The week before the Senate election in WA, out came the anti-Greens, especially from the journalist Mark Kenny, who seems to be turning more into a blatant anti-Green warrior, which we can see in this Punch article and article in the Age. He even went past the level of anti – Green usually invoked by Paula Matthewson (such as in this Guardian piece from June and another piece predicting the demise of the Greens, after the Tasmanian election). With the result in WA for the Greens, I am boldly predicting what will be written about it, with the help of Eric Abetz and Julie Bishop on the ABC’s coverage.
Spin 1. It’s a By – Election. This was a Protest Vote.
In by-elections, voters often vote either for the main opposition or for a protest party. The Greens were the protest party of choice. (Even though Palmer United got a bigger swing towards them.) This doesn’t explain, however, the drop in the Labor vote as well. The question in that regard is – What has Bull Snooten done to deserve that?
Spin 2. The Greens Bought This One
The Greens spent significant money and resources on a Senate only campaign and that’s how they managed to buy online ads that swamped the spends that would have been done by the Liberals and Labor (Oh really?) For example, I can see much comment about things like this:
I would have thought the Liberal and Labor parties’ spends would have been far more significant than the Green one, as it is in every election. In addition, I am not holding my breath to wait for the spinners to discuss the idea of targeted spends and employment of resources in an innovative way.
Spin 3. The Greens had More People on the Ground and On the Phones
It would be interesting to see if this spin – which will emerge soon enough – is actually supported by any empirical evidence. I would have thought Labor, for example, had a lot of phone calls and “ground game” happening for a while, even if Joe Bullock is a hard sell.
Spin 4. It Was a Low Turnout. That always favours smaller parties.
This is Bolta’s spin (along with the protest vote). Not entirely sure that there is much evidence from past elections to support this contention.
Spin 5. Scott Ludlam’s Hair
I think this will be a Twitter explanation – that the cult of personality that gathered around Scott Ludlam was a significant factor. The Speech, they will say, Went Viral. This was despite many saying at the time that Ludlam’s speech was vacuous and pure self serving politics – and would have little impact. That will be turned around now and probably spun as “an example of how social media was harnessed in a one off election of a personality, not a party”. The “People Voted for a Personality, Not the Party” line will be, I suspect, one of the most popular.
Spin 6. This Was a One Off. The Greens Are Still in Decline
This will be the theme of many of the pieces we will see this week from those in Canberra and elsewhere that have a thinly veiled loathing of the Greens and the type of new politics they represent. They will cite Tasmania, September as examples of the Greens In Decline and then turn around and say this was a one-off due to Personality, Protest, Low Turnout, and so on, so on.
What you won’t hear from media outlets will be these ideas of why the Greens went well in WA –
1. Intelligent, targeted campaigning
To do online advertising and some phone banking might be evidence of intelligent, targeted campaigning aimed at the core swinging voter, which is evidence of good election tactics from a campaign that still would have been outspent by the majors and certainly by Palmer.
2. Selection of a good Senate candidate.
Our media outlets almost never feature them in general election coverage – they are too fond of staying with the pre-ordained election caravan that follows the Leaders and a few other. If they did cover the Senate election properly, we’d never have candidates like Joe Bullock trotted out. And we wouldn’t have Mr. Motoring Enthusiast in the Senate.
3. The Greens Have a Positive Message
As much as you’ll hear about Ludlam’s speech slamming Abbott, the main thrust of the Greens’ philosophy is about building positives – renewable energy, Green jobs, sustainable, balanced development. Ludlam is a representative of that positive approach to politics – he’s not a cynical representative of the political machine like Joe Bullock, David Johnston and the Assistant Minister for Immigration, Michaelia Cash.
And there’s many more actual reasons. Let’s see how many we see. Probably something or nothing to do with this…