News location:

Canberra Today 1°/5° | Monday, May 20, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

No base, no core vote… no seat in parliament 

The middle ground base has moved to women, aged late 20s to probably early 50s, who live in urban areas, are usually degree qualified and want the tri-balance of work, life, and family. Photo: CoWomen

“All parties should realise that the fastest primary vote gainers in the last decade of ACT politics, ‘Others’, do not currently have a seat in the assembly. But they do have influence,” writes political columnist ANDREW HUGHES.

For those keen enough, the condolence motions spoken last month about the late Linda White were amongst the finest speeches heard in federal parliament in the last few years. 

Dr Andrew Hughes.

They came straight from the heart. I thought Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s was better than the prime minister’s, a lot of emotion and respect. 

But in them all was this from Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles: 

“Having been a member of this caucus since 2007, I cannot overstate how much better it is that we are a caucus which properly represents those who vote for us. We are able to harness the full talent of our base. The issues that we speak about, and the way in which we speak about them, are completely different, and the outcomes are there for everyone.” 

To add context, this was about Linda White’s helping establish gender quotas in Labor, which exist at all levels across the party, including locally. Labor’s ACT preselections, held under these quotas, kept some talented candidates on the waitlist for another four years. Who knows if they will be around then to give it another go. 

Marles is right about the importance of base to a party. Be it on the big stage or the smallest ones. And the battleground middle base in Australian politics has changed. 

Once this key segment was seen as mum, dad, and 2.2 kids, a la the targeting strategy of choice of Liberal leaders who went after daggy dads rocking Bunnings sausage sizzles, family values and, of course, the super aspirational economic policy targeting. 

But that was the 2010s. It’s now the 2020s. And that middle ground base has moved to women, aged late 20s to probably early 50s, who live in urban areas, are usually degree qualified and want the tri-balance of work, life, and family. Don’t throw rocks, okay, if you fall outside of that. 

But it was this group that swung the so-called “Teal” seats, including that locally of David Pocock. It is this group that Labor see now as their base, as identified by Richard Marles. 

Recent Newspolls though point to a loss from this strategy, which is the drift of the low-income and trade workers to either the right or the Greens. 

While the Liberals locally haven’t capitalised on this (yet) the Greens have. The rebrand away from being seen as just concerned about climate change (too broad to really alter behaviour locally), to that of the self-declared “Renters Party”. It’s hit paydirt in Canberra. 

Renting is one of the hottest ongoing issues in Canberra, and with more and more town centres being turned into skyscraper collectives, they have a ready made base who have had enough of high rents, poor real estate service and a lack of policy. 

The Greens are also one of the few parties who actually attempt policies for singles. This is a smart strategy, and again this is them identifying and going after the base. 

They know, like Labor, no base, no core vote. No core vote, no seat in parliament. 

The Liberal base is still there and very much alive in Canberra. They just need to better engage with it. What some in the Liberal Party call progressive, many in their base see as either moderate or normal so it is time to reward those in the base with more reflective policies and ideas. 

Their base is strongest in the fastest growing region of Canberra, Gungahlin, Tuggeranong and parts of Molonglo. These are the areas where they should be targeting three seats if they want government. 

Who is their base? My sense is it’s the aspirational first home buyers, those who still very much believe in the great Australian dream of home ownership, barbecues on weekends, binge watching one of their three streaming services after the kids are asleep, decent barista coffee with friends, and then driving to the mid-career role on Monday in their his/hers mid-range SUVs or maybe a Tesla. They’ve worked damn hard for this and aren’t ashamed to say it. 

They even have hopes of living more upmarket and closer to Civic, by then in their second or third home, maybe even an investment property. They are usually the traditional family model, but increasingly are also diverse in background, wanting to pass on wealth and property to family. Household income wise they are going to be on north of $200,000, and can include a tradie as much as an accountant. 

Some of their base may not be a traditional family either, the ABS identifies sole-parent male households as the fastest growing in Australia by type in the decades ahead, so they may target them specifically through policies and candidates. Keep in mind the prime minister is currently in this segment, so maybe Labor will eye it off, too. 

Either way though, as the table makes clear, if you aren’t reflective of your base with leaders, candidates, and policies, then your vote will slip. 

All parties should realise that the fastest primary vote gainers in the last decade of territory politics, “Others”, do not currently have a seat in the assembly. But they do have influence. 

Cast aside by parties seeking to grow their base in other areas, will these voters find a Marles-like champion in Canberra who will give them a voice and power in the assembly? Only time, and the base, will tell. 

Dr Andrew Hughes is a lecturer in marketing with the Research School of Management at ANU where he specialises in political marketing and advertising. 

 

Who can be trusted?

In a world of spin and confusion, there’s never been a more important time to support independent journalism in Canberra.

If you trust our work online and want to enforce the power of independent voices, I invite you to make a small contribution.

Every dollar of support is invested back into our journalism to help keep citynews.com.au strong and free.

Become a supporter

Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Share this

One Response to No base, no core vote… no seat in parliament 

cbrapsycho says: 12 April 2024 at 12:06 pm

Single male parent households may be the fastest growing, but this is off a very small base, so not a very influential number of voters there. Broad statements without the relevant facts can be misleading for readers and I hope that was an oversight, rather than intentional.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Related Posts

Follow us on Instagram @canberracitynews