Day 3: Turnbull lets out that he’s on the ropes
For all those fans of chess out there, they’d understand that there’s a strong correlation between the game and the military. All those tactics and strategies, deciding when to take the bishop or the rook, skillful trickery and gamemanship, giving up a seemingly valuable piece to gain advantage and knowing when to offer up a few pawns, all in the name of achieving the checkmate, or the battle victory.
Election campaigns are similar to chess too, but with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announcing a 54-day lead up to the election on 2 July, the 2016 campaign will be more like a three-layered chessboard, with diabolical Sudokus and the Times Crossword thrown in for good measure. It will be complicated and, because we’re in relatively new territory as far as campaign longevity is concerned, it’s difficult to know who will benefit from this. But, just like it is in chess, it will be the nuanced campaigner that wins; the player that knows which moves to make and when, and which tactics will deceive and trick their opponent.
It’s only Day 3 of the campaign, but there are very worrying signs for the Coalition (not that the Labor campaign has been without problems) and, if things continue in the way they are going at the moment, the voters in Wentworth might be looking at a by-election in the latter part of the year, after their local member, Malcolm Turnbull, retires from politics because of his party’s loss at the 2016 election.
You just know that things are going bad for a government when they start to highlight personalities at the expense of good policy, and extend that to making their own brand name invisible.
The Liberal–National Party has unveiled a new look – ‘The Turnbull Coalition Team’, with no reference to the Liberal Party, or the National Party, and no logo. It’s part West Wing, it’s part US Presidential and, you could argue, part pantomime, part comedy. Of course, the new look confirms that ‘brand Liberal’ is like a bucket of poison in the electorate and telegraphs this confirmation, not just to the electorate, but the strategists at Labor Party headquarters – the big dollars they’ve paid to Essential Media to qualitatively research what the Liberals mean to the community have been verified – by the Liberal Party.
And you can bet your eighth negatively-geared house (if you are lucky enough to have one, or if you’re a Liberal member of parliament) that over the next 54 days, Labor will be referring to ‘the Turnbull Liberal government’ at every opportunity, linking the electoral poison with about the only thing the Liberals have going for them, a quickly diminishing Malcolm Turnbull.
This tactic of removing political party branding from candidates is a relatively new one – it was first used by Paul Keating in the 1996 election – but every party that has used it on a large-scale level, whether it be state or federal, has lost the election. The message that it send to the electorate is twofold: the party is so weak and useless, that it’s not worth voting for, and even its own candidates don’t believe in it. Sure, it might be subliminal, but it’s a net negative. In chess, it’s a bit like opening with the Sicilian defense but then realising that all of your pawns are missing.
Still, we’re waiting for an advance from ‘boats’, and ‘negative gearing’, the only two main issues that Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals have talked about so far. And they’ve brought out the megaphone on the supposed threat of a Greens–Labor coalition in case of another minority government, even though the chances of this happening are very slim, both the hung parliament, or a Greens–Labor coalition.
But the moment for me which indicates how badly the Coalition is travelling, and how difficult it will be for them to claw back, was the appearance of Kelly O’Dwyer and Innes Willox on Monday night’s episode of the ABC’s Q&A. If you’d ever want to see two public figures that are so out of touch with the ways of the world, it was an episode not to be missed. It was O’Dwyer, Minister for Small Business and Assistant Treasurer, and Willox, head of the Australian Industry Group and former chief-of-staff to former Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, up against Duncan Storrar, a 45-year-old father, who has low employment skills, a low income, and mental illnesses.
A simple question from Storrar: why do people like him receive nothing from Budget 2016, but a person earning $1,000,000 receives a tax break of $16,715.
O’Dwyer patronised about the dubious supply-side economics argument of the 1980s ‘growing the pie’ (and the 1980s are so yesterday!), and Willox interrogated him about the amount of tax that he pays, surmising that Storrar pays GST, “just like the rest of us”. It was the moment that emphasises the gap between Coalition policy, and the lives lived in the suburbs. O’Dwyer and Willox reeked of the exclusive private school education that they come from, having probably never understood what it’s like to be unemployed and never short of cash or life opportunities.
The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, also had his troubles, with border security again being the big issue that Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, is exploiting to its fullest, trawling through the internet to find any evidence at all of current ALP candidates offering any skerrick of antagonism to the Coalition’s boat turn-back policy (real or imagined). Evidently, the Liberal Party has decided the Australian public is more interested in a small amount of people seeking asylum by boat, than cost of living issues, the future of education, childcare, health, and whether they’ll be any jobs for them in Malcolm Turnbull’s new economy of innovation.
In the same manner that state election campaigns predictably focus upon ‘law and order’, the Coalition is focusing on asylum seekers, and it’s only a matter of time before terrorism and Islam enters the campaign. It’s just a question of which minister is allocated the task of introducing this as a campaign issue.
Will it work? Contrary to the common perception that negative campaigning works, the electorate prefers a positive message. The Coalition is currently losing the campaign because, alongside Malcolm Turnbull sounding bored in his interactions with the public on the hustings, its messaging is incoherent, it sounds desperate, it has decided to trash its own brand, and by focusing on asylum seekers and terrorism, it sends out the obvious message that it has nothing to offer the electorate.
|Date||Firm||Primary vote||TPP vote|
|5–8 May 2016||Newspoll||41%||37%||11%||11%||49%||51%|
|5–7 May 2016||Ipsos||44%||33%||14%||9%||51%||49%|
|4–6 May 2016||Galaxy||42%||36%||11%||11%||50%||50%|
|5 May 2016||ReachTEL||44.2%||35.1%||9.5%||11.2%||50%||50%|
|27 Apr–1 May 2016||Essential||40%||38%||10%||11%||48%||52%|
|23–24, 30 Apr–1 May 2016||Morgan||40%||32.5%||13.5%||14%||49%||51%|
Although this is not reflected in the betting, Labor is currently in a position to claim a narrow victory, possibly a narrow win by two seats. Depending on how many independent or Green candidates claim a seat, a minority government is also a possibility, although unlikely.