A half-decent election campaign ?

The first half of the 2019 election campaign was the worst I’ve ever seen, especially relative to the possibility for real debate. Both sides ran continuous attack ads focusing on the opposing leader, playing into the gladiatorial model favoured by the Press Gallery. Labor, in particular, seemed to have forgotten it had any policy offer.

Since Labor’s policy launch, things seem to have improved substantially. The fact that the launch took place at all, rather than being reduced to an end-of-campaign formality (timed to keep public funding flowing as long as possible) was a positive.

After the launch took place, Labor started running two new ads (at least those are the ones I saw), one continuing the attack on Morrison, but the other pushing positive policies and featuring a lot of leading frontbenchers rather than a single leader.

Obviously, the use of a “team” approach, was to some extent a forced move, given Shorten’s lack of popularity, and the switched in message seemed a bit artificial, but it was still an improvement. And, from what I can see, Shorten is doing a lot better in the media now that he is arguing a positive case rather than merely responding to LNP attacks.

The opinion polls have barely moved through the campaign and, taken together, suggest that it will be very hard for the LNP to win a majority, or even a plurality (more than Labor, but not a majority), of seats. The likely outcomes are a narrow Labor majority or a Labor plurality. Given the likely make-up of the crossbench, a plurlaity would almost certainly imply a Labor minority government.

Either outcome would be a good one, particularly in relation to climate policy. As regards Labor’s tax policies, if they can negotiate their way through the Senate, they should be able to do the same with the Reps.

15 thoughts on “A half-decent election campaign ?

  1. “As regards Labor’s tax policies, if they can negotiate their way through the Senate, they should be able to do the same with the Reps.”

    Unlikely. Of the possible House of Reps independents, the great majority will be ex Liberals representing well-heeled electorates. They won’t be supporting higher taxes on rich people.

  2. I only watch TV in Virgin Australia lounges and hotel lobbies, but the Liberals (their ads matched the giant billboard that greeted me walking out of Flinders Street Station this morning) seem to be doing a better job at messaging even if a worse job of positioning. I feel, as an American, like Australia is some not-very-orthogonal projection of our own strange situation: a plurality who get the wrong happening, but in some paralytic situation to fix it. Is it just the shared Murdoch virus—or some deeper thing?

  3. Early in the campaign Morrison stood next to champion racehorse Winx and declared the horse a symbol of his vision for Australia ,saying that ‘those who have a go will get a go’. Ironic given that Winx is the winner who took it all ,and that for every Winx there are literally hundreds of thousands of horses who tried just as hard but only ended up in dog food cans . The man is a heartless buffoon.

  4. Sunshine remember that economic rationality idea? – that is the excuse for being heartless. Not sure what encourages him to be a buffoon.

    It could be that he is being urged to be more like Trump – the worlds most popular buffoon – by the delcon’s in his ‘party’? Or could be, he’s always found it useful to act the buffoon to get away with the lies and hypocrisy that are such a necessary part of believing in the prosperity bible.

    Fran Kelly responding just now to criticisms that the ABC is biased and that they are interviewing more Labor candidates than LNP candidates. She responded that they have been asking for coalition ministers to come on but they are not responding to requests.

  5. Labor has firmed in the betting to $1.16. While Morrison has run a better campaign than Shorten and is gaining slightly, the finish line is in sight. It would not surprise if Morrison keeps the job of Liberal leader after the election, the argument from News/Sky being he ran a great campaign and the party only lost because of Turnbull.

    Interestingly the number of seats in the Reps to be won by the Greens most favoured by the punters is two. Obviously they will win Melbourne but it’s far from obvious what the second seat might be.

  6. At the last Federal election, the seat in which the Greens came closest without winning was Batman (renamed for this election as Cooper), and the next closest was Wills. Links to discussion of individual seats, including the prospects of the Greens, can be found at these webpages:

    The analyses do suggest that it’s not clear which of Cooper and Wills is the better prospect for the Greens, but that if they do win a second seat it’s most likely to be one of the two.

  7. Ged Carney will win Cooper with, as they say in racing circles, a leg in the air. After the debacle of the Batman by-election and the local Greens eating each other, which are doing to this day, they might run third after the Liberals.

    As for Wills the Greens can only win if they get a lot of Liberal preferences, which is not going to happen.

  8. Labor has formed further on the betting. It’s not quite all over, but as the saying goes, the fat Sheila is warming up her tonsils.

    The Liberals were doing so well until the Telegraph attacked Bill Shorten’s dead Mum, In one overplayed error of judgement, they managed to do what the Labor spinmeisters couldn’t in nearly six years, which was to make Shorten a sympathetic figure, human even. The smarter people at News like Andrew Bolt straightaway saw the danger, but by then it was too late.

    Well done chaps. Your nation thanks you.

  9. Smith9, I wasn’t expressing any views about the likelihood of the Greens winning either Cooper or Wills. The difficulties they face, as mentioned by you, are discussed at the websites I linked to. I was just saying that if they win a second seat, it’s most likely to be one of those two. Are there any other seats where you think the prospects for the Greens are less bad than they are in Cooper and Wills (apart from Melbourne, obviously)?

  10. J-D

    Maybe Julian Burnside can pull off the mother of all upsets in Kooyong. Morrison spent a whole day there this week. The extent to which normally true blue Liberals are upset over Malcolm Turnbull and the takeover of their party by the Cro-Magnon Right should not be underestimated. Something might be brewing.

  11. There are a few lessons.

    1. Queensland is different. Anyone who denies this is kidding themselves.

    2. Promising to increase taxes or to introduce new ones from opposition is a recipe for electoral defeat. Bill Hayden learnt this lesson the hard way in 1980. So did John Hewson in 1993. And now so has Bill Shorten,

    3. Academics like Andrew Leigh and Jim Chalmers are the first people you should turn to on designing good policies but they have NFI about the politics. The fact that only a small number of people are actually affected by a tax does not matter if a whole lot more think they might be because they don’t understand it. Politics is not a Mr Spock exercise in hyper-rationality. It is about emotions and feelings and sentiment.

    4. Polling is broken. The pollsters need to have a good look at their methods.

    Shorten is gone, obviously, but Chris Bowen is going to have to wear a lot of blame.

    Let the recriminations begin.

  12. Agree with your there Smith9, the proposed changes to the tax system could impact on those who rent or own property and those with Superannuation ie nearly everyone. It’s that unease that has been reflected at the polling booth.

  13. […] is muted by the fact that I found the campaign so utterly depressing. The shift to positivity I noted a couple of weeks ago only lasted for a day. I saw the positive ad I wrote about only once. By election day, like the […]

  14. […] bias (seeking out confirming evidence, while ignoring or discounting the other kind). Since this ANU study of voters’ choices in the leadup to the May election is, AFAICT the only one to be published so far, I can cite it without fear of this […]

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