Sunday, November 25

Amid the rejoicing, a note of caution

In all of last night's rejoicing, few took a look at the Senate voting. The count so far indicates Labor may run into trouble getting its legislation through the Federal Parliament.

This morning the ABC website is showing these results for the Senate. Adding those senators who did not have to face the electors this time around to the likely result for the half who did, we may end up with these Senate totals:

Liberal/National Coalition 37
Australian Labor Party 32
The Greens 5
Family First 1
Other 1

[The ABC warns that these figures are a guide. The final result may depend on "below the line" voting in individual states.]

Will the Greens always support Labor legislation? Will they demand too high a price, asking Rudd to welsh on election promises like approval for the Gunns pulp mill? Will Labor meet the Greens' expectations on climate change?

All parties face a high-stakes gamble, possibly within a few months, as they ponder whether to force a double-dissolution by having the Senate reject Labor's bills. Would electors rise in anger against the Coalition for its failure to accept their will so clearly expressed in the Reps elections. Or would the Opposition Leader, whoever may win the post, have persuaded electors that they'd made a mistake with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd?

Congrats to Antony Green and Kerry O'Brien, but the ABC did have some glitches

The ABC's election analyst Antony Green and its 7.30 Report presenter Kerry O'Brien did a first-class job from the tally room, along with Labor's Julia Gillard and the Libs' Nick Minchin.

Flicking around the channels, I was also impressed by the Nine Network's coverage.

The ABC did have some problems, with graphics refusing to come up as planned.

And someone stuffed up with the program guides. Days ago, ABC Television's promos said last night's news would be advanced to 5.30pm to allow its broadcast to cross to the tally room at 6pm. Newspaper program guides yesterday still showed bowls at 5pm and tally room at six – no mention of news. I checked the ABC program guide on its website just before 5pm yesterday, and it was showing the same erroneous information as the newspapers.

Forget the post-mortem, let's look to the future

I'd feel sorry for John Howard, except it's a word he understands only when it's applied to trivial issues. And in the past, Howard has had no compunction about trying to destroy the careers of people his conservative mates targeted for "political correctness".

And it's ironical that he suffered this humiliating defeat because he treated another of his assurances as a non-core promise.

You will recall that he often said he'd stay for as long as his party wanted him – surely an implied promise that he'd go when it didn't. But when, at the time of APEC, 70 per cent of his ministers said he should go, he went home to Janette, took her advice, and stayed.

That said, few could deny some respect and even admiration for Howard's determined fight against the odds.

But look to the future. I expect the Libs to spend two terms in Opposition before they will have rebuilt the party to give Rudd a run for his money in six years' time. Peter Costello today withdrew to pursue a career outside politics – probably a wise move. The electorate had already rejected him on a joint prime ministerial ticket, and his failure to challenge for the leadership earlier suggests he hasn't the ticker or the party support to lead the way back to government.

The times will suit Malcolm Turnbull, and it's great news for the Libs that he held his seat of Wentworth. Of the present mob, he's the only senior Lib who can take the party into the 21st century and possible re-election.

The one big problem he may face is that his foes will trawl back through all his deals and advisory roles in his years as a high-achieving merchant banker, seeking examples of his playing too aggressively or even bending the rules. Indeed, they're already doing it, to judge by the comments turning up on some of the online reports of his throwing his hat in the ring for the leadership.

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