August 11th 2018


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Doctor-patient privilege dies with My Health Record

EDITORIAL By-elections reflect disenchantment with major parties

CANBERRA OBSERVED Longman result may force PM to rethink policies

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS No question about it: the Don is in charge

ENERGY Lower electricity price a fantasy

EUTHANASIA Vulnerable will be victims of Leyonhjelm's deadly bill

LITERARY STUFF Atlas Mugged

PHILOSOPHY On human nature

CULTURE AND SOCIETY The shadow of that hyddeous strength

FICTION A Scent of Musk

MUSIC Globalised Music

CINEMA The Equalizer 2

BOOK REVIEW ADF as modern peacekeepers

BOOK REVIEW The men who built up a great tradition

LETTERS

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CANBERRA OBSERVED
Longman result may force PM to rethink policies


by NW Contributor

News Weekly, August 11, 2018

Despite the dreadful result in the Longman by-election, it is still extremely unlikely that Malcolm Turnbull will be challenged as Prime Minister before the next election. 

 

But there will be growing pressure on him to alter key policies and his broader strategy of seeking re-election based entirely on building a “strong economy”.

In many ways, the Super Saturday by-election results did not surprise but were a confirmation of a long-running and seemingly entrenched trend in public opinion polls that put Labor in a winning position going into the next election.

The problem for the Government was that it had believed, or at least hoped, that it was clawing back some ground from Labor on the back of a benign Budget, a resurgent economy and good jobs figures.

However, the results in Braddon in Tasmania and more particularly in Longman in Queensland showed no such clawback.

The results should be of strong concern to senior figures inside the Turnbull Government that continues to argue the case for re-election next year solely on the back of good economic management.

Let’s first examine what the results were not.

Firstly, they were not an endorsement of Bill Shorten and his leadership.

Mr Shorten remains chronically unpopular in the electorate and his opportunistic daily media interviews, his “zingers” on any Government policy and his populist but damaging policy solutions are not the reason Labor did so well.

Voters remain deeply distrustful of Mr Shorten who was instrumental in the political assassination of both his predecessors.

Secondly, the results do not entrench Mr Shorten’s leadership, which was never really in doubt. Only an absolutely catastrophic result might have forced the hardheads inside Labor to consider dumping Mr Shorten so close to an election, and that was never going to happen.

Rather, the results suggest the Government’s proposals for tax cuts for large businesses including multi-nationals, regardless of the proffered long-term merits for the Australian economy, is like acid on the undecided vote.

Longman is not a particularly affluent electorate, and not a particularly politically engaged electorate. It has a lot of retiree voters, and people on some form of government support. They are not barrackers of good economic policy unless it helps them directly.

Recall that during the Abbott landslide in 1993 the people of Longman elected a 20-year-old Liberal candidate Wyatt Roy (ironically against the wishes of Tony Abbott himself who argued that it was unwise for the Queensland party to endorse such a callow candidate).

Eventually, Abbott promoted Roy to a junior minister’s role, but Abbott’s loyalty was repaid by disloyalty when Roy joined the group of plotters to tear his leader down.

The people of Longman in the 2016 election subsequently dumped Roy.

However, in the recent by-election they turned even harder against the LNP, which has gone from 44.8 per cent of the vote in 2013, to 39 per cent in 2016, to 29 per cent in the by-election.

 

ALP Operatives

Labor operatives, through affiliated groups GetUp! and paid union officials were thick on the ground in Longman, and their experienced campaigners won over voters with the potent line that tax cuts for big banks and multi-nationals were not a wise use of government funds which would be better spent on hospitals and schools.

The ramifications for the Longman result will force a serious rethink by the Government, which will need to offer policies that more closely align with voters needs and aspirations in the outer metropolitan seats.

Mr Turnbull has definitely improved as a campaigner since the last election but arguably still thinks like a businessman might, seeking the approval of shareholders with a solid bottom line result rather than as a politician who has to bring down his opponent.

As the election approaches it is almost certain that the opinion polls will tighten up as voters look more closely at the dangers for the economy in electing a Shorten Labor Government.

However, Mr Turnbull will have to take stock and consider dumping policies that are actually burning votes, and also to find a way to reach out to the conservative voters who left the Coalition after the leadership change and remain reluctant to come back to the fold.

The by-election results, especially in Queensland, where a swag of LNP seats on low margins are up for grabs, are a final warning for the Government.

That the Coalition does a much better job of managing the economy is a given for voters, the real challenge is to find policies that resonate with voters beyond the economy, and especially beyond the affluent inner city suburbs.




























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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm