The Coalition has snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
After six years of disunity and dysfunction this was the election they should have lost and justifiably so.
Scott Morrison rightly deserves much praise for having steadied the ship and executing a very disciplined campaign.
That said, one hopes that in victory the Liberal Party doesn’t gloss over the failures of the past six years.
The Liberal Party was thrown a life line over the weekend. They would be foolish if they did not reflect on that fact.
This was not a typical election and the success of the Liberal campaign cannot in all likelihood be replicated in future.
The bottom line is that this was an election lost by Bill Shorten and Labor. It was not won by the Coalition although it was exploited by it.
It was lost through arrogance, overreach and the politics of division spearheaded by a deeply flawed leader living in a Lefty echo chamber.
Blinded by hubris and a fawning media Bill mistook a suicide vest for a high vis vest thinking class warfare would win over the $250,000 tradies on mining sites he wanted to close.
He strapped on a vest with franking credits on one side and negative gearing on the other and with a RE detonator blew himself and the campaign bus to smithereens somewhere between Herbert and Dickson.
The only thing more astonishing was the astonishment of the ABC on election night that couldn’t fathom the consequences. How could Australians not vote for such progressive reform?
For $1b plus a year you think “our” ABC could find at least one credible political scientist to point out that winning government from opposition with a primary vote below 40% history shows is next to impossible.
The ALP broke 40% just three times in three years and was in decline come the election sitting at just 37% at the start of the campaign.
Apparently a competent political analyst is harder than finding a pollster able to identify an ALP primary vote below 34%.
I have digressed.
Had Labor adopted a small target strategy, pitched at the centre with an inclusive and trustworthy leader they would have romped it in.
I suspect Labor will not make the same mistake twice but you never know. A vote for Bowen or Chalmers would probably do it.
The Coalition can also thank their lucky stars for Clive Palmer and his relentless advertising campaign.
Many commentators have smugly gloated at his lack of electoral success draping themselves in fake political virtue about him not being able to buy his way into parliament while remaining hypocritically silent on union and GetUp political donations and campaign spend.
On current counting Clive Palmer has 3.5% of the national vote which equates to almost 575,000 voters meaning he has more followers than most of the Lefty jumped-up presenters on ABC news and current affairs programs.
To dismiss the impact UAP has had on the Labor primary vote especially in Queensland is breathtakingly ignorant.
The key takeaway here is that the Liberal Party will not get a free gift of some $50m in Labor attack ads next time.
Hence the need for some internal reflection, some humility and a sober assessment of where to now. This happy convergence of disparate and unpredictable political winds is unlikely to repeat anytime soon.
Despite benefitting from a perfect storm the Coalition is still likely headed for a slender majority of just two-to-three seats.
What is troubling for the Coalition is that its primary vote is down to 41.4%. Historically this has been a losing percentage.
For example, Abbott lost the 2010 election (72 seats) on 43.3%, Howard lost in 2007 (65 seats) on 42.1, and Hewson lost (65 seats) in 1993 on 44.3%.
One Nation and United Australia Party are collectively on 6.5% of the national vote at this election and continue to eat into the Coalition vote. In Queensland it is much higher. One Nation is recording a primary vote of 8.7% at the time of writing.
In the absence of change the Coalition’s primary vote problems will remain, which in turn will fuel poll driven media hype (irrespective of how bad the pollsters called this election), which in turn will fuel Liberal Party policy and political tensions.
This brings us to the issue of policy. The bottom line is that difficult policy choices confronting the Liberal Party have not been resolved at this election nor have existential questions concerning party values and ideology.
The Liberal Party operated from a policy free zone at this election instead focusing solely on Labor’s radical agenda. This has only deferred difficult debates and choices that will resume in government.
The Liberal Party remains a high tax and big spend party that has drifted centre-Left on climate, water and energy, immigration and multiculturalism, education and child care, tax and superannuation to name a few.
Where it hasn’t drifted Left it has by and large vacated the field, i.e. free speech, freedom of religion, workplace reform, deregulation, ABC reform / privatisation, academic freedom, free enterprise, and list your favourite culture war (you will struggle to find a Liberal advocate).
It is a party of big government that is reflexively interventionist and centralist to boot having long abandoned the notion of competitive federalism and the principle of Federal-State subsidiarity.
While the Liberal Party’s dysfunction over the past six years has been in part a function of personalities and quests for power it has nonetheless also been firmly rooted in policy and ideological differences.
Is the Liberal Party a party of small government committed to freedom in all its forms or is it a globalist party that is Labor lite? Until it resolves this existential question it will remain divided, suffer from policy paralysis and continue to be dysfunctional.
This election has arguably magnified the problem with swings to the government in aspirational electorates and against the government in its traditional “blue ribbon” affluent electorates. The Liberal leadership team is mostly based in the affluent electorates.
It is incumbent on Scott Morrison to invoke his authority from his stunning election win and resolve this internal tension one way or the other.
Until he does the government will continue to fracture on policy. If it fractures on policy it has no hope of defining its purpose as a government. Absent a purpose it will drift as before into complete dysfunction followed by political oblivion.
Having snatched victory from the jaws of defeat it remains to be seen if the Liberal Party will have learned anything from this election.
A government without purpose will always be defined by its opponents. Nature hates a vacuum.
A good starting point would be to consider that the ALP-Green declared referendum on climate change completely and utterly failed. If anything their opposition to Adani provided the catalyst for the Queensland revolt.
Then imagine what a Liberal Party might look like if it stopped pandering to and stopped being bullied by noisy minorities and instead governed with conservative, common sense conviction, pitched to the sensible centre, that proactively engaged with and informed ordinary voters.
At this election the ordinary voter railed against Shorten’s radical “progressive” agenda despite a tsunami of Left wing activism and media fuelled climate hysteria in support.
Imagine if a political party that actually spoke to them and stood up for common sense and good policy?