QTU President's comment: 4 July 2016

Election outcomes 2016 – what we know so far

With the final 2016 federal election outcomes as much as a month away it is important to take stock of what we know now and the lessons we have learnt.

The election outcome (so far)

At the close of counting on Saturday night, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) had called 69 seats for Labor, with two close seats in which Labor is leading. The AEC has called 64 seats for the Liberal National Coalition, with three close seats where that party leads. Six seats remain in doubt. There are currently 5 other parties with seats in the lower house, an increase of one. Based on these numbers, it would seem that neither major party can achieve the 76 seats needed to form a majority government, but Labor is in the stronger position.

A significant number of government seats in Queensland and across the nation fell, or are on the verge of falling as a consequence of factors including our schools funding campaign. Capricornia (1.5 per cent swing), Flynn (8 per cent swing), Forde (4.5 per cent swing), Herbert (7 per cent swing) and Longman (8.5 per cent swing) are very much potential gains for candidates supportive of Gonski. A range of seats held by such candidates have been won again with improved margins in the face of media speculation about difficulties: Blair, Oxley, Rankin and Moreton. A further group of government seats have had their electoral margins slashed and remain under watch, with Gonski education funding playing a part in each outcome.

In Tasmania (three seats to Labor) and New South Wales (seven seats to Labor) our colleagues in the respective AEU bodies report that Gonski school funding played a massive role in the no less than 10 seats that have changed to progressive candidates. With a very strong chance of five seats to fall in Queensland, three seats in South Australia (two of which go to the Nick Xenophon Team), two seats in Western Australia and one seat in the Northern Territory, the Coalition has had its gains at the 2013 election erased and the hung parliament of 2010 may be revisited. The big losses in Tasmania and the Northern Territory and strong performances by sitting Labor members in the ACT means that there are no Liberal or National party MPs from these three states and territories.

Counting in the Senate will take a long time to complete and it is not expected that quotas will be be distributed until at least the close of postal votes in two weeks’ time. Early indications are that the composition of the Senate following the unusual double dissolution election will be even more diverse. This will add to the challenges facing an incoming government, which will need to negotiate its legislative agenda with the Senate cross-benchers.

It now also appears clear that the anti-union double dissolution triggers used by the Turnbull Liberal National government will have no chance of passing, even in the joint sitting that could occur early in the 45th parliament elected on Saturday. In fact, despite this being the cause of the early election in the first instance, industrial relations was not a matter canvassed by the government to any great extent during the election campaign.

The campaign

A decade long community campaign to put education on the agenda of the political parties and at the forefront of voters’ minds culminated on 2 July. The 2016 federal election was billed as an education election and we helped to deliver just that.

Led by the Australian Education Union (AEU), of which the QTU is a large part, and working in concert with the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ “Build a Better Future” campaign, a huge community campaign resulted in a clear and unambiguous political divide on education funding. Very early on, Labor and the Greens declared themselves publicly to be supportive of delivering the funding promised in the full Gonski model settled under Julia Gillard’s government in 2013 – the model that was the subject of the infamous unity ticket in the last federal election.

In sharp contrast, the Liberal Party and National Party didn’t just repudiate the Gonski settlement but replaced it with an inferior budgetary allocation attached to repugnant conditions such as new standardised tests for students and performance pay for teachers. All of which was announced on the weekend before the federal budget in an astounding misjudgement of the mood of the electorate on school funding.

A magnificent community election campaign has ensued. Gonski local seat coordinators and ACTU “Build a Better Future” campaign coordinators have galvanised local unionists and community members into a “secret” army that took the issues that mattered to the streets, the doorways and living rooms of everyday people who want a better future for themselves and their loved ones. Education, health, working conditions and the ideological attacks on trade unions were at the core of this campaign.

pres-300x225.jpgHundreds of thousands of volunteers contributed in different ways to the campaign. From sending emails and phoning local politicians to stalwarts who spent untold hours knocking on doors, staffing market stalls and phoning our members and members of the community to persuade them to use the power of their vote for Gonski and fair school funding. We offer our sincere thanks to all of these people, no matter how small their contribution to the overall campaign. We could not have achieved this amazing chance to see the full Gonski model implemented without you.

Exit polls, conducted by major media outlets in marginal seats as voters left the polling booths, made it absolutely clear that education was a key issue for voters. Indeed, next to health and Medicare, education was the second most important issue for a large majority of voters. Gonski was to education what Medicare was to health: the issue which captured people’s attention and turned votes away from the Turnbull government.

Conclusion

Much more analysis is needed and the AEC will not resume the counting of votes until Tuesday 5 July 2016. With some seats currently being decided on just a couple of hundred votes, the counts and recounts will see clarity of this election outcome delayed.

Check back to the QTU website www.qtu.asn.au for updates later in the week.

Kevin Bates
President