Liberal MP says Labor did well in Griffith
Brisbane-based Liberal MP Andrew Laming says Labor performed well in the Griffith byelection, holding its vote despite the departure of Kevin Rudd.PT5M7S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-32aoe 620 349 February 10, 2014
Saturday's byelection in Queensland suggests that the people are reserving their judgment on Tony Abbott's government.
The most striking aspect of the vote was not so much what happened - Labor held on to one of its seats - but what was missing.
Despite the furious fulminations of Labor, the people in the Brisbane seat of Griffith did not exercise the customary protest vote against an incumbent government.
The average byelection swing against a government has been 4 per cent of the two-party preferred vote over the past century.
But in Saturday's byelection to replace former prime minister Kevin Rudd in Federal Parliament, the vote for the conservatives was broadly unchanged since the September general election result in the same seat. If anything, there was a small shift in favour of the Liberal National Party, a gain of 0.7 per cent in the two-party preferred vote.
This is the first time in 18 years that a government has gained at a byelection.
There is a time-honoured pattern in the way the political parties spin the results of a byelection.
The side that has underperformed always blames local factors. It does this to protect its national leadership. In this case, because it failed to improve its position, the underperforming party was Labor.
True to form, Labor blamed two local factors. One was that the LNP candidate, Bill Glasson, was a standout.
The other factor cited was that Labor was suffering from the absence of one of its stronger candidates, Rudd himself.
Or, as Bill Shorten put it on Sunday when congratulating Labor's winning candidate, Terri Butler: ''Her opponent was well known in the electorate after successive campaigns in a high-profile seat.'' This is quite true.
And the party that outperforms always takes it as the people's pronouncement on the national situation. And so it did this time. Abbott said the outcome was a ''poor result for Bill Shorten,'' and ''a clear rejection of the negative scare campaign undertaken by the Labor Party''.
It is not truly a poor result for Shorten, who was relieved that the departure of Rudd didn't cost the party a good deal more support.
But it is a rejection of the scare campaign that Labor ran on what it calls ''Abbott's cuts to health'', all of which are speculative and nothing more.
Australia made its pronouncement on Labor five months ago and handed power to Abbott to see if he could do better. Sensibly enough, after serving only about one-sixth of his term, the voters seem to be giving him a chance.