The Australian Election Study has analysed every election result since 1987. In seeking to explain why people voted as they did, it offers a snapshot of Australians’ electoral behaviour. If Coalition MPs and powerbrokers in the Liberal party still think they can sit back and congratulate themselves on their brilliance in winning the unwinnable election, they should think again.
The latest study found trust in our political class is at a 44-year low, going back to the 1975 constitutional crisis to find a parallel. Twelve years of Labor and Liberal infighting, overpromising and underdelivering and, above all, a revolving door prime ministership that finally stopped turning in August last year, have contributed to just 25 per cent of Australians believing that people in government (including parliament) can be trusted.
One may say this is symptomatic of a general loss of confidence in traditionally respected institutions, including churches, the big banks and even our senior police. But even more than that, our politics should reflect the values and aspirations of mainstream Australians rather than those of the inner-city elites and woke political and environmental activists who tend to dominate our public discourse and shout down anyone who dares dissent. Clearly, they do not.
After the damage done by a nominally-Liberal prime minister who sided with luvvies who would never dream of voting Liberal, the task now for Scott Morrison and his deputy Josh Frydenberg is rebuilding the people’s trust in those they elect. They must concentrate their government’s energies on what matters most to mainstream Australians: owning their own homes, ensuring their families have excellent healthcare and education, being able to afford to keep the lights on and striving to live their lives free of nanny state interference. It means staring down the woke elite when its activist demands don’t match the mainstream’s: that’s why it is so important that reducing power bills and continuing to mine and export high-quality coal matter far more than Kyoto, Paris and now Madrid and Thunbergian carbon emissions madness.
But in terms of the politics of the 2019 election, the study makes clear that one thing above all others caused the boilover. It was Bill Shorten and Labor who so comprehensively lost the election, not the Coalition wot won it. Mr Shorten was the most unpopular party leader in thirty years. Labor’s tax-and-spend policies were badly designed and abysmally explained and sold (‘if you don’t like it don’t vote for it’). The study concluded that the electoral arithmetic boiled down to most voters holding their noses and voting for the Coalition to keep out Mr Shorten, notwithstanding Malcolm Turnbull’s 2015 coup against Tony Abbott and his disastrous prime ministership.
To be sure, Mr Shorten’s electoral implosion was helped by Mr Frydenberg’s excellent budget, Mr Morrison’s one-man campaign show and the Coalition’s ground game being, unusually, far superior to Labor’s. But Australian Election Study 2019 reinforces what sensible Liberals have known all along: Mr Morrison’s win was no ringing endorsement of the Coalition.
If there is to be a fourth term in 2022, the PM has two urgent political tasks. The first is to dispel the smugness, complacency and hubris permeating Liberal ranks and warn MPs, supporters and donors that Labor can still win the next election. The second is to draw together the government’s currently ragged narrative and piecemeal policy agenda and give voters a clear sense of what it stands for as well as where it intends to take the country. Bill Shorten was Alan Bond to Scott Morrison’s Kerry Packer: but as Mr Packer said when he bought back Nine for a song, you only get one Alan Bond coming along in a lifetime.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor has gone to the United Nations climate-fest in Madrid with a sensible plan to meet 2030 emissions targets by carrying over credits from our outstanding performance in beating Kyoto and Paris commitments.
Activists and the Guardian condemn this perfectly reasonable proposal as trick accounting, claiming the environment doesn’t care about graphs and spreadsheets. Perhaps, but the environment doesn’t pay taxes or vote either. The PM and Mr Taylor understand, however, that as economic clouds gather, mainstream Australian households and businesses deserve their emissions-reduction payday. Their insisting on Australia’s carryover credits rightly puts our economy and Australians’ need for affordable energy and jobs ahead of pandering to miserable ghost Malcolm Turnbull and other environmental activists.