Paddy Manning’s excellent account of the Australian Greens will not be the last word on Australia’s most successful third party, but will doubtless remain important and influential for many years to come.
Manning’s exhaustive (but never exhausting) Inside the Greens pulls the reader through almost half a century of battles over development that threatened the natural world. It spans Tasmania’s Lake Pedder battle in the 1970s to this year’s Galilee blockade over future coal extraction, including the proposed Adani mine – all while explaining the tensions between pragmatists and idealists.
Inside the Greens should be read not just by those particularly interested in the issues, and the political tragics who buy all these sorts of books, but by anyone who feels the need to combat what veteran political journalist Laura Tingle calls “political amnesia”.
A well-informed perspective
Manning has been working on this book for several years and some portions of the work have appeared in The Guardian and the Sydney Morning Herald. He has excellent access to archives and activists, and has interviewed extensively – including Bob Brown, Christine Milne and Richard Di Natale – and referenced sources such as writer Amanda Lohrey’s Quarterly Essay Groundswell and journalist Paul Kelly’s book Triumph and Demise.
Manning is not the only writer to tackle the Greens of late. In the same way Shaun Crowe, author of Whitlam’s Children (astutely reviewed in Overland) was clear where his sympathies lay, so is Manning.
However Manning has not traded his critical faculties for access. While his sympathies are clear, both about the Greens party itself and within its ranks, you trust him not to soft-pedal. For example, he is perfectly happy to call out bad behaviour. Discussing the furore around Alex Bhathal, a perennial Greens candidate in Victoria, Manning says:
On a blunt assessment, Bhathal was a high-profile victim of a long-running feud between two Melbourne branches, the Darebin and Moreland Greens. Hardly anyone knows whence it started, or what it’s about.
The main strengths of the book are that Manning resists the temptation to merely handwave at the 1970s and ‘80s before diving into the gory (and much told) dilemmas of the Rudd-Gillard years (anyone looking for new juicy gossip about that period will be disappointed). Nor does he descend into blow-by-blow accounts of the tensions within the New South Wales Greens, and between the NSW and federal parties.
Inevitably in a book of this length and detail (and given that it was only completed after the recent federal election), some ambiguities and errors have slipped through. Among the more obvious, Australia did in fact sign the Kyoto Protocol (in April 1998), but only ratified it in November 2007 under Kevin Rudd. Far less importantly, Ben Oquist was strategic director, not executive director of The Australia Institute in 2014 when the bizarre Palmer-Gore deal saved the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ARENA, although he was involved in negotiations (I know, I know, I should get out more).
The first 11 chapters give a chronological account of the political pushes for sustainability in the 1960s and ’70s (without perhaps giving enough attention to pro-conservation Liberals and Labour at the time, or the tensions within the Australian Conservation Foundation) all the way through to the recent wars within the NSW Greens and the 2019 election.
The second, shorter half of the book is perhaps not quite as strong. Manning gives a serviceable account of the climate emergency, before an examination of tackling inequality in the “aspirational era”. A better chapter takes on the Greens’ defence and military policies – he approvingly quotes, but doesn’t cite, the defence expert Alan Carris.
Manning finally talks about the challenges ahead for the Greens. Herein lies the book’s greatest shortcoming. On page 398 Manning had already quoted Jonathan Moylan (he of a fake press release that temporarily wiped A$314 million from a coal company’s market value) saying “what we need is a movement powerful enough that it can’t be ignored by any politician”.
Indeed. And that is the great, largely unexamined, and seemingly unacknowledged failure of the green left, both inside and outside parliament. In the same way Denniss did a very good job of elucidating the problem with affluenza, Manning has diagnosed the problems for the capital G and lower-case greens without necessarily putting forward concrete or specific curatives. But nonetheless, this book deserves a very wide readership.
This review was updated on Tuesday September 17. The original version stated Inside the Greens erroneously claimed the 20% greenhouse emissions reduction target was propounded by John Howard. In fact, the book said John Howard’s government renegotiated the 20% target.
At the May 18 election, the size of the lower house was expanded from 150 to 151 seats. The Coalition parties won 77 seats (up one since the 2016 election), Labor 68 (down one) and the crossbench six (up one). The Coalition government holds a three-seat majority.
Owing to redistributions and the loss of Wentworth to independent Kerryn Phelps at an October 2018 byelection, the Coalition notionally had 73 seats before the election, a one-seat advantage over Labor. Using this measure, the Coalition gained a net four seats in the election.
The Coalition gained the Queensland seats of Herbert and Longman, the Tasmanian seats of Braddon and Bass, and the New South Wales seat of Lindsay. Labor’s only offsetting gain was the NSW seat of Gilmore. Corangamite and Dunkley are not counted as Labor gains as they were redistributed into notional Labor seats.
Four of the six pre-election crossbenchers easily held their seats – Adam Bandt (Melbourne), Andrew Wilkie (Clark), Rebekha Sharkie (Mayo) and Bob Katter (Kennedy). The Liberals narrowly regained Wentworth from Phelps, but independent Zali Steggall thrashed Tony Abbott 57%-43% in Warringah. In Indi, independent Helen Haines succeeded retiring independent Cathy McGowan, defeating the Liberals by 51.4%-48.6%.
The Coalition easily defeated independent challengers in Cowper and Farrer.
While Bandt was re-elected, the Greens went backwards in their other inner-Melbourne target seats of Wills and Cooper. Only in Kooyong did the Greens manage to beat Labor into second.
The final primary votes were 41.4% Coalition (down 0.6%), 33.3% Labor (down 1.4%), 10.4% Greens (up 0.2%), 3.4% United Australia Party (UAP) and 3.1% One Nation (up 1.8%).
The final two-party vote was 51.5% for the Coalition to 48.5% for Labor, a 1.2% swing in the Coalition’s favour from the 2016 election. It is the first pro-government swing since the 2004 election.
It was expected the Coalition would do better once the 15 “non-classic” seats were included; these are seats where the final two candidates were not Coalition and Labor. However, 11 of these seats swung to Labor, including a 9.0% swing in Warringah and a 7.9% swing in Wentworth. Eight non-classics were inner-city electorates that tended to swing to Labor.
The table below shows the number of seats in each state and territory, the Coalition’s number of seats, the Coalition’s percentage of seats, the gains for the Coalition compared to the redistribution, the Coalition’s two-party vote, the swing to the Coalition in two-party terms, and the number of Labor seats.
Four of the six states recorded swings to the Coalition in the range from 0.9% to 1.6%. Victoria was the only state that swung to Labor, by 1.3%. Queensland had a 4.3% swing to the Coalition, far larger than any other state. Labor did well to win a majority of NSW seats despite losing the two-party vote convincingly.
Official turnout in the election was 91.9%, up 0.9% from 2016. Analyst Ben Raue says 96.8% of eligible voters were enrolled, the highest ever. That means effective turnout was 89.0% of the population, up 2.6%.
Education divide explains Coalition’s win
Not only did Steggall thump Abbott in Warringah, the electorate’s 9.0% swing to Labor on a two-party basis was the largest swing to Labor in the country. Abbott’s two-party vote percentage of 52.1% was by far the lowest for a conservative candidate against Labor since Warringah’s creation in 1922; the next lowest was 59.5% in 2007.
While Abbott did badly, other divisive Coalition MPs performed well. Barnaby Joyce won 54.8% of the primary vote in New England and gained a 1.2% two-party swing against Labor. Peter Dutton had a 3.0% two-party swing to him in Dickson, and George Christensen had a massive 11.2% two-party swing to him in Dawson, the second-largest for the Coalition nationally.
According to the 2016 census, 42% of those aged 16 and over in Warringah had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 22% in Australia overall. Just 13.5% had at least a bachelor’s degree in New England, 19% in Dickson and 12% in Dawson.
In Victoria, which swung to Labor, 24.3% of the population had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2016, the highest of any state in the nation.
The Grattan Institute has charted swings to Labor and the Coalition, taking into account wealth and tertiary education. Only polling booths in the top-income quintile swung to Labor; the other four income quintiles swung to the Coalition.
Areas with low levels of tertiary education swung strongly to the Coalition in NSW and Queensland, but less so in Victoria. There were solid swings to Labor in areas with high levels of tertiary education.
Some of the swings are explained by contrary swings in 2016, when the Coalition under Malcolm Turnbull performed relatively worse in lower-educated areas and better in higher-educated areas. However, Queensland’s 58.4% two-party vote for the Coalition was 1.4% better than at the 2013 election, even though the national result is 2.0% worse. The large swings to the Coalition in regional Queensland are probably partly due to the Adani coal mine issue.
Morrison’s appeal to lower-educated voters
Since becoming prime minister, Scott Morrison’s Newspoll ratings have been roughly neutral, with about as many people saying they are satisfied with him as those dissatisfied. After Morrison became leader, I suggested on my personal website that the Coalition would struggle with educated voters, and this occurred in the election. However, Morrison’s appeal to those with a lower level of education more than compensated.
In my opinion, the most important reason for the Coalition’s upset victory was that Morrison was both liked and trusted by lower-educated voters, while they neither liked nor trusted Labor leader Bill Shorten.
Earlier this month, The Guardian published a long report on the social media “death tax” scare campaign. While this and other Coalition scare campaigns may have had an impact on the result, they did so by playing into lower-educated voters’ distrust of Shorten. Had these voters trusted Shorten, such scare campaigns would have had less influence.
Labor also ran scare campaign ads attacking Morrison for deals with Clive Palmer and Pauline Hanson. But I believe these ads failed to resonate because lower-educated voters liked Morrison better.
I think Morrison won support from the lower-educated because they are sceptical of “inner-city elites”. The Coalition leader emphasised his non-elite attributes during the campaign, such as by playing sport and going to church. Turnbull was perceived as a member of the elite, which could explain swings to Labor in lower-educated areas in 2016.
Parallels can be drawn to the 2017 election in the UK. Labour performed far better than expected in the election, reducing the Conservatives to a minority government when they were expected to win easily. Labour had adopted a pro-Brexit position, which may have sent a message to lower-educated voters that they could support the party.
This offers an option for Australian Labor to try to win back support from lower-educated voters: adopt a hardline immigration policy. Votes that Labor would lose to the Greens by doing this would likely be returned as preferences.
See also my similar article on how Donald Trump won the US 2016 presidential election.
The problem with the polls
The table below shows all national polls released in the final week compared to the election result. A poll estimate within 1% of the actual result is in bold.
The polls did well on the One Nation and UAP votes, and were a little low on the Greens. The major source of error was that Labor’s vote was overstated and the Coalition’s was understated. Only Ipsos had Labor’s vote right, but it overstated the Greens vote by about three points – a common occurrence for Ipsos.
No poll since July 2018 had given the Coalition a primary vote of at least 40%. In the election, the Coalition parties received 41.4% of the vote.
Seat polls during the campaign were almost all from YouGov Galaxy, which conducts Newspoll. The Poll Bludger says these polls were, like the national polls, biased against the Coalition.
Analyst Peter Brent has calculated the two-party vote for all election-day and early votes. The gap between election day and early votes increased to 5.0% in 2019 from 4.6% in 2016. This does not imply that polls missed because of a dramatic late swing to the Coalition in the final days; it is much more likely the polls have been wrong for a long time.
Boris Johnson very likely to be Britain’s next PM, and left wins Danish election
I wrote for The Poll Bludger on June 14 that, after winning the support of 114 of the 313 Conservative MPs in the first round of voting, Boris Johnson is virtually assured of becoming the next British PM. Polls suggest he will boost the Conservative vote.
I also wrote on my personal website on June 6 about the left’s win in the Danish election. Also covered: a new Israeli election, the German Greens’ surge, and the left gaining a seat in the May 4 Tasmanian upper house periodical elections.
This year’s election will be the first in Australia where the parties will be advertising more on social and digital platforms than traditional media (TV, radio, newspapers and magazines).
There are a few key reasons for this. First, cost-wise, social media is far cheaper, sometimes as low as a few cents per click. Unlike heritage media, digital and social is extremely targeted, and can be done in the “dark,” so your opponents may not even be aware of the message you are pushing out.
Digital and social advertising can also be shared or even created by users themselves, further increasing the reach of a party’s messaging. This gets around the Australian Electoral Commission rules on advertising – technically they are not ads since no party is paying for them to be shared on people’s feeds.
Throw into the mix laws on political advertising – which allow parties to advertise up to and on election day on social media, but not traditional media – and we are likely seeing the first largely digitally driven election campaign in Australian political history.
From a campaign perspective, Palmer is ticking many of the right boxes: a mix of different platforms on digital and social; heritage media ads for mass market awareness featuring candidates selected from the middle; the use of memes and user-generated content; and even text messaging.
Despite the ubiquity of his ads, though, Palmer is still struggling to connect with most voters. This demonstrates a very important aspect to any advertising campaign: the actual brand still needs to be seen as offering real value to voters.
The UAP has used text messaging like this one below, for example, to try to change its negative perception with voters by delivering positive campaign promises.
The ‘Grim Reaper’ strategy and micro-targeting
One of the most effective ads ever done in Australia was the “Grim Reaper” AIDS awareness campaign in 1987, which showed how well “scare campaigns” and negative messaging can work, given the right context and framing. The ad’s micro-messaging was another aspect that worked so well: it personalised the issue and made it tangible to anyone sexually active.
Basically, negative messaging works on the theory that what you fear, you will avoid – or the “fight or flight response”. Negative political ads highlight the level of risk and consequence of a certain party’s policies – and then emphasise how to avoid this by not voting for them.
Trouble is, most ads on TV are losing their potency. As attitudes towards political messaging and brands become increasingly negative, voters are less likely to watch ads in their entirety. Many people also don’t see them as being personally relevant.
Social media, though, provides an excellent delivery mechanism for these types of messages. Digital ads can be personalised and focused on issues that voters have already expressed an interest in and therefore find relevant to their lives.
Social media ads can also be altered to be even more targeted as the campaign goes on, based on voter responses. And their speed of production – only taking a matter of hours to produce and place online – allows digital advertising to do what heritage no longer can and provide a more fluid, grassroots dynamic to campaigning.
That said, even on social media, negative advertising is not as effective if it just comes from the party itself. But when combined with information from third-party sources, such as from the media, this can increase the effectiveness. For example, the Liberal Party used the 10 Network image in this ad to support its claims on Labor’s tax policies.
The major parties are aware of this and are creating ads specifically targeting this demographic on Snapchat, WhatsApp and Instagram. Some of these are “dark social” ads (meaning they can only be seen by the target market) or are user-made so not to be subject to disclosure rules.
For more general audiences, Labor has created ads like this one on Facebook that highlight issues young voters are concerned about, such as wage increases and penalty rates. Ads like this also attempt to engage with these voters by asking them to sign petitions – a form of experiential marketing that’s proved highly effective with young audiences, as seen through platforms such as Change.org.
Groups like the Australian Youth Climate Coalition are tapping into experiential marketing by combining online advertising with a call for offline action on issues that appeal to young voters, such as climate change. Part-rock concert, part-protest, these events might remind some of the rallies that proved so popular during the Gough Whitlam era.
The increasing influence of lobbying groups
One of the more interesting developments of this election so far is the increasing sophistication, knowledge and strategies of political lobbying groups, or Australia’s equivalent to America’s PACs.
GetUp! is one such group, collecting A$12.8 million in donations in the last 12 months alone. Among the group’s tactics are direct phone calls to voters, partly achieved through “phone parties” where volunteers freely offer their time, phones and other resources to call people in targeted electorates. GetUp! has a goal of making 1 million phone calls in the lead-up to the election.
Other well-funded groups, such as the right-aligned Advance Australia, are also seeking to influence the narrative in the election, particularly in electorates like Warringah, where it has released ads against Tony Abbott’s challenger, Zali Steggall.
In part to counter the influence of lobbying groups, the Australian Council of Trade Unions has launched its own advertising campaign featuring working Australians describing how hard it is to make ends meet.
The rise of these groups in Australian politics opens a Pandora’s Box on just who can influence elections without even standing a single candidate – an issue that’s becoming part of politics now in many Western democracies. As many in politics would know, where there is money, there is power, and where there is power, there are those who are seeking to influence it.
With 19 days to go until election day, this week’s Newspoll, conducted April 26-28 from a sample of 2,140, gave Labor just a 51-49 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since last fortnight. Primary votes were 38% Coalition (down one), 37% Labor (down two), 9% Greens (steady), 5% for Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP) and 4% One Nation (steady).
Three weeks before the election, the UAP has been included in the party readout for the first time. Prior to this change, the tables show that the UAP had 2% support in the post-budget Newspoll and 3% last fortnight – they were previously published as Others. According to pollster David Briggs (paywalled), both UAP and One Nation preferences are assumed to flow at 60% to the Coalition.
Given results at the WA and Queensland 2017 elections and at the Longman 2018 federal byelection, where One Nation preferences flowed at over 60% to the Coalition, this assumption is justified for One Nation, and was the standard assumption from early 2018.
However, the UAP has no electoral record. At the 2013 election that Palmer contested under the Palmer United Party, PUP preferences split 53.7-46.3 to the Coalition. At that election, PUP recommended preferences to the Coalition in all House seats, the same situation as now, and the Labor government was on the nose.
45% were satisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance (steady) and 46% were dissatisfied (up two), for a net approval of -1. Bill Shorten’s net approval was up two points to -12, his best net approval since May 2016. Morrison led Shorten by 45-37 as better PM (46-35 last fortnight).
Morrison was trusted to keep campaign promises over Shorten by 41-38. In some evidence for UAP preferences splitting to the Coalition, UAP voters favoured Morrison on this question by 53-13, though this is from a subsample of about 100 UAP voters.
The change in party readout and the preference assumptions for UAP explain the narrowing in this poll from 52-48 to 51-49. But there has been a clear overall narrowing trend this year from the last three Newspolls of 2018, which were all 55-45 to Labor. Morrison’s relatively good ratings and greater distance from the events of last August are assisting the Coalition.
The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack currently has Labor winning 87 of the 151 seats on a 52.4-47.6 two party vote. The Coalition’s primary vote in Newspoll is 4% down from 2016, but preference changes since 2016 could assist the Coalition, and that is reflected in Newspoll. However, Ipsos polls have shown no difference between last election and respondent allocated preferences since Morrison became PM.
In economic news, the ABS reported on April 24 that there was zero inflation in the March quarter. While this was bad for the overall economy, it is good for consumers worried about the cost of living. Lower oil prices in late 2018 meant petrol prices fell in January, but have since increased.
YouGov Galaxy poll: 52-48 to Labor
A YouGov Galaxy poll for the Sunday News Ltd tabloids, conducted April 23-25 from a sample of 1,012, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since late March. Primary votes were 37% Coalition (up two), 37% Labor (steady), 9% Greens (down one), 4% One Nation (down four), 4% UAP (steady) and 9% for all Others (up three). YouGov Galaxy also conducts Newspoll.
Voters were asked if they were impressed or unimpressed with the campaign performances of six party leaders, and all performed poorly. Morrison was the best with a 54-38 unimpressed score, Shorten had a 60-31 rating, Nationals leader Michael McCormack a 38-8 rating, Greens leader Richard Di Natale had a 44-13 unimpressed score, Pauline Hanson a 67-20 rating and Clive Palmer a horrible 69-17 unimpressed rating.
The many don’t knows for Di Natale and McCormack reflect that most people don’t know very much about them. While ratings for Morrison and Shorten would be based to some extent on their campaign performance, those for Hanson and Palmer are much more likely based on voters’ opinions of them before the campaign.
Palmer’s preference deal with the Coalition
Under a preference deal between Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP) and the Coalition, Palmer would direct preferences to the Coalition in House seats in return for Coalition preferences in the Senate. It is important to note that voters make the choices in both houses now, and can ignore preference recommendations.
In 2013, Palmer recommended preferences to the Coalition in all seats, and they flowed to the Coalition by a 53.7-46.3 margin; his party won 5.5% of the national vote in the House. While this split was not more pro-Coalition, analyst Peter Brent suggests that Palmer voters were more inclined to preference Labor, and the preference recommendations had some impact.
If the UAP won 4% of the national vote and their preference recommendations convinced 10% of their voters who would otherwise preference Labor to preference the Coalition, the Coalition’s national two party vote would by 0.4% higher than otherwise.
However, this analysis ignores the risk of doing a deal with someone as disliked by the general public as Palmer. In a January Herbert seat Newspoll, 65% had a negative view of Palmer, and just 24% a positive view.
So while a preference deal with Palmer could earn the Coalition some more preferences, it could also damage their overall primary vote, hurting them more than helping. Labor will attack Palmer over the sacked Queensland Nickel workers, and that could impact the Coalition’s support among people with a lower level of educational attainment.
Does early voting make a difference to the results?
Pre-poll voting booths for the election are open from today. Under Australia’s compulsory voting, people are required to vote, and those who vote early are unlikely to have voted differently if they voted on election day unless there was a dramatic late-campaign development. So there is likely to be little overall impact of early voting on the results. In voluntary voting systems like the US, early voting gives people who need to work on election day a greater opportunity to vote.
If one party was trending up in the polls as election day approached, early voters will decide their vote earlier, and so the trend will also be reflected in early votes.
While early voting overall has little impact, the types of people who vote early can differ markedly from the election day vote. Big pre-poll booths will not report until very late on election night, and the results could change significantly depending on those booths – as happened in the October Wentworth byelection.
The Coalition has made up ground in Newspoll, now trailing Labor by just 49-51%, compared with 48-52% a fortnight ago.
The tightening of the May 18 race, coming after Scott Morrison was seen to out-campaign Bill Shorten early on, will boost Coalition morale as pre-polling begins on Monday.
But both sides have lost support on their primary votes in the Newspoll, published in the Australian, while Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party is polling 5%, becoming the leading minor party behind the Greens.
Labor is down 2 points to 37%; the Coalition has fallen a point to 38%. The Greens remain on 9% and One Nation is static on 4%.
Shorten’s personal ratings are encouraging for him – he has had a 2 point rise to 39% in his satisfaction rating and reduced the gap on the better prime minister measure.
While Morrison still has a substantial lead as better PM, Shorten has increased his rating by 2 points to 37% and Morrison has fallen a point to 45%.
Morrison’s approval stayed on 45% while his disapproval was 46%, up 2 points, in the poll of 2136 voters taken Friday to Sunday.
Morrison and Shorten have arrived in Perth for Monday evening’s debate, their first face-to-face encounter of the campaign, which has under three weeks to run.
In a day of mega spending, Shorten on Sunday promised A$4 billion over three years to provide 887,000 families with relief on their child care costs; $2.4 billion over the forward estimates for a pensioner and seniors dental plan, and $537 million over the forward estimates to lift the pay of child care workers.
Under Labor’s dental plan, age pensioners and those holding a Commonwealth seniors’ health card would be entitled to up to $1000 worth of free essential dental care every two years. Some three million people would be eligible under the plan, which would expand Medicare.
Shorten told a rally of volunteers in Melbourne: “Under a Labor government, after May 18 if you’re a pensioner or a seniors health care card holder your dental work will be backed by Medicare for the rest of your life. This is the fair go in action”.
Shorten said an ALP government over the next eight years would boost the average wage of child care workers by about $11,300. This would be on top of any rise in the award rate.
It would be “a 20% pay rise for the early educators because we value early education,” he said.
“This is an investment in quality early education, for good jobs and a strong economy of the future.
“And this is an investment in pay equity for a female-dominated industry. A fair reward for a workforce that has about 96% women, has been undervalued and underpaid for too long.”
Labor says the pay rise would not increase child care fees because the government would fully fund it.
In an initiative on cyber security the government is announcing it would to invest $156 million “to protect older Australians, small businesses and national security assets from the risk of cyber-attacks”.
A range of measures to combat cyber crime would include developing “a comprehensive online cyber security training program providing practical cyber advice for small businesses, older Australians and Australian families”.
The government says cybercrime costs the economy more than $1 billion a year.
In the vulnerable state of Victoria, the government is sandbagging the Liberal heartland seats of Higgins and Kooyong with a promise of $260 million to eliminate a level crossing on busy Glenferrie road in the suburb of Kooyong.
The project would take the train line under the road. The crossing is technically in Higgins but right on the border of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s seat of Kooyong. Frydenberg is being targeted by GetUp and various candidates especially on climate change.
In another Victorian seat, Flinders, Health Minister Greg Hunt has been dealt a blow by the decision of Liberal defector Julia Banks to preference Labor ahead of him.
Coalition campaign spokesman Simon Birmingham on Sunday accused her of walking away from her principles. “You’ve really got to wonder about the various positions of Julia Banks, who was until not that long ago urging people to vote Liberal and now is suggesting she will preference Labor. […] I think it shows gross inconsistency on her part”.
With 23 days to go until the May 18 election, Newspoll had seat polls of Herbert, Lindsay, Deakin and Pearce. All four polls were conducted April 20 from samples of 500-620. Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP) had the support of 5% in Deakin, 7% in Lindsay, 8% in Pearce and 14% in Herbert.
Seat polls are notoriously unreliable. In addition, the UAP has clearly been added to the party readout in these seats. Pollsters regularly ask for Labor, the Coalition, the Greens and One Nation. All other voters are grouped as “Others”, although a follow-up question can be asked – if Other, which other?
The strongest indication that UAP support is overstated in these seat polls is that the all Others vote is unrealistically low in three of the four seats polled. In Herbert, Pearce and Deakin, all Others are at just 2%, while they are 8% in Lindsay. It is likely that many of those who will vote for Others at the election said they would vote for the UAP as that party was in the readout.
Herbert was tied at 59-50, unchanged from the 2016 election. In Lindsay, Labor was ahead by 51-49, also unchanged. The Liberals led by 51-49 in Deakin, but this was a solid swing to Labor from 56.4-43.6 to the Liberals at the 2016 election. In Pearce, there was a 50-50 tie (53.6-46.4 to Liberals at the 2016 election).
Primary votes in Herbert were 31% LNP, 29% Labor, 14% UAP, 10% Katter’s Australian Party, 9% One Nation and 5% Greens. In Deakin, primary votes were 46% Liberals, 39% Labor, 8% Greens and 5% UAP. In Pearce, primary votes were 40% Liberals, 36% Labor, 8% Greens, 8% UAP and 6% One Nation. In Lindsay, primary votes were 41% Liberals, 40% Labor, 7% UAP and 4% Greens.
Relative to the national swing, Labor is expected to struggle in the Townsville-based seat of Herbert due to the Adani coal mine issue. In Lindsay, the retirement of Labor MP Emma Husar in controversial circumstances may have made it vulnerable.
Bad ReachTEL seat polls for Labor in Bass and Corangamite
There were two ReachTEL seat polls conducted last week from samples of 780-850. In the Labor-held Tasmanian seat of Bass, the Liberals had a 54-46 lead. In the Victorian seat of Corangamite, which is on no margin following a redistribution, the Liberals led by 52-48. The Bass poll was conducted for the Australian Forest Products Association, and the Corangamite poll for The Geelong Advertiser.
Bass and Tasmania have an older demographic than Australia overall. I wrote last week that, according to Newspoll data, those aged 50 or over are best for the Coalition. Corangamite also has an older demographic than the country overall.
Labor won Bass by 56.1-43.9 at the 2016 election, a 10.1% swing to Labor. But at the 2013 election, Bass was the best of the five Tasmanian seats for the Liberals, and this also occurred at the March 2018 state election. Labor’s big 2016 swing may have been caused by the unpopularity of hard-right Liberal MP Andrew Nikolic. In the July 2018 federal byelections, Labor had an underwhelming victory in Bass’s neigbouring seat, Braddon.
While seat polls are unreliable, the Corangamite and Bass polls are evidence that, as reported by The Poll Bludger originally from The Australian Financial Review, Scott Morrison appears to have a greater appeal to blue-collar and outer suburban voters than Malcolm Turnbull, and this has helped the Coalition in seats like Bass and Corangamite.
One Nation to contest 59 of the 151 House seats
Nominations for the election were declared this week. Labor, the Coalition, the Greens and the UAP will contest all 151 House seats. One Nation will contest 59 seats, with Fraser Anning’s Conservative National Party running in 48 seats, Animal Justice in 46 and the Christian Democrats in 42.
Until now, national pollsters have assumed One Nation was running in all seats for their polls. With One Nation only running in 39% of seats, most pollsters will reduce their national vote. This reduction may assist the Coalition on primary votes.
In the Senate, a quota for election is one-seventh of the vote, or 14.3%. Labor, the Greens and the Coalition are likely to be in the mix for the final seats in every state. It is possible that the small right-wing parties, such as Anning’s party, the UAP, the Australian Conservatives and Christian Democrats, could cause seats that should go to the right to go to the left instead if they do not tightly preference each other, One Nation and the Coalition.
Voters are told to number six boxes above the line for a formal vote, though only one number is actually required. At the NSW state election, left-wing micro-party voters preferenced more than right-wing micro-party voters, resulting in Animal Justice easily winning the final upper house seat.
At the federal election, it will be clear that left-wing micro-party supporters need to preference Labor and the Greens in their top six. It will be clear for right-wing micro supporters to preference the Coalition in the top six, but it is not likely to be clear which other right-wing party to preference.
With the federal election a little over a month away, it appears many Australians have little faith the winners will be able to provide the type of leadership that can change the country in a meaningful way.
According to our recent research, nearly a third (29.8%) of respondents believe that the Coalition shows no “leadership for the public good”, compared to just 5% who believe the Coalition shows such leadership to an extremely large extent.
Labor fared only slightly better – 24.9% of respondents believe it shows no “leadership for the public good”, compared to 7.3% who said it shows it to an extremely large extent.
Our findings revealed that minor parties, the Greens and One Nation, didn’t inspire confidence, either. About a third (32.9%) of respondents believe the Greens show no “leadership for the public good”, while just over half (50.3%) believe the same of One Nation.
Equally concerning is the collapse of Australians’ trust and confidence in their democratic institutions of government.
Just over a quarter (26.3%) of respondents believe that the federal government, as an institution, shows no “leadership for the public good”. This score is somewhat worse than perceptions of state governments (24.6%) and significantly worse than perceptions of local governments (16.2%).
The findings come from the initial results of the Australian Leadership Index, a new quarterly survey from the Swinburne Business School that measures and tracks community perceptions and expectations of leadership across 12 institutions in the government, public, private and not-for-profit sectors.
These results were drawn from two nationally representative surveys of 1,000 Australians we conducted in March.
Taken together, the results provide more bad news for the Coalition in the lead-up to the federal election on May 18.
Accountability and ethics are key
We hasten to add that the disillusionment with the federal government does not extend to voters’ perceptions of the public sector. On balance, voters think the public health and education sectors show leadership for the public good.
This indicates that public disillusionment lies squarely with the people who make the policy, rather than those who implement it.
Consistent with other studies, our findings confirm the importance of transparency, accountability and ethics to perceptions of trust and confidence in leadership.
From a community perspective, political leadership for the public good occurs when leaders demonstrate high ethical standards, prioritise transparency and accountability even when it could have a negative impact on their administrations, and are alive and responsive to the needs of the people they serve.
In other words, leadership for the greater good is reflected in what value leaders create, how they create this value, and for whom they create it.
Political leaders in Australia are currently lacking on all counts.
For whom is value created?
Our survey results shed light on where the public thinks the federal government is failing to create value and what the community expects of political leaders to serve the greater good.
Notably, creating economic value has no bearing on perceptions of politicians’ leadership for the public good. As former Liberal Party leader John Hewson recently observed, voters now take effective economic management for granted from governments.
The same could be said for the creation of social value through, for example, the provision of social services and the enactment of policies that enable people to flourish.
From the public’s perspective, the creation of social and economic value is essentially “core business” for the federal government.
In order to be seen as showing leadership for the public good, the federal government needs to go beyond business as usual.
What looms largest in the public mind when thinking about leadership for the greater good is how political leaders create value and for whom they create value.
Specifically, politicians need to behave ethically and demonstrate accountability for their actions. Australians have had enough of the opportunistic, short-term game of point-scoring and blame-shifting.
Moreover, political leaders need to be seen as responsive to the people they serve, in addition to balancing the needs of different groups of stakeholders. Concern about the use of donations to gain access to, and exert influence over, politicians looms large in the public mind.
In the lead-up to the federal election, and in the wake of recent Royal Commissions into banking and religious institutions, it’s the ideal time for Australians to consider the kind of leadership we need for the Australia we want.
On Saturday, March 23, the people of New South Wales will head to the ballot boxes for a state election. It is looking increasingly close, with polls showing government and opposition neck and neck on about 50% of the two-party preferred vote. This is a decline in the Coalition vote of 4% compared to the 2015 election.
The current campaign is reminiscent of a 1950s “I’ll see you and raise you” one. Government and opposition are engaged in an auction to outbid each other in the amounts committed to schools, hospitals, transport and other basic services. The campaign is one of the quietest in a long time, with little excitement about the respective leaders and no major clash of visions for the future.
Mike Baird’s victory in 2015 laid the foundation for this. The then Coalition leader won a mandate to privatise the state’s electricity network, although sacrificing seats his successor would be glad to have in reserve. The mountains of money produced by this and other privatisations have allowed Premier Gladys Berejiklian to go to the election with a massive war chest.
In addition, the NSW economy is in good shape, performing well compared to most other states. The budget is in surplus and predicted to remain there. Net debt is negative. Unemployment is at a record low.
The Coalition government has a large array of infrastructure projects in progress, including the Westconnex and Northconnex motorways, Sydney Metro – the largest public transport project in Australia – and the CBD and South East light rail. The amount committed for infrastructure over the next four years is just under A$90 billion.
Berejiklian’s pitch is: don’t jeopardise all this by electing Labor. She is keen to remind the electorate of the factional bloodletting, policy paralysis and corruption that marked the final years of the last ALP government in NSW. The release during the campaign of Ian Macdonald, another ex-ALP minister, after his conviction was quashed, assisted the government by putting their misdeeds back on the front pages.
The Coalition also has some significant problems. Overdevelopment is devastating many Sydney suburbs. Residents angry at the disruption to their lives are likely to turn against the Liberals. The premier will not be presiding at many opening ceremonies for infrastructure projects before the election. More apparent are cost over-runs, delays and short-term inconvenience.
The general unpopularity of the federal Coalition government is a handicap for its NSW counterpart. In rural NSW, a belief that the Nationals have neglected voters’ interests could cost the government seats.
Opposition Leader Michael Daley struggled at first to gain momentum and attention. His campaign ignited three weeks out from polling day when he took on influential radio commentator Alan Jones over the Sydney stadiums issue. This has been a festering sore for the government since November 2017, when Berejiklian announced that both Allianz Stadium at Moore Park and ANZ Stadium at Homebush would be simultaneously demolished and rebuilt at an estimated cost of A$2.5 billion.
The public outcry at what was seen as wasteful expense was so great that she quickly backed off. The rebuilding of Allianz would proceed, but ANZ would now be renovated, saving A$1 billion.
Jones is a member of the prestigious Sydney Cricket Ground Trust, which controls Allianz and has lobbied strongly for its rebuilding. Daley attacked Jones and promised to sack him and most members of the trust.
Daley instantly became the people’s politician, unafraid to stand up to a powerful broadcaster and an elite board. He put the stadium issue back at the centre of the campaign. It crystallised the perception that the government is more concerned about developers and big business than the community.
But does Daley have anything more positive to offer? There is some policy differentiation.
Labor has promised there will be no more privatisations and will re-regulate the electricity industry. Labor also has stronger policies on the environment and climate change than the Coalition. It will be more generous to the public sector. But the main thrust of Daley’s campaign is: we will give you more of the same but do it better.
The government has 52 of the 93 seats in the Legislative Assembly. The opposition holds 34. A uniform swing of nearly 9%, just under what it achieved at the last election, would be needed for Labor to gain a majority in its own right.
A feature of this poll is the difference between Sydney and the bush. In 2015, Labor picked up most of the low-hanging fruit in Sydney and only a handful of seats are in play this time. In rural and regional NSW, the Nationals face a strong challenge from independents and minor parties.
If the government loses six seats, it will be in a minority. After appointing a speaker, its numbers would drop to 45. The crossbench would be in a crucial position.
Currently, there are seven crossbench MPs in the lower house: three Greens, a Shooter and three independents (Alex Greenwich, Joe McGirr and Greg Piper). The Greens have already indicated they would support the Coalition. Greenwich is on the left and has close links with his predecessor, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore. The other three are more conservatively inclined. The election of additional crossbenchers would add to the unpredictability.
Daley is hoping the electorate has forgotten about Obeid and that accumulated dissatisfaction with the government will translate into a victory for him. The result hinges on whether voters have lost faith in the Coalition to the extent that they are prepared to trust Labor again.
Young people are also swing voters who have had a significant, but unrecognised, effect on the outcomes of elections since the mid 1990s. In NSW, there are 1.34 million voters aged 18-35 – 25% of all electors. This is a record high number following a 2017 surge in national enrolment when 65,000 new young voters registered in the lead up to the same-sex marriage poll. There are now 140,000 more 18-24-year-old voters than 1.5 years ago.
In general, young voters are socially progressive and action-oriented. They are not rusted on to party politics and they want to see leadership on issues. In close elections, like this year’s NSW state poll, winning the youth vote will be key to winning government – especially in marginal seats.
For example, in the 2015 election, Coogee was won by less than 2,500 votes – equivalent to half of the 20-24-year-olds in that electorate. So the issues that matter to young people should matter to NSW electoral candidates.
What matters to young people in NSW?
Safety at entertainment events and school strikes on climate change have already tested the Coalition government’s responses to young people and their concerns. Yet, the diverse experiences and needs of young people still aren’t reflected by political parties. Key issues that matter to young people in the NSW election include:
As more young people are pushed into perpetual and unaffordable renting because they cannot afford to buy a home, and with the increasing number of youth experiencing homelessness, housing affordability is a clear election priority. The relative cost of purchasing a house in 2016 was four times what it was in 1975, with more than 50% of young people under 24 experiencing housing stress.
For young people in Western Sydney, the situation is especially acute. Rents can be 35-60% of average weekly wages for people over the age of 15. Of immediate concern is the massive increase in youth homelessness over the last decade by 92%. There were 9,048 homeless young people in NSW in 2016: more than in any other state.
Since then, young people have been calling for politicians to take meaningful action on climate change, spurring a world-wide movement “school strike 4 climate” for which many will demonstrate at an estimated 50 sites around Australia on March 15. Young people have the most at stake when it comes to climate change and they are holding the government to account. Climate change will be a deciding issue until there is clear action made by state and federal governments.
The rising cost of VET, TAFE and university fees, compounded by insecure work and the high cost of living, are making educational access increasingly unequal for young people across NSW.
Young people want education to be free or more affordable, to ensure that everyone has access to a well-funded and relevant education system, according to a survey of 3,400 young people done by Youth Action in 2018.
Young people, especially those from rural and remote areas, those with a disability, and those from low SES backgrounds continue to face disproportionate challenges in our state education system.
Beyond the election
Young people won’t be won over by small, short term measures. Candidates and parties must be genuine, honest, consistent and lead on the key issues that matter to young people. To gain and retain their votes, politicians need to deliver and meaningfully engage with young people in the long term. Much like a Minister for Ageing (which NSW has), a Minister for Youth would ensure this consistently across government.
In all their diversity, young people care about issues and they want to be involved. Adding their voices and votes to solving big policy problems in NSW will have a beneficial flow-on effect for the rest of society. In extensive consultations by the NSW Advocate for Children and Young People and for Youth Action’s 2019 Election Platform young people have clearly articulated what needs to happen to create a better society for their peers and deliver benefits to the wider community.
Candidates in the upcoming election would be wise to heed and act on the priorities of young people who will be voting in March – and for many decades to come. If you don’t secure their vote, someone else will.
This article was co-authored with Katie Acheson (CEO, Youth Action)