2019 Federal Election Update
The campaign kicks off
The first week of the election has been a fairly lacklustre affair and while Labor remains a clear favourite to win the May 18 poll, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has demonstrated he will be a far more formidable campaigner than Malcolm Turnbull was in 2016.
An early stumble from Opposition leader Mr Shorten, over the sensitive issue of superannuation taxes, has given the Coalition a glimmer of hope as it prepares to unleash a massive fear campaign against the ALP’s tax plans.
However, with its parliamentary majority whittled away through resignations and electoral boundary changes, Mr Morrison and his team are up against it having to not only hold seats but win some back just to stay in power. Meanwhile, a cashed-up Labor team is forcing them to ‘sandbag’ a raft of marginal electorates across the country as the campaign enters its 2nd week.
Tax v health
The initial campaigning has been swallowed up by a war of attrition over tax modelling and competing claims about the level of health and education commitments that have seen campaign stumbles over the complexity of detail.
As the leaders prepare to call an informal truce over the Easter weekend, the key issue is what’s cutting through to voters who appear largely disengaged.
Labor is confident the voters will favour greater health and education spending over “closing tax loopholes for the rich” and “tax cuts that are two elections away”. The Coalition is hoping its “when Labor runs out of money, they come after yours” messaging will prevail.
A divided nation
This election is also seeing for the first time a real north-south political divide emerge in Australia, with regional Queensland pitted against cosmopolitan Melbourne on Adani Coal, electric cars and power prices.
For business, the key issues will include seeking further details on Labor’s Industrial Relations and carbon emission abatement policies. Health providers will be keen to know how Labor’s pledges on cancer treatments will impact on health providers generally.
There may be also further infrastructure announcements from both political parties, with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack one of the few political leaders to lock in a National Press Club address, on April 30.
Labor enters the election campaign with a notional 71 seats, meaning it will need a net gain of at least five seats to win a majority in the 151-seat House of Representatives. The Coalition’s hold on power has been whittled back to just 72 seats, losing two seats, notionally, in Victoria after the electoral redistribution.
The key battlegrounds
Victoria remains Labor’s best hope of securing a decent majority on May 18. Mr Shorten and his colleagues are targeting a number of electorates, including seats such a Kooyong and Higgins that were previously seen as blue ribbon Liberal strongholds.
Corangamite, held by the Liberal’s Sarah Henderson, has already received a visit from the Prime Minister and you can expect to see both leaders heavily target this regional area.
In New South Wales, the Labor Party is hoping to exploit voter dissatisfaction over the dumping of Malcolm Turnbull by winning inner-Sydney seats including Reid and Banks. The south coast electorate of Gilmore – the scene of some nasty Liberal in-fighting – could also switch sides, while former Independent MP Rob Oakeshott is hopeful of winning the northern NSW electorate of Cowper, being vacated by long-standing Nationals’ MP Luke Hartsuyker.
On the other hand, the PM is targeting Labor’s franking credits policy in outer Sydney electorates such as Lindsay and Macquarie, both of which are held by the ALP. The recent NSW election result has buoyed the Coalition’s hopes of a poll bounce.
In Queensland, the Labor Party is hoping to pick up seats in Brisbane and the State’s south-east, including the prized electorate of Dickson, held by the Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton. While Queensland is unlikely to decide the election outcome, the Coalition is hoping that it might pick up a few seats, including Herbert centred around Townsville, which has been the recipient of numerous taxpayer-funded election promises.
Western Australia, traditionally a happy hunting ground for the Liberal Party, will feature heavily in the parties’ campaign strategies with Labor targeting up to five marginal Coalition electorates, including Hasluck – held by Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt – and the Attorney-General Christian Porter’s seat of Pearce.
In a sign of how important Perth will be to the election outcome, the first leaders’ debate will take place in the WA capital on April 29. The debate, hosted by the West Australian newspaper, will give voters the first chance to compare the Prime Minister and Opposition leader in a head-to-head contest.
And it will likely liven up what has thus far been a fairly uneventful campaign that has featured lots of noise and competing claims but without any cut-through moments of high drama.