Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Some lessons from the recent election results in the seats of Denison and Indi (Australian Federal Election, 2013)

I've been waiting to comment on the results of the Australian Federal Election until the results of the count for the seat of Indi were completed.  I saw the results in the two seats of  Denison (where I live) and Indi as being related to each other.

In some ways, they are very different seats. 
  • Denison in Tasmania, is a city-based seat, including much of the urban and suburban areas of Hobart, and - in the last two-and-a-half decades - has become one of the more left-leaning seats in the country.  At the 2010 election, the independent candidate Andrew Wilkie was elected as the MP for Denison, and he was easily re-elected in this year's election.
  • Indi, in northeastern Victoria, is a traditionally conservative rural seat (although it does include some small cities such as Wangaratta and Wodonga).  Since 2001, the MP for Indi was Sophie Mirabella, a standard-bearer for the right-wing of the Coalition parties.  Today, it was confirmed that Ms. Mirabella was narrowly beaten in this year's election by a middle-of-the-road independent Cathy McGowan.
The results in these two seats say a few things about Australian politics today.
  • The results in both seats tell us that there is plenty of room in the Australian Parliament for independent members with a commitment to their local electorates and without party-related baggage.
  • The results in Denison tell us that there is plenty of room on the "progressive" side of Australian politics for politicians that occupy the political space between the ALP and the Greens (much like the Australian Democrats of blessed memory), i.e. for politicians who are more principled than the ALP but more pragmatic than the Greens.
  • The results in Indi tell us that politicians (whether on the "right" or on the "left") who are seen more as proponents of an ideology than as representatives of their electorate can be very, very vulnerable from a good challenger with a high level of local credibility.
In my opinion, these are some hopeful signs.  Congratulations, Ms. McGowan!  Congratulations, Mr. Wilkie!


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