Winners and losers

Reading between the lines of the Liberal Party’s post-election reports for the federal and Victorian state elections.

In the wake of Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill’s federal electoral post-mortem for Labor, two post-election reviews have emerged from the Liberal Party, with very different tales to tell – one from the May 2019 federal triumph, the other from the November 2018 Victorian state disaster.

The first of these was conducted by Arthur Sinodinos and Steven Joyce, the latter being a former cabinet minister and campaign director for the conservative National Party in New Zealand. It seems we only get to see the executive summary and recommendations, the general tenor of which is that, while all concerned are to be congratulated on a job well done, the party benefited from a “poor Labor Party campaign” and shouldn’t get too cocky. Points of interest:

• It would seem the notion of introducing optional preferential voting has caught the fancy of some in the party. The report recommends the party “undertake analytical work to determine the opportunities and risks” – presumably with respect to itself – “before making any decision to request such a change”.

• Perhaps relatedly, the report says the party should work closer with the Nationals to avoid three-cornered contests. These may have handicapped the party in Gilmore, the one seat it lost to Labor in New South Wales outside Victoria.

• The report comes out for voter identification at the polling booth, a dubious notion that nonetheless did no real harm when it briefly operated in Queensland in 2015, and electronic certified lists of voters, which make a lot more sense.

• It is further felt that the parliament might want to look at cutting the pre-poll voting period from three weeks to two, but should keep its hands off the parties’ practice of mailing out postal vote applications. Parliament should also do something about “boorish behaviour around polling booths”, like “limiting the presence of volunteers to those linked with a particular candidate”.

• Hints are offered that Liberals’ pollsters served up dud results from “inner city metropolitan seats”. This probably means Reid in Sydney and Chisholm in Melbourne, both of which went better than they expected, and perhaps reflects difficulties polling the Chinese community. It is further suggested that the party’s polling program should expand from 20 seats to 25.

• Ten to twelve months is about the right length of time out from the election to preselect marginal seat candidates, and safe Labor seats can wait until six months out. This is at odds with the Victorian party’s recent decision to get promptly down to business, even ahead of a looming redistribution, which has been a source of friction between the state and federal party.

• After six of the party’s candidates fell by the wayside during the campaign, largely on account of social media indiscretions (one of which may have cost the Liberals the Tasmanian seat of Lyons), it is suggested that more careful vetting processes might be in order.

The Victorian inquiry was conducted by former state and federal party director Tony Nutt, and is available in apparently unexpurgated form. Notably:

• The party’s tough-on-crime campaign theme, turbo-charged by media reportage of an African gangs crisis, failed to land. Too many saw it as “a political tactic rather than an authentic problem to be solved by initiatives that would help make their neighbourhoods safer”. As if to show that you can’t always believe Peter Dutton, post-election research found the issue influenced the vote of only 6% of respondents, “and then not necessarily to our advantage”.

• As it became evident during the campaign that they were in trouble, the party’s research found the main problem was “a complete lack of knowledge about Matthew Guy, his team and their plans for Victoria if elected”. To the extent that Guy was recognised at all, it was usually on account of “lobster with a mobster”.

• Guy’s poor name recognition made it all the worse that attention was focused on personalities in federal politics, two months after the demise of Malcolm Turnbull. Post-election research found “30% of voters in Victorian electorates that were lost to Labor on the 24th November stated that they could not vote for the Liberal Party because of the removal of Malcolm Turnbull”.

• Amid a flurry of jabs at the Andrews government, for indiscretions said to make the Liberal defeat all the more intolerable, it is occasionally acknowledged tacitly that the government had not made itself an easy target. Voters were said to have been less concerned about “the Red Shirts affair for instance” than “more relevant, personal and compelling factors like delivery of local infrastructure”.

• The report features an exhausting list of recommendations, updated from David Kemp’s similar report in 2015, the first of which is that the party needs to get to work early on a “proper market research-based core strategy”. This reflects the Emerson and Weatherill report, which identified the main problem with the Labor campaign as a “weak strategy”.

• A set of recommendations headed “booth management” complains electoral commissions don’t act when Labor and union campaigners bully their volunteers.

• Without naming names, the report weights in against factional operators and journalists who “see themselves more as players and influencers than as traditional reporters”.

• The report is cagey about i360, described in The Age as “a controversial American voter data machine the party used in recent state elections in Victoria and South Australia”. It was reported to have been abandoned in April “amid a botched rollout and fears sensitive voter information was at risk”, but the report says only that it is in suspension, and recommends a “thorough review”.

• Other recommendations are that the party should write more lists, hold more meetings and find better candidates, and that its shadow ministers should pull their fingers out.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

2,754 comments on “Winners and losers”

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  1. Ballantyne @ #244 Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019 – 3:30 pm

    frednk @ #67 Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019 – 9:45 am


    The sign is pretty clear but did you note the ABC report Pegasus linked to said “both major parties” miss information that Pegasus delighted in spreading.

    The ABC News report says this:

    Ms Plesman also took aim at Labor during her demonstration on Monday morning.
    “We’ve got no leadership, we’ve got no discussion, we’ve got no debate, we’ve got nothing,” she said.
    “We need a bipartisan approach.
    “I completely understand that the Labor Party are absent in this as well.”

    So why do you say Pegasus is spreading disinformation? Doesn’t read like that to me.

    Hey. Leave me out of it. If you follow the thread, you will see that frednk is addressing me pointing out something Pegasus had said and asking if I had read it. I don’t read Pegasus much, and said so. What you have done is selectively edit the post you are commenting on which makes what frednk said look like I said it.

    You’re welcome.

  2. Barney

    Labor would have gone to the election with most of those who registered to vote choosing them.

    It would have played like the Sorry Issue did for Rudd.

  3. guytaur says:
    Tuesday, December 3, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    Labor would have gone to the election with most of those who registered to vote choosing them.

    This is a fallacy. One of the cohorts that swung to the Liberals was younger voters.

  4. Itzadream @ 3.42pm

    I apologize, Itzadream, that was not my intention. I hit the “Quote” button and that’s how it ended up being posted. No offence or misattribution to you was meant.

  5. RI

    Those voters were engaged on ME. They voted for it in the survey. It could have been the issue that swung those young voters to Labor.
    Maybe not. I would have thought Climate Change policy better under Labor than the LNP would have done it.

    It’s one reason I think the fence sitting was such a drag on Labor’s campaign.

    Edit: a reminder. The LNP will always say Labor and Greens same same.

  6. @guytaur

    I applaud Senator Wong, for the way she has raised concern about the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influence in Australian politics. Which some are using the issue, to pander to anti-Chinese racism or tar their opponents as racists.

  7. There’s always a trap, isn’t there.

    Asher Wolf
    Bill for $425 for orthotics from a public hospital.

    Podiatrist: “Basically the hospital expects you to have NDIS if you’re referred to this service – because by definition you have a disability – & state funding can’t be applied for until you’re rejected from the NDIS…”

  8. ItzaDream @ #1015 Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019 – 3:51 pm

    Ballantyne @ #255 Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019 – 3:49 pm

    Itzadream @ 3.42pm

    I apologize, Itzadream, that was not my intention. I hit the “Quote” button and that’s how it ended up being posted. No offence or misattribution to you was meant.

    No worries. It’s easy to do, and sorry if I over-bristled (made that up).

    I do like (and am often guilty of being) “over-bristled”.

    There’s a seam here: “over-bristling” is a growth industry.

  9. Well worth a read if you are interested in MDB water politics.

    Some of the reporting is erroneous, but hey.

    The basic points, if I interpret them correctly, are:

    1. NSW wants to break the existing agreement for water sharing between the states (1998 and the Act 2007)
    2. NSW wants to re-bank the billions the Commonwealth has spent in NSW on water buy backs and water savings.
    3. NSW wants to kill off the environments of the Coorong, Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert by denying them fresh water and further, de facto, turn them into salt sumps for the 2 million tonnes of salt year, much of said salt being liberated into the system by… NSW.
    4. NSW wants to grab the 480 Gigs of MDB environmental allocation and re-apply it to irrigation.
    5. NSW wants all water resource plans to be put on hold.

    Littleproud has agreed to a Review.

    There is a water ministers meeting in 2 months time which should be a lively affair. NSW, SA, and the Feds are all on the Coalition.

  10. Tristo

    Yes. The LNP are trying to do another division or wedge to consolidate their hold on seats like Chisholm.

    Stuff the National Interest of not picking sides and our international reputation and risk of needlessly offending one of the great powers of the world.

    Edit: sorry forgot. Truly Trumpian Tory values.

  11. poroti

    “Even after stealing it there was a decades long period called the ‘Uni Age’. This was period before the bogans realised that having ‘a’ wheel is fine and dandy but you really need to use at least two of them.”
    The Liberal bogan ancestors would have privatised the wheel and insisted that it become very expensive to use.

    A Liberal Party owned company would be generously funded by the government to provide a square version of the wheel, on a long waiting list, to the poor.

  12. @guytaur

    I agree about the LNP’s tactics, this is why I believe this government is truly capable for anything, in order to stay in power. This is why I have been exhorting about the need for a strategy of total opposition against this country and standing up to Scott Morrison’s bullying.

  13. Tristo

    Yes. Labor has to realise that the LNP are acting in bad faith.

    They have been ever since Turnbull was rolled over the CPRS. Now with rolling him the second time they are worse. Plus we get daily evidence from the LNP campaign team members working on Brexit. A project that truly is acting in bad faith.

  14. The head of the RSL hasn’t got a clue, acting more like a government lapdog than representing the well-being of serving and past members of the ADF. He should resign:

    [‘Melick says there is no evidence that a royal commission would find anything different to inquiries of the productivity commission, joint standing committees or the national mental health commission. All of those bodies have considered the problems with veterans support services.

    “It’s an enormous distraction. If there’d been no inquiry, and we didn’t know what the problem was, that’d be different,” he tells Sky News.’]

  15. Clearly the most efficient use of water in the MDB would depend on closing down South Australia.

    At least removing a lot of their perennial crops. It sucks to say it.

    What is it, about 80% of SA water is sourced from the Murray?

  16. Dandy Murray

    At least we can look forward to even more sludge at the bottom of Coopers Sparkling Ale. Bonus, not enough left for Southwark beer 🙂

  17. The Poll Bludger Psychiatric Service.
    Group therapy with “certified” therapists in constant attendance. No booking required – very cheap rates.

    Guaranteed access to discussions, arguments, information, comedy, music and self discovery.

  18. @Nicholas:

    “ The purpose of a wealth tax would be to reduce inequality.”

    Pft. Just like that. You lost the political argument. It is exactly that type of sentiment that repulsed low information low interest ‘Aspirationals’.

    Haven’t you been paying attention?

  19. AE

    Labor did not have a wealth tax. Labor did not say Billionaires should not exist.

    More fantasy political failure from you.
    Labor had enough to be going on with. Inventing new ways to fail doesn’t help.

  20. Guytaur
    That isn’t what AE is saying and while I don’t consider myself low information but hearing politicians talk about wealth taxes or the top end of town is a turn off.

  21. Mexican

    Labor rightly picked income inequality as their point of campaigning.
    They did not message with a Wealth Tax or that Billionaires should not exist.

    No mention of we want to be Norway or another of the top of the happiness index countries with little inequality.

    Eg. Use Brexit slogans. Like the Norway economic model. Or Portugal. Make the LNP argue under a whole different framing.

    Edit: if you did not notice the LNP do it all the time with the US and UK so they can attack unions and the minimum wage.

  22. Andrew_Earlwood @ #280 Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019 – 4:56 pm


    “ The purpose of a wealth tax would be to reduce inequality.”

    Pft. Just like that. You lost the political argument. It is exactly that type of sentiment that repulsed low information low interest ‘Aspirationals’.

    Haven’t you been paying attention?

    He doesn’t care. He is a puritan.

  23. @guytaur

    For some reason Rudd could not recognize that right-wing lunatics were taking over the Liberal and National parties, when Rudd negotiated with them instead of the Greens.

    Indeed, the Trumpification of the Liberal and National Parties, is a reason why One Nation have not increased their support to approximately 13%. Not to mention Australia has become an international embarrassment and some of the government’s policies are praised by European Far-Right parties.

  24. The ALP didn’t campaign on inequality, they offered a token pay rise to a favored group while rambling on about the top end of town.

  25. poroti says:
    Tuesday, December 3, 2019 at 4:34 pm

    …”At least we can look forward to even more sludge at the bottom of Coopers Sparkling Ale”…

    If you don’t love Cooper’s, in all its sludgy glory, then you simply do not appreciate beer.

  26. Tristo,
    Kevin Rudd negotiated with the Coalition because, if he could have sealed a deal with them then he could say that the representatives of the majority of Australians, the Coalition and the Labor Party, had agreed to take action. Negotiating with pissant little parties like The Greens would not have allowed him to make that argument.

  27. I am fed up to the back teeth with the ABC’s repetitive slavering over the Duke of York. I suppose this fills in the time when they would have to avoid criticising Morrison and friends.

  28. Mexican

    Labor had policy. Not policy I fully agreed with but be in no doubt the media called it a large target strategy for good reason.

    They had very poor messaging about those policies.

  29. Guytaur
    The NDIS was hardly mentioned if at all and did not appear in any ads, and when it comes to Medicare the post-election review noted its supporters are mostly already ALP supporters.

  30. You lost the political argument.

    You take a surrender monkey approach to politics; you couldn’t possibly understand what leadership involves. Your insight into what would be popular or unpopular is seriously amiss as well. Australians are deeply concerned about excessive inequality. You seem to live perpetually in the 1980s where neoliberalism is a hot new fad and greed is good. Wake up from your 35 year old fever dream, please.

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