Federal election: the campaign so far

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By Strategic Partner John Barker

With less than three weeks campaigning remaining the Federal election outcome is on a knife edge. Neither of the major political parties have had ‘cut through’ with the electorate.

The ALP has run better grass roots campaign emphasising its usual electoral strengths of education and health. Bill Shorten has performed better than expected on the campaign trail.

Its attempts to create a class distinction between the ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ has created a distraction from issues of material concern. This approach is more likely to weld on its traditional supporters than attract a swath of swinging voters required to win Government. Labors weaknesses remain to be economic management and spending (recent announcements have tended to confuse rather than improve their position), border security and union dominance of the party.

The Governments campaign, to this point at best, has been underwhelming.

The Prime Ministers insistence on running taxation matters and superannuation as principal campaign policies is perplexing. They are complex highbrow issues and not vote winners.

The long campaign has disinterested voters, even hard core Party followers.

From a Tasmanian perspective the Opposition is leading the agenda. The Governments long awaited support for the relocation of the UTas northern campus and the Cradle Mountain plan is precisely that, long awaited.

The Governments campaign strategy is certainly not helping its House of Representatives and Senate members which, in this political climate, is difficult to fathom. I suspect the Governments incumbency, its security and economic management strengths may just pull it through. The ALP’s task of winning 16 seats to govern is onerous however given the campaign to date and apparent increasing support for minor parties and independents a hung parliament is not out of the equation.

The Prime Ministers decision to preference the Greens last is his strongest decision so far.

 

Tasmanian Senate voting is critical – Vote below the line

There is a danger that the Governments attempts to reduce crossbench numbers in the Senate through the double dissolution will backfire.

The fact that a successful Senate candidate will require only 7% of the vote could well result in a number of currently unelected minor party or independent representatives replacing some of the sitting crossbencher Senators who attracted very low numbers at the last election.

In Tasmania the Senate outcome has been dramatically impacted by unnecessary and unexpected power brokering within the Senate selection process.

Both major parties are guilty.

It is inconceivable that Tasmania’s only Federal Minister Richard Colbeck has been nominated fifth on the Liberal Senate ticket when the Party currently has only four Senators.

That decision was clearly not based on performance.

Equally in my view it is unprincipled for the ALP to preselect its hardest working Senator Lisa Singh to an unwinnable sixth position on its Senate ticket. Again I am aware of many supporters of each party wishing to object through the Senate ballot by ignoring the Parties above the line voting preference and vote for their candidate of choice below the line.

At this election changes to the Senate voting system enable you to vote 1 – 12 at a minimum for your personal choices below the line, no matter the number of Senate candidates on the ballot paper.

It is surprising that in Tasmania at the last election only 20% of the Senate voters opted to vote below the line. Perhaps because they had to correctly number all the candidates 1 to 54 for their vote to be valid.

Expect to see a much higher percentage of below the line voters this time.

 

Summary

Both major parties have much to do to win voters confidence. The Government needs to holds its marginal seats. Unless there is a tougher line in Government campaigning I expect the likely election of increased numbers of minor parties and independent representatives in both Houses of Parliament with the Government returned with a very narrow majority and another messy, confused senate.

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