4 Lessons The Government Will Need To Learn After Labor’s Big Win Last Night
Turnbull will be getting nervous about the next federal election.
Labor cleaned up at yesterday’s Super Saturday of by-elections, winning in Longman, Braddon, Perth and Fremantle. In doing so, opposition leader Bill Shorten halted the weeks of speculation about his grip on Labor leadership. But he did more than just save his own skin: with swings everywhere, especially in the Queensland seat of Longman, the Labor party has placed a lot of pressure on the Liberal party ahead of the next federal election.
1. The Liberal Party Has A Queensland Problem
If you take away one number from last night’s by-elections, it should be this: five years ago, the Liberal party’s primary vote in Longman was 44.8 percent. Last night, LNP candidate Trevor Ruthenberg’s primary vote was 28.6 percent — 16 points weaker.
— Katharine Murphy (@murpharoo) July 28, 2018
There are five seats in Queensland that the government clings onto by less than two percent, including Dickson, the electorate hosting immigration minister Peter Dutton. If last night’s swing to Labor was copied in all Queensland seats, the Turnbull government would lose eight seats.
The LNP holds the slimmest possible majority in parliament — any seats lost at the next election would mean a change in who runs the country.
Which means that the government needs to figure out what’s going wrong in Queensland, and how they can avoid losing some of those precious seats come next election.
2. Malcolm Turnbull Can’t Just Ride His Popularity
Turnbull is comfortably favoured as preferred PM when compared to opposition leader Shorten, and he hoped to ride that going into these by-elections.
Speaking to ABC Radio weeks before by-election night, Turnbull framed the contest as one between him and Shorten:
“The head-up, the contest is between me and Bill Shorten as the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader.”
The #SuperSaturday results are a "repudiation of the message that if you give tax cuts at the top end, it will trickle down to ordinary Australians," @tanya_plibersek tells @barriecassidy #Insiders #auspol pic.twitter.com/gc4AZD06if
— Insiders ABC (@InsidersABC) July 28, 2018
It’s hard to know whether pitching the by-elections as a clash of personality helped or harmed the LNP’s campaign. There were moments in the campaign where Turnbull was personally ridiculed — the pie incident and the cranky voters incident — but it’s difficult to tell whether these moments actually influenced votes.
3. The Government Can’t Hope For A Labor Leadership Spill
Oh, what Turnbull would give for there to be another contest for the Labor leadership.
There had definitely been chatter before last night. One Galaxy poll suggested that if Anthony Albanese — Shorten’s main leadership rival — were in charge, the party would comfortably get over the line in both Longman and Braddon.
And last month in a speech to the Labor faithful, Albanese set out his vision for the party — a ploy which many pundits saw as a move towards a leadership challenge.
Thank you Longman! It is an honour and a privilege to be able to represent you once again. Thank you for putting your faith in me to deliver for our wonderful community. Today you voted in the thousands for Caboolture Hospital and fair funding for schools. #auspol pic.twitter.com/tGQUcRTw0P
— Susan Lamb (@SusanLambALP) July 28, 2018
It would have been remarkable if the government had nabbed either Longman, Braddon, or both. A government hasn’t taken a seat from their opposition at a by-election in almost 100 years.
But instead, Labor recorded favourable swings in all four of their by-elections, and talks of a Labor leadership spill will likely go away — for now.
4. One Nation Won’t Go Quietly
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation actually recorded a pretty big swing towards them in Longman. In the 2016 federal election, they attracted 9.4 percent of the vote. This time, they did 6.7 points better than that, gaining over 16 percent of the electorate’s first preferences.
And that was despite Hanson being replaced by life-sized cardboard cutouts for the last part of the campaign.
Queensland is One Nation heartland and these results can’t be used to project what would happen federally, but it does warn that despite recent scandals and dysfunction, One Nation is here to stay.