The Strategists: Morrison rolls dice on super-for-housing in final attempt to close Labor’s lead

Labor is leading the Coalition in all major election polls as we enter the final week of the campaign. 

But anyone who paid attention to the 2019 election knows that the polls can get it very wrong. 

To help us bridge the gap between the polls and reality, TND‘s campaign strategists are back to sharpen our focus on the issues that could sway the result on May 21.

Darrin Barnett

Darrin Barnett was previously press secretary to former prime minister Julia Gillard.

A consensus seems to be forming that Scott Morrison enters this week well behind. Politicians like to be the underdog. But is he now toast?

I would rather be in Anthony Albanese’s position right now than Scott Morrison’s and it looks highly likely that Labor will finish with more lower house seats than the Coalition.

But as they say, a week’s a long time in politics.

The Prime Minister created a significant point of policy difference at the Liberal campaign launch with his proposal to allow first-home buyers to access their superannuation.

I personally don’t like the policy because I think it will drive up prices and undermines the intent of accruing superannuation for retirement. But young people who currently feel locked out of the property market may get behind the policy and, more importantly for the government, vote for it.

We’re five weeks in and the polls are in a similar position to where they were before the campaign. That isn’t for a lack of trying. Can anything move the needle in this election? What would you suggest?

The Prime Minister cannot move the needle too far to the right in the final week due to the very real prospect of losing a swag of moderate seats to the teals (independents). Creating momentum in the final week probably means less in modern elections given the high percentage of pre-poll and postal votes, but looking sharp and hungry for the job certainly can’t hurt.

Mr Morrison promised no more bulldozing. A PM promising to change his stripes is a tactic with a chequered history. Should he have done it? Can he prove he means it?

The obvious problem Morrison has here is that no one believes for one second that he can or will change. He has been in the top job for too long to play this card. People’s minds are made up about his character.

After the election, the losing party will conduct a review of their campaign’s performance. Who will it be and give us the headline point?

I think this election is closer than many people think. We still don’t really know how preferences will flow from Clive Palmer, Pauline Hanson and even Jacqui Lambie in a couple of key Tasmanian seats.

We also don’t know who the independents would choose if we end up with a hung parliament.

Assuming Morrison loses, the headline point will be that the Liberal Party needs to define what and who it stands for, because many of its traditional supporters are dissatisfied with the current approach.

Darrin Barnett was previously press secretary to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Labor campaign strategist on multiple state and federal elections, director of Kerryn Phelps’ campaigns in Wentworth, and consultant to Zali Steggall’s win in Warringah. He is currently a fellow at the McKell Institute and a director at PremierNational

Fiona Scott

Fiona Scott is a former Liberal Party MP.

A consensus seems to be forming that Scott Morrison enters this week well behind. Politicians like to be the underdog. But is he now toast?

Going into the final week of the campaign Scott Morrison and the Coalition are definitely the underdogs.

Blue-ribbon inner-city seats are under attack from teal candidates, and it would seem Labor is surging home with some momentum.

Being the underdog going into the final week is not a bad place to be – many studies from Australia, the US and the UK demonstrate that voters believe underdogs put in more effort than top dogs, as they are more hungry to win.

I am very cynical of polling, given how badly my polling was wrong when I lost my seat in 2016.

Nothing beats a deep understanding of the electorate. A good local, well-connected candidate knows when things are swinging as well as the cause of the change in sentiment. It is up to the party to get an accurate read from the front lines to the central machine.

Newspoll, Essential Poll and Roy Morgan all have the ALP leading somewhere between 52-48 and 54-46.

The new YouGov polling that surveyed 15,000+ Australians has the ALP winning 80+ seats and a majority government in its own right. At best for the ALP at present, I can only count 75 or 76.

Which means a hung parliament via negotiation with independents (think back to the chaos of 2018), or the ALP scraping into government.

My question is where are the seats the ALP are winning? Polling shows the ALP’s candidate in North Sydney Catherine Renshaw appears to be very solid, but the sitting member Trent Zimmerman is predicted to get a higher number of votes. This in short means Trent will win because the teal candidate Kylea Tink doesn’t have enough votes to make up the ground.

On the other hand, in the last week of the election, it doesn’t take much to swing votes in Gilmore (NSW, Labor), Lindsay (NSW, Liberal), Corangamite (VIC, Labor), Herbert (Qld, Liberal) or Griffith (Qld, Labor).

The point I’m making is Scott Morrison won the 2019 election in the last week when voters genuinely asked the question, ‘Do I want Bill Shorten or Scott Morrison as our Prime Minister?’

At present, polling also shows Scott Morrison is still preferred Prime Minister in the public’s eyes.

I believe the same swing could still happen in the same week, which is why I think this election is still going to be closer than the polling suggests. Morrison’s underdog status may help achieve that.

We’re five weeks in and the polls are in a similar position to where they were before the campaign. That isn’t for a lack of trying. Can anything move the needle in this election? What would you suggest?

Morrison’s first-home buyer policy announcement at his launch in Brisbane on Sunday was a sign of things to come, and shows a glimpse of how he’ll use policy to move the needle.

The ALP has been running off the goodwill of older and middle-aged parents dreaming of their children being able to afford a house on a wage, like they once could. This goodwill has weakened over the past fortnight, as the media, politicians and the public are now questioning the viability of the ALP scheme. The deep dive has really found holes in the payback terms, the scheme’s finances, how it affects housing prices and whether selecting 10,000 first-home buyers and omitting tens of thousands of others is fair.

I believe Morrison has announced a better policy allowing first-home buyers to use up to $50,000 of their own superannuation to buy a home.

People feel there is a recession coming, whichever government is in, and super doesn’t do well in recession.

Those who remember the nosedive their super took in the GFC (2009), which is a lot of swing voters aged 35 and older, are likely to swing to Morrison’s policy because it includes everybody and doesn’t create a recession by driving more debt. But the investigation of his housing policy has already begun and this will strengthen or weaken Morrison’s popularity.

I’ve said this before: Morrison’s popularity will either win or lose the election for the Coalition. That won’t change in the final week of the election.

Mr Morrison promised no more bulldozing. A PM promising to change his stripes is a tactic with a chequered history. Should he have done it? Can he prove he means it?

In the last term of government, we needed a PM with a strong personality and economic record to steer us through the pandemic and the recession.

Morrison’s strength has also been a critical factor in keeping us safe through the pandemic and for our nation to stand up to the change in our relationship with China.

Australia fared very well by international standards in the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, Morrison was the first to call it a pandemic internationally, and one of the first to put in restrictions. His style is also good for when the bureaucracy in Canberra need challenged.

We only need to look at rumours that the tax office is preparing to go to war on small business if the ALP get into office.

That in itself would probably make both ALP- and Coalition-voting small business owners, every tradie and truck driver question their vote.

So it’s probably best to stop questioning whether Morrison is a bulldozer and ask what we are going to need in these uncertain geopolitical times.

After the election the losing party will conduct a review of their campaign’s performance. Who will it be and give us the headline point?

Monday 23rd of May will mark the beginning of the 2025 campaign.

All parties will conduct internal reviews. There will be some surprising seat losses and wins, and the reviews will need to look at what went well and what needs to be improved, as well as how finances were expensed, how different forms of communication cut through, and how internal party polling stacked up against the final results.

The other not-so-much-headline point is we are likely to end up with a very conservative Senate with the balance of power next term. So if the ALP do get in, not much legislation is likely to get through, which occurred in 2010, and ultimately hindered most policy efforts of the Rudd and Gillard governments.

A Morrison government would likely find an easier path to negotiate with the Senate. Swing voters who remember the chaos of 2010 will likely consider this going to the ballot.

Fiona Scott won the key western Sydney swing seat of Lindsay as a memorable part of the Coalition’s 2013 return to power. Now an executive director at PremierNational, she has since negotiated the delivery of major infrastructure projects and advises clients on Canberra