Daniel Andrews’ Labor government in Victoria has been returned with a dramatically increased majority after the state election on Saturday, November 24th. While the polls indicated that he would most likely win, Antony Green called the election only 90 minutes after the polling booths closed. The Labor Party is projected to have at least 55 seats in the 88 seat lower house. The opposition is likely to win only 28 seats, compared to the 37 it had before the election1. To say this is a rout is an understatement.
Why did this happen? Was it a rejection of the dog whistle so often used by the federal coalition and the Murdoch media? Was it a rejection of other policies such as the closing of the North Richmond safe injecting room, despite clear evidence that it saves lives? Was it the antipathy to the Safe Schools Program? Was it the shambolic behaviour of the federal Liberal Party in dumping Malcolm Turnbull and the subsequent behaviour of Scott Morrison?1All of these probably had an effect in the minds of at least some voters. However, I think the problems within the Coalition lie deeper than these.
The Victorian branch of the Liberal Party has been largely taken over by religious right-wing nut jobs, and this was demonstrated by the leader of the Victorian opposition, Matthew Guy, vowing to reintroduce religious instruction classes in public schools2. The base desire of the religious is to make people adhere to their doctrine. They have become more strident in their pursuit of this aim in recent years, as shown by their fierce opposition to the federal legislation legalising same-sex marriage3, the Victorian legislation on voluntary euthanasia4, and their obsession with things such as gender-neutral toilets (every home has at least one)5, or allowing gender to be optional on birth certificates6. The furore over each of these has occurred in the Liberal Party and has made them look at best idiotic, and at worst prurient. All these things have been occupying most of the silly minds of the religious conservatives, just as religion is in decline in Australia, with about 30% of the populace now professing to have no religion7. This seems to be the last gasp of the religious as they try to cling on to their societal influence as it rapidly wanes.
In addition to the society leaving the religious behind, society is now realising that neoliberal economics should be a thing of the past, as it only serves the wealthy and not the general populace8. The Coalition clings to this outdated economic model, as demonstrated by their push to give huge tax cuts to large corporations, despite there being little evidence that this will improve employment or increase wages. This plan was only dropped because they could not get the legislation through the Senate9. On top of this, the Coalition has cut the benefits10 of those on welfare and cut penalty rates11 of the lowly paid. The combination of these features of their economic program is simply seen as hammering the poor and lowly paid, while giving huge handouts to the big end of town. However, they still cling to this model. That is seen by many as giving handouts to corporations that donate to the Coalition parties, or even as a way to get corporations to donate to the Coalition parties. This is increasingly being seen as a form of money laundering.
Perhaps the most startling problem the Coalition has caused itself is epitomised by the current Prime Minister, then Treasurer, bringing a lump of coal into parliament, and insisting that the opposition was afraid of it, but shouldn’t be12. The government’s constant denial of climate change and their inability to even come up with a faux climate policy to try to con the gullible is staggering. So also is their constant lying about reaching the Paris targets ‘in a canter’, when emissions are rising rapidly, rather than decreasing as they need to do13. Attitudes like that from the Coalition are stealing the future away from the younger generation, which will be left with a much less habitable world. As a consequence, the younger generation are dumping them in favour of parties with more realistic climate policies14.
The Coalition don’t yet seem to have grasped how outdated their attitudes are. If these attitudes continue until the federal election, it will be a very interesting election; very interesting indeed.