The rise of the 'up yours' vote

By Marnie O’Neill

A Vote to Leave campaigner holds a placard as Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Photo / Getty
A Vote to Leave campaigner holds a placard as Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Photo / Getty

There's a revolution happening.

It's the rise of the "up yours vote", the protest movement that brought Britain to its political knees and continues to fuel the Trump campaign in America.

That movement, simmering away for almost 20 years in Australia, finally bubbled over at the weekend when voters thumbed their noses at the political establishment, en masse.

An unprecedented quarter of Australians have given their first preference to parties other than the Labor and the Coalition - the highest primary vote for minor parties and independents in the country's history - resulting in what is shaping up to be another hung parliament.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told reporters yesterday that Turnbull had "Brexited" himself, choosing to ignore the fact that such a result doesn't make Labor look great either.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks during a press conference at the Commonwealth Parliament Offices as the prospect of a hung parliament looms. Photo / Getty
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks during a press conference at the Commonwealth Parliament Offices as the prospect of a hung parliament looms. Photo / Getty

While the ALP improved its primary vote from the 2013 poll, it was still the party's second-lowest in 70 years.

"It's the rage against the machine that is Canberra," says Craig Emerson, adjunct professor at Victoria University and a former cabinet minister in the Gillard government.

"People believe the system doesn't work for them; it might for business and the wealthy but it doesn't work for the young people. If people see the system isn't working and is completely irrelevant to them, then they are going to vote for the minorities.

"There is some speculation that Turnbull will cobble together another election in a year. If he does, he'll get the same result. You know that saying about the definition of insanity? The definition of insanity of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."

After the hung parliament in 2013, veteran political journalist Michelle Grattan compared Australia's democratic system to a healthy person suffering from the flu.

Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the 2016 Western Conservative Summit at the Colorado Convention Center. Photo / Getty
Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the 2016 Western Conservative Summit at the Colorado Convention Center. Photo / Getty

"It's not seriously ill, but somewhat off colour. Citizens feel disillusioned, cynical and discontented with how this system is working," she wrote in the foreword of a Democratic Governance Institute report.

"Three years of a federal hung parliament has probably made them more jaded than usual."

Considering we have endured six changes in prime minister in just nine years, Australians have been incredibly patient, always wanting to give the benefit of the doubt, to believe our leaders have our best interests at heart.

Ironically, it's the much maligned millennials who have taken us by the shoulders and bitch-slapped us out of our complacency. After all, they're the ones who are going to have to survive this unaffordable, unforgiving world we have allowed to be created.

They - and increasingly their parents - are the behind the rise of the "up yours vote".

"There's a post-war unwritten agreement in Western countries which said it was OK for the rich to get richer as long as the poor and the middle got richer too," Dr Emerson told news.com.au.

Nigel Farage was a strong proponent of the successful Brexit campaign. Photo / Getty
Nigel Farage was a strong proponent of the successful Brexit campaign. Photo / Getty

"But that agreement has been broken - the rich are getting richer and the poor are going nowhere and that's why Donald Trump has emerged as a candidate.

"There's another agreement, an intergenerational agreement in which we ensure that future generations will at least be able to afford their own home. But that agreement has been broken by Baby Boomers who are saying, 'It's all mine and I want more'.

"The Coalition's attitude is that the higher housing prices are, the better. It sends a very clear message to young people that they're not relevant. In fact, the intergenerational problem they've created is greater than the other one.

"They don't believe in climate change, they don't believe there's anything wrong with wealthy people accessing tax shelters, that there's anything wrong with the superannuation system. They are saying to young people, 'We don't care about you' and young people are saying, 'You know what? We don't care about you either'."

TV screenwriter and journalist Benjamin Law articulated what many young people were thinking, in a column for The Sydney Morning Herald at the weekend entitled "Why I've got a massive crush on Australian democracy".

"I suspect that, deep down, most Australians are passionate about something. Perhaps you're angry that your kids are likely to inherit the skeletal remains what used to be the largest living organism in the ocean," Law wrote of the Great Barrier Reef.

"Maybe you're a single parent furious your benefits (already cut by $1700 a year for families with kids between 13 and 16) will gradually disappear.

"Perhaps you're baffled how no major party has been imaginative enough to develop an asylum seeker policy that doesn't involve people dying at sea or being raped in offshore prisons that cost taxpayers over $1 billion (that's not a typo) a year.

"Our national pastime is whingeing. By voting, we earn the right to complain and moan all we want, even if we only earned it by drawing a cock and balls on our ballot paper in protest."

Yep, it looks like the wind of change has finally arrived. Or has it?

"While a hung parliament might seen like a relatively common phenomenon in recent times, historically, they're more unusual," Adelaide law lecturer Adam Webster wrote in The Conversation.

"The 2010 election result was the first hung parliament since 1940."

So, only our third hung parliament since 1940 but unlikely to be our last.

"It's going to be the same next time," Dr Emerson says of the Coalition.

"There's going to be hung parliament after hung parliament until voters believe you are now behaving in our interests."

- news.com.au

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