After relating how Murdoch ‘ruperters’ were losing their minds after Labor and Centre Alliance swept the by-elections in late July1, and now that my mirth at their discomfiture has subsided, it is probably useful to analyse the results, hopefully to try to work out what it all means.
Firstly, the results were quite decisive:
In Braddon (NW Tasmania), Labor’s Justine Keay got a primary vote of 36.99%, with a two-party preferred vote of 52.32%2.
In Fremantle (SW Western Australia), Labor’s Josh Wilson received 52.63% of the primary vote and 67.21% of the two-party preferred vote3. The Liberal Party did not run a candidate.
In Longman (SE Queensland), Labor’s Susan Lamb received 39.83% of the primary vote and 54.35% of the two-party preferred vote4.
In Mayo (SE South Australia), Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie received 44.43% of the primary vote, and 57.60% of the two-party preferred vote5.
In Perth (SW Western Australia), Labor’s Patrick Gorman received 39.32% of the primary vote, and 63.12% of the two-party preferred vote6. The Liberal Party did not run a candidate.
During the campaign for these by-elections, Turnbull stated that the Longman by-election was a test of leadership between himself and Bill Shorten7. This bravado was presumably engendered by polls indicated that the Liberal’s Trevor Ruthenberg could win the seat. However, when it became clear that Ruthenberg was going to be trounced, Turnbull used the convenient excuse that ‘by-elections always go against the government’8. Clearly, the ‘leadership test’ was an embarrassment and was never mentioned again by Turnbull or anyone else in government.
The fact that by-elections tend to have a swing of a few percent against the government, and have done for most of the last century, makes these results unexceptional on the face of it. However, when you look at the opprobrium heaped on Bill Shorten in particular, with all sorts of fabrications published in the main media outlets, especially those owned by Rupert Murdoch, it was a stunning result. One of the funniest piles of ordure spread around was the supposed leadership tensions between Anthony Albanese and Shorten. This was based on a single speech given by Albanese on the future of the Labor Party. To spin it as being at odds with the views of Shorten was nothing short of miraculous9. To fabricate this story and effectively ignore the constant sniping at Turnbull from within the Liberal Party by Tony Abbott, demonstrates clearly the lack of integrity of many journalists, particularly the ‘ruperters’ from the Murdoch zoo.
The by-election results have seemingly cemented Shorten’s leadership, but seriously weakened Turnbull’s. Rumour has it that his disappearing act over the four or five days after the by-elections were due to him, initially, coping with the blue funk caused by the loss, then hitting the phones with the aim of shoring up his leadership against the Abbott insurgency. The Liberal Party realise that they are in deep electoral trouble, given that they lost all by-elections (where they ran candidates) by a much greater margin than expected. This was despite the concerted media efforts to undermine the Labor Party in general, and Shorten in particular.