Tasmania’s election continues the decline of the major parties

Contributed by Joe Montero

As the blame game unrolls, the result of the weekend’s Tasmanian election is more about the national trend than it is about the performance of the Labor and Liberal Party leaders. Shallow reporting concentrates on the personalities and can’t see the bigger picture. But you can bet the political strategists do see it.

Tasmania’s election resulted in a miserable primary vote result the major parties. The Liberals took first place with just 36.7 percent of the primary vote, scoring a decline of 12 percent. Labor merely got 29.3 percent. When the cards should have been stacked their way, they only managed to get a 1 percent increase. Only 66 percent of Tasmanians voted for them. The rest went half to the greens, with the remainder split between the Jacqui Lambie Network and Independents.

Photo from Pulse: Parliament House in Hobart

The election was called because two of the Liberal parliamentarians, John Tucker and Lara Alexander, had quit the party to become independents because, like the mainland defectors of recent times, they were unhappy with the direction of the party. In the election had primarily been driven by uniquely Tasmanian issues,  

The Liberals are left having to try and cobble together a coalition with the Jackie Lambie Network  and

independents. This may not be so easy to do. Even if there is initial success, it will prove to be an uneasy alliance.

Labor can form its own minority government. To do this they must form a partnership with the Greens and some of the Independents. This will require significant concessions to their demands. But this will stick in the throat of Labor, even if its constituency feels otherwise.

The Greens were the big winners in this election, just like they have been in all recent mainland elections. The reason is simple. Australia is increasingly seeing that neither of the major parties represents their interests. Australia is turning towards alternatives.

Growing disconnection between the two historically dominant parties and the broad community rests in the failure to address the major concerns of today. Most Australians are feeling the pinch from the growing cost of housing, steep rises in the prices of groceries and other basic necessities, and the decline in government services overall. Hope that the future will bring better has faded. Small businesses are going to the wall at an unprecedented rate.

People see a political elite that favours the corporate world over the needs of the average citizen. They no longer fall so easily for the promises and claims that the situation is in hand and going well. This stands at odds with lived reality.

Climate can’t be discounted. Change is hitting home with the rise of unusual weather patterns and their effect on everyone’s lives.

The national shift in the political scene also taking place in Tasmania, is a good development and not a bad one. Within it lies the germ of change. A dissatisfied population is capable of finding new ways of doing things, and this can give rise to a new political consciousness.

Australia’s shifting towards an era of minority governments is part of this change. It at least partially breaks away from the political rut engineered by a political system organised to limit choice an maintain a duopoly with little difference and silence other voices. Elections have long depended on big money and the favour of media moguls to provide good press. The electoral system is designed to exclude other voices. Take the Greens. The number of seats they can get is nowhere near proportional to the number of Australians voting for them. Despite the obstacles they managed to increase their seats from 2 to 4.

Change won’t come just through the electoral process. The rise of a movement consciously working for this change, taking deep root in the population, consciously articulating a clear direction, and involving millions in practical action that empowers them is what will make all the difference. There is a long way to go to realise this in Australia. Perhaps the growing incapacity of the political elite can start pushing Australia in this direction.

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