May 4th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY What counts is who you have in your corner

EDITORIAL Political unrest over man-made drought in Murray-Darling Basin

FEDERAL ELECTION The ALP's climate policies will devastate our very way of life

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Labor to people traffickers: "We are open for business"

GENDER POLITICS Radical gender laws rushed through Tasmanian Parliament without Government backing

RURAL AFFAIRS Tiny PhD study used to assess live sheep trade

ENVIRONMENT Ocean is a brake on the climate

EUTHANASIA Helter skelter is already working full time

ART AND CULTURE Taipei preserves China's 5,000-year heritage

POLITICS AND SOCIETY What the future holds for the right side of history

HUMOUR This can't be right ... even in politics: The Shorten Run

MUSIC East West: Earthy sounds of Eastern liturgy

CINEMA Missing Link: Stop-start Victoriana

BOOK REVIEW Milligan's revised hit on Cardinal Pell

BOOK REVIEW Top secret history told from the inside

BOOK REVIEW Foretaste of a bloody century



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What counts is who you have in your corner

by NW Contributor

News Weekly, May 4, 2019


  • Morrison looks the stronger contender so far in the campaign
  • Shorten has been found wanting when he has had to explain policy
  • The media has an interest in talking up the “Sco Momentum”
  • Younger voters may find Shorten the more “virtuous” choice

The recent turnaround in fortunes for the Coalition has been remarkable, but it masks an underlying intergenerational shift in the Australian community that will in all likelihood still install Bill Shorten into the Lodge in a few weeks’ time.

The election remains Bill Shorten’s to lose, although Scott Morrison has surprised pundits with a disciplined, focused and straightforward opening to his campaign that concentrates everything on the Government’s superior economic management and lower taxes and compares that with Labor’s unprecedented promise of an intergenerational wealth transfer via tax changes.

That this promised wealth transfer and the pledge to “fix” climate change, housing affordability, and low wages growth are all mirages, is unlikely to matter to a majority of Australia’s younger gener­ation, who have never experienced a recession or unemployment and who in fact live in unprecedented prosperity compared with their parents and grandparents.

Nevertheless, Scott Morrison has at least been able to galvanise peoples’ thinking about the risks involved with voting Labor. As a consequence, Coalition voters are reluctantly coming back to the Coalition, while undecided voters are at least wondering about what will actually happen if Shorten’s policy platform is implemented.

The public are also waking up to the potential dangers that include higher unemployment due to Labor’s proposed higher wage costs, the actual encouragement of union disruption by Labor, higher rents due to Labor’s proposal effectively to abolish negative gearing and increase capital gains taxes, and higher welfare costs as self-funded retirees are forced to rely more on the age pension once they lose their share dividends.

Add to these Labor’s madcap social policies and a climate change policy that aims to rid the country of petrol cars and replace them with electric cars that will, for decades to come, be predominantly powered by coal, and you have a recipe for a lot of economic and social pain.

Bill Shorten’s Labor Cloud Cuckoo Land is getting the exposure it deserves, and yet his plans will still resonate with younger voters who are resentful of their parents’ and grandparents’ wealth, who do find it difficult to get into the housing market, and who see virtue in climate-change policies even if there will be great economic cost.

There are several other factors that have led to the Coalition’s improved standing in the electorate.

First, Coalition voters, who have been fed up with internal leadership fighting that cut down two prime ministers, have reluctantly concluded that even a poor Coalition government is going to be better than the most radical Labor Party perhaps since Whitlam.

Many conservative voters who had drifted to One Nation and others under Malcolm Turnbull have shifted back under the more electorally attuned Scott Morrison.

Second, Scott Morrison is a former New South Wales state director of the Liberal Party. Unlike Mr Turnbull, he knows what you have to do to mount a successful campaign, and he knows the importance of simple, disciplined repeatable messages. Also, he is being accompanied on the campaign bus by another seasoned campaigner: former West Australian state director Ben Morton.

On the other hand, Bill Shorten, who had been given an armchair ride over the past term, is now being found wanting when he has to explain his own policies beyond his usual glib criticisms of the Government. When tested on policy detail, he has come up short. He is also clearly weak on economics and constantly defers to his treasury spokesman, Chris Bowen, on any difficult question.

Third, the media also prefers a competitive election. It is not in their interests to have a forgone conclusion, so they are happy to talk up the “Sco Momentum”.

And finally, Labor has miscalculated in Queensland, where ordinary voters, including those in unions, want mining jobs in the regions instead of closing down mines.

The problem for Scott Morrison is that he actually has to win seats. An electorate redistribution that favoured Labor, the retirement of several prominent MPs who were good campaigners, the creation of a third seat in the ACT that will go to Labor, are all impacting on his ability to be re-elected.

Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton are also facing the fight of their political careers in their seats, where left-wing groups are spending millions of dollars in efforts to unseat them.

Australians face a stark choice on May 18: re-elect a Coalition Government that has been plagued with division but that at least has its primary focus on keeping the economy strong and improving the lives of everyday Australians; or elect a radicalised Labor Party that wants to undertake a massive wealth redistribution that will have painful economic consequences.

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