This is Part 3 of my “Uninformed Speculation” series on the 2019 Federal Election. The other two parts being “Why Rob Oakshott Will Be Speaker In The 46th Parliament Of Australia” and “Why Tanya Plibersek Will Be Dumped For Nikki Savvas As Deputy Labor Leader”.
As I write on Federal Election Eve, all the polls consistently say that Labor will win with 51.5% of the 2PP vote. My prediction is that the ALP will gain a little less than that vote share but still win enough seats to form a minority government holding 74 of the 151 seats and govern with the support of two Greens plus Rob Oakeshott and Andrew Wilkie.
Here’s how the election issues have panned out:
Bill Shorten’s Personality
Will not influence votes. Morrison relentlessly harped on about the horror of Shorten’s unlikeability but in the end Shorten has come out well.
Noting his significant lead in the “Preferred Prime Minister” ratings, Morrison tried to make the election into a beauty content between Shorten and himself. To this end, Morrison insisted on having three one-on-one debates with Morrison, aiming to force Shorten into the spotlight and exposing Shorten’s supposed personality deficiencies as starkly as possible to the voting public. Morrison also hoped to KO Shorten in these debates using his own superior communication skills, mental agility and innate aggression.
To the surprise of most, Shorten carried himself well through the debates with the live audiences rating Shorten the winner of the first debate and scoring the other two as draws. Shorten proved effective at being able to engage audiences on his agenda and, in contrast to his reputation for being a wooden communicator, was often able to connect at a personal and empathetic level with the listeners. Conversely, Morrison, while definitely a far more assured communicator and having excellent recall of debating points and figures that he wished to quote, often came across as scripted and abstract, more of a political machine rather than a real human being. Oftentimes Morrison seems to operate in an endless jabber-mode kind of a non-stop hyper-charged babble much like Kevin Rudd with a short-circuit and the volume amped to 11.
Here, for fun, is Annabel Crabb’s original description of The Ruddbot:
Ruddbot, our “first android prime minister” with a Muppet-inspired smile…
There are essential triggers hard-wired into the Ruddbot cortex. Ask the android machine about the number of union officials on its front bench and it will also promptly divert into a charming reverie about a rock star, an academic and a Mandarin-speaking diplomat. Include a reference to Mark Latham in a question, and it will reply “I am not aware of those reports.” Ask it any difficult question and it has been programmed to reply by asking itself several of its own. It will then answer them all with mechanical precision.
In the end, the final Leader’s Debate was quite boring as it was apparent before it started that Shorten was Morrison’s equal in the debates and that no conclusive victory would be gained by either man. Morrison appears to lack his usual energy, seemingly resigned to being unable to KO Shorten. For his part Shorten seemed to have the glow of a man who, to his own amazement, survived a test he felt sure would overcome him.
In the debates, Morrison was hamstrung by being unable to unleash the full force of his aggression as the Christchurch Shooting tragedy which occurred just prior to the start of the election campaign made snarling aggression, a common feature of Morrison’s communication, distasteful in the public mind, forcing Morrison to curtail this instinct of his and robbing him of a natural advantage.
Towards the end of the campaign, Newscorp made an ill-considered attack on Bill Shorsten vis-a-vis his mother. Public revulsion at this tactic provoked sympathy for Shorten and a considerable improvement in his personal approval ratings, much to the chagrin of Newscorp and whichever executive gave approval to this distasteful over-reach.
Galilee Basin Coal Mines (Adani)
Important in Queensland. Labor’s luke-warm toleration of Adani imperils jobs in central Queensland and means that the Coalition will retain all their Queensland rural marginals and gain the seat of Herbert. But the city/country divide means that Brisbane Metro seats will lack the same affect and align with the general national swing of 1.5% toward the ALP.
Big Tax Scare Campaign
Has not cut through. The polls show only a minimal narrowing of the polls toward the incumbent LNP Coalition government since the campaign began. Indeed, the lack of movement in the polls indicates that no issue has particularly cut through from either side. Voters made up their minds before the campaign began and have not changed their views since.
Fundamentally, the disunity of the government over the last five years convinced the electorate that a change is required.
Caveat: Even now, 24 hrs before voting there are a great many undecideds out there. On Saturday Morning the phrase “Big Scary Tax” in the newspapers or at the polling booth could easily push that needful 1.5% Morrison’s way.
Will not affect votes. This issue created a lot of heated talk but in the end this issue does not affect many people. Only self-supported retirees who do not receive a pension are affected by this measure and only a small sub-set of those.
The Franking Credits issue in the end merely energised rusted-on Liberal voters who would never swing to Labor anyway.
Other pensioners did fall for Morrison’s scare campaign initially but if this has changed voting intention then it is not reflected in the polls.
Will not affect votes. Like all the tax issues, endlessly hammered by Morrison, but did not cut through if the polls are correct.
Shorten’s appeal to fairness appears to have neutralised Morrison’s “price crash, rent spike” rhetoric. Shorten has been arguing the case for Negative Gearing for at least three years now. I think the issue is now familiar to the voters and has lost its heat.
For those interested, here is the research showing that the concept that Keating’s abolition of Negative Gearing in 1985 caused a rental spike is a myth.
Will not change seats. I thought Morrison did very well at arguing his case that the Liberals have done enough on Climate Change. But Shorten did produce a great cut-through line on this in the second Leader’s debate. Whilst Morrison was eulogising the LNP achievement of meeting Kyoto and Paris Agreement Carbon targets, Shorten intejected to note that Australian Carbon emissions are higher than they ever were and said “Typical Surgeon’s response – the operation was a complete success but the patient died”
The Climate Change issue has shifted voters in some safe Liberal voting seats but not many in marginal seats. Some, but not many.
I think Shorten made the tactically correct call not to give a total cost to his Carbon Abatement policy. I think Shorten has correctly judged that general community sentiment is present for Climate Abatement and so there is not pressing insistence that this policy be comprehensively costed. Giving a definitive cost to Carbon Abatement would merely have handed Morrison with another Big Scary Number in addition to the Big Scary Tax Number that he has been endlessly shouting at the electorate.
Liberal Party Too Right Wing
Meaningful in Victoria. The wrecking tactics of the right-wing of the Federal LNP has outraged moderate Liberal voters in Victoria who are simultaneously repelled by a takeover of the State Liberals by religious conservatives. Outrage at the sacking of Malcolm Turnbull caused a huge backlash among moderate Libs in last year’s Victorian State Election and resulted in a landslide loss including shocking losses of blue-ribbon seats.
Three or four seats will ultimately go to the ALP over this issue in tomorrow’s Federal vote.
Jobs And The Economy
Important. This is why the LNP are still in the contest. Morrison has been able to say that the Budget is back in surplus (in fact it isn’t until next year on projections, but this year it is very close). The talismanic surplus speaks meaningfully to the electorate on the subject of economic management which is considered a traditional LNP strength.
In addition, while there is very little wages growth, most people have jobs and the unemployment rate is fairly low. While the economy is lacking vigour, most people are working. In conditions where the economy is acceptably good, governments mostly retain power. (Howard’s loss in 2007 a notable exception).
This is the election-deciding issue. Fundamentally, the disunity of the government over the last five years has persuaded the electorate that a change is required. Government infighting has caused the Libs to depose two Prime Ministers and prevented them from finalising basic policy on Power and Energy. This is a basic failing of governance and this will cause them to lose tomorrow’s election.
Well, let’s see what happens…