Tony Abbott is going to disappear from our screens for five weeks. That’s probably paywalled; here’s the important bit:
My prediction is that Abbott will improve his position in the polls if he goes away for a while!
I’ll come back to Abbott, first the Victorian election.
Labor won by a small but comfortable margin. The best comment I’ve seen is from Dr Kevin Bonham (see the section Predictable Result). Bonham says that many factors were at work, so it is silly to place too much emphasis on first term governments usually being re-elected, for example. He points out that in fact first-term state governments lose often enough (22% in the past 60 years nationwide prior to this election).
Another myth is that voters distinguish between state and federal elections. He says his research indicates that voters tend to like a government of a different hue at each level, so that the state government will stick up for them. It also matters if the federal government is unpopular.
Being of the same party as the party in power in Canberra is a massive weight around the neck of any incumbent state government, especially if that federal government is unpopular. The article showed that a very simple linear model using just the age of a state government and whether the same party is in power federally predicted, without any polling input at all, that the government would lose about six seats (it has obliged).
So the result was very much as expected on those grounds alone.
Since that the federal government is unpopular as well, it can be argued that the Liberals did well to be merely beaten and not thrashed. Their first-term status contributed to that, as perhaps did risky ALP policy tactics, and as in my view did the strong Victorian economy and the better-than-expected leadership of Denis Napthine. But on the other side we find high unemployment and severe internal party turbulence. The Victorian Liberals need to review their candidate screening practices after the enormously damaging Shaw debacle and two embarrassing disendorsements during the current campaign.
Bonham says there were other factors, but federal-state drag was probably the biggest one.
There has been some commentary that Labor turned union links into a positive in the campaign. Given Bomham’s analysis I’m agnostic on that one. At least it was not electoral poison.
the bottom line is that the state election turned the psychology of federal politics on its head, as well as force all politicians to reflect on the “givens” of the political discourse.
Until the last couple of weeks, the ALP had settled in for six years in the wilderness of federal opposition.
Tony Abbott and his colleagues came to office presuming they would have a minimum of two terms to implement any tough reforms before enjoying a more loving relationship with the electorate, simply because no federal government in living memory has got less than two terms in office.
Victorians’ decision to turf out the Coalition after just one term has changed all that.
Bill Shorten is now a man in a hurry. Tony Abbott is a man who may run out of time.
She thinks Abbott shows no signs of understanding the way the land lies. Everyone knows he should recast his budget. Half the measures will not see the light of day, but he is determined to plough on. It’s also obvious that he should recast his cabinet. That should be fun!
The Victorian result suggests you don’t need any great vision, or leader’s charisma, to win an election.
You just need a jaded electorate where browned-off voters can’t think of a persuasive enough reason to give an uninspiring government another chance.
The Victorian result suggests that promoting your disciplined fiscal policy isn’t necessarily a winner; that big roads projects don’t seal the deal; and neither does union bashing.
People want to have services – and a government – that works.
We go into the last week of Parliament with no cunning plan in sight for delivering the clean finish to the year the Prime Minister keeps promising his troops.
In fact Abbott has been spruiking his government’s achievements and is exhorting his troops to keep reminding us how good they are over Christmas.
He’d be better advised to let us be!
Two opinion polls have the LNP improving slightly, but still in a land-slide losing position. Newspoll has Labor 54-46, closing from 55-45. At Morgan the story is exactly the same, but half a point better for the LNP. That is, it is now 53.5-46.5 to Labor.
Meanwhile Campbell Newman in Queensland is unlikely to invite Abbott to help him campaign in the upcoming election. His strategy of being boring and keeping his head down seemed to work for a while, but ReachTEL now has Labor in front 51-49.