We’re into the final two weeks of the 2019 federal election campaign, and two opinion polls released today still point towards a Labor victory.
The monthly Ipsos shows a two-party preferred vote of 52 per cent to the Australian Labor Party, and 48 per cent to the Liberal–National Party.
While this is a slight improvement for the LNP when compared to the April figures, it would still result in a loss of 11 seats, for a total of 83 seats to the ALP, 62 to the LNP, and six independents, if a uniform swing occurred.
In addition to these 11 seats, there are two other Liberal-held seats that are expected to fall to the ALP – Reid in NSW, and Swan in Western Australia – and six other seats – Boothby, Sturt, La Trobe, Dawson, Bonner and Pearce – are in serious contention as Labor gains.
The Newspoll result is slightly different to Ipsos, and confirms the figures it published in its poll last week – ALP 51 per cent, to LNP 49 per cent in the two-party preferred vote. With a uniform swing, this would result in 79 seats to the ALP, 66 to the LNP, with six independents.
Based on both of these opinion poll figures, the best-case scenario for the ALP is a win of around 90 seats, while a worst-case scenario is a slim margin of around three or four seats. Conversely, the best outcome for the LNP would be a close ‘save-the-furniture’ loss, providing a springboard for the next election, due in 2022. But this doesn’t seem likely.
An election victory for the LNP using either the Ipsos or Newspoll figures is close to impossible – the lowest ever two-party preferred vote to win an election is 49.02 per cent, achieved by John Howard in the 1998 election. The LNP needs to gain three seats just to achieve a one-seat majority and it’s difficult to see where these seats can be gained. Aside from this difficult feat, the LNP also has to ensure it doesn’t lose any of the 73 seats it currently holds. It’s hard to see either of these critical factors being achieved.
Should this government be rewarded?
A more realistic election result is a punitive loss of around 15–20 seats, which would provide the LNP with ample time to sort out their differences in opposition and develop a liberal philosophy that is more in tune with a modern Australia.
The LNP has not provided stability of government, or stability of policy outcomes, and the current collection of Liberal–National Party MPs is based more around division, political opportunism, inane nationalism, corruption and personal ambition, rather than working towards a more cohesive community.
A close loss, or even an unlikely victory, would be a reward to a government of low achievement and poor performance since it was first installed in September 2013. The LNP was offered a second chance in the 2016 election when it barely scraped through with a one-seat majority. Its response after that election was to meander without a clear agenda, and it then removed Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister in August 2018.
The electorate is usually patient and will re-elect governments, if they can see a worthwhile agenda for the future, but they rarely offer incompetent governments a third chance. Although the media has been generally supportive of Scott Morrison during this campaign, it’s struggling to maintain its enthusiasm, and many journalists are now willing to call out the ‘threadbare policy agenda’ offered by LNP.
And the lack of a clear policy agenda is now a looming problem for the Morrison and the LNP. As former Prime Minister Paul Keating remarked, “every now and then you have to flick the switch to vaudeville” during election campaigns, and offer nuanced and wide-ranging policies to different groups in the electorate.
So far, the LNP has campaigned strongly on two issues: the economy, and Labor leader Bill Shorten. But peel back these two layers, and there’s not much else. The economy has actually spluttered over the past 12 months, and any gains over the past five years have gone through to corporate profits, rather than filtering through to increases in wages and salaries.
Consumer sentiment and retail confidence has suffered the biggest plunge in decades, gross national government debt has risen under this government from $257 billion to $532 billion, housing prices have plummeted nation-wide, especially in the Sydney and Melbourne markets, and the economy is in a per-capita recession.
The LNP keeps pushing the message that its economic management is far superior to Labor, but the evidence suggests otherwise.
The personal attacks on Bill Shorten are also starting to wear thin, as suggest during the two leaders’ debates hosted by Channel 7/The West Australian, and Sky News. Shorten was selected as the winner in both debates by the respective studio audiences.
Labor continues to present itself as a viable alternative to this government, and Shorten’s messages are resonating with the electorate. The preferred Prime Minister rating is not a substantial metric, only used to prop up Morrison’s standing in the media against poor two-party-preferred opinion polls but, even so, the latest Ipsos poll shows there’s not much difference between Morrison (preferred as Prime Minster by 45 per cent of the electorate) and Shorten (40 per cent).
There are not many other issues the LNP is able to campaign on during these final two weeks, and the message on the economic management and attacking Shorten now have limited credibility. They are not offering a great deal of confidence to the electorate in their abilities to produce competent government over the next three years, especially when compared with the large collection of policies on offer from Labor.
LNP needs a break from its past
The LNP governments of 2013–2019 attempted to revive the Howard years that ended in 2007, but with little success – the same brand of economic philosophy, the same brand of social conservatism and the same desire to exploit social divisions to reap political benefits.
It’s a party that needs to make a clear break from the Howard era and decide whether it wants to be a modern liberal party offering a better link to community, or an archaic hard-right conservative party that holds irrelevant debates in small cloistered rooms, inspired by the free-market economist, F.A. Hayek and former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Those days are well and truly over.
Labor enters the final fortnight with a great deal of momentum, holding its campaign launch in Brisbane and announcing a raft of new policy initiatives in emergency health care, tax cuts for small business employing under-25s and over-55s, constitutional recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and a National Redress Agency to assist the delivery of compensation to child sexual abuse survivors.
There is a mood for a change of government, and Labor has successfully prosecuted their case for change, even if the electorate hasn’t fully warmed to the idea of Bill Shorten as Prime Minister.
The LNP’s campaign has run out of steam, but there will be one last attempt to capture the attention of the electorate – their campaign launch is on Sunday, just six days before election day. If the Reserve Bank cuts interest rates at its Tuesday meeting, there’s no doubt the LNP will push this as much possible – and why not? They’ve got very little else to run with.
But will it make a difference? More than likely, it won’t. There’s not much more this government has to offer to the public and we’re just waiting to see if the electorate will confirm this sentiment on May 18.