At a Glance
With the budget done and dusted, the Super Saturday of five by-elections on its way – Australia has now entered the 12-month countdown to the next federal election.
The Prime Minister has consistently stated the election will not be held until the first half of 2019. There have been some early mutterings that the election could take place as early as September, but the smart money is on a May 2019 election.
The Government has handed down a budget that was generally well received and did not appear to upset any major segment of the Australian community. Potentially a vote-winning budget?
The Government is positioning itself as the party of lower taxes and budget repair, against an Opposition they are seeking to frame as being addicted to higher taxes and higher spending.
With the Opposition pledging even larger income tax cuts for lower to middle-income earners, (paid for by tax changes elsewhere, such as the abolition of franking credit refunds for self-funded retirees), the battle of the tax plans has well and truly begun.
The Government’s mantra has now become clear. Their messaging will be all about who can you trust, with the refrain being… you can’t believe anything Bill Shorten says, personified in the LNP ‘unbelieve-a-bill’ slogan.
Is it time?
One of the golden rules of politics is that you go to an election when your chances of winning are best.
Federally, the system allows Malcolm Turnbull a great deal of flexibility as to when to call the election. For a Government that has lost 32 Newspolls in a row, they will definitely be looking not only for a budget bounce but a sustained bounce over a number of polls.
The Government will be hoping that the budget delivers them a recovery in their electoral standing. If the polls begin to show them neck or in front of Labor, then an election in August or September may well become a consideration.
The question the Government will be asking itself is…….”are they better off going to an early poll or will their electoral standing be even better heading into 2019?”
What is clear, is that the budget is at the core of the Governments narrative for re-election.
The High Court ruled that Labor Senator Katy Gallagher was ineligible to be elected as an ACT Senator on the grounds of dual citizenship. This triggered the resignations of four other Federal MPs – three Labor, one Centre Alliance MP.
Labor faces by-elections in the seats of Braddon (TAS), Fremantle (WA) and Longman (Qld) not to mention a by-election in the seat of Perth following the unexpected resignation of Labor’s Tim Hammond.
These by-elections will be held in late June to early July. They will prove to be a strong litmus test for both Bill Shorten’s and Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership and their respective tax plans.
The seat of Braddon is held by 2.2%, Perth 3.3% and Longman 0.8%, all would be considered marginal whereas Fremantle is held by a safe 7.5%.
The Government will be hoping for a good result in Longman, in particular. Given they hold 5 seats in Queensland on a margin of 1.7% or less. Longman will have significant implications for their re-election chances.
If the LNP win Longman, they will take great comfort and it might provide the impetus to consider seriously going to an early poll.
Alternatively, if Labor retains Longman and receives a swing in its favour – it’s unlikely we will see an early election and marginal seat Queensland Government MPs will become increasingly nervous.
Bear this in mind, if Labor wins the 5 key marginal seats at the next election – that alone could win them Government.
If Labor receives a swing of 2% or more in Longman, they would consider this a signal they are well placed to win the next federal election. A loss for Labor in Longman could see some in the Opposition questioning Shorten’s leadership. Some may ask…”if he can’t win Longman… then how can he win Government?”
It is historically unprecedented to have 5 by-elections on one day. The results on Super Saturday will provide a very clear insight into the electorate’s frame of mind.
Think of it this way, approximately up to 450,000 people will be going to the polls. That’s a substantial sample of the electorate.
Could Labor be Punished?
Voter’s might consider Bill Shorten’s adamant statements, on more than one occasion, that no Labor MP or Senator would get caught up in the dual citizenship fiasco as somewhat underhanded.
This plays directly into the Coalitions “unbelieve-a-Bill” narrative.
In his effort to keep maximum pressure on the Government over this issue which engulfed them for the second half of 2017, Bill Shorten has been caught short. The risk for Labor going into these by-elections is that Bill Shorten’s credibility and character will also be on the ballot paper.
For a leader already struggling to connect with the electorate in the popularity stakes, the Government will be looking to use these by-elections as a test of Bill Shorten’s credibility and leadership.
It’s the final count-down into the next federal election.
Let’s consider the 5 by-elections on Super Saturday to be a ‘mini election‘ in themselves. The results will provide a revealing insight into the mood of the nation.
Super Saturday presents more risk and perhaps more opportunity for Bill Shorten than it does for Malcolm Turnbull. Primarily because Labor currently holds 4 of the 5 seats in which the by-elections will be held.
Queensland will hold the key to success at the next federal election and the Longman by-election will be the key seat to watch on Super Saturday.
A good result for Labor will bode well for their chances of winning Government. A bad result will prompt questions about Bill Shorten’s leadership and his capacity to lead Labor to victory in the federal election.
It is now clear that the federal election will be a battle of the competing tax plans. The last time tax policy centerpiece of the election battlefield was the GST election of 1998.
With large sections of the community doing it tough on the back of stagnant wage growth and with the rising cost of living, both sides of politics see the opportunity in offering household relief through tax cuts.
Whoever wins the battle of the competing tax plans, will probably win Government.
For a Government that has struggled to implement major tax reform, it is somewhat ironic that the next election will be won or lost by who the electorate believes has the best personal income tax plan.
For more information, regarding this or any other public affairs issue you may require assistance with please don’t hesitate to contact me or visit the Insight Strategy website at www.insightstrategy.com.au