition lost it.
The next three years will be challenging years for the Government. According to John Daly at the Grattan Institute…… economic growth is now very slow, the forecast Budget surplus is dicey, demand for tertiary education places will start to jump in 2021, an increasing proportion of migration to Australia is low skill, private health insurance is in a death spiral, out-of-pocket costs for patients keep getting bigger, home ownership is falling and homelessness rising, and energy costs and emissions are too high.
But with those challenges in front of us, the electors of Bribie Island are now represented at Local, State and Federal level by first-term representatives. It is extremely difficult at the best of times for a first-term representative to have any influence on party policy and/or attract special recognition and funding. So the chances of any major changes coming to Longman (or Pumicestone or Division 1) are fairly remote. It is unlikely any of the major issues facing Bribie will be addressed – especially if any remedial action might negatively impact the major vested interests of the area.
Bribie electors took baseball bats to the Labour Party over its proposed abolition of franking credits. Those votes played a large part in the surprising loss of Longman for Labour. However it would be unwise to expect any payback in return. Bribie Islanders can only expect a lot more of the status quo.