A week ago, Australia voted in a new government, and there are many theories going around as to why. Politicians and commentators are pointing to leadership issues with the Liberals, interest rate rises, the Tamar Pulp Mill, WorkChoices legislation and the Kyoto Agreement. Well, I’ve got another theory: it was due to water restrictions.
The the last twelve months leading up to the election on Saturday November 24, most states of Australia introduced legislation that made life of “working families” tougher, resulting in people needing to get up earlier to water their gardens, lawns dying off, and cars getting grubbier. Water is seen as an environmental issue, and the last Federal government was not seen as doing much about the environment. Hence, they got they axe. But let’s look at the data:
|City||Water Restrictions Introduced||When introduced||Wash your own car?||Water your lawn?||Swing against Govt ***|
|Sydney||Level 3||1 Jan 07||Bucket only||Hand-held hose or bucket||5.7%|
|Melbourne||Stage 3a||1 Apr 07||No||No||5.5%|
|Brisbane||Level 5 *||10 Apr 07||No||No||6.4%|
|Adelaide||Level 3||1 Jan 07||Bucket only||Hand-held hose ** or bucket||5.8%|
|Hobart||none||removed 28 Feb 07||Yes||Yes||-0.4%|
|Canberra||Stage 3||16 Dec 06||No||No||2.0%|
* – Brisbane upped their water restrictions to Level 6 the day before the election (November 23).
** – Adelaide allowed limited use of hand-held hose from October 1.
*** – Swing figures from The Age, Saturday December 1.
So, you can see that the two cities (Perth and Hobart) where water restrictions were unchanged, and in fact allowed watering of lawns with sprinklers and washing of cars with a hose, the swing against the Federal Liberal government was the lowest. Also, the city (Brisbane) with the harshest water restrictions, increasing them the day before the election, had the highest swing against the government.
I’d never suggest that elections are simple affairs, decided by a single issue, but this particular issue seems to have had a significant weight, and hasn’t yet received the full credit it deserves in the analysis.