The Liberals have been defeated and what does the media say? You read everywhere that the Liberals must turn away from their socially conservative wing and to the left - or else face a more permanent electoral ruin.
It's an odd lesson to draw. Consider the following:
a) The Labor Party won by studiously avoiding any upset to the socially conservative instincts of the electorate.
b) The state Liberal parties are all more "socially progressive" than the Federal party and all are out of office.
c) The most unpopular Liberal policy was Work Choices, which was more of an economically liberal measure than a socially conservative one.
However, I do believe that the Liberal Party has to consider the future carefully. If you look at an electoral map of Melbourne you find that the Liberals can only rely on a tiny belt of four safe seats. The north, the west and most of the south now belong to Labor.
The problem for the Liberal Party is that migrants generally vote Labor. In a Parliament of Australia electoral survey it was found that:
a) There are 18 seats in which more than 22% of the population was born in a non-English speaking country. In 2006 Labor held 16 of those seats. It now holds all 18. Labor holds 27 of the 29 seats with the highest proportion of electors born in non-English speaking countries. (p.39)
b) 32 of the 33 electorates with the most people who can't speak English well voted Labor in 2007. (p.43)
c) The 24 electorates with the most Muslims all voted Labor. (p.29)
d) These results don't seem to correlate to levels of income. Of the 37 poorest electorates, 23 were held (in 2006) by the Liberals/Nationals, 12 by Labor and 2 by independents. (p.57)
How might the Liberal Party react to this information? They could, I suppose, conclude that they have to be especially nice to migrants to win their votes. The problem is that the Liberals could not have done more for migrants during their term of office. Migration was set at record levels and education policy favoured fee paying students from overseas. Despite this, the trend for migrants to vote Labor continued, leading to a loss of the Prime Minister's own seat.
A more realistic option would be for the Liberals to drop their commitment to high levels of immigration. They would have to stand up to the big business federations in doing this, but otherwise the move would be a popular one. It would also secure a more viable long-term future for the Liberal Party.