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The election Rudd could have won

  • 23 August 2010

There are a number of memorable aspects to this 2010 federal election result, but none more so than its expected result as a hung parliament, one in which neither side, Labor nor the Coalition, has achieved a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. The party leaders, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, now must begin negotiating with the Independents and the Green MP even before the election count is concluded.

This type of outcome, close results and often hung parliaments, is fast becoming the new Australian way. You only have to witness recent state and territory elections in Tasmania, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory (and even Western Australia in part). Just about all of them have ended this way since the defeat of the Howard Government in November 2007. This development has not received enough attention in early post-mortems of the Federal Election.

It reflects an evenly divided electorate unconvinced by the claims of either side; as well as disillusionment with the way the political process is conducted. All of these elements were demonstrated during this campaign.

The memorable aspects include the precipitous decline and possible defeat of a first-term Labor Government, and the best-ever performance of the Greens in both houses; including their first-ever general election win in the House of Representatives in the electorate of Melbourne.

There have also been notable landmark individual performances, including those of the two Wyatts (Ken Wyatt who is likely to become the first Indigenous member of the House of Representatives by winning Hasluck in Western Australia for the Liberals; and Wyatt Roy who, at 20 years of age, has become the youngest ever member by winning Longman in Queensland for the Liberals).

Ed Husic, winning Chifley in Sydney for Labor, has become the first Muslim elected to the federal Parliament.

The result also suggests some fascinating questions. Prime among them is whether Labor panicked and threw away this election when it deposed Kevin Rudd and replaced him with Gillard in June.

Would Rudd have done better? The answer is probably yes. He would likely have done better in Queensland, though less well in the rest of the country. But on balance Labor probably would have done better given the enormity of Labor losses in Queensland (ten seats lost). This occurred even though NSW State Labor is more unpopular than Queensland State Labor. Labor did well in patches in NSW and only lost