August 11th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Doctor-patient privilege dies with My Health Record

EDITORIAL By-elections reflect disenchantment with major parties

CANBERRA OBSERVED Longman result may force PM to rethink policies

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS No question about it: the Don is in charge

ENERGY Lower electricity price a fantasy

EUTHANASIA Vulnerable will be victims of Leyonhjelm's deadly bill


PHILOSOPHY On human nature

CULTURE AND SOCIETY The shadow of that hyddeous strength

FICTION A Scent of Musk

MUSIC Globalised Music

CINEMA The Equalizer 2

BOOK REVIEW ADF as modern peacekeepers

BOOK REVIEW The men who built up a great tradition


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By-elections reflect disenchantment with major parties

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, August 11, 2018

The five by-elections held on 28 July were conducted as a referendum on the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten, but the votes recorded in the five seats shows a growing level of disenchantment with both major parties, with little appetite for the Greens who positioned themselves as the alternative.

The two seats which were the focus of most attention were Longman in Queensland and Braddon, on the west coast of Tasmania.

Longman is traditionally a Liberal seat, with a large number of retirees living between Brisbane and Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Interestingly, Labor’s Susan Lamb won the seat at the last federal election on One Nation preferences.

On this occasion, One Nation’s leader Pauline Hanson directed preferences to the Liberal National Party candidate, Trevor Ruthenberg, but the Liberal vote collapsed to below 30 per cent of the primary vote.

Despite negative media coverage during the campaign, the One Nation candidate picked up 16 per cent of the vote, an increase of over 6 per cent.

But even this was not sufficient to put the Liberal candidate ahead, and Labor held the seat with a two-party swing of nearly 4 per cent.

The Greens scored less than five per cent of the vote, a very disappointing result when the total recorded by the minor parties was about 30 per cent.



The Tasmanian seat of Braddon is traditionally a Labor seat, covering mining and timber towns in the west of the island state, but has become a marginal seat as a result of Labor’s anti-timber policies.

The votes of both major parties fell in Braddon to less than 40 per cent, with a significant rise in the vote for minor parties and independents.

Although the Liberals polled more than Labor, the key to Labor’s win was the 10 per cent won by a well-known local independent, Craig Garland, who has campaigned against the translocation of seals by Tassal to north-western Tasmania.

It was Garland’s preferences which put Labor over the line.



The seat of Mayo in South Australia is blue-ribbon Liberal, but was surprisingly won by a candidate for Nick Xenophon’s party, Rebekha Sharkie, at the 2016 election.

In an effort to regain the seat, the Liberal Party endorsed Georgina Downer, daughter of the former Liberal MP for Mayo, Alexander Downer.

Ms Downer spent years as a Foreign Affairs Department official overseas and in Canberra, and in recent years was a research fellow for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, adjunct fellow for the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne, and a member of the Victorian Liberal Party’s Administrative Committee.

Ms Downer was undoubtedly very well qualified to stand for Parliament, but had no strong links with the seat she was seeking to represent. In a by-election where the focus was on local representation, the preselection of a celebrity candidate was clearly a mistake.

In the event, the votes of both the Liberal Party and the ALP declined, as voters swung behind the local candidate. While there has been a great deal of attention given to the small decline in the Liberal vote to 37 per cent, the Labor vote in the seat fell by half, and ended up with just 6 per cent of the vote, a figure lower than that secured by the Greens.

It seems that most Labor voters deserted the Labor party in favour of the Greens and Rebekha Sharkie, because she had a better chance of winning the seat.

The outcome of the two seats in Western Australia was a foregone conclusion, because the Liberals decided not to contest these two safe Labor seats.

However, the disenchantment reflected in other seats was also present in WA.

Being inner-city electorates, the Greens have a solid base in both Perth and Fremantle.

Despite the absence of a Liberal candidate, the Greens’ vote actually declined in Fremantle, but this may have been due to the presence of an Animal Justice Party candidate campaigning against live sheep exports from the port of Fremantle.

The Labor vote rose 11 per cent to over 53 per cent, no doubt because many Liberal voters preferred Labor to the Greens or other parties.

In the seat of Perth – where the Liberals previously won 43 per cent of the vote but did not stand a candidate in 2018 – the former Liberal vote was spread widely among the 15 candidates.

Although Labor won the seat comfortably on preferences, its primary vote was less than 40 per cent, a very discouraging result in a safe Labor seat.

The political pundits have wasted gallons of printing ink analysing the result in terms of the campaigns run by the two major parties, and the standing of their respective leaders.

But over all, the result reflects the continuation of a long-term trend against the major parties which reflects disenchantment with the policy solutions being put forward to the major challenges facing Australia: in both the international and domestic areas.

Too little attention has been given to supporting Australian primary and secondary industries, and too much has been given to accommodating hostile powers such as China, and the extreme green agenda of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Peter Westmore is publisher of News Weekly.

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