At a glance

As the nation hurtles towards the election on May 18 will it prove to be Scott Morrison’s date with destiny or Bill Shorten’s ultimate triumph?

Billed as a choice between a strong economy and lower taxes under Scott Morrison, or a fair go under Bill Shorten – the race to the polls is on.

The role of minor parties and their preferences will be crucial.  With just over 20% of electors vetoing the major parties in the lower house and just over 30% in the upper house, the minor parties will once again prove to be influential to the outcome in both houses of Parliament.

Here’s what is at stake:

  • In the House of Representatives 151 seats. An increase from 150 in 2016 due to electoral redistributions resulting in the addition of a seat by the Australian Electoral Commission
  • 40 Senate seats – 6 from each of the states and 2 from each of the ACT and NT

This means for either the LNP or Labor to govern they need to secure an outright majority of 76 seats. Last election, Malcolm Turnbull was returned to Government with a bare 76 seats or, one seat majority.

Following defections to the House crossbench and the loss of the Wentworth by-election, the current numbers in the House of Representatives include:

  • LNP – 72
  • ALP – 71
  • Others – (Wilkie, Bandt, Banks, Katter, Phelps, Sharkie, Hogan and McGowan who is retiring)

(Note:  These numbers reflect the new electoral boundaries and 151 seat Parliament).

Who is the front runner?

 There are a few factors to consider when determining the odds-on favourite come May 18.

For the Government to be victorious they need to achieve the following:

  1. a net gain of 4 seats
  2. a swing to them of 1.1% from their 2016 vote
  3. and achieve 51.5% of the two-party preferred vote.

For Labor to win, they will need to secure:

  1. a swing to them of 1% from their 2016 vote,
  2. a net gain of 5 seats
  3. and achieve 50.6% of the two-party preferred vote.

The table below highlights this by showing each major party’s 13 most marginal seats.


The race in Queensland is crucial for both campaigns.

The Government alone holds 5 of its most marginal seats in Queensland on a margin of 2% or less, including the seat of Dickson held by the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

This means Labor could win Government by picking up those 5 seats in Queensland with no gains in any of the other states and no Labor losses.

Queensland is important to both sides in the upcoming election it can be assumed to be a key reason why the Government has established its election HQ in Brisbane.

Looking at the polls- in 53 Newspolls in a row, the Government have not polled 51.5% of the two-party preferred vote they need to retain Government. Whereas Labor has polled consistently above 50.6% of the two-party preferred vote they need to win Government.

The main reason for this is the Government’s weak primary vote.  The Government cannot win re-election without a primary vote of approximately 43%.

In the landslide Abbott win of 2013, the LNP polled 46% of the primary vote, in 2016 they polled 43% of the primary vote and fell over the line.  In 53 Newspolls they have not had a primary vote with a ‘4’ in front of it.

Labor, by contrast, can win the election with a primary vote of 38%-39%, and while they did not win in 2016, even with a low primary vote of 35% they won 14 seats from the Government.

The key reason why?  Traditionally, Labor does far better from minor party preferences than the LNP. It is for this reason alone that the ALP can win Government with a lower primary vote than the LNP need to retain Government.

The Race in The Senate

Regardless of who wins on May 18, neither ALP or LNP will control the Senate.

If Labor wins Government even combined with the Greens in the Senate – they will not have the 39 votes needed to have a Senate majority. This will make once again, the Senate crossbench just as important and influential in determining the fate of legislation as it has been for the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Governments.

The current numbers in the Senate include:

  • LNP – 31
  • ALP – 26
  • Greens – 9
  • Centre Alliance – 2
  • One Nation – 2
  • Others – 6 (Senators Bernardi, Storer, Hinch, Spender, Burston and Anning)

This is a half-senate election. Following on from the double dissolution election of 2016 where all 76 Senators went to the polls, resulting in the largest crossbench (19 Senators) elected in the history of the Senate.

Of 19 Senate crossbenchers, 12 face re-election and 7 will not, because the 7 not facing re-election won 6-year terms in 2016 and the remaining 12 secured 3-year terms.

The Senate crossbench will, therefore, start with 7 Senators.  The only question will be, how many will join them in the winner’s circle?

Of the 12 facing re-election, 6 are Greens, 1 from each state.  It is highly likely given current polling that all 6 could be re-elected but it is certainly hard to see the Greens drop below 5.

Derryn Hinch stands a chance of being re-elected from Victoria, One Nation is expected to win a Senate seat in Queensland and could poll well elsewhere.  Jacqui Lambie is a strong chance to make a comeback in Tasmania.

Based on those possible outcomes alone, the Senate crossbench could tally up to 15 or more.

It is also worth noting that in the recent NSW election, the combined One Nation and Shooters vote was over 12%.  With 14% required to get elected to the Senate, this puts One Nation in with a real chance for a NSW Senate seat.

In South Australia, the focus will be on whether Centre Alliance, formerly the Nick Xenophon Party will be able to secure the re-election of Skye Kakoschke-Moore, who had to resign due to dual citizenship.

Who will be first past the post?

Will the electorate reward Scott Morrison and forgive the Liberal Party sins of the past or will Bill Shorten ride into office on his ‘fair go’ agenda!!

This election is for Bill Shorten and Labor to lose.

Having won 53 Newspolls in a row, the trend is your friend and Labor will be hoping that continues until election day.

For the Morrison Government, their re-election prospects rest on strengthening of their primary vote.  To be in with a chance, the LNP primary vote has to be around 43% or better.

As Paul Keating once said, “When you change the Government, you change the country”.  This election is a real fork in the road for the nation, with two very different competing agendas on offer.

Regardless of who wins Government, neither Labor or the LNP will control the Senate.  The Senate crossbench will be as relevant in the next Parliament as it has been in the outgoing Parliament.

For Labor with an ambitious tax reform agenda that underpins their whole reform program, the new Senate could well prove to be their biggest gamble!

We’re off and running – will voters take a punt on a Shorten or will ScoMo be a sure thing?


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. Continue reading “IT STARTS WITH SUPER SATURDAY”


At a Glance

March was not a good month for minor parties, but as Mark Twain once said….“the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”.

Nick Xenophon’s SA Best Party, misfired in the South Australian state election, failing to win a single lower house seat. The Greens failed in their bid to win the Batman by-election in Victoria.  In their heartland, Tasmania, the party lost a seat and went from three to two MPs.

From these March results, it’s clear that the success of minor parties is not universal. Continue reading “IS THE PARTY OVER?”


At a Glance

The citizenship crisis continues to swing like a wrecking ball through the Federal Parliament – with no doubt the most popular website in recent times.

Despite months of denials by Bill Shorten, it would now appear up to 5 Labor members could be referred to the High Court.  Already Labor Senator Katie Gallagher has resigned from the frontbench and has been referred to the High Court. Continue reading “AND THEY ALL FALL DOWN”


At a Glance

These are indeed challenging days for the Prime Minister.

With the publication of the latest Newspoll showing the Government behind Labor for the 21st time in succession, political pundits will be musing about the implications of 30 Newspoll losses in a row.   Remember, this was a key trigger for Malcolm Turnbull to challenge Tony Abbott to become Prime Minister. Continue reading “DON’T LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON ME”


What’s the deal with Dual Citizenship

With the Government having floundered through the same sex marriage debate –  the last thing Malcolm Turnbull needed was the legitimacy of his Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce being questioned under section 44(i) of the Constitution.

The current political debate regarding the dual citizenship of a number of MPs has taken off like a bush fire on a hot dry summers day. Just as the Opposition questions the legitimacy of the Government, the Government is now questioning Bill Shortens citizenship. Continue reading “DUAL CITIZENSHIP DEJA VU”


At a Glance

As they say, ‘the trend is your friend’ and with the latest Newspoll showing Labor leading the Government by 53 to 47, on a two-party preferred basis, this poll is the 16th one in a row showing Labor in the lead.

In the last few weeks I’ve often been asked…. “why is Labor leading when their primary vote is still low and Bill Shorten continues to lag Malcolm Turnbull as preferred Prime Minister?”

The answer is, it all comes down to minor party preferences.  That is why we see Labor in front in the polls.

So, what is going on?

Political Disruption is the New Norm

There is no doubt that the Australian electorate is basically sick and tired of politics as usual and people are increasingly rejecting both major political parties.

The latest Newspoll has the Greens on 9%, One Nation on 9% and ‘others’ on 9%.  So more than 1 in 4 Australians are basically voting for anybody other than Labor or Liberal.

We see Labors primary vote at 37% and the Liberals at 36%.

Traditionally, Labor receives strong support via Greens preferences, however unusually, Labor is getting strong support from parties on the right such as One Nation, to put it in front of the Government.

What is happening on the right of Australian politics is a phenomenon that the left went through many years ago.  It resulted in a permanent cannibalisation of Labors left wing vote and the rise of the Greens.

The Greens now consistently poll around 10% of the Federal vote, votes that traditionally would have been received by Labor.

This institutionalised Green vote also sees on average 70% flow back to the ALP via preferences and in some cases, it can be around 80% depending upon the federal seat.

Currently on the right this same process of cannibalisation is taking place.

It is a process in transition and therefore many right-wing votes that would traditionally be the home of the Liberal party, are leaking to the ALP via preferences.

With One Nation currently capturing a large chunk of traditional liberal party voters and other parties like Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives and David Leyonhjelms Liberal Democrat Party, eating away at the Liberal Party base, the Liberal Party vote has falling from 42% at the last federal election to its current 36%.

This has become as problem for the Government.

It is yet to become an institutionalised block of voters on the right of the political spectrum, therefore the Coalition are seeing multiple parties vying for their supporters with a sufficient number of these votes leaking to the ALP giving them a lead in the polls.

The Point in Question

The Queensland Federal seat of Herbert stands as a good example of this phenomenon.

At the 2016 election, Labor won the seat by 37 votes with only 30.5% of the primary vote versus the sitting Liberal member who polled 35.5% of the primary vote.

Labor won, because they did exceptionally well with Green preferences as would be expected, but also because of right wing preferences.

Labor received 65% of Green preferences to the Liberals 12%, and the remainder went to other minor parties.  When One Nation preferences were distributed (representing a total of 21% of votes cast), Labor secured 53% versus 47% for the Liberals.

All in all, this is problematic for the Government.  For while Labor on the left, will always receive a block of preferences from the Greens, on the right, that vote is fragmenting across multiple right-wing parties and not flowing back to the Government sufficiently in preferences.

What Does this mean for the Coalition?

 Currently One Nation is the main beneficiary of the drop-in support for the Government.

This does not mean that all of One Nations support has come from the Liberal Party, it is eating into Labors vote as well, but not to the same degree.

But unlike for the ALP where the Greens have become institutionalised on the left of the political spectrum, on the right of the political spectrum it is still in a state of flux.

There are many minor parties competing to become the institutionalised party on the right of the political spectrum.

For the Coalition, this means until a party emerges on the right to solidify and capture permanently that element of right wing voters who want another political home other than the Liberal Party – it will most likely continue to struggle in the polls.

This is the challenge for the Government.  If it can’t get those right-wing voters back to directly supporting the Coalition, how does it get them back via preferences, like Labor does via the Greens to bolster its overall vote?

Now, those voters supporting right wing minor parties, led currently by One Nation, are effectively spraying their preferences, which is why Labor is ahead in the polls, despite Malcolm Turnbulls’ consistent lead over Bill Shorten as preferred Prime Minister.


The Liberal party primary vote is depressed because a plethora of right wing minor parties are eating away at the Liberal party vote.

These right wing minor parties are all seeking to claim the mantle as being the true representative of conservative voters in Australia.  At a minimum, they are giving disgruntled traditional Coalition voters, a multitude of choices of where they can now park their vote.

In do so, with multiple choices, it also gives multiple opportunities for a sufficient number of these votes to leak to the ALP and put them in front.

Until a party on the right emerges like the Greens did on the left, to capture and institutionalise right wing voters which can then be directed back to the Liberal party via preferences, the Coalitions overall two-party preferred vote will continue to struggle.

For more information, in regard to 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

Image credit: Herald Sun