FEDERAL ELECTION: ScoMo delivers the election miracle

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A campaign like no other

Scott Morrison and the Coalition have defied the polls, the betting and electoral maths to deliver a third-term in Government.

As of 5pm Sunday, the Coalition remains two seats short of governing in its own right with 73 seats. Labor holds 65 seats and the Independents hold six seats. Seven electorates remain in play with the Coalition ahead in three. In the unlikely case, the Coalition falls short, it’s confident several Independents will back it, and allow it to govern from minority.

Buoyed by Queensland, where Labor saw its worst performance since 2004, the Coalition held steady in the other states and even picked up a seat or two in Tasmania – the icing on the cake. As expected, each electorate tells a fascinating story. From the huge swings to the LNP in the North Queensland seats of Capricornia (+10%), Dawson (11%) and Herbert (+7%) where jobs and the Adani debate were central, to the Libs winning back MacArthur and holding Reid in Western Sydney. In NSW, the Nationals managed to stave off Rob Oakeshott in Cowper, however, the 25-year career of former PM Tony Abbott ended at the hands of Independent Zali Steggall in Warringah.

The loss is a devastating one for Labor with its leader, Bill Shorten, taking responsibility and confirming he would step down. Considerable time and effort will be spent determining where Labor went wrong. Elements such as the significant breadth and costs of its reform agenda, concerns about Labor’s ability to speak to, and cut through, with its base and the electorate at large, as well as Shorten’s popularity will all be considered through a rigorous post mortem.

While the spotlight will be on Labor, there is no doubt it came up against one of the Coalition's best campaigns – a sharp, effective, professional and negative campaign that kept it simple and capitalised on the assets it had to deliver victory.

The Senate defied expectations

Malcolm Turnbull’s Senate reforms have delivered in reducing the size of the Senate crossbench. While the counting will take weeks to complete, the Coalition is expected to hold roughly 33 seats, Labor 26 and the Greens nine. The cross-bench will bring together Centre Alliance (two seats), Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (one seat), and Australian Conservatives (one seat) with Malcolm Roberts and Jacqui Lambie returning to the Parliament.

Despite spending a reported $60 million on his campaign, Clive Palmer walks away with nothing. His consolation prize will be knowing he contributed to the Coalition victory.

What does this all mean for the Coalition? It will likely need to secure five out of six cross-bench votes to pass legislation should the Labor/Greens oppose them.

Riding the wave of euphoria in the days to come

Senior members of the public service are flying to Sydney today to begin briefing Scott Morrison on the decisions the Government needs to make in the days and weeks to come.

The ongoing counting is likely to delay considerations and an announcement of a Cabinet reshuffle with the Coalition needing to replace retiring Kelly O’Dwyer, Christopher Pyne, Nigel Scullion, and Michael Keenan – who remained in the ministry. Some positions were confirmed prior to polling day – Treasury (Frydenberg), Finance (Cormann), Payne (Foreign Affairs), Hunt (Health), Tehan (Education) and Dutton (Home Affairs), which will restrict what’s possible, but given their electoral success, the Queenslanders are likely to push for an increase in their representation.

…before the hard work begins

Expect to see Parliament brought back in June to allow the Coalition to pass its tax cuts for low-and-middle-income workers before the end of the financial year.

While the cupboard of election commitments was bare during the campaign, the Government does have a Budget to pass (yep remember the Budget they handed down on 2 April).

This potentially provides the Government with cover to consider its third term agenda. No one doubts Morrison’s authority after this political win, but he’ll need to work carefully with his party on an agenda that reflects why voters have put them there, and ensure he keeps the influential crossbench onside. Losing former PM Abbott may be the breath of fresh air the Coalition has been crying out for.

Where to from here for the Opposition?

Several senior Labor MPs are speaking with their colleagues as they consider a run for the leadership. Anthony Albanese has confirmed he will put his hand up, after losing the last vote to Bill Shorten in 2013 with Chris Bowen, Tanya Plibersek, Tony Burke, and Jim Chalmers all said to be mulling it over.

If there’s a contest, the process to elect a new leader will take weeks. While the rule change in 2013 has brought stability to Labor, it also means an extensive process that puts the vote to party members first and then Labor’s Party Room. The process took about five weeks in 2013, which could mean Australia won’t see a new Opposition Leader until mid to late June.

In the meantime, Shorten will stay on as Opposition Leader.

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Bridget Jung