Coasting Home

Waste of time.If there was any justice, this election would already be long over. Having initially announced the election date back in January, Julia Gillard, and more latterly Kevin Rudd, have been determined to subject the nation to the political equivalent of peine forte et dure. Our nation this year has witnessed more hand-shaking, baby-kissing, shopping-mall-appearances and bizarre photo stunts than we are likely to see repeated, touch wood, for decades to come. Anything, it seems, but stable governance.

The much vaunted debate between Rudd and Abbott fizzled out into a dance of two men trying to see who could say the least (if you don’t believe me, see it for yourself). The public have tuned out, big time. I sense that journalists of all political stripes simply have run out of things to say. There are a few reasons for this.

The result is a foregone conclusion. I’ve been saying this on other fora for some time, but those with newspapers to sell have been trying to make a boat race out of it. Opinion polls (mostly either run by, or commissioned by, the newspapers anyway) have been rather spectacularly skewed, for a number of fundamental reasons. One is that local issues often take predominance in voter’s estimation, ahead of national ones. The Greens vote in my own area, to take one example, is set to plummet at the September poll, not because of any national policy, but because the Greens in the Tasmanian state parliament have colluded with Labor in siting a toxic waste dump in my back yard, simply in order to make a few bucks and to receive some perfunctory pats on the head from the honchos in the U.N. (they have agreed to accept all waste dumped in Antarctica since 1900). They’ll find out shortly that the people they screw are also voters.

National aggregated polling also ignores the uneven movement of voting intention among seats. It’s a fact that elections in the Australian House of Representatives are decided by about 200,000 people, they being the swinging voters in seats with any chance of changing hands. Who cares what voters in Julia Gillard’s electorate of Lalor, or Joe Hockey’s electorate of North Sydney think? Or whom rusted-on Labor voters choose between Rudd and Abbott as preferred Prime Minister? Polling targeted in marginal seats is far more revealing.

The best predictor of elections isn’t opinion polls, but the betting market. When people are actually putting down their hard-earned, as opposed to merely being asked their opinion by pollsters, they collectively get it right, every single time. As I write this, Centrebet currently has the Coalition at $1.10, with Labor paying $7.00; Sportsbet have the Coalition at $1.09, with Labor blowing out to $7.25. Even those agencies are reportedly refusing to take large bets on the Coalition, even at those prices; they are, to all intents and purposes, unbackable. You can take it as read, Tony Abbott will be elected Prime Minister on 7th September, leading a government with a majority of between 20 and 30 seats.

Or perhaps more. Which, if it occurs, raises some interesting possibilities. Kevin Rudd was finally able to convince his parliamentary colleagues to re-instate him over Julia Gillard, as polls indicated Labor heading for its greatest landslide loss since Federation. An act of “saving the furniture”, as doomed to failure as was Gillard’s knifing of Rudd in the first place. Analysts in the last days of Gillard’s tenure were predicting Labor to lose up to 40 seats in the September poll; you can use this election calculator to translate a uniform swing into a theoretical Lower House election result. A modest 5% swing against Labor sees the Coalition with a massive 39-seat majority, while a 10% swing would leave Labor with just 31 seats, the Coalition with 116—an unimaginable 85-seat majority. If those figures seem outlandish, remember that the swings against Labor in the 2011 NSW state election and 2012 Queensland election were of the order of 20%. That won’t happen federally, but if it did, it would leave Labor with less than ten seats in the Lower House, possibly even no longer qualifying for funding under the Electoral Act, as has now happened in Queensland.

When governments in this country win by such crushing majorities, there are inevitably calls from within their extreme fringes for the victorious party to go beyond their mandate, and all kinds of hobby-horses start to emerge from the woodwork. Following the Queensland election, there were loud calls for the re-introduction of the death penalty in that state. Who knows what sort of proposals we might see raised under such a lop-sided federal parliament, or what sorts of pressures to which Tony Abbott might be subjected to give such proposals oxygen? I’m thinking here particularly about the agrarian socialist elements within the National Party, which are set to regain the seats of Lyne and New England, vacated by “independents” Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor. The nationalization of Cubbie Station, floated by Barnaby Joyce last year ahead of an ultimate foreign consortium buyout, is only one of the more prominent items on the Nationals’ laundry-list of what is often an anti-free-market policy platform.

Firebrand: erstwhile National Party Senator and likely next Member for New England Barnaby Joyce may find himself at odds with his Liberal coalition partners in the next parliament

The real race is in the Senate. On 7th September, in addition to an election of the House of Representatives, there is also an election for half the federal Senate. As of today, the Australian Federal Senate is composed of 34 Coalition Senators, 31 Labor, 9 Greens plus two others. Only three of the nine Greens senators are facing the people (the rest are up in 2016), and while South Australian senator Sarah Hanson-Young appears set to lose the third spot in that state to the independent, popular local anti-gambling advocate Nick Xenophon, the two remaining Greens, Scott Ludlum in Western Australia and Peter Whish-Wilson in Tasmania, look set to hang on to office.

This is important because the primary focus of a new Abbott government will be the repeal of the Carbon Tax, foisted on a not-entirely unwilling Gillard government by the Australian Greens as a pre-condition of power-sharing, and in direct violation of an explicit pre-election promise:

Well, I suppose it’s the case that the last government was led, not by Gillard, but by this bloke. So she wasn’t exactly lying. 🙄

The point is, Abbott’s first piece of legislation will be the repeal of the Carbon Tax. Should the Coalition pick up an extra Senate seat in each of the mainland states (improbable, but not impossible), then they will hold 39 seats, enough to pass legislation without the support of Xenophon or Victorian DLP Senator John Madigan. Otherwise, should Labor not respect the Coalition’s mandate in the Lower House and block repeal legislation in the Senate, Abbott will be constitutionally empowered to seek a double-dissolution election; that is, the entire parliament, House of Representatives and the Senate, will be dissolved and we will face a second election, probably before Christmas.

Any such second poll would become a bloodbath for both Labor and the Greens, and would produce an effective one-party state in Australia for years to come, as is already the case in Queensland and New South Wales. Much as I want to see the end of the current government, democracy under the Westminster system can only function effectively with a strong and principled Opposition. Historically, overwhelming majorities in Australian state and federal parliaments have led to excess, corruption and decay—on both sides of politics.


Two state administrations corrupted by unbridled power: Sir Robert Askin’s NSW government and Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s Queensland fiefdom were proof that even conservative administrations need to be kept in check by a strong Opposition and free press.

It’s hard to believe, but there are still another eighteen days to go until the end of the collective national toothache that this election campaign has become. There’s little left to say. We already know the outcome. The sooner, and more decisively, it is over with, the better.

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27 Responses to Coasting Home

  1. izen says:

    So if Abbot gets rid of the carbon tax what will the government do to replace the lost revenue?

    Or is this another load of idiots who think that your grow an economy by imposing austerity?!

    The big fall in energy generation producing carbon in Australia from what I can determine has been a result of the rising electricity costs from renewing the old infrastructure and increasing fuel prices over the last decade rather than the rather modest increases from the carbon tax. That and the government support for solar panels which has been a big factor in reducing demand.
    Will Abbot continue the RET support ?

    Balancing a budget has two aspects: raise revenue, and reduce expenditure. Get it down to where you’re spending no more than you earn. Or even less than you earn, should you be saddled with a twelve-digit debt left behind by your wastrel of a predecessor – which included the kind of idiots who believed economies were grown by governments 🙄

    The last Coalition government did just this, not only balancing its own budget, but managing to pay down the vast debt racked up by its Labor predecessor. This one will too – Oz

  2. farmerbraun says:

    It being inconceivable that any government, anywhere, would ever contemplate reducing expenditure , right Izen?

  3. Me says:

    She’s wearing that Rudd’s-Balls necklace again.

    Never noticed it before – Oz 😆

  4. Ozboy says:

    When there’s nothing left to say – turn to our friends in Taiwan:

  5. Mark says:

    G’day Oz,

    Concerning the Senate, any changes to its composition won’t actually take effect until 1 July 2014. So no matter what result the Libs achieve, they will face a hostile Senate until at least that date. Of course, if they do win enough Senate spots to eventually get a majority the delay might not be all that material. After all, even in the best of worlds, they probably couldn’t repeal the CO2 tax before year’s end, so a further six months is neither here nor there. Indeed it could be helpful in that they could continue to gather the revenue while blaming the Lab/Green senators. And I suspect they’re going to need every dollar they can get their hands on.

    I feel you’re right that Abbott is going to cruise into power. Few electors are still listening to either side and Sept 7 can’t come fast enough for most. Unless someone comes up with a photo of Abbott buggering a gay beached whale while in fish-nets stockings, there is no conceivable scenario where his lead will dissipate. But I’ve never been a big fan of the notion that big wins or big majorities have any bearing on subsequent elections. Remember that Howard’s big win in 2004 meant nothing come 2007.

    I’m becoming increasingly worried by the Libs. They are walking into a potential fire-storm in terms of economic conditions but are still promising parent-leave payments and NDIS and Gonski etc etc. I just hope that they are aware that the level of cost cutting required to get debt under control is significant and will be even harder if the economy turns south. Well, actually, I’m sure they are aware of it, but do they have the balls to do it?

    G’day Mark,

    You’re quite right about the Senate composition not changing till mid next year. I was thinking about it as I started writing the article, then it slipped my mind. So the arguments about the Carbon Tax repeal actually refer primarily to the Senate in its current composition. Abbott in interviews about this has been somewhat coy about his tactics in the event of the Senate blocking his Carbon Tax repeal legislation, but he has always hinted darkly at “Constitutional avenues open to the government”, i.e., a double dissolution. As you suggest, he’s probably waiting to see how the Senate numbers stack up after 14 September before deciding on tactics.

    On that subject, I’m getting increasingly outraged over the combination of compulsory attendance at polling booths and above-the-line Senate voting. I’ve got to zip (to quote someone recently whose name eludes me) but I’ll have more to say about that topic a bit later today – Oz

  6. Ozboy says:

    OT, but I’ve been waiting a long time to hear this interview:

    Bravo Michael Smith for bringing it to us, and triple bravo Bob Kernohan – mate, you’re a bloody hero.

  7. izen says:

    @- farmerbraun
    “It being inconceivable that any government, anywhere, would ever contemplate reducing expenditure , right Izen?”

    Pretty much, yes. The empirical evidence from history and the present is clear. A modern civilised society needs a government which uses between 40% and 50% of the GDP to maintain and progress the material and conceptual assest of that society. It is possible to run a basic society with as little as 30% of GDP, but then you get corrupt narco-states like Mexico or the neo-feudal satraps of S E Asia.
    If you can point to a state or society that maintains a decent environment for less than forty percent of the GDP I would be interested to know of it.

    I see that Ozboy is also a victim of the nonsense about ‘balanced budgets’ for governments, as if they were comparable to household budgets. Any effective government will have a debt many times its GDP, a balanced budget, or surplus, indicates a government failing to invest in its own future. An obvious example; education is a huge cost for modern governments, big savings could be made by cutting education. But every dollar of debt pays back multiple times in a more capable workforce. Not to mention the individual benefit of increased knowledge and understanding. The big advances in technology over the last century are almost all the result of government investment and development. I can think pf no significant scientific, technological, medical or electronic advance that was not massively backed by government monies. Often in the guise of military investment.

    There is credible evidence that government tax of its citizens does not significantly harm private enterprise until the tax rate exceeds around 70%. However regulatory capture of governments by big business results in much low rates, at least for business!

    “Balanced budgets are nonsense”. OK. At least we all know where you stand.

    Regulatory capture is where I will tend to agree with you. It is an area where the Abbott government will need to be eternally vigilant; greater conservative administrations than Abbott’s is likely to be, have fallen victim to it in the past. Smaller government, less red/green/whatever colour tape, is the pathway forward to an expanding economy. Not bigger government with vast debt – Oz

  8. Luton Ian says:

    who ties your shoe laces for you?

  9. Luton Ian says:


    an interesting one for you re the carbon tax.

    Taking the catastrophic AGW crowd on their own terms, even their worst case scenarios (the tiny percentage density functions of the runs of Knutti 2003 which is the only model in IPCC AR4 Working Group 1 fig 10-28 to give warming of more than 4 celcius) they acknowledge short and medium term benefits due to the mild warming, before the costs begin to kick in with their catastrophic warming.

    Any economic modelling of short and medium term benefits and long term costs to derive a present value for “social cost” is very dependant on the discount rate used.

    US guvmint rules call for the use of a 7% discount scenario for all cost/benefit analyses, as 7% is the assumed rate of return on market investments (the uses the funds which the state snatches would have gone to, if they weren’t snatched).

    The US crowd have not published the 7% scenario, as it gives the present social cost of carbon, not as a cost, but as a benefit.

    Were they to stick to their pretext of the mainstream Pigouvian / Coasean idea that taxes or subsidies should be applied in all cases of externality so that “Economic value” is made equal to “Social value”

    Then carbon taxes would not be taxes, they would be subsidies.

    Don’t you just love it when an argument fails even on its supporters home ground

    Interesting point Ian, that deserves exploration by one more accountancy-literate than me. I have to deal with discount rates and NPVs at work, but beyond the basic maths I’m out of my depth.

    The real issue about carbon taxes, even setting aside debates over AGW science, is they make no measurable difference to the world’s climate – even by the warmists’ own calculations. In a sane world, that should stop the argument, right there – Oz

  10. Ozboy says:

    Watched the debate last night. Fair dinkum, Kevvie Sevvie’s turning away even Labor supporters in droves. I got the feeling a lot of them watching were hoping Tony turned round and snotted the effete little grub. Didn’t happen, but we’ll be shot of him soon enough.

    Interesting how these debates get “judged”; the 105 people in the audience gave it 37 to Abbott, 35 Rudd and 33 undecided. Andrew Bolt reckons the live “worm” was hijacked by Labor supporters, while an online debate poll was hacked in favour of the Coalition. He’s probably right on both counts.

    At least one person who was there has made up her mind. Good on her. Although apparently she’s now been subjected to cyber-abuse, for doing no more than voicing her opinion and speaking the truth.

  11. Ozboy says:

    Paul Murray agrees with me that the race is already over, and the debates have changed nothing (H/T Catallaxy Files)

  12. Ozboy says:

    Even if Labor wins the election (making a small number of punters extremely wealthy), it now appears Kevvie won’t be sworn in as PM.

    And in the double unlikelihood of Labor winning the election, and Rudd managing to retain his own seat, the parliamentary Labor Party will dump him at the earliest possible opportunity. It’s impossible to overstate, for my overseas readers, the intensity of their feelings toward him: they absolutely hate his guts. Mark my words, they’ve already booked his arse on a train out of town, regardless of what happens on 7th September.

    He just may even need a Liberal Party security detail to save him from a Labor lynch mob. And if he was thinking of a cushy U.N. sinecure in retirement, or the ambassadorship to China, he can think again. It’s customary in Australia for a newly-victorious government to be magnanimous in victory, and appoint erstwhile political opponents to plum positions. Tony Abbott will do just that with a number of universally-respected retiring Labor politicians. But Rudd won’t be one of them.

  13. izen says:

    You’ve raised several issues here Izen, so I’ll be unfairly rude to you and respond to you in-line – Oz

    One day when I’m in the mood for malicious entertainment Ozboy I might ask you to justify your faith in balanced budgets with empirical examples… should be good for a laugh. Japan and China are the poster-boys of the advantages of unbalanced budgets! in which case I might just raise the example of the Howard government, elected in 1996, and managed not just to pay down the massive debt racked up by the Hawke-Keating Labor government, but managed to put $20 billion in the bank (instead of returning it to taxpayers) 👿

    I have expressed my doubts about any of the policy responses to AGW before and hold no hope that emissions tax or trading schemes are going to impact CO2 production we’ve discussed this before, and we’re agreed. The big drop in Australian emissions while coincident with the carbon tax is due to other factors, such as the rise of PV home and small business systems. But that is already under attack by the electricity generation businesses as they see consumption fall.

    Trying to predict the winners and losers from mild, moderate and severe climate change is probably impossible before the fact also agreed. In some societies the necessary adaptions will be a net gain, others will lack the infrastructure and government support to adapt without massive disruption and human harm. The responses to the intensifying droughts in the SW US and parts of Africa are examples. In Las Vegas the dwindling water resources have prompted use efficiencies that have significantly reduced per capita consumption. The same adaptions are not evident in other places. The intrinsic wealth and the way in which governments facilitate investment in adaptive technology is key. Adaptation, as opposed to mitigation, is somewhere we could productively go sometime soon – Oz

  14. Luton Ian says:

    Izen, I repeat the question,

    who ties your shoe laces for you?

  15. izen says:

    @- Luton Ian


  16. Me says:

    Oz — Re my comment of 21st August:
    I think the symbolism or message of jewellery (or, for non-rich persons such as I, ‘bling’) is important. My mother once wore a glass representation of male genitals as a necklace. Barefoot princess that I am, I thought it unbelievably crass. She wasn’t even prime minister of Australia!

    It’s a matter of record that Julia was one serious man-eater. Maybe it was a trophy? Oz

  17. Me says:

    By the way, I LOVE in-line responses to a message/argument/letter. I used to do them all the time with someone I talked to via e-mail. Made conversation more immediate and precise, and skipped all the bother of ‘in re your remarks about…’ etc.

    I normally won’t do it unless (as in the comment above) there is a case to be made that it significantly increases legibility. As blogmeister I have an unfair advantage over commenters to be able do this, and to exercise that power injudiciously, particularly against commenters like Izen who may disagree with me, interrupting them mid-stream, is a bit undemocratic and stifles debate. So I keep it to a minimum – Oz

  18. Me says:

    Oz: Ha! I bet she was, the lucky sod.

  19. Kitler says:

    Well the first picture tells me at a glance Rudd is a sociopath it’s the smirk that betrays him that says I’m in on some vast inside joke about humanity and the Universe, he’s a possible gobknobbler.

  20. Luton Ian says:

    I’ll have to stop visiting Liberty gibbet at times when I’ve got food and mugs of tea around, anytime there’s reference to a certain woman getting all flirty or her past conquests;

    the milk in my tea curdles and turns to cheese, my cornflakes go limp and any cutlery droops and becomes hopelessly flacid, and I get a sudden and inexplicable urge to bathe in dettol…

    @ Kitler,
    Yeah, could be – tickled tonsils and all that. ps, did you see Chelsea [ne Bradley] Manning:

    I guess the poor thing had plenty of time to think that over while in solitary confinement

  21. farmerbraun says:

    “the milk in my tea curdles and turns to cheese,”
    The milk of human kindness does that :-

    “When you knew that I had given all the kindness that I had
    Did you think that it might be time to stop?
    When you knew that I was through
    That I’d done all I could do
    Did you really have to milk the final drop?

    Not content with my mistake
    You behaved just like a snake
    And you left me for a wasp without a sting
    Tell all my friends back home
    That I did it on my own
    And that to their well-worn cares they should cling

    When you knew that I had given all the kindness that I had
    Did you feel you had to break that lonely vow?
    When you knew that I was through
    That I’d done all I could do
    Did you really have to sow that final plough?

    Read more: Procol Harum – The Milk Of Human Kindness Lyrics | MetroLyrics

  22. Me says:

    FB: Sometimes the ‘kindness’ has to stop. As someone I don’t know any more said about his first divorce (though he was always a great rationalizer and has never given it up): ‘two unhappy people aren’t better than one‘.

  23. Me says:

    Sorry: that should be ‘his first and only divorce’. Though I did have reason to wonder about his third marriage (wife no. 2, for whom he left wife no. 1, died of cancer).

  24. Me says:

    Jonah Goldberg on the (ghastly) New Mexico ruling and the difference between liberals and libertarians (excerpted from the unpaid-for Dear Reader column in my Inbox):

    Your typical liberal Democrat says she’s liberal on social issues but that doesn’t make her in any meaningful way a libertarian. For instance, the vast majority of the libertarians I know hate things like speech codes, smoking bans, racial quotas, and the vast swaths of political indoctrination that pass for “education” today. They tend to oppose gun control, think fondly of homeschooling (if not always homeschoolers) and are generally split on the question of abortion. They do not, however, think that the government should be steamrolling religious institutions with Obamacare or subsidizing birth control. Liberals tend to loathe federalism or states’ rights (though there’s been some movement there), libertarians usually love the idea. The liberals who don’t like it fear that states or local communities might use their autonomy to live in ways liberals don’t approve of. Libertarians couldn’t care less.

    Sure, there’s overlap between liberalism and libertarianism on things like gay marriage. But the philosophical route libertarians and liberals take to get to that support is usually very different. Libertarians are disciples of thinkers like Hayek and von Mises. Liberals descend from thinkers like John Dewey. The former believed in negative liberty, the latter positive liberty. And therein lies all of the difference. As a gross generalization, libertarianism advocates freedom to do whatever you like (short of harming others). Liberalism supports freedom to do whatever liberals like; everything else is suspect.

    Liberals are no doubt cheering the news out of New Mexico, while most libertarians are probably at least conflicted, if not dismayed, about it.

    That’s because libertarianism is about curbing state power to let people be and do what they want. Liberalism is about using state power to make people do and be what liberals want. And that makes all the difference in the world.

  25. Me says:

    p.s. the emphasis was lost: freedom to do whatever LIBERALS like…. MAKE people do, etc. Sorry about that: thought I was being clever by showing the citation in italics %^/|

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