Lies, damned lies and electoral polling…
1 February 2022 at 7:00 am
With one of the first major opinion polls of the year showing a 56/44 two-party preferred in Labor’s favour, and a 11 per cent drop in satisfaction with the PM, what does this mean for you this election season, asks Neil Pharaoh.
This federal election, which is looking more confident for May, has two conflicting trajectories coming together. The first was highlighted on the weekend, where polling has Labor ahead on two-party preferred by 56 to 44, including with a higher Primary vote for Labor than the Liberals. On face value, this is well and truly above the margin of error, and is a positive sign for Labor… but is it really?
On the other side of the coin, Labor’s path to victory is much narrower on the ground. When the election is called, government will start with a notional 76 seats and Labor 69 seats – this takes into account electoral redistributions, and Craig Kelly’s seat returning to the Liberals. To govern in its own right Labor will need a minimum of 76 seats.
On a seat-by-seat basis things look a bit harder for Labor.
Three WA seats look vulnerable for the government, Pearce, Hasluck, and Swan. SA has one seat in play, Boothby, but Labor seemingly never wins this seat. For Victoria, Chisholm is the swing, but Labor is already at a high tide mark in the state, there is an outside chance in a seat like Higgins. In Queensland and NSW there are a swag of marginals but the Coalition is feeling seemingly confident in these states, and Tasmania has the swing seats of Bass and Braddon. How this all nets up is that Labor would need to win all WA seats, as well as Chisholm (VIC), and one each in NSW, QLD and Tassie.
The Coalition on the other hand is feeling increasingly confident in Gilmore in NSW as well as Lyons in Tasmania. If the Coalition can pick up two seats, where will Labor pick up two more? While there may be an outside chance of a “Voices of” candidate, historically speaking independents in Coalition seats who support Labor in government always lose at the next election – so who the “Voices of” might support is anybody’s guess.
Knowing that Labor may form a minority government, the Coalition is already fear mongering about a Labor-Greens coalition. Likewise the Coalition is quietly taking inspiration that “Albanese, while not unpopular, is also not inspiring in the way as were the (only) three Labor leaders who have won government from opposition since World War 2. That was Kevin Rudd in 2007, Bob Hawke in 1983 and Gough Whitlam…” (To take a recent quote from an article in The Australian Financial Review).
What does this all mean for you and the social purpose sector?
In short, many organisations were left hanging last election, anticipating a Labor victory. The consequences of this were very one-sided election announcements and commitments in 2019, and not much in the bag for the social purpose sector when the Coalition won. Make sure you are actively pushing projects and commitments from both sides in the lead up to the election. Likewise, remember all five stakeholder groups – ministers and shadows, MPs and senators, political parties, central agencies and policy departments. Communicating and engaging with all of them is key.
We have also spent a fair bit of time working with clients in the last few months on proactive and reactive election asks – proactive is what you are campaigning on, reactive is when certain circumstances or stars align. Doing these for both progressive and conservative political messaging is also key. In fact, the template we have been using for election commitments has been utilised more than almost any other template we have developed at this time.
Likewise with Victoria and NSW both going to the polls in the back half of 2022 and early 2023, the federal-state divide on campaigns will be quite narrow, so assume your state candidates and MPs are talking to their federal counterparts.
Picking elections is a fool’s game, and whether you believe the headlines (Labor win) or the detail (Labor’s path to win is too narrow), it is always safer to bet on both sides. Remember too, do not forget to engage with the underdog even in the safest seats – there is a quirk of politics whereby candidates who run in seats they can never win, often end up as staffers or advisors in a new government.
About the author: Neil Pharaoh has spent most of his voluntary and professional life in and around social purpose organisations, government, public policy and advocacy. Neil has been behind many leading social policy and advocacy campaigns on gender rights, equality, medical research and education, and ran for Parliament in Victoria in 2014 and 2018. Neil is co-founder and director of Tanck, which focuses on better engagement with government, and regularly runs workshops and advocacy sessions and advises leading social purpose organisations on their government engagement strategy and systems.
Happenings on the hill is a fortnightly column focusing on all things politics, policy, campaigns and advocacy. Stay tuned for updates around political trends and elections, lobbying and advocacy news, and hints, tips and ideas on government engagement that are specifically written for the social purpose/for purpose sector.