Let’s get a few numbers straight first: this was not a landslide or a blowout and the people of Australia did not fall in line behind the grinning salesman Scott Morrison.
The Labor Party got more primary votes than any other party, followed by the Liberals, the Greens, the Liberal Nationals (Queensland), and the Nationals. Labor’s vote was down by one per cent, Libs down by 0.6 per cent and the only significant gains were for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (up 1.7 per cent) and Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (3.3 per cent) – and if you add Hanson’s and Palmer’s votes together they’re still half a million votes less than the Greens got.
So the shift was slight but just enough to block the Labor-Greens combo from taking back the government. A few percentage points worth of disaffected and/or easily conned voters were drawn to two blow-hard and vacuous parties – which took the pollsters, the media, and the bookies by surprise.
Labor lost it in Queensland and Tasmania, the Greens didn’t lose it anywhere much, and Morrison’s mob won by getting the second preferences of those Palmer and Hanson voters.
Are Queenslanders themselves the problem – are they hillbillies or deplorables like some of Trump’s hard core? If so, how come they elected state Labor governments for 25 of the past 30 years including two female Labor premiers?
For 180 years Queensland’s economic role has been to grow crops, raise cattle and sheep, dig up valuable dirt, and deliver all of them to ports for export, with most of the profits going to a few megarich Australians and to global corporations. The state’s inland and coastal towns reflect that history, but nowadays new production technology offers few jobs on the land so a high percentage of Queenslanders are doing poorly.
The coalition promises them more of that low-security, low-income economy, pretending that fossil fuels have a promising future and that China needs our ores when, really, we desperately need the $125 billion they pay us each year. That’s more than what Australia earns from sales to Japan, South Korea, the United States, the UK, and India, combined.
Meanwhile, Labor promised to help the bottom 80 per cent of Queenslanders by supporting some more mining, and to stop global meltdown by supporting less CO2 somehow, somewhere, sometime.
So both Labor and the coalition failed to present a plan for Queensland’s future, but Clive Palmer had one – himself. He promised to single-handedly save our country from the politics-as-usual big parties. In fact, he made a deal to give one of those parties, Morrison’s mob, his second preferences, which he absurdly over-predicted.
Simultaneously Rupert Murdoch went apeshit in all his media (80 per cent of newspapers sold in Australia) because the Labor leader refused to listen to him and Labor might be bad for his business.
In the end, Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP) got 3.4 per cent of the nationwide vote, but failed to win a seat in parliament even though Palmer spent more than $60 million on advertising. Those votes cost him $107 each!
Why did he do that? What did he buy for $60 million? He has now explained that it was all about stopping Labor leader Bill Shorten from becoming prime minister.
‘We thought that would be a disaster for Australia,’ Mr Palmer told ABC radio Brisbane, using the royal ‘we’. In the last two weeks ‘we decided to polarise the electorate… [by] explaining to Australian people what Shorten’s economic plans were’.
‘I’m very, very elated that we’ve saved the country from shifty [Shorten].’
He also reckons that Australians should thank him for saving them for his charitable act which was ‘more effective than giving some money to Meals on Wheels.’
His charitable act was to inspire foolish and/or disgruntled voters, many of whom would not have gone to the trouble of voting LNP, to cast a protest vote for the Palmerites – which had the effect of adding half a million to the gross total of Morrison’s mob.
In fact, Palmer’s real goal was to re-elect a government that would allow him to keep control of the many thousands of square kilometres of Australian soil he controls, some of which he rents to Chinese government corporates for huge profits. Just one of his properties in Western Australia gives him $100 million every 12 weeks from the Chinese iron ore extractor Citic Ltd, and he expects that will soon rise to $100 million every fortnight.
For some perspective, here’s what the real political parties spent on advertising this election: Labor $14,450,000, LNP $13,300,000, and the Greens $320,000 – in other words Palmer’s fake Party spent more than twice the total spent by all the major parties combined.
Mind you – Morrison & Co spent an extra $200m of our tax money in the election build-up on government advertising to hype their own policies.
The lesson of this election is not that we-the-voters are fools – we’re disillusioned, bombarded with disinformation, over-powered and under-represented – but we must demand 1) public funding of elections and 2) public ownership of our natural resources like minerals and fuels, sunshine and airwaves.
Those are the two things that the Murdoch family, Clive Palmer, and their compradores in Canberra will fight to the death to prevent us, or parties with a social conscience, from getting our grubby little public mitts on.
Phillip Frazer writes from atop the little round hill in Mullum and posts on coorabellridge.com.