Ten weeks ago the Canberra Press Gallery was swooning in appreciation of Malcolm Turnbull’s double dissolution strategy.
Last week the conventional wisdom was that the Government would be comfortably re-elected. The blog rated the probability of that at between 60 and 70% but expressed a niggling doubt (partly prompted by Tim Colebatch’s insightful piece in Inside Story) that it might be closer than we all thought. Tim’s latest Inside Story piece is also very useful for analysing what might happen. For the blog this niggling doubt was reinforced initially by the close election eve polls and then the closeness of the exit polls.
The blog is fairly confident that there won’t be a hung Parliament (but then it once wrote that Tony Abbott was unelectable even if that prediction was rendered null and void by Kevin Rudd) and that the Government will win somewhere between 76 and 78 seats with 80 being an outlier possibility.
But what is most interesting is what happens next. A win is a win but when a significant number of your party detest you – there is a problem. While on the ABC Scott Morrison was confidently predicting a win and total support for the PM a Liberal MP (nameless) texted the ABC’s Chris Uhlmann with a scathing comment on the PM which he read out to little comment from other panellists. Also, Andrew Bolt blogged that the PM should stand down immediately no doubt giving another pointer to the views of some in the Liberal Party. So likelihood one is that there will be low level grumbling and civil war in the new government between liberals and those who echo the extremes of the US Republican Party.
Likelihood two is that the Senate will be a mess and that much of the Government’s agenda won’t get up which will compound the grumbling and low level civil war within the government. This will be further compounded by the reality that a significant number of Ministers and backbenchers will now be on very thin electoral margins making them very susceptible to fear for their own careers.
Likelihood three is that the slim majority and the messy Senate will result in S&P (and perhaps some of the other rating agencies) downgrading Australia’s AAA rating. This would be a nonsense as Australia’s situation is very healthy compared with the rest of the world but ratings agencies’ views are heavily influenced by their perceptions of the deficit and debt debate.
But what about certainties? In complex systems (butterflies and hurricanes anyone?) there are few certainties other than the chaos, But there is one certainty – confirmed by the morning TV programs – the Canberra Press Gallery and the commentariat will default to their standard position on all things political – speculating about leadership. Much easier to do than grappling with more complex, and significant, issues.
The other certainty is the imminent demise of the Fairfax print editions. Nothing illustrates better the irrelevance of much print media than the election morning after newspapers which look quaint when you can compare them with the ABC’s election coverage you can see when you get up on Sunday morning. But then as long as they keep publishing Ross Gittins and Peter Martin online and we can find Tony Walker and Tim Colebatch on other online publications will even print fans like the blog care?