What went wrong?

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Elections Political

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"Incredibly disappointing" would be the most polite way to describe our results. Counting is still continuing, but with between 50 and 70 per cent of the Senate vote now counted, I would not expect the final Senate and House of Reps numbers for Sustainable Australia to vary much from the current count as at lunch time on Wednesday. They are –

NSW: 0.2% (+.13% on 2013)

Qld: 0.23% (+.17% on 2013)

Vic: 0.3% (+.18 on 2016)

ACT: 1.08% (+.7% on 2013)

Sydney (HoR): 0.6% (Did not run in 2013)

These numbers in no way reflect the effort of our candidates and volunteers, the creative quality of our consultants or the financial support of the campaign by our donors. They certainly do not reflect the expectations of myself and the campaign committee, who all felt we were on track for results ten times better than we received, particularly in NSW and Victoria, where we ran substantial paid media campaigns for the first time.

My pass mark was 2 per cent in NSW and 3 per cent in Victoria, and we have fallen far short of that. With those numbers we would now be in the mix for Senate seats in those states. We do not know how many second preferences are out there for us, but unless you get in front of the pack of sub 2 per cent parties, you will never receive the preference distributions necessary to surf your way to a quota.

So what went wrong? In short, Pauline Hanson and Derryn Hinch and Nick Xenophon ate our lunch. We had picked the right issue – immigration, on which to make big inroads. News Ltd research showed it was in the top three concerns for the Australian electorate going into the last week. Our whole campaign was tailored to catch this wave of community concern about the record immigration intake.

We were the voice of moderation, calling for a reasonable reduction in the immigration intake back to 70,000 per year. But therein lay the seed of our doom. There were better known, louder voices out there, calling for a far tougher response on this issue and others. Hanson advocated for zero net migration. And she has had 20 years of profile building on the issue.

I did not expect Hanson to poll well outside Queensland. The fact that she is on track to win the last Senate seat in NSW and possibly Victoria has cost us dearly. Adding to our woes is the fact that this election has demonstrated that while Australians are deserting the big parties in huge numbers, they are looking to park their votes with big names with long public exposure and loud voices.

We knew that Hinch, with 50 years of public profile was going to do well in Victoria, particularly given his very lucky, number 1 ballot draw. But his shock-jock approach simply swallowed the substantial first preference vote that our lead Victorian candidate Georgia was hoping for.

Similarly, I did not expect Xenophon, with his protectionist views on manufacturing (again, similar but more strident than ours) to do much outside South Australia. However Xenophon has been building his profile for 20 years, and the strong NXT vote in Victoria and NSW has hurt our capacity to gather any sort of respectable first preference tally in those states.

It would appear that the Australian electorate is turning to long-established personalities with strident views, as a way of protesting against the major parties. That was not us. Our focus on arguing for good policy from the centre of politics was smashed by the rising cult of opinionated celebrity.

The fact that our vote at this point is better in Queensland, where we spent no money, than NSW, where we spent a fair bit, (although influenced by the lower number of candidates in Queensland), demonstrates just how little impact our moderate message was able to make, in these times of the Demagogues.

Congratulations to all our candidates, and particularly John Haydon and Martin Tye in the ACT for cracking 1 per cent. They, along with William Bourke, Georgia Nichols, John Roles in Queensland and Kris Spike in Sydney all did the party proud with their effort and professionalism. Thanks too to our second Senate candidates, Matt Moran in Queensland, Greg Graham in NSW and Steven Armstrong in Victoria.

They all deserved a far better result. Our failure was not one of planning, funding or execution. We designed, financed and delivered the campaign we wanted. It is now time to take stock of our structure, message and personnel. HQ will now conduct a root and branch review of every aspect of the campaign. I will report further to members and supporters before the end of July.

I do however take full responsibility for an outcome so far below our expectations. I wish to apologise to all members and supporters for our failure to meet our goals and promise a warts and all review of our needs and prospects going forward.


Andrew McNamara
Sustainable Australia

Sustainable Australia :
PO Box 575, Crows Nest NSW 1585, Australia Wide
Sustainable Australia

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