Much is said about Labor having lost power because of ongoing internal division. But while there is no doubt some truth to that, the underlying causes go much deeper. Party disunity is only a symptom of a deeper problem; the march of Labor to the right of the political spectrum. There has been no groundswell of support for Abbott, with only a 3.5 percent swing to Liberals. Labour has won around 47% of the vote, Liberals around 53% on two party preferred basis. The groundswell has been towards informal voting, a marked increase this election (from 5.5 in 2010 to 5.9 this election, with scrutineers in some electorates commenting that most of the informal ballots had not been marked in anyway indicating a clear statement of disaffection), and increasing numbers of people not voting and not enrolling to vote. Young people, without seeing any leadership on issues that concern them, aren’t bothering to enrol to vote, and in increasing numbers. Parties such as Palmer United are attracting some of those votes, with touchy feely policies that offer a hope of a better Australia, attracting some of the Labor faithful, without revealing exactly how they propose to go about fulfilling their policies. In reality these parties are more right wing than Liberal or Labor and will only offer harsher solutions than already on offer. But people need to feel hope, so they are turning to these fringe parties in larger numbers than ever.
When Rudd took over reigns of the leadership the second time, there was a rush of support for Labor. Under Gillard, Labor faithful had become disillusioned with the continual placating of right wing interests. With Rudd there was a sense that the Labor party would go back to it’s roots, that Rudd would come in fighting like he did against the Mining Industry prior to being sacked by his own party. Sacked because the right wing Murdoch media had created an atmosphere of public discontent that didn’t actually represent reality, but which the right wing element of the Labor party took advantage of to justify their actions.
And then Rudd released his PNG Solution. Any hope Labor faithful had then was dashed. Any chance that Labor may have picked up disaffected voters and socially progressive young first time voters dissolved. That one act confirmed once and for all that Labor was indeed, no different to the Liberals.