The speculation has ended, the 2019 Australian federal election has been called by Prime Minister Scott Morrison for Saturday 18th May. It will decide to composition of the expanded 151-member House of Representatives for the next three years and elect 40 members of the Senate, 36 for six year terms who take their seats on July 1.
The Coalition believes they are in with a chance, they believe they’re onto an electoral winner with their attacks of Labor’s electric car rollout plans. Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen also this week made a numbers error in his franking credit rollback policy which the Coalition was already on the attack with.
The key battleground states will be Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia. The Government starts from a minority government position with the recent electoral redistribution plus the Wentworth by-election loss leaving them with 74 out of 151 seats.
This makes the Coalition’s task of retaining government even more difficult. They also have to deal with defending a diverse number of marginal electorates with issues that matter to voters in Liberal seats in Inner Melbourne being different to the LNP seats in Central and North Queensland. The most stark difference is the attitudes in the respective areas to the Adani coal mine.
Why the Coalition now has a degree of optimism about their prospects at the election is batch of recent polling that has been released which show that the two party proffered gap has slightly narrowed.
First to drop was Galaxy last weekend in the News Corp tabloids which showed the two party preferred as 47-53 in Labor’s favour but was taken in late March before the federal budget.
The state by state breakdown was particularly interesting which showed that New South Wales where the Coalition recently won the state election is where it is actually in front of Labor.
Ipsos in the Nine Newspapers released Sunday night also showed the two party proffered gap at 47-53. The commentary at this point was that the Morrison Government was on course for a major electoral defeat with the loss of over a dozen seats.
But everyone was waiting for Newspoll to come out later in the evening which is considered the most reliable and one of most consistently published polls. It showed the gap had narrowed to 48-52, this was a post budget poll.
Then at the beginning of the week a Morgan Poll was released which had a decimal breaking of the two party preferred vote with 47.5-52.5 to Labor. Morgan is considered the least reliable of the polls and has been wrong before, but it was smack bang in the middle of the already published polls.
Then what I personally consider to be the most reliable poll the Essential/Guardian Poll (this is despite Essential Media and The Guardian being progressive groups) had in their weekly poll the gap unchanged at 48-52.
Scott Morrison on average is 10 points ahead of Bill Shorten as preferred Prime Minister, but as Tony Abbott proved personal unpopularity in the end is no hindrance to being elected Prime Minister.
Scott Morrison is reported to have told his party room if we are 48-52 close to the election I can do the rest. It is not uncommon for the polls to tighten close to an election. We are now entering the unpredictable nature of a campaign so every poll from now on will be highly anticipated.
But the lessons of recent elections has been the public has usually made up their minds before the election and political miracles are becoming less and less achievable. Labor is still the favourite to win and win comfortably.
The Coalition will campaign on economic management and national security, Labor on wages, fairness, health and education. If the campaign remains within this prism, the polls will not change.
It will take a unpredictable development to drastically set Australia on a different tract this election. But Australian politics has been all but predictable and bland over the past decade.