‘Poisonous pamphlets and pork’: what messages are cutting through to voters in this messy campaign?

by Cait Kelly
Here’s what is weighing on the minds of five undecided voters before the federal election on 21 May

Undecided voters will play a key role in deciding the outcome of Saturday’s election with many waiting until the final week, days, or even hours, to make their decision.

So what in this very long, and at times messy, campaign has cut through?

And how has it shaped people’s vote?

We spoke to five undecided voters to find out.

1. Bob in Bass

Bob lives in the bellwether seat on Bass in northern Tasmania, which is one of the most marginal in the country.

Held by Liberal Bridget Archer with a 0.4% margin, Bass is known as an “ejector” – for the last 10 federal elections, only once has a sitting member been returned.

Bob is a classic swing voter – previously backing Labor, the Liberals and even the Greens.

He sums up the last six weeks as “poisonous pamphlets and pork”.

“There are two things – one is there is a lot of ridiculous promises and I doubt it will all get funded,” he said.

“And two – it’s a dirty campaign, I’m getting all manner of propaganda.”

Last time around the ALP’s policy on franking credits sent him flying into the arms of the Liberals, and he says if Archer ran as an independent he would vote for her again – but he doesn’t want to see the PM keep his job.

“I don’t mind Archer but I don’t particularly want to see the Liberal government get back in,” he said.

“It’s like being run by a bunch of North Shore prefects.”

2. Rachael in Bass

Racheal Bender also lives in Bass. It will be the first time the 19-year-old votes in a federal election.

“I am stumbling in the dark on who to vote for,” she said. “I don’t follow the news or politics so I really have no idea.”

When asked if any campaign moments had cut through Bender said she would not have noticed an election was taking place if it wasn’t for the pamphlets.

“​​Only the ‘don’t vote for Scott Morrison’ flyers and videos,” she said. “Bridget Archer has sent something also.”

She said her values as a Christian would probably guide her vote, and that she would talk to her family before Saturday, but that she had not been interested in the campaign.

“I’m not even sure the candidates are even telling the truth,” Bender said.

3. Harry in Grayndler

Harry, 31, who did not want his real name used, lives in Grayndler – Anthony Albanese’s inner-city Sydney seat. For his whole life he has voted Labor, and until recently was a member of the party. This time around, he’s considering the Greens.

“I am undecided,” he said. “I’m in Albo’s seat and I don’t want to vote Labor but don’t really know the Greens candidate enough, so am torn.”

Harry said he started thinking about shifting his vote when Albanese “sold out the working class to get old white people’s votes”.

“They parachuted white people into multicultural seats, have an absolutely shitty housing policy and the nail was when they rejected an increase to welfare,” he said.

4. Tennile in Chisholm

Tennile Hohaia is going the opposite way. The 39-year-old lives in Chisholm, in Melbourne’s east. It’s a key seat held by Liberal Gladys Liu by just 0.5%.

“I’ve always voted Liberal,” Hohaia said.

“[But] I’m undecided because I agree with the policies and I’ve always agreed but I can’t with a good conscience vote for Scott Morrison.”

Hohaia runs a small business and says she has always benefited from Liberal governments, but she doesn’t like the PM for three key reasons.

“I don’t like his public comments, I don’t like the way he takes no accountability and Julian Assange,” she said.

“I feel like nobody cares about him [Assange].”

Hohaia said the Liberals have run a strong advertising campaign.

“‘It won’t be easy under Albanese’ is one of the most catchy slogans I’ve ever heard,” she said.

Despite this, she is leaning towards Labor, but the vote is not in the bag.

“I went to early vote last week and I didn’t because I wasn’t sure. I honestly care about this.”

5. Meagan in Cowper

On the mid-north coast of NSW, Cowper runs from Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour. It’s a safe National seat with the local member, Pat Conaghan, holding an 11.9% margin.

Newly minted Australian citizen Meagan Adams comes from the US. She said it had been “cute” watching Australians complain about a six-week campaign when the US has one of the longest election periods on offer.

In the US she was an active member of the Republican party until the Tea Party movement, but her conservative politics have not translated to a natural vote for the Coalition.

“I’m finding it hard to believe any of the leaders know what’s going on [on] the ground,” Adams said. “I know we don’t vote for the leaders but at some point in time, the leader narrative takes over.”

The defining moment for her first Australian election was Morrison saying he had empathy, after his comment about not holding a hose in the 2019-20 bushfires.

“Scott Morrison’s comments about empathy cut through in the wrong way,” she said.

“I don’t agree with Labor’s policies, particularly with house prices and childcare, but I feel like they at least put in the effort.”