Monthly Archives: March 2013

Tuned out

I have found it extremely difficult to write about politics over the last two weeks without invoking the Gillard/Rudd leadership contest which had/has subsumed the national political conversation.

Many people have very passionate and different views on this issue. Some of my views are summarised here and here.

From what I’ve observed since the events of last Thursday, I believe both dynamics (conscious and unconscious invoking of Kevin Rudd from all sides of the political spectrum and the negative predisposition prism towards Julia Gillard’s leadership) are still very much in play despite all that has happened and all that was said because nothing really got resolved except for a very short term resolution to the superficial leadership contest.

The deep structural issues (the REAL drivers behind what happened) were simply far too difficult for the ALP as an organisation to deal with and they were swept under the carpet, waiting to come out at the next available opportunity.

The “insiders/outsiders” analogy is often mentioned in relation to politics in order to describe the differences between those who pay attention to what is happening politically or are involved in “the game” and those who pay little or no attention for various reasons and have no active political engagement. I don’t like using this analogy however I think it’s an apt way of looking at things for the present moment.

Federal politics has become a game of “insiders” and most of the national political conversation has become completely divorced from the way most people live their lives day to day. Last week amplified this “insiders game” by at least a factor of ten.

While this remains the case, the majority of people will simply remain tuned out.

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Defining what you aren’t by defining what you are

Last night, Channel 9’s 60 Minutes program did an interview with Tony Abbott.

During the interview he used phrases like “we’re in a better space” and “I’ve certainly said some things which I wouldn’t say now” while linking it to certain things that families value such as “cohesion.”

Whether Abbott believes any of this is irrelevant to his purposes for giving the interview.

Whenever Abbott talks about himself now, it is always about defining what Prime Minister Gillard is and represents on his terms.

Here are some examples:

  • “We’re in a good space” = “Gillard’s in a bad space.”
  • “I’ve certainly said some things which I wouldn’t say now” = “Gillard’s said some things in the past she hasn’t admitted”
  • “Because like everyone who’s had a long time in public life – in particular – I’ve changed and I’d like to think that I’ve grown” = “Gillard isn’t like everyone who’s had a long time in public life – she hasn’t changed and she hasn’t grown”

And so on!

Whether it reflects the truth or not is none of Abbott’s concern. All he and the professional people who manage him behind the scenes care about is getting these points across by any means necessary. This is the Coalition’s new way of attacking Gillard: define what you aren’t by defining what you are!

They don’t even bother mentioning Gillard anymore because they’ve spent the last two years or so building the system of negative judgement in the public’s mind which is aimed directly towards any decisions she makes and every word she says. Since the beginning of the year, they seem to be confident that they’ve successfully deployed that system and they can focus on other things.

The big trigger point from the interview was that he had “softened” his views on issues like women’s rights and marriage equality partly due to the influence of his lesbian sister.

He has spent around 35 years of his political career creating an image for himself as a “right wing warrior” with nicknames like “Captain Catholic” and “Howard’s Headkicker” while writing books with titles like “How To Win a Constitutional War” and “Battlelines” only now to contradict it all by saying that deep down he’s really always been a bleeding heart lefty feminist who believes in social justice!

Whether he can convince the electorate that he’s changed is irrelevant as that’s not the purpose of this sort of interview. This is just another example of Abbott controlling the frame of the issues in the national conversation. This time, he’s doing it as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He doesn’t care about how he’s viewed, so long as he’s controlling the framing of all the communication.

Support something progressives support, get attacked by progressives because it’s “Tony being a fraud!” I have gone over this before in relation to Abbott’s chief of staff receiving IVF treatments. It’s all reliant on progressives attacking him over it.

He has no problems with mentioning marriage equality because his position is very firm and softening it can only make him look slightly reasonable. More to the point, Abbott knows that any such conversation on the issue ultimately will get targeted at Prime Minister Gillard and will continue to attract the negative predisposition prism that has enveloped her leadership.

It’s the same deal with everything else that comes out of his mouth.

The rest of the interview was simply noise that had no relevance to people except for Channel 9 to flog some advertising.

The negative predisposition prism – Prime Minister Gillard’s major problem

The negative predisposition prism is what happens when every decision a leader or a public figure makes is seen as negative or bad regardless of whether people agree or disagree with what that leader or public figure is saying.

I believe Julia Gillard’s major problem isn’t exactly one of the “correct” policies or the “correct” messaging. They are definitely problems but I think they have stemmed from the negative predisposition prism the public has of her at an interpersonal level and this has enveloped her leadership and how she is judged by the community.

First we’ll look at Julia Gillard’s approval ratings. Here’s the question from the Essential Media Communications poll from February 11th 2013:

Q. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Julia Gillard is doing as Prime Minister?

19
Jul

10

20
Dec

14
Mar
11

14 June

12 Sept

12 Dec

12
Mar
12

12
Jun

10 Sept

10
Dec

14
Jan
13

11
Feb

Total approve

52%

43%

41%

34%

28%

34%

32%

32%

35%

37%

41%

36%

Total disapprove

30%

40%

46%

54%

64%

54%

61%

56%

54%

53%

49%

55%

Strongly approve

11%

10%

7%

6%

5%

6%

8%

6%

7%

10%

9%

7%

Approve

41%

33%

34%

28%

23%

28%

24%

26%

28%

27%

32%

29%

Disapprove

17%

24%

22%

29%

28%

25%

29%

22%

27%

25%

23%

25%

Strongly disapprove

13%

16%

24%

25%

36%

29%

32%

34%

27%

28%

26%

30%

Don’t know

18%

17%

13%

13%

8%

11%

7%

12%

11%

11%

10%

9%

As we can see, Julia Gillard had a net approval rating of +22 on July 19th 2010. By the 12th of September 2011, her approval had plummeted to -36. It remained very bad for the next year or so before recovering to -8 on January 14th 2013.

The popular view is the recovery in Gillard’s numbers in the third and fourth quarters last year was due to the widespread coverage and positive reaction from the public to the “misogyny speech” although I suspect it might have something to do with the public’s emotional reaction to certain policies such as the carbon and mining taxes filtering through the system.

In other words: doom was anticipated, but when these policies became active, people didn’t feel the doom that was associated with them.

Last month, according to the Essential Media Communications poll, Gillard’s net approval rating returned to where it’s been for the last two or so years which is around -19.

Pretty much all of the latest publicly available opinion polls show the same thing in relation to Gillard’s approval rating:

Newspoll – 22nd-24th of February 2013: -28

AC Nielsen – 14th-16th of February 2013: -16

Galaxy – 1st-3rd of February 2013: -19

These polls all show similar numbers and overall there is a very solid level of disapproval for Julia Gillard in the electorate.

Next we’ll look at some more Essential Media Communications polling that asked about leader attributes in relation to Julia Gillard from January 14th, 2013:

Q. Which of the following describe your opinion of the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard?

5 Jul 10

4 Oct 10

7 Feb 11

27 Jun 11

2 Apr 12

17 Sept 12

14 Jan 13

Change since 5 Jul 2010

Intelligent

87%

81%

75%

73%

61%

68%

72%

-15%

Hard-working

89%

82%

76%

75%

65%

69%

72%

-17%

A capable leader

72%

59%

52%

42%

38%

43%

50%

-22%

Arrogant

37%

39%

44%

48%

53%

46%

47%

+10%

Out of touch with ordinary people

35%

44%

50%

60%

65%

56%

53%

+18%

Understands the problems facing Australia

68%

55%

52%

44%

41%

43%

47%

-19%

Visionary

48%

38%

30%

26%

25%

31%

29%

-19%

Superficial

51%

52%

54%

46%

46%

From Feb 2011: -5

Good in a crisis

61%

46%

46%

41%

36%

43%

50%

-11%

Narrow-minded

28%

35%

43%

46%

53%

46%

45%

+17%

More honest than most politicians

45%

37%

37%

29%

26%

31%

30%

-15%

Trustworthy

49%

42%

40%

30%

25%

30%

32%

-17%

Intolerant

37%

37%

Since Sept 2012: N/A

Aggressive

42%

46%

Since Sept 2012:+4%

Erratic

43%

40%

Since Sept 2012: -3%

Essential Media Communications usually shows the changes against what these figures showed the previous time they asked the question. I’ve altered it slightly to show the changes from when the 2010 election was announced in July 2010 to get a more long-term picture.

What this shows is that since Julia Gillard announced the previous election in July 2010, her numbers in relation to leadership attributes have fallen on attributes that would be considered positive (intelligent, hard-working, a capable leader, understands the problems facing Australia, visionary, good in a crisis, more honest than most politicians, trustworthy) and risen on attributes that would be considered negative (arrogant, out of touch with ordinary people, narrow-minded).

It’s the change in the number rather than the % of respondents that associate a particular attribute with her leadership that tells the story.

From all of the above, it’s fair to say that the public’s view of Julia Gillard has deteriorated rapidly over the past few years.

So the PM’s unpopular. So what?

Paul Keating was unpopular and won “the unwinnable election” in 1993. John Howard was unpopular and won four elections. Tony Abbott is unpopular as well. Doesn’t this mean Julia Gillard can overcome these numbers?

To answer this question, we have to know whether Julia Gillard has the ability to persuade people to vote for the ALP instead of the Coalition or anyone else who isn’t the ALP.

Firstly we’ll look at Essential Media Communications’s question on whether this government deserves to be re-elected from February 25th, 2013:

Q. As of now, do you think the current Federal Labor Government of Julia Gillard deserves to be re-elected?

Total

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Yes, deserves to be re-elected

26%

66%

4%

31%

No, does not deserve to be re-elected

57%

17%

88%

38%

Don’t know

17%

17%

8%

31%

Look at the response from Liberal and National voters. Only 4% of Liberal and National Party voters believes this government, led by Julia Gillard, deserves to be re-elected and 88% believe they don’t deserve to be re-elected!

By itself, that says a lot.

This week the Prime Minister went on a mini campaign through ALP electorates in Western Sydney. A ReachTEL poll (1st March, 2013) asked voters who live in the area whether the visit was more or less likely to get them to vote for the ALP. Here was the response:

The Prime Minister Julia Gillard is making a special visit to Western Sydney, has this visit made you more or less likely to vote for Labor?

Total Labor Liberal Greens KAP Oth
More likely 14.4% 37.2% 3.0% 17.8% 17.6% 9.3%
Less likely 43.5% 12.8% 60.0% 25.4% 41.2% 44.3%
Vote unchanged 42.1% 50.0% 37.0% 56.8% 41.2% 46.4%

Only 14.4% of the total response said they were more likely to vote ALP from this visit. Of that number on 3% of those voters were identified as Liberal! This is compared to a whopping 85.6% of respondents who were either less likely to vote ALP (43.5%) or not change their vote (42.1%). Of the voters who were identified as Liberal, 60% said they were less likely to vote ALP from the visit and 37% said their vote would be unchanged. Granted this is just Western Sydney, but these kinds of figures are similar albeit slightly less profound across the country.

In terms of persuading voters, last week for the ALP has been yet another case of ‘the backfire effect!’

Next we’ll look at the response to a specific decision Gillard made recently. This is the Galaxy Research poll from February 1st-3rd, 2013 asking how voters viewed the decision to announce the election date well in advance of when it was due in order to provide the public with certainty:

Julia Gillard said that she announced the date of the federal election to end the speculation over when the poll will be held and to provide certainty to the country. Do you believe this explanation?

Total Labor
Coalition
Yes 41% 67% 21%
No 53% 25% 76%
Uncommitted 6% 8% 3%

Again, a very small number of Coalition voters believe Julia Gillard compared to a very large amount who don’t believe Julia Gillard. This is quite telling as it’s related to the word ‘certainty’ which is always a major issue for voters.

If you don’t feel certain about someone it’s very hard to trust them and if you don’t trust someone, it’s very hard to be persuaded by them regardless of the objective facts.

Finally, here’s Galaxy from the 15th – 17th of June 2012 on whether voters feel Labor is better or worse off since Julia Gillard replaced Kevin Rudd as Labor leader:

It’s been two years since Julia Gillard replaced Kevin Rudd as leader of the Labor Party. Overall, would you say that the Labor Government is now better or worse than it was two years ago under Kevin Rudd?

Total Labor Liberal
Better 20% 42% 7%
Worse 64% 39% 83%
Uncommitted 16% 19% 10%

Only 7% of Liberal supporters feel the ALP is better since Julia Gillard replaced Kevin Rudd as Labor leader compared to 83% who feel they’re worse off! … It’s awfully difficult to persuade people to vote for you when the people you’re trying to persuade believe you’re going backwards!

Some would say “of course Liberal voters would say that. They’re gaming the polls!” In my opinion that’s pretty much impossible. Firstly, they’d have to pay as much attention to politics as your average “political tragic.” Then they’d have to believe in the same political/media industrial complex most “tragics” on all sides of politics seem to believe in passionately i.e the media influences public opinion and voting intention. After that, they’d have to think about it for a bit, then they’d have to be deliberately manipulative and so on. Most people simply aren’t involved enough to care about such deception.

The reason I’ve focused on Liberal respondents is because in order to win the next federal election, the ALP needs to persuade voters who are prepared to vote for the Liberal Party to vote for them instead.

What the above shows is that the voters needed to win, for the most part, have stopped listening to Julia Gillard.

It’s very difficult to persuade someone you need to vote for you to vote for you when they’ve stopped listening!

Enough polling!

On December 28th 2012, I attended Proclamation Day (the celebration of the day South Australia was proclaimed as a British Province in 1836) at the Old Gum Tree in Northern Glenelg where the Prime Minister gave a speech about her childhood and growing up in South Australia.

I asked a number of people who attended the barbecue afterwards about what they thought of the Prime Minister attending the event and what they thought of her speech. The word I got from pretty much everyone I asked was “political” and attached to “political” was anything related to her mentioning her childhood and improving living standards.

This is one of the words Julia Gillard’s leadership has been reduced to: “political.” When that word gets associated with a leader, it’s usually the final gong for anyone in public life. It means that anytime you attempt to talk about an issue you’re passionate about, it gets viewed as a cynical attempt to manipulate people rather than anything with any substance.

This is an example of what the negative predisposition prism does and once it’s firmly formed in a majority of people’s brains, it’s very difficult to get rid of it!

Let’s say the Prime Minister talks about the issue of improving education standards and how she believes education is the key to raising people’s well-being and making sure children have a bright and prosperous future. That sounds like a very positive, clear statement of priorities. The public response to this kind of statement tends to be a whole group of questions related to education policy i.e funding the Gonski Review recommendations, why Australia is falling behind global competitors in literacy and numeracy standards etc. Even if Julia Gillard answers these sorts of questions honestly (and in my opinion, she always does), the predisposition to her answers is dissatisfaction. It doesn’t matter whether they agree or disagree. The button in the brain that is pushed is dissatisfaction.

In a previous post, I mentioned how when a hole is opened on a particular policy issue, it spreads to pretty much every other policy issue and forms a system that is insanely difficult to break. For example if you’re perceived to have told a lie on a policy issue like the carbon tax, the belief that trust has been broken spreads into pretty much every other issue like a virus. The exact same thing has happened to beliefs in relation to Julia Gillard’s leadership.

First there was the views in relation to how she became leader. Imagery such as knifing Kevin Rudd made people very suspicious of her motives. Then there was everything that happened during the 2010 election campaign such as “the real Julia” which added to the uncertainty about what she stood for. Then there was the hung parliament result which lead to a range of negative vectors being established in relation to her leadership and the ALP as a party such as illegitimacy, deal making and compromise.

Then there was the announcement of the carbon “tax” which the Coalition spent six months connecting to the words “lie” and “liar.” This played on themes such as social license, the people’s mandate, trust and uncertainty.

Then we had the flip-flopping on asylum seeker policy and the petty arguments about the power of the executive and the power of the judiciary in deciding what is lawful and unlawful in relation to the issue (no one likes a legal argument).

Then we had the perceived instability in the parliamentary numbers in relation to Craig Thomson, Peter Slipper and Andrew Wilkie. It didn’t matter what the issues were unless they were cast in a negative light towards Julia Gillard’s judgement i.e she relied on Craig Thomson’s and Peter Slipper’s “tainted vote” and “she broke a promise” to Andrew Wilkie. The words “a line has been crossed” were used in relation to this in April 2012. All it did was cause even more uncertainty.

Then we had issues in relation to the ALP such as “we are us” at the national conference in 2011.

Australia Day 2012 could have been a point where the Prime Minister was able to change people’s views around her leadership. She acted responsibly in making sure Tony Abbott was protected from the mob of protestors that was unleashed at him (watch Abbott’s flippant reaction at 2.33. It says an awful lot about his character). Instead it became a conspiracy surrounding whether one of her staffers tipped someone off to Abbott’s location.

Then there was Kevin Rudd’s leadership challenge a month or so later. It wasn’t Julia Gillard this time that was doing the damage to herself. It was her supporters with their scorched earth approach to making sure Kevin Rudd was unelectable as Labor leader. All it did was make Kevin Rudd look like the victim of a culture of bullying and played into a number of already firmly established emotionally vectors in relation to how he’s viewed by the public.

Fast forward to today and nothing really has changed and the reason for it is because the public has a negative predisposition towards everything Prime Minister Gillard does or doesn’t do. Everything in that timeline of events I’ve just listed has created a very well established system of negative predisposition in the majority of people’s brains.

Even a moment that is considered positive for Gillard like the “misogyny speech” got responses like “she should have done it sooner!”

She can’t take a trick!

Scott Steel aka Possum Comitatus wrote a very detailed post last year that showed in this particular period of time, public perceptions of leadership have become pretty much everything in relation to how a government performs electorally. To quote him:

Our public perceptions of leadership have become all encompassing of our politics . Change perceptions of that leadership, change the vote – drive perceptions of the PM into the dirt, drive the government’s vote into the dirt with it. Lift the public’s satisfaction with the PM up, the government vote gets dragged up too.

The problem for Julia Gillard is that she’s asking people to trust her when the groundswell of distrust and the public’s negative predisposition prism have already been firmly established in the majority of people’s minds and brains over a very long period of time. Add to that a parliamentary opposition that appears to understand this dynamic, a public that has extremely high expectations, a short attention span due to the demands of modern life and a high degree of uncertainty as well as a media that is intensely focused on scrutiny of pretty much every decision the government makes and you get a situation that is pretty much impossible for Julia Gillard to turn around.

Demands and requirements of political leadership in this day and age

It is a very common theme among people who follow politics closely to reflect on the mainstream media and it’s relationship to substance in the national political conversation.

You’ll often see the critique that the media cycle has sped up to a ridiculous pace due to a demand for entertainment rather than substance or real issues and this dynamic is making it pretty much impossible to govern effectively.

Former government minister Lindsay Tanner wrote an entire book on this subject and it got a lot of coverage when it was released.

Right now, most of the federal government and their supporters appear to be in a perpetual battle with the media. The theme tends to be that the reason people are turning away from the ALP at the present moment is because the media are too focused on the political game and superficiality rather than issues of substance.

Last week, Prime Minister Gillard gave an interview with ABC Brisbane’s morning radio show where she told the interviewer that she felt misunderstood by the media and they had overreacted to certain political events such as two ministers resigning that played on a lot of these themes.

Yesterday we got this response from the Opposition Leader:

“If I do badly in an interview that’s not the interviewer’s fault, it’s my fault for not being able to argue my case well” – Tony Abbott, March 6th 2013

This is Abbott once again employing the tactic of emotionally baiting the ALP, progressives and their supporters in order to control the frame of the national political conversation.

In this case, the frame is Prime Minister Gillard is irresponsible and shifts the blame to someone else whenever she makes mistakes whereas Abbott takes responsibility for his mistakes and doesn’t attribute blame to anyone but himself. Whether that’s true or not (I believe it’s a falsehood in the extreme) is irrelevant. This is what’s being communicated and the Liberal Party have been exceptionally efficient at deploying this frame whenever possible during this term of parliament.

I have written about this dynamic of Abbott using certain lines to control the frame of the national political conversation a few times here and here. It’s one of his only tactics and he gets away with it far too often, mostly due to the ALP and progressives not understanding what he’s doing.

Having said all that, in this particular case, I happen to agree with Abbott’s point even though I severely doubt he’s being truthful.

The public’s expectations of leadership at a federal level in this day and age have increased to an almost unreasonable level.

For a start, any kind of blame or shifting of responsibility is immediately viewed unfavorably. I believe the reason for this is because the average voter isn’t allowed to do it in their daily lives and if they do, they can expect some sort of punishment. They get up, go to work, do the best they can, try to have a normal family life, pay their taxes, watch things happen without their consent or social license in the national political conversation, not to mention the petty bickering over trivial issues and think to themselves “if I was to do that in my life, I wouldn’t survive! I do my best! I don’t make excuses! I pay their salaries! They better do what I expect of them or face the consequences!”

What is happening in people’s lives is that society is demanding more and more out of them and if they don’t meet those demands they fall behind. The mental apparatus people require to function in this day and age often exceeds most people’s psychological levels of development. This is doubly true of political leadership.

I’ve written about this in relation to certain dynamics in the electorate in far more detail in a previous post located here.

In this day and age, if you’re the government, it is a requirement that you have your game together at an extremely high level otherwise the electorate immediately switches off and looks for an alternative. The judgement is harsh and swift and once it’s formed it takes an incredible amount of work to overcome.

What this means is that in order to be an effective politician in this day and age you need to be a great communicator (extremely rare given everything it entails), you need to have the policies that address people’s demands that are approved of by the electorate and delivered effectively, you need to have mastered basic political skills, you need to be able to persuade your opponents to see the world your way and act accordingly and if you make mistakes, you must admit to making them and take responsibility immediately because any whiff of a cover up or lack of transparency is immediately treated with anger, resentment and contempt.

This also means no blaming the media, no blaming your political opponents, no blaming the public or any other dynamics in the external environment for your problems. It’s all your responsibility!

You’re now required to lead by example and take the public with you. If you don’t, the noise rises to the surface of the national political conversation by default and you get left with the trivial nonsense that we all complain about.

Aren’t those expectations unreasonably difficult? Sure it is. But we aren’t talking about a normal situation here. This is the leadership of the country and public life we’re talking about.

If you don’t have extremely high standards and you aren’t the best, you’re pretty much dead!

Too often I’ve seen critiques, usually from progressives blaming the media, Tony Abbott and everything in the external environment for the government’s political problems. This is a very convenient way of ignoring and avoiding these realities.

Former Secretary of the ACTU and hero to the Labor Party Bill Kelty hit the nail on the head during his address to their national congress last year:

Seems to me we have a mirror image of the 1980s. Hard decisions were made in the ’80s. Real pressures on living standards, high unemployment, but we never, ever lost a sense of hope and trust that government and unions would see it out and there would be a better future. Today we have better economic conditions but that hope and that trust has retreated.

I’ve got be frank. It’s too easy to blame the media, too easier to blame the playthings of politics. And there’s no purpose blaming the opposition for doing, what after all, you’d expect them to do and that’s to beat you.

In a sense I think we make politics just simply too hard.

The truth will normally do.

It would be truly great if more people on all sides of politics woke up and took those words to heart!

Queensland and Western Australia are more important than Western Sydney

It appears Western Sydney electorates have been designated the “key battleground” for the 2013 federal election by most in the political class.

The area is mentioned so often in relation to federal politics that it’s become a filter for everything important. What does Western Sydney think about XYZ issue? Politician X made a mistake, how will that be interpreted in Western Sydney?

In my opinion, the federal election won’t be decided in Western Sydney alone and the purpose of this post is to attempt to make that clear.

Firstly, we’ll start with the current numbers in the federal parliament. Here’s ABC’s election analyst Antony Green’s 2013 election pendulum:

2013 Australian Electoral Pendulum
Labor (72)
Corangamite (VIC) ALP 0.3%
Deakin (VIC) ALP 0.6%
Greenway (NSW) ALP 0.9%
Robertson (NSW) ALP 1.0%
Lindsay (NSW) ALP 1.1%
Moreton (QLD) ALP 1.1%
Banks (NSW) ALP 1.5%
La Trobe (VIC) ALP 1.7%
Petrie (QLD) ALP 2.5%
Reid (NSW) ALP 2.7%
Lilley (QLD) ALP 3.2%
Brand (WA) ALP 3.3%
Capricornia (QLD) ALP 3.7%
Lingiari (NT) ALP 3.7%
Page (NSW) ALP 4.2%
Eden-Monaro (NSW) ALP 4.2%
Blair (QLD) ALP 4.2%
Parramatta (NSW) ALP 4.4%
Dobell (NSW) ALP 5.1%
Kingsford Smith (NSW) ALP 5.2%
Rankin (QLD) ALP 5.4%
Fremantle (WA) ALP 5.7%
Chisholm (VIC) ALP 5.8%
Oxley (QLD) ALP 5.8%
Perth (WA) ALP 5.9%
Hindmarsh (SA) ALP 6.1%
Bass (TAS) ALP 6.7%
Werriwa (NSW) ALP 6.8%
Barton (NSW) ALP 6.9%
Richmond (NSW) ALP 7.0%
Braddon (TAS) ALP 7.5%
Adelaide (SA) ALP 7.5%
Bruce (VIC) ALP 7.7%
McMahon (NSW) ALP 7.8%
Melbourne Ports (VIC) ALP 7.9%
Griffith (QLD) ALP 8.5%
Fowler (NSW) ALP 8.8%
Watson (NSW) ALP 9.1%
Canberra (ACT) ALP 9.2%
McEwen (VIC) ALP 9.2%
Bendigo (VIC) ALP 9.4%
Isaacs (VIC) ALP 10.4%
Wakefield (SA) ALP 10.5%
Franklin (TAS) ALP 10.8%
Jagajaga (VIC) ALP 11.1%
Ballarat (VIC) ALP 11.7%
Makin (SA) ALP 12.0%
Throsby (NSW) ALP 12.1%
Blaxland (NSW) ALP 12.2%
Lyons (TAS) ALP 12.3%
Chifley (NSW) ALP 12.3%
Hunter (NSW) ALP 12.5%
Newcastle (NSW) ALP 12.5%
Charlton (NSW) ALP 12.7%
Shortland (NSW) ALP 12.9%
Cunningham (NSW) ALP 13.2%
Corio (VIC) ALP 13.5%
Hotham (VIC) ALP 14.0%
Holt (VIC) ALP 14.0%
Fraser (ACT) ALP 14.2%
Kingston (SA) ALP 14.5%
Sydney (NSW) ALP 17.1%
Maribyrnong (VIC) ALP 17.5%
Calwell (VIC) ALP 20.0%
Grayndler (NSW) ALP 20.6%
Scullin (VIC) ALP 20.6%
Port Adelaide (SA) ALP 21.0%
Lalor (VIC) ALP 22.1%
Wills (VIC) ALP 23.5%
Gorton (VIC) ALP 23.6%
Gellibrand (VIC) ALP 24.1%
Batman (VIC) ALP 24.8%
Coalition (72)
Boothby (SA) LIB 0.6%
Hasluck (WA) LIB 0.6%
Aston (VIC) LIB 0.7%
Dunkley (VIC) LIB 1.1%
Brisbane (QLD) LNP 1.1%
Macquarie (NSW) LIB 1.3%
Forde (QLD) LNP 1.6%
Solomon (NT) CLP 1.8%
Longman (QLD) LNP 1.9%
Casey (VIC) LIB 1.9%
Herbert (QLD) LNP 2.2%
Canning (WA) LIB 2.2%
Dawson (QLD) LNP 2.4%
Swan (WA) LIB 2.5%
Bonner (QLD) LNP 2.8%
Macarthur (NSW) LIB 3.0%
Bennelong (NSW) LIB 3.1%
Flynn (QLD) LNP 3.6%
Sturt (SA) LIB 3.6%
Fisher (QLD) LNP 4.1%
McMillan (VIC) LIB 4.2%
Leichhardt (QLD) LNP 4.6%
Dickson (QLD) LNP 5.1%
Hughes (NSW) LIB 5.2%
Gilmore (NSW) LIB 5.3%
Paterson (NSW) LIB 5.3%
Higgins (VIC) LIB 5.4%
Stirling (WA) LIB 5.6%
Wannon (VIC) LIB 5.7%
Goldstein (VIC) LIB 6.0%
Cowan (WA) LIB 6.3%
Fairfax (QLD) LNP 7.0%
Ryan (QLD) LNP 7.2%
Mayo (SA) LIB 7.3%
Kooyong (VIC) LIB 7.5%
Menzies (VIC) LIB 8.7%
Hume (NSW) LIB 8.7%
Forrest (WA) LIB 8.7%
Pearce (WA) LIB 8.9%
Indi (VIC) LIB 9.0%
Flinders (VIC) LIB 9.1%
Cowper (NSW) NAT 9.3%
Wright (QLD) LNP 10.2%
McPherson (QLD) LNP 10.3%
Hinkler (QLD) LNP 10.4%
Bowman (QLD) LNP 10.4%
Calare (NSW) NAT 10.7%
Grey (SA) LIB 11.2%
Moore (WA) LIB 11.2%
Gippsland (VIC) NAT 11.5%
Tangney (WA) LIB 12.3%
Cook (NSW) LIB 12.7%
Barker (SA) LIB 13.0%
Warringah (NSW) LIB 13.1%
Durack (WA) LIB 13.7%
North Sydney (NSW) LIB 14.1%
Fadden (QLD) LNP 14.2%
Farrer (NSW) LIB 14.5%
Wentworth (NSW) LIB 14.9%
Wide Bay (QLD) LNP 15.6%
Mackellar (NSW) LIB 15.7%
Curtin (WA) LIB 16.2%
Berowra (NSW) LIB 16.2%
Mitchell (NSW) LIB 17.2%
Moncrieff (QLD) LNP 17.5%
Riverina (NSW) NAT 18.2%
Bradfield (NSW) LIB 18.2%
Groom (QLD) LNP 18.5%
Parkes (NSW) NAT 18.9%
Murray (VIC) LIB 19.6%
Maranoa (QLD) LNP 22.9%
Mallee (VIC) NAT 23.3%
Others (IND 4, GRN 1, NAT WA 1)
Denison (TAS) IND 1.2% v ALP
O’Connor (WA) NAT WA 3.6% v LIB
Melbourne (VIC) GRN 6.0% v ALP
Lyne (NSW) IND 12.7% v NAT
Kennedy (QLD) IND 18.3% v LNP
New England (NSW) IND 21.5% v NAT

The pendulum shows the ALP have 72 seats, the Coalition have 72 seats, the Greens have 1 seat, there’s 1 Western Australian National, 3 Independents and 1 seat for Katter’s Australian Party. Events during this parliament have made Dobell (ALP) and Fisher (LNP) Independent seats and O’Connor (WA National) formally a Coalition seat making the seat numbers:

  • ALP: 71 seats
  • Coalition: 72 seats
  • Greens: 1 seat
  • Independents: 5 seats
  • Katter’s Australian Party: 1 seat

So before we go into any commentary regarding where the next federal election will or won’t be won, we need to confront the fact that the ALP government needs to win at least 4-5 seats in order to achieve victory!

This is an unusual situation because usually the government would have a majority and could afford to lose a few seats. In this case, the government can’t afford to lose seats and must win seats in order to remain where they are. For every seat lost, that’s an extra one higher up the pendulum that needs to be won.

Given these facts, lets look at what seats the ALP could possibly win. We’ll look at Coalition and Independent seats under a two party preferred margin of 5%. Whether the ALP can achieve that type of swing is debatable. This is a hypothetical exercise to see what’s potentially in range for the ALP.

Boothby (SA) LIB 0.6%
Hasluck (WA) LIB 0.6%
Aston (VIC) LIB 0.7%
Dunkley (VIC) LIB 1.1%
Brisbane (QLD) LNP 1.1%
Macquarie (NSW) LIB 1.3%
Forde (QLD) LNP 1.6%
Solomon (NT) CLP 1.8%
Longman (QLD) LNP 1.9%
Casey (VIC) LIB 1.9%
Herbert (QLD) LNP 2.2%
Canning (WA) LIB 2.2%
Dawson (QLD) LNP 2.4%
Swan (WA) LIB 2.5%
Bonner (QLD) LNP 2.8%
Macarthur (NSW) LIB 3.0%
Bennelong (NSW) LIB 3.1%
Flynn (QLD) LNP 3.6%
Sturt (SA) LIB 3.6%
Fisher (QLD) LNP 4.1%
McMillan (VIC) LIB 4.2%
Leichhardt (QLD) LNP 4.6%
Denison (TAS) IND 1.2%

From that list we have:

  • 9 seats in Queensland
  • 4 seats in Victoria
  • 3 seats in New South Wales
  • 3 seats in Western Australia
  • 2 seats in South Australia
  • 1 seat in the Northern Territory
  • 1 seats in Tasmania

The total number of Coalition and Independent seats under a 5% two party preferred margin is 23.

Next, we’ll look at the two party preferred figures for each state from the last election. These figures are from the Australian Electoral Commission website:

ALP L/NP Total Swing
Votes % Votes %
New South Wales 1,958,077 48.84 2,051,241 51.16 4,009,318 -4.84
Victoria 1,758,982 55.31 1,421,202 44.69 3,180,184 +1.04
Queensland 1,069,504 44.86 1,314,675 55.14 2,384,179 -5.58
Western Australia 524,861 43.59 679,140 56.41 1,204,001 -3.15
South Australia 521,115 53.18 458,834 46.82 979,949 +0.78
Tasmania 198,322 60.62 128,830 39.38 327,152 +4.41
Australian Capital Territory 137,948 61.67 85,749 38.33 223,697 -1.73
Northern Territory 47,636 50.74 46,247 49.26 93,883 -4.67

The question for the ALP is where can their vote be increased? The ICAC inquiry and other issues in NSW (3 seats) which are severely hurting the ALP have been mentioned to death so it’s fair to say the ALP are highly unlikely to increase their vote in that state.

Victoria (4 seats) and South Australia (2 seats) were excellent results for the ALP at the last election. Given this fact, It will be extremely difficult to increase their vote in those two states. Boothby (SA) might be winnable for the ALP under the right circumstances but for the purposes of this exercise, let’s put that to one side.

That’s 9 of the 23 seats under a 5% two party preferred margin we can eliminate from the above list.

That leaves 14 seats. The only poll I’ve seen on the Tasmaian seat (Denison) shows the Independent MP Andrew Wilkie comfortably retaining it.

That leaves 13 seats under a 5% two party preferred margin and guess where they all are? Queensland (9 seats), Western Australia (3 seats) and the Northern Territory (1 seat).

The political class is intensely focusing on the 10 marginal ALP seats in Western Sydney which apparently represent the “key battleground” in relation to electoral victory but in my opinion the 13 or so seats in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory are just as important, if not more important!

13 seats is 8 seats more than the 5 seats necessary for the ALP to win the election from where things currently stand.

What we can conclude is that the ALP needs to win more than 5 seats in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. If that is achieved, the second part of the equation for the ALP is to hold as many seats as possible everywhere else … and when I say “everywhere else,” I mean every part of Australia! Not just Western Sydney!

If they can pick up seats in Victoria and South Australia, that makes the job easier.

Every seat the ALP doesn’t win in Queensland and Western Australia makes victory much easier to achieve for the Coalition.

If the ALP fails to win seats in Queensland, Western Australia as well as the seat in the Northern Territory, Western Sydney and other “key battlegrounds” in my opinion will become meaningless in terms of the end result.