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Election Watch 2016: Malcolm Turnbull claims victory

Our experts analyse the vote and what it means

Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition have been returned to Government. The Prime Minister claimed victory about an hour the Opposition Leader, Mr Shorten, conceded defeat. It comes eight days after Australia went to the polls.

University of Melbourne experts have already analysed some of the key seats and explained the policy challenges ahead. And we’ve published a series of videos outlining what’s next for the key players – scroll down and have a look.

You can also join the conversation at #ElectionWatch and #ausvotes

10 Jul 2016

We’ve won, says mr TUrnbull

The Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, has claimed victory in the 2016 Election, meaning the Coalition will form the Government of the 45th Parliament.

“We’ve won the election,’’ Mr Turnbull said. “It’s a great day today ... to thank the Australian people for the decisions they have taken in this election,’’ he said, promising “good government” and “wise legislation’’.

He thanked the Opposition Leader, Mr Shorten, for calling him to concede and said the swearing in of the new government would happen in the “course of the next week”.

Mr Turnbull said he’d been passionate about electronic voting for a long time. “This is something that we must look at,” he said.

Bill shorten concedes

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has conceded defeat, meaning the Malcolm Turnbull-led Coalition will form Government.

Mr Shorten said he has spoken to Mr Turnbull to congratulate him and wish him well. It is unclear whether Mr Turnbull will form a majority or minority Government.

“I expect them to do nothing less than keep the promises that they made to the Australian people,” Mr Shorten said of the Coalition.

“I am proud Labor is back, Labor is united and Labor has found its voice.’’

He also said he would work with the Government to find ways of improving and speeding up the vote count. “We’re a grown up democracy, it shouldn’t be taking eight days to find out who’s won and who’s lost,’’ Mr Shorten said.

8 Jul 2016

coalition to “scrape in”

Labor leader Bill Shorten concedes it’s likely that over coming days the Coalition will “scrape over the line”.

Shorten also said “this could well be one of the shortest parliaments in 50 years” and that Australians could be going back to the polls within a year.

Counting continues in a handful of undecided seats, with neither major party yet to win enough seats to govern in its own right.

have we reached peak disaffection?

Dr Sara Bice, Melbourne School of Government

Saturday’s vote confirmed a global wave of voter disaffection, social inequality and doubts in democracy as we know it.

In times past, a cliffhanger election result would have generated exciting headlines about historic events. Instead, it was more headshaking and disappointment at leadership instability and a lack of major parties’ ability to deliver strong and distinctive policies. While the pundits suggest that Malcolm Turnbull will likely be able to form Government, the experience has left many with a sense of dark déjà vu and concern for the effectiveness of the Government to come.

As a social scientist, my job is to pick out the patterns in a complex world. So, what is revealed by Australia’s cliffhanger federal election?

Far from achieving the stability called for by both major parties in the final week of the marathon campaign, the election result gives Australia an ideologically divided Parliament, with individual minor party members—including Pauline Hanson, Derryn Hinch and Jacqui Lambie in the Senate—holding power incommensurate to their representativeness.

We know that informal voting is on the rise, as are votes giving preferences to minor parties, largely due to a focus on very particular ‘narrowcast’ issues.

But to call these protest votes, however, is to devalue them.

These are not protests but choices. The choice to vote informally or to preference minor parties is less of a protest and more of an admission that a considerable number of voters feel disempowered and excluded from the political system. To view these votes as ‘complaisance’, not protest, better recognises the sentiments of disenfranchisement and disempowerment that sit behind them.

In the late 1990s, American political scientist Robert Putnam gained fame in academic circles for his book Bowling Alone. In it, he described Americans’ growing sense of social exclusion and loss of social capital—the feeling of belonging to community that provides people with a sense of place and empowerment. Combine this with French economist Thomas Piketty’s recent findings that capital in the 21st century is driving the style of deep social inequality that has fuelled past revolutions and declining empires, and you start to get worried.

Brexit, Donald Trump and Australia’s election: Is it too long a bow to connect these events? I think not. Because they each offer yet another sign of growing public disaffection with government, social inequality and a sense that democracy isn’t living up to people’s expectations.

The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, for example, shows that only 43 percent of people surveyed globally trust their government. The study also identifies a growing gap in levels of trust reported by the ‘general public’ and that of the ‘informed public’ (i.e. those socially and economically better off), with members of the informed public more trusting of government. Other patterns materialising around these events include rapidly emerging intergenerational angst—with Gen X’ers and Millenials beginning to finger-point against Baby Boomers, worrying xenophobia, isolationist national sentiments, and support for a conservatism not seen since the days of Reagan and Thatcher.

Yes, this election experience was terribly disappointing—even though it did give us a chance for a Saturday night OD on Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb. But it may also be the kick in the pants we need to catalyse social change. If we gain nothing else from such a divisive experience, we must at least use it as an opportunity to acknowledge that declining social capital is real. And it is a real social problem. This will be a critical first step in ensuring concentrated attention is paid to re-engaging the Australian public, to taking a long and honest look at political tactics that are no longer serving the greater good, and to pursue policies that re-establish trust in government while reducing social inequality.

Cliffhangers are fun, but I’d much prefer a happy ending.

This article was first published by ProBono Australia

Looking behind the ballot papers

Voters have turned away from the major parties – but is it because they are disillusioned, apathetic or just plain angry? In this episode of the The Policy Shop podcast, University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis discusses this key issue with Dr Andrea Carson and Dr Lauren Rosewarne, both from the School of Social and Political Sciences.

7 Jul 2016

We’ll probably spend many more millions on another election in less than three years 

This year’s election was predicted to cost taxpayers at least $227 million, or around $15 per voter.

Increasingly, the financial cost of implementing our democratic principles has ballooned. The cost of holding a federal election has risen 15% on average since 1990. Read more on Election Watch.

At the same time, we’re going to the polls on average less than three years. The average length of a term in Australia since 1990 has been 32 months, as governments rarely complete the full 36-month three-year cycle.

Australia’s is out of step with other countries on this. For example, out of 77 countries which have a bicameral (two chamber) parliamentary system (like Australia), 71 have either four or five-year terms, while only three – Australia, Mexico and the Philippines – have three-year terms. Read more on Election Watch.

There’s also the chance we might go back to the polls well within three years. The uncertain outcome of the election has led some commentators such as the ABC’s Barrie Cassidy to suggest that a government without a strong majority and an unruly Senate might find it very difficult to govern.

Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman has advocated for four year terms, saying “it’s worth reflecting” that “every 33 years out of a every century are potentially lost to good governance.”

style of leadership

Beyond the policy debate, this election was also about Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull v Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, and their respective and distinctive leadership styles. Professor Peter Gahan, from the Centre for Workplace Leadership, runs the rule over them.

6 Jul 2016


Dr Helen Szoke, Oxfam Australia Chief Executive

The election result shows loud and clear: Australians want leadership that will demonstrate a mandate for equality and a fair go for all.

This is a message our political leaders will need to embrace. The past decade has seen a dramatic increase in inequality around the world. While many developed nations have experienced economic difficulties, the rich have grown richer and more powerful.

Throughout the election campaign, Oxfam assessed promises based on how each of the major parties planned to address the ever-widening gap between rich and poor in both Australia and overseas.

While there were some positive promises made, our political leaders must listen closely to the public’s growing concerns about tax dodging by rich and powerful multinationals, the erosion of Indigenous rights, climate change and restoring Australia’s aid budget. Our political leaders must act on these concerns.

Read the full article on Election Watch.

uncertain politics means uncertain policy for areas such as climate change

As the dust settles after a protracted eight-week campaign results are surprisingly close, but clearly show diminished authority for Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition.

Recriminations and blame-shifting have already commenced in earnest. What is clear is that Turnbull’s double dissolution ploy has failed dramatically, with key seats lost and a problematic Senate likely predicted. And all this despite campaigning hard on the need for stability under a returned Coalition government.

So what does the election result mean for climate change? And what can the tactics of the past two months teach us about the direction for environmental politics in the uncharted waters of this 45th Parliament?

Election Watch has more.

5 Jul 2016

why politics is testing our faith

“We have a political system designed in the time of the horse and buggy trying to deal with a world to a hyper-connected, super speed, globalised information age.” – Nicholas Reece, University of Melbourne.

“Young people have to stop shooting themselves in the foot and become engaged. If you ignore politicians they will ignore you.” - Professor Lisa Hill, University of Adelaide.

Nicholas Reece and Professor Lisa Hill examine the fracturing electorate and signs of voter disengagement, and what needs to change.

pauline hanson’s one nation is back

Hanson is likely to win at least one seat in the Senate. Yesterday she held a media conference at which she called for a ‘Royal Commission’ into Islam and said Asians were ‘swamping’ the suburbs.

Hanson first swept onto the Australian political scene 20 years ago. Here’s an excerpt from her maiden speech in 1996.

how not to give oxygen to bigotry ...

Dr Denis Muller, Centre for Advancing Journalism

We are living through a period when bigotry seems fashionable in some quarters of society, mainly on the extreme right. The Attorney-General, George Brandis, has even said that bigotry is an entitlement.

We have Pauline Hanson about to be elected to the Senate saying things like “Australia is being swamped by Asians” – her old line from 1996 -- and “Mosques are places that preach hate”.

We have Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman, president of the Australian National Imams Council, preaching on YouTube in 2013 that homosexuality is spreading diseases.

We have the fundamentalist Christian pastor, Fred Nile, saying homosexuality is “unnatural, immoral, unhealthy and sinful”.

And if the Turnbull government gets back, we are going to have a plebiscite on gay marriage where sensibilities arising from religious belief and sexual orientation are likely to conflict.

In a climate like this, the media have a difficult ethical challenge: how to provide news and a platform for public debate without giving oxygen to bigotry.

Some factors to consider.

First, authority. Where ugly statements are made, are they from someone in a position of power, responsibility or influence?

Second, prominence. Does it get beaten up, or given it the place it objectively deserves according to news values rather than an outlet’s own prejudices?

Third, presentation. Does a headline lend support – “Hanson takes a stand” – or is it oppositional: “Hanson attacks Asians and mosques”. What images go with it?

Fourth, context and proportion. Is the audience reminded that Imam Alsuleiman’s and the Rev Nile’s views are not representative of all Islam or Christianity?

Fifth, language. Does the report add its own inflammatory language to what the protagonists are saying?

How the media deal with these considerations will influence how the public debate plays out.

the recriminations within the coalition are in full swing

Credlin shared many more insights during our public panel discussion last Wednesday with the ABC’s Barrie Cassidy, Julia Gillard’s former chief of staff Ben Hubbard, the University of Melbourne’s Andrea Carson and the Herald Sun’s Ellen Whinnett.

Watch the full video “Election Watch 2016: Australia Decides

counting begins in eArnest again today

The Australian Electoral Commission begins counting votes again today, so numbers will begin trickling in again, but the result may not be known for days or longer.

The latest AEC figures on the state of play can be found here.

However, the ABC’s election analyst, Antony Green, has criticised the AEC for their resprentation of the figures.

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4 Jul 2016

PM’s Advice To Governor-General key

By Andrew Trounson, University of Melbourne

If Australians have delivered a hung parliament, it is Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who will be calling the shots in advising the Governor-General, even if that means giving advice to give the other side a go.

Once the count is final, Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove will be waiting for advice from Mr Turnbull about who he should commission as Prime Minister. Depending on the numbers, if Mr Turnbull believes he can form a workable government with the support of enough lower house crossbenchers and advises the government accordingly, precedent suggests that Sir Peter will commission him as Prime Minister, according to University of Melbourne constitutional law expert Emeritus Professor Cheryl Saunders AO.

If Mr Turnbull cannot form a government but it seems likely that Labor leader Bill Shorten can do so, it would be appropriate for Mr Turnbull to advise the Governor-General to ask Mr Shorten whether he can form government.

“Almost invariably, the practice has been that the incumbent Prime Minister advises the Governor-General on the actions to be taken under the Constitution, and constitutionally it is appropriate for the Governor-General to take that advice,” says Professor Saunders.

“The governing principle here is that the person who commands the confidence of a majority in the House of Representatives should form the government. Prime Ministers should act in accordance with this principle when they give advice to the Governor-General.”

“If there is a hung parliament then the Prime Minister would have to make an assessment about whether he can form government. If he thought he could, the Governor-General would be likely to commission him and it could be put to the test on the floor of the parliament if necessary” she says.

“If the advice from the Prime Minister were seriously contested, it is possible that the Governor-General might talk to the other parties. But by and large the goal of our system is to avoid involving the Governor-General in a determinative role by relying on the advice of a Prime Minister, properly formulated. As a backup, in the case of misjudgement, the Parliament can sort it out when it meets.”

“At the end of the day, the determining factor will be the number of seats held and who is prepared to support who on questions of confidence,” she says.

Where it gets tricky is if the Governor-General commissions Mr Turnbull but his government loses a vote of no confidence. In those circumstances the Governor-General could be faced with potentially going against the advice of the Prime Minister and having to decide whether to call an election or invite the opposition to try and form a government. In the constitutional crisis of 1975 Governor-General Sir John Kerr dismissed Prime Minister Gough Whitlam without advice and appointed opposition leader Malcolm Fraser as Prime Minister. Mr Fraser then advised Sir John to call an election that he went on to win convincingly.

“If the current Prime Minister is commissioned and loses a vote of no confidence, it would still fall to the Prime Minister to advise the Governor-General. If the Prime Minister were to advise that parliament be dissolved for another election then the Governor General would face the choice of accepting that advice or trying to determine whether the other side of politics could form government.”

Professor Saunders says this is a contested area. Some argue that if the Prime Minister advises an election in circumstances of this kind the Governor-General must accept it. An alternative view is that the Governor -General is bound to at least explore whether the opposition could form an alternative government given the disruption that another election would entail, and the possibility that, in any event, it may result in another hung parliament.

“It would be a difficult call for the Governor-General but I would expect him to give some consideration to whether the opposition could form government as an alternative to an election.” she said.

In the event of a hung parliament the ball will be in Mr Turnbull’s court. Sir Peter will be hoping the Prime Minister won’t force him into being the umpire.

what street gangs can teach us about political leadership

“No matter how great the leader … his tenure of power is never certain. Some change in the personnel of his gang or in the situation … may bring his rule to a speedy end. He makes mistakes; the gang loses confidence in him, and he is ‘down and out’. The democracy of the gang, primitive though it may be, is a very sensitive mechanism, and, as a result, changes in leadership are frequent and ‘lost leaders’, many.”

Timely as it might seem, this passage was not about Australian political leaders and their futures. Rather, it’s about Chicago street gangs and comes from a classic written in 1927 by acclaimed sociologist Frederic M. Thrasher. But also it shows the parallels between the streets and the party room, says University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis in this piece here.

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