State of the Nation – Four Election Insights

You can not win an election unless there is an issue you are passionate about and are prepared to fight for.  – Gary Morgan.

On Wednesday morning, I was fortunate to be able to attend the launch of the latest Roy Morgan State of the Nation report – election edition. The presentation explored the Australian political landscape, with a particular focus on the upcoming election, the issues of importance to voters, and the challenges for whoever forms the next government. My commentary below is based on the presentation, as well my notes in some of the other comments maybe by Gary Morgan and Michele Levine at the presentation.
1. It’s the economics at home that matter

Forty-two  percent of Australians rate economic issues as the most important issue facing Australia. The interesting take away for me was how Michele Levine  broke this down into a story about what happens to the economics at home. The cost of living is a key concern, and these concerns are exacerbated by the prospect of unemployment and the extent of underemployment in some households.

Speaking of the unemployment rate…

2. Would the real unemployment rate please stand up?
As a subscriber to the weekly Roy Morgan newsletters,  I was already aware of Roy Morgan  having its own measure of unemployment and under employment. At the presentation, Gary Morgan gave a spirited critique of the current ABS definition of unemployment, essentially describing it as a relic of the post-WW2 world  unsuited to the modern economy.

Why does this matter?

Differences in the way unemployment is reported means the Roy Morgan estimate of unemployment is higher than the ABS rate. More interestingly, factoring in the Roy Morgan ‘underemployment’ measure suggests there’s a growing rate of ‘unemployment + underemployment’ at a time when the ABS is reporting a fairly stable unemployment rate.

For the moment, I’ll sit on the sideline in terms of which is the better methodology and measure. But if you subscribe to the Roy Morgan view, then it should be concerning there’s not more attention being given to labour market issues by either side.  

One might almost conclude that both ALP and LNP are afraid to challenge the status quo.

3. An LNP government and the failure of Turnbull’s Senate clean out
The current Roy Morgan prediction is for the Turnbull government to be returned. Still, with the ALP a whisker ahead on a two party preferred basis, it will be interesting to see what the winning margin for the LNP will look like when the voting is done. The return of Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott as independent candidates, along with NXT candidates in South Australia, also adds some extra things to watch out for.

Meanwhile, the composition of the new Senate could be even less friendly to the LNP. While PUP as a party  was not expected to get any places, Jaquie Lambie was seen as still having a good chance of being re-elected, along with Glen Lazarus. (Though the latter is expected to be fighting for the last spot against Pauline Hanson). Bob Day was anticipated to retain his spot and even Derryn Hinch was considered a chance, depending on preference flows. The outlook wasn’t so good for LDP supporters. I was left with the impression the Roy Morgan folks see David Leyjonhelm as less likely to retain his spot. 

4.  Terrorism – the election wildcard now in play?

When the State of the Nation report was presented on Wednesday morning, three wild cards for the upcoming election were presented. These were terrorism, union overreach (think the Victorian CFA fiasco) and corruption scandals. 

At that time, the question was posed around whether the events in Orlando would impact the Australian psyche enough to have an impact locally. Security incidents, it was argued, tended to reinforce the incumbent , especially when they were a conservative government.

The assassination of English MP Jo Cox, which is being portrayed as a politically motivated attack, will potentially ramp up public interest and concern around security and terrorist threats.

While this might bring one of the  wild cards in to play, it will be interesting to see how this actually impacts the election. The Orlando killer was a US born Muslim who pledged allegiance to IS in a call to 911 while staging his homophobic slaughter. Cox’s assassin also appears to be a home grown extremist – but of the nationalist/racist variety. 

The common link here seems to be they were both extremists, whose lack of tolerance and hatred for the ‘other’ pushed them to commit horrific acts.

If so, perhaps there is hope that the optimal position for mainstream politicians to take is not fear mongering, but a plea for tolerance. Optimistic I know, but perhaps the time has come for the real Malcom Turnbull to stand up and lead in a way that unifies. 

With the election only two weeks away, we won’t have long to wait and see how all the issues play out when Australia decides its next government.

Bonus point: Abbott supporters are out of touch

I know that’s a provocative statement, so let me clarify. Out in the more conservative parts of the blogosphere and Twitterverse, there exists a cohort of folks who continue to believe that Tony Abbot is the answer, and that things, especially for the LNP, would be so much better if Tony was still PM. The data presented today shows that not only is Turnbull still the preferred PM amongst Liberal voters, Abbott’s popularity has been sliding away towards single digits.

Whatever real or imagined strengths Abbot may bring with him, the Roy Morgan stats indicate few people think he is the right person for the PM role. Personally, if he can’t persuade more than a handful of Liberals that he is the best person for the job, then it’s hard to see how he would be an effective leader. 

It also worth noting that even though LNP support has fallen from the initial levels of Turnbull induced euphoria, the gap between the parties is narrower now than at the end of the Abbott era. ( -2 as at end of May 2016, versus -14 at the end of the Abbott term.)

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