Super Saturday has come and gone with over half a million Australians voting in five by-elections across the country. The results on the night offered few surprises, but provided much-needed clarity on the state of play ahead of the next election and sharpened the focus on the election battle lines.
Indeed, the pendulum of leadership fortune has swung. Pressure has alleviated on Bill Shorten and his leadership with a solid campaign and memorable messages – think “better hospitals; not bigger banks” – that resonated amongst those doing it tough with stagnant wage growth and population growth putting pressure on services.
Super Saturday was a loss for the Coalition who believed it could win one, if not two, seats from the Opposition and use the results to reignite its campaign for business tax relief when Parliament returns next month. Though the history books were against them, with no serving government having won a seat off an Opposition at a by-election in nearly a hundred years, yesterday will leave the Government with questions about its campaigning, especially in Queensland. Despite significant policy work in health and education, the Government is struggling to connect with the voters to show them what they have done. Furthermore, the PM and his team continue to struggle to connect its ‘jobs and growth’ mantra with low and middle-income earners who don’t buy the mantra that when big business does well, everyone does well.
All eyes on the night were on the seats of Longman in the northern suburbs of Brisbane, and Braddon in Northern Tasmania. Susan Lamb didn’t have One Nation preferences at this election, but she managed to comfortably hold Longman with a nearly five per cent swing against LNP candidate, Trevor Ruthenberg. Despite One Nation leader, Pauline Hanson travelling overseas and the local candidate having a troubled business history, the party received 16 per cent of the vote in Longman; showing once again that it is troubling the Coalition in Queensland.
In Tassie, the result was close, but the ALP’s Justine Keay appears home and hosed over former MP Brett Whitely. Both suffered a minor 2 per cent swing with Independent fisherman Craig Garland securing 11 per cent of the vote. This loss will hurt most for the PM, with high hopes for many senior Liberals that they would win this seat back.
“People power” returned Centre Alliance candidate, Rebekha Sharkie, in the South Australian seat of Mayo with a three per cent swing against Georgina Downer. Downer has already confirmed that she will run in next year’s main event and has less than 12 months to explain what she stands for to an electorate that wants more than a family name.
Out west, it was a contest that barely registered in the minds of voters after the Liberal Party refused to stand candidates in the seats of Perth and Fremantle. Josh Wilson returns to Parliament in the seat of Fremantle after clearing up his citizenship, while 33-year-old Patrick Gorman leaves the party backroom, where he served as a ministerial advisor and State Secretary of the WA Labor Party, for a seat in Parliament.
With Super Saturday behind us, we can put the citizenship saga to rest. Just over a year ago, Greens’ Senator Scott Ludlum became the first parliamentarian to resign due to dual citizenship. The domino effect was significant with 15 senators and MPs falling over the last 10 months. While the MPs have all been returned to Parliament by their electorate, the Senators still sit on the sidelines with a number to throw their hat back in the ring at the next election.
When will the rest of us be headed to the next election?
The result has shut the door on any inkling of an early election. May 2019 remains the bright spot within a crowded political calendar that sees the Apology to the Victims of Sexual Abuse in October, and state elections in Victorian and New South Wales in November and March respectively.
Shorten would have slept well last night, secure that while his personal rating may still need work, his political focus on health and education is resonating within marginal seats. Turnbull, though disappointed that his tax cuts have been derailed yet again, he may be breathing a small sigh of relief. Talk on the hill indicated Anthony Albanese was ready to make his move if the weekend’s results had seen a shift to the Coalition.
Leading into the next election, Shorten is still a significant risk to an ALP election victory and Turnbull’s biggest chance to pull off an unlikely return to Government.
The Coalition should, and will, take the time to consider what needs to be done after this result, and if anything, we should be facing a far shorter Federal election campaign period next time Australians return to the polls…just what to do with those company tax cuts that’s the question.
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