By Mairead Stone
In what was described as an ‘unlosable election’, the Labor Party has failed to take power from ScoMo and the Coalition. The 18th May federal election saw the Liberals and National Party gain 76 seats, whilst Labor only gained 65. The question is raised, therefore, why did the opinion polls get it wrong?
“I have always believed in miracles,” said Scott Morrison in his post-election speech, “and tonight we’ve been delivered another one.”
ScoMo’s victory is no miracle, however. There are a number of factors which make the election results appear less shocking.
The proposition by the Adani Group for Australia’s biggest coalmine, built inwards of the Great Barrier Reef, provoked pre-election fervour and was set to be a key factor in determining the election outcome. In the annual Lowy Institute Poll, over 60% of Australians agreed that “Global warming is a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant cost". Whilst Tony Abbott’s loss of the Warringah seat can be attributed to increased objection towards climate change, the opposite is true for the Coalition’s win.
Queensland’s swing to the right gave the Coalition the support it needed to pull ahead. As the subject of the Adani issue, it is not surprising that Queenslanders were more reluctant to act against climate change. Miners were worried about losing their jobs whilst others were either unbothered by environmental issues, convinced that stopping Adani would not contribute to any progress against global climate change or reluctant to move away from coal, one of Australia’s essential economic commodities.
As evidenced by the student-led climate change rally that occurred on May 15 of this year, a sizeable proportion of Adani dissenters are those who were not yet eligible to vote. The older generation, who will live to face little of the consequences of climate change, were more likely to base their vote on other policies. This combined meant that anti-climate-change sentiment was not enough to secure the election for the Labor Party.
Australian politics in the last few years has been fuelled by backstabbing, empty promises and inaction. ScoMo has constructed his public image as one of a ‘true Aussie bloke’, setting himself apart from this political climate. His numerous campaigns, Borat impression and trademark baseball caps have bolstered public opinion, despite his roots in the Malcolm Turnbull leadership spill.
ScoMo used this public distrust towards politics, particularly in regards to Bill Shorten, to his advantage. “If you vote for Bill Shorten, you’ll get Bill Shorten,” he said, as part of his campaign. “If you vote for me and the Liberal and National parties, you will get me to serve you as your prime minister”. Essentially, the election became one of character rather than policy.
The Coalition’s victory was also largely influenced by their economic stability. Morrison’s tax cut promise, infrastructure development and the slogan of “jobs and growth” elevated trust in the Coalition. This was supported by Labor’s reputation of putting the country in economic deficit. In an election of character, the apparent differing ability of the parties to maintain the economy only aided public trust in ScoMo to manage the country.
Though the Coalition’s election success can be explained, the direction of future Australian politics remains unclear. ScoMo’s victory prompted Bill Shorten to step down from his position as Labor leader and has left the Party disorganised. In addition, Morrison’s delivery on his tax cut promise already looks to be delayed. It is uncertain whether Australia’s leadership will continue to change hands or whether ScoMo has cemented his position as PM. What is certain is that climate change, economic security and political transparency will continue to be pressing issues for the Coalition government.