Hon. Larry Anthony, Chairman
Houdini, a magician famous for his ability to escape chains and handcuffs under water, is long gone. But can some of that amazing magic live on, politically speaking, to help Scott Morrison escape the train wreck coming?
The ending of the past torrid Parliamentary fortnight could not have come quick enough for the Coalition Government. With less than seven weeks to go before the starter’s gun is fired for the Federal election, attacks are coming on all fronts threatening to run the Morrison Government off the rails.
And this is the paradox for the Morrison-Joyce Government. The economy is going gang busters with a post-Covid recovery, GDP is up, and unemployment is at historical lows, but the Government is getting no credit for their stewardship.
Instead, the attacks are coming from all fronts and from within.
This is not good news for a government with a wafer-thin margin in the 151-seat House of Representatives. The vote on the Conservative Right, traditionally a political stronghold for the Government, is fracturing along with the Centre Right vote in urban Australia
Unlike the 2019 election, where a huge preference flow helped secure Government for the Liberal National Party, the opposite could well be in play for the May 2022 election.
If you add to this mix the anti-Vax, anti-lockdown vote on display in massive demonstrations over the past six months, a new, unpredictable voting base is unlikely to show sympathy to an incumbent Government. This demographic is made up of both the Far Right and the Left aggrieved with the vaccine mandate and having their freedoms curtailed.
This is the breeding ground for One Nation, United Australia Party, Liberal Democrats and to a lesser extent Shooters, Fishers and Farmers in southern states.
Recent polls have this combined vote approaching 15 per cent which is massive.
In the Centre, the Government is struggling in the more affluent seats close to the CBDs of Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne. These seats have traditionally been the home of the Liberal Party, but a sustained campaign of well-resourced female independent candidates backed by Simon Holmes a Court’s Climate 200 group is seriously challenging the Liberal incumbents.
The latest Newspoll shows the ALP leading comfortably at a primary vote of 41 per cent with the Coalition trailing at 35 per cent. After preferences are distributed, this takes the ALP opposition to 54 per cent versus 46 per cent for the LNP.
For the Government to be in the hunt, it needs to lift its primary vote by at least five per cent to be closer to 40 per cent before preference flow.
To counter expected losses from WA and other states, the Government will need to pick up seats in the NT and NSW just to maintain the equilibrium. Amazingly, the Liberal Party in NSW has still not preselected candidates in must-win marginal seats in Western Sydney. A bitter factional war is raging internally between the right and the moderate factions stalling crucial pre-selections.
Combine this with the State by-election disaster for the Liberal Party, and there is a real possibility that the Liberal Party will go backwards in the PM’s home state.
Even the Parliamentary team is undisciplined with five Government members crossing the floor last week to torpedo the Governments religious discrimination laws. The cracks in the Government are widening and the authority of the PM is being undermined as his personal approval rating heads south, exacerbated by a softening in the female vote.
Anthony Albanese’s small target strategy is working. He has learnt the lesson from Bill Shorten’s big-picture campaign in 2019 and that is, don’t draw attention to yourself.
This week, the national security card was played, attacking the ALP with claims of “the Manchurian candidate’’ and “the Chinese pick for the next Government’’.
Nationalism and National security through a khaki election could wedge the ALP and appeal to the Conservative base to lift the Government’s primary vote into the must-win 40 per cent buffer before preferences
Is this enough to make Houdini proud and pull of a miracle like the 2019 election and win a fourth term?
We will all know come the end of May.