2 July 2016
Busy days and a twisty campaign for the 2016 Federal election have kept me away from commenting on it of late. And today the campaign has come to its end, with Australians voting whether to continue with the Liberal-National Coalition Government or change direction.
Having looked at the last opinion polls ahead of voting, I’m predicting a swing of 3-4 per cent against the Coalition nationwide, but it looks like Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will lead the Coalition to a narrow win in the House of Representatives. Swings aren’t always uniform at election time, meaning that some seats within the range of a uniform swing don’t necessarily fall, and some such seats unlikely to fall. That’s why I believe that Turnbull is set to make it narrowly home.
The last election, in 2013, saw the 150-seat House fall comfortably to the Coalition over the Labor Party, with a 90-55 win, while a quintet of crossbenchers won the other seats.
Since the 2013 election, there have been electoral redistributions in several places, which have changed the numbers there. Brought about by population changes, with the aim of giving as near as possible to an even number of voters in every seat in selected states or territories, the redistributions have notionally given the Coalition a new seat in Western Australia, notionally given Labor a trio of Coalition-held seats in New South Wales, and taken away one Labor-held seat. As a result, the House now shows the Coalition 88-57 ahead of Labor. This has reduced Labor’s task of a 21-seat target to a 19-seat target.
While this year was always going to be an election year, three years on from the last election, the last year has been been full of twists and turns. The Coalition had won the last election largely off the back of massive voter dissatisfaction with Labor, but voters themselves didn’t like Tony Abbott, who was then the Coalition leader, and they only voted for because they were fed up with Labor. It only took a few months for their dissatisfaction with Abbott to really show in the polls, and for month after month one poll after another showed voters ready to throw the Coalition out of office, after a single term there. This brought about a leadership challenge in September last year, with Abbott dumped in favour of Turnbull. But after enjoying much bigger approval ratings among voters for several months, Turnbull also lost favour with them, and in the first six months of this year he’s nosedived from looking unbeatable to looking vulnerable.
The amazing thing is that many people, myself included, didn’t expect Labor to be in with a shout after its 2013 election loss. Even though voters hated Abbott, it seemed hard to believe that they could want to go back to Labor after throwing Labor out in a big way in 2013. The switch from Abbott to Turnbull initially sent Labor’s stocks into freefall, but Labor has come back in a big way, and now looks to be in with a chance.
The trouble, as I see it, is that the Coalition has upset many people with its policy agenda, particularly when it comes to reducing public spending and a massive budget deficit that Labor had left behind. Voters didn’t like Labor’s deficit, but they’ve been uneasy about how the Coalition intends to deal with it. They’re afraid that spending cuts will leave them worse off and unable to spend more, and they’re afraid that the Coalition might try to return to a deregulated system of employment laws, which cost countless people a good chunk of their income and left them worried about of losing their jobs to people willing to accept less pay for work. I could sum up their thoughts as saying, “We don’t like Labor’s clumsiness, but we also don’t like the Coalition’s stinginess.”
Those circumstances make the 2016 election interesting. My prediction is for an overall swing of 3-4 per cent against the Coalition, but not all Coalition seats within that range will be lost, because of differing attitudes across different states and territories. So my seat tips are as follows, albeit not without some close calls.
The Coalition will end up losing the seats of Petrie, Capricornia, Lyons, Solomon, Hindmarsh, Eden-Monaro, Lindsay, Robertson, Page, Reid, Macarthur, Bonner, Brisbane, and Cowan to Labor – 14 seats in all. But on the other hand, the Coalition will end up winning McEwen and Chisholm and Bruce from Labor – a trio of Victorian seats. Also, the Coalition will win back Fairfax in Queensland, with the departure from politics of mining tycoon Clive Palmer. This points to a result of 78-68 to the Coalition over Labor, with a quartet of Independents holding the remaining seats.
I tip the Coalition to hold the seats of Braddon, Banks, Deakin, Gilmore, Corangamite, La Trobe, Bass, Forde, and Macquarie in the face of challenges. Most of these seats are within the uniform swing range, with some above, but I think that the Coalition will hold them.
As for the Senate, it’ll be a lottery. I won’t predict numbers, but I’m predicting the Coalition to face having to deal with balance-of-power crossbenchers in the Senate, just like previously.
This election will probably see Turnbull make it home. But few would’ve tipped him to struggle before now.