So, on a few other blogs I’ve made comment on the Australian election. Since I now have a blog (albeit one with no readers) I figured I’d put some thoughts here. I’ll start with a summary of what I see, then maybe over the next few days break it down into some more detail.
My overarching view is that it is far closer than the pundits might currently think, my view is that it’s definitely in play, and well within Gillard’s capability to win / Abbott’s capability to lose. There are many things that will go on between now and election day, and plenty of opportunity for it to swing one way or the other. Having said that, the polls have had the Libs ahead consistently since the last election, and you’d have to think that gave the Libs the edge.
IN GILLARD’S FAVOUR
- The fact that the Libs are known chokers who cannot close the deal at the last moment. Against that, Abbott campaigned well last time and his team was relatively disciplined (particularly compared to Labour)
- The unions, who have been quiet for a while, but will swing in heavily behind Gillard once the chips are down. The amount of money and non-financial assistance the unions can provide is massive. Against that, the unions have a bit of a bad reputation between the slush fund stories and the Thompson affair, and that may turn off some key segments that Gillard needs to win
- Incumbency, and the ability to leverage the power of govt, whether that’s in creating policies, showing that you’re capable of governing, or dominating the media without having to pay for it
- The Libs appear to have a weak economic team – Hockey just never seems sharp enough on his brief. They keep producing plans you could drive a truck through, and for a party supposedly of the right and of big business, you’d think they could find a competent economist or accountant to help out
- The State Liberal governments. They’re not really winning any friends, and Campbell Newman in particular will be the poster child for how evil Abbott will be in power. Flipside, a lot of Qlders voted for Newman, they won’t like to be told they were idiots
- The economy. I reckon by September it’ll be on the up and up again, particularly the global economy, dragging us along with it.
- Abbott’s unpopularity in some segments of the population (particularly some groups of women). Question is, would those people be Liberal voters though?
- The public sector. The Canberra Times has already started the campaign by declaring that Abbott will fire 25,000 public servants, and those who remain will have to work harder. I’m guessing that won’t get much airtime outside Canberra (most of the rest of the country might think it sounds like a good idea), but there are a lot of public servants in Australia
- NBN. This is a vote winner because it’s off balance sheet. So nobody hates it because nobody is paying for it, and there are a lot of people who love it (including those who have it or about to get it – govt subsidised internet always sounds like a good idea). Sooner or later it will actually have to be paid for, but that will be after this election.
IN ABBOTT’S FAVOUR
- The polls, generally favouring the Libs for the last couple of years
- Boat people. The Libs had a tough policy that applied to nobody, as no boats were coming. Labour screwed that up, and there doesn’t seem any ability to stop the boats without going back to the Lib policies. Problem is, they don’t seem to be working for Labour. People don’t like to hear about boats coming, and particularly don’t like to hear about people dying on boats that shouldn’t have been coming
- Carbon tax. This cuts both ways. People are sick of hearing about it, conversely, played right it’s clear that the carbon tax we shouldn’t have is going to be an economic problem – once the carbon price floats it will drop to EU levels, and we’ll then be paying more in compensation than we’re taking in tax/credit auctions. That’s a massive fiscal drag, and points to incompetence in implementation
- Defence. A segment of the population aren’t happy with our defence spending being the lowest percentage of GDP in decades, and aren’t thrilled with Defence being seen as an arm of industrial/union policy (building things in Australia) instead of being about buying the right kit to defend the country at the cheapest price
- The budget. And lack of a surplus. I’d guess the preliminary numbers for next year won’t look flash, as much of this year’s spending was artificially pushed into last year, or pushed forward into next year. The numbers for 2012/13 will be better than 2013/14, and falling backwards isn’t what people look for in a recovery
- The independents. The rural electorates will look hard at whether returning independents is a good idea. I’d guess that those seats will go back to the coalition
- Dissent in Labour. Last time they just weren’t as organised as the Libs, and since then they’ve had major discipline issues, whilst the Libs have held it together. But will it last? Staring down the barrel of defeat (but being in striking distance of winning) may unite them
- Gillard. The same way a segment of the population don’t like Abbott, a segment of the population don’t like Gillard. But whereas the segment who don’t like Abbott also aren’t natural Lib voters, a decent chunk of the Labor target market (“working class folks”) really don’t like Gillard and the lecturing/condescending style that she has.
Where do I think that’ll all fall out? Not sure yet, I’d lean Lib on the numbers. Certainly will be interesting, and potentially frustrating. I think it’ll be won and lost in Western Sydney, maybe a bit of Victoria. Roads, trains, jobs and boat people are likely to be key issues, along with anything else that influences those areas.