Rich Liberal, poor Liberal

A beginner’s guide to debate on the conservative side of politics about how the Liberal Party should react to its election defeat, and in particular the loss of its traditional strongholds to the teal independents.

In the wake of the Morrison government’s defeat, a culture war has broken out within the Liberal Party between those who consider recovering the teal independent seats a necessary precondition for a return to power and those who believe they should be abandoned to the political left so the party might pursue different constituencies in seats that have been swinging away from Labor, notably Hunter, Werriwa, McEwen and Gorton. Support for the latter notion has been provided by former Morrison government adviser Mark Briers, who says the party “must move our party’s focus, talent and resources away from Camberwell and Malvern towards Craigieburn and Melton”, and right-wing Victorian Liberal MP Tim Smith, who says his party should “stop obsessing with the woke concerns and obsessions with the inner-urban elites”, and “take the focus off Kew” – his own seat, until November at least – “and focus on Cranbourne”.

Repudiating his soon-to-be-former colleague, former Victorian Liberal leader Michael O’Brien told The Australian there was “no path to 45 seats” at the November state election “that doesn’t run through Malvern, Kew and Hawthorn”, the latter of which was unexpectedly lost to Labor in 2018. Similarly, federal MP Paul Fletcher – who has an interest in the matter as member for the Sydney seat of Bradfield, one of only two out of the ten wealthiest electorates that remain with the Liberal Party – wrote in The Australian on Saturday that he has not heard notions to the contrary “seriously advanced by fellow Liberals”, by which I think he means he has not heard it advanced by serious fellow Liberals. However, his prescriptions for accomplishing took pains to avoid seriously criticising his own party and offered no suggestion of any policy reorientation.

Scott Morrison, who clearly isn’t kept awake at night by jibes about him being “from marketing”, proposes a middle course, seemingly based on the notion that brand damage from the Nationals had a lot to do with his government’s defeat. As reported by Sharri Markson of The Australian, Morrison proposes the solution of a re-forged coalition in which a Queensland-style Liberal National Party serves as the main brand, allied to a distinct “new progressive Liberal movement” to run in the kinds of seats lost to the teal independents.

The loss of those seats has prompted much talk about the demise of the socio-economic cleavage that has historically defined the Australian party system, including a claim in a Financial Review headline that “for the first time Labor voters earn more than Coalition voters” – later amended to “Labor electorates earn more than Coalition seats” after it was pointed out that the initial claim was wrong. The issue with such analyses is known as the ecological fallacy, whereby inferences about individual behaviour are drawn from aggregate-level data — in this case the notion that because the electorates held by the Coalition have declined in income, it follows that their support base has as well.

YouGov data scientist Shaun Ratcliff addressed this issue by drawing on the surveying for the pollster’s multi-level regression and post-stratification poll, which reached 18,923 respondents three to five weeks out from election day. Ratcliff found that while the traditional income cleavage was reduced at this election, it certainly did not disappear. Among home-owners on $150,000 a year or more, 44% voted Coalition, 31% Labor and 10% Greens; among those on $50,000 a year or less who did not own homes, 40% voted Labor, 27% Greens and just 16% voted Coalition. While the effect was somewhat weaker among those under 35, Ratcliff provides a series of charts illustrating the clear tendency of wealthier voters to favour the Coalition over Labor and “others” (Greens support did not appear contingent on income).

This was also true within the teal independent seats, with Kooyong and Goldstein in particular having experienced an influx of apartment-dwelling “young middle-income professionals”, as noted by Remy Vega in The Australian. Data from the YouGov poll suggests the Liberal vote in the twenty seats targeted by Climate 200 was around seven points lower among those on $50,000 or less than among those on higher incomes. More broadly, Ratcliff notes that “renters also swung away from the Liberal and National Party more than homeowners and the young more than the old”.

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.

115 comments on “Rich Liberal, poor Liberal”

Comments Page 3 of 3
1 2 3
  1. Wranslide @ #82 Monday, June 13th, 2022 – 9:16 pm

    Gladys did not perform exactly well in Transport @aaron Newton. That whole tram debacle was on her watch. It was and is a disaster. The whole buy anywhere but Oz was also pushed by her. Which is now coming home to roost for the commuters of NSW.

    And then there is the Metro ideology which was only a way of ridding the place of the influence of the RTBU and what remains of the old NSW Railways. Have a look at the design of the South West Rail link and the Metro’s. The South West rail link if this government gets its way with Metro’s will be nothing more than a white elephant.

  2. In my opinion, there is almost no chance of a majority ALP government in NSW in 2023. The ALP currently holds 37 seats, so need a net 10 to get to 47 and a majority. There are only 3 seats which are relatively low-hanging fruit. These are Heathcote, East Hills and Penrith-all in areas which the LNP retained federally against the tide. Labor needs swings of over 6% before they win seats in the numbers needed. A minority ALP government with Green and Independent support is the best Labor can hope for I think.

    Perrottet, in my opinion, is an upgrade on Gladys. Maybe not in popularity, but in the kind of government he runs. Perrottet would have been a great fit with the old DLP. Opus Dei educated, socially deeply conservative, but with some degree of social conscience too. Under Perrottet, we’ve seen VAD legislation passed (despite his personal opposition), and a proposal to replace stamp duty over time with land tax, which would be a very good thing to do. Gladys just wanted to bask in her own popularity, she would never have taken on anything controversial.

    Maybe a combination of DLP-style Catholic social conservatism to please conservative voters, without the anger and venom of Dutton and his ilk, and the more modern social views and pro-environment stance of someone like Matt Kean in the teal seats, would get the Liberals back in the game.


    Supposedly more short-term visa holders will shortly be brought in to keep wages down, ignore hybrid or working from anyway, just back to the workplace.
    TfNSW doesn’t seem to have things figured out, anymore than a multiple CBD Sydney with ever higher population density, rather than more holistic regional development, acreage and quarter acre blocks.
    Run by Poms [who seem to have worked out the cross Londonistan Elizabeth line, and even some remaining BR spurs, like through Kilburn come to mind] staffed by Indians, barely audible/ intelligible announcements seems to be about it. Shorter journey times, hardly.
    Again there’s chatter about high speed rail, supposedly Newcastle/ Gosford, or the Gong, nothing on Canberra, not much on holistic regional development (like southern highlands eg, just have a look at public transport in/ out Mossvale).
    I was definitely pleased the most recent former NSW minister not parlaying time ‘served’ into a federal MP.
    And before NSWP DoPe, well there was Glaystan Borisjiklian. (I guess Greiner or Carr are all but a memory, if perhaps not the likes of Obeid) A clear and present risk to your health, security and wealth.
    West Connex doesn’t seem to force trucks off Parramatta Road, unlike North Connex. Place like Switzerland force big trucks/ containers onto rail, and ban anything but vans from many urban areas.
    There doesn’t seem to have been a widening, crossing, new highway that wasn’t toll roaded (though apparently moves are afoot on stamp duty/ land tax/ GST etc I guess income tax and payroll tax might come in to it too).
    Newcastle station is now a prelude to a tram.
    Anyone clear on public transport that will connect Western Sydney Airport?
    Epping to Chatswood was made into a metro, with lotsa reliability issues, and less capacity. Supposedly it is getting an extension to Bankstown.
    Despite fortnightly to monthly maintenance signal failures continue, especially when wet or leaves are around.
    Not quite sure till when the multiple transfers became a thing, be it walk, drive, tram, train, metro, bus, etc.
    And of course Wuflu saw people moving to cars rather than public transport.
    All about the ‘economy’, pork barrelling, iCAC. Former TfNSW.

    Not sure how much KRudd7x7’s Infra Aus helped or hurt.

  4. So much for the famed Golden State Warriors 3rd quarter blitz. They are getting blendered. Bring on Young Glove to land some 3’s.

  5. “The Queensland State vs Federal election results contradiction remains unexplained. But it is clear that uniting the Libs and Nats into a full federal LNP doesn’t guarantee anything in terms of electoral success,”

    Re-reading Scott Morrison suggestion it seems he wants to run under the LNP brand. But is not proposing a merger.

    I’m not sure you can do that. You either have to merge the party or you don’t.

    Having Liberal and National canidates but under the LNP brand and appearing as Liberals and Nationals on the ballot is being too clever, deceptive, and misleading.

    The LNP in Queensland is a merged party. And there canidates have preselections from LNP members. Not Liberal members or Nationals members exclusively. Therefore there is no issue.

  6. If you want to hear a discussion about the future of the Liberal Party, tune into RN at 4pm [or the ABC Listen App] when Judith Brett, Fred Chaney and Troy Bramston chat with Phillip Adams. It places the Liberals’ difficulties in a historical context and opines about the party’s future. Bramston believes the two-party system is essentially finished, noting Labor’s victory is based on a low PV.

    I don’t believe the two-party system is on its last legs. There seems to be an inordinate focus on Labor’s 2022 primary vote that has settled at 32.58%, about 0.75% lower than the 2019 result, questioning the new government’s legitimacy but overlooking the fact that, for two decades the Greens have slowly eaten into Labor’s left-leaning base.

    The ALP & Greens are only two centre-left parties of any significance in Australia. With the Greens securing an impressive PV of 12.25%, together they secured 44.83% of the PV [with 80-85% of preferences returning to the ALP]. That’s about 1% higher than the 2019 result. In metropolitan Australia [90 seats], these centre-left parties polled over 50% of the PV for a Labor 2PP greater than 56%. Even in Brisbane, the metro 2PP [for 13 seats] was just over 50%.

    In non-metro Australia [61 seats], Labor’s 2PP improved to over 46% despite a dreadful 2PP outcome in QLD’s 17 non-metro seats [about 41%] where Labor didn’t win a seat. Interestingly though, in non-metro NSW [21 seats of which Labor holds 11], Labor fell just short of 50%. A good result.

    Labor has over time, shed support to one party on the Left, unlike the Coalition PV that has over time, fractured to the Right and now on the Left. Therefore, the focus should be on the Coalition’s PV that fell by about 5.75% to 35.69%, winning 58 seats. It’s going to be tough for the LIBs.

  7. My opinion is that the merger in QLD into the LNP was one of the worst things that could have happened. It had a reason at the time but that reason and time has now passed. The merger has meant that any moderate ‘Liberal’ running in Brisbane or SEQ cannot put any distance between themselves and Barnaby Joyce and Matt Canavan. It has also allowed people like Gerrard Rennick to come up through the cracks when they may have been excluded by both an independent Liberal or National Party. For the Libs, it is probably too late to demerge and under Dutton no ideological imperative to do so.

    There has been for a long time a substantial number of Australians who would be counted as liberal socially but right wing when it comes to economics. Malcolm Turnbull epitomised this group – as did Jeff Kennett in an earlier generation. There was enough room in the tent for them but they gradually got squeezed out – Scott Morrison was their nemesis as he was an ideology and policy free zone. The Lib moderates sort of held them together but the Teals just ripped the bottom out of the boat. At one stage, I though Malcolm Turnbull might do something Napoleonic and try and gather them up but he has not shown an inclination to and is probably too old anyway. So this group of people have nowhere coherent to go anymore unless the Teals in some way turn themselves into a party – and then they may lose support because they have attracted a grab bag of people who have largely voted for Labor and the Greens in the past. It is actually a void in the political spectrum that is waiting to be filled – and the Liberal Democrats are not the ones to do it. There is a need for something similar to the German Free Democratic Party.

  8. A friend of mine wrote his thesis in the mid 80s positing that the proportion of renters is the best determinate of an electorates voting intention – Renters have a very different view of the economy from a property owner.
    The above discussion on income levels should really identify that no vaguely accurate datasets on an electorates average income exists. A very large percentage of people lie to the ABS, lie to the tax office, and lie to their family when asked about their income. I wouldn’t describe it as a poor measure but rather a useless measure.

  9. gladys got aboortion decriminalised desbite the out rage from 2gb and the hard right but with peretett they did not put up much of a fight 2gb even tried to get gladys to resign over the abortion bill so morrison should have learnt from thatthat deves would not have worked after some amendments to keep tania davies quiet it was past with nothing more said about it and review forgotten about then religis fredom morrison failed that

  10. there is no real modderit liberal left in Q l D after brandis retired and trever evans lost his seat waren intch is a moderit on gay rights but he backt the anti gay religisdiccrimination wedge and had nothing to say abbout deaves until after the last turnbull liberal left is kean bermingham is modderit but only spoke up once on insiders after los and dissapeared

  11. the deaves waringa preselection made no sence if the plan was to atracktsebirban voters which guy tiried in 2018 with african gang whiy not pick deaves in a seat in the suberbes which is winnable not waringa which is not plus when morrison quits mid term do we think it is likely hawke will follow both kean and the hard right want him gone and only reason hawke is still in parliament is morrison half his faction are gone mortin wa lucey wicks robbert demoated elliott likely soon

  12. “Perrottet would have been a great fit with the old DLP. Opus Dei educated, socially deeply conservative, but with some degree of social conscience too. ”

    This is actually one of the keys to why the Liberal Party is in so much trouble.

    It didn’t used to be the political wing of the religious.

    Now, in a majority of State branches, it is.

  13. The Liberal pivot to the outer suburbs seems to follow the US Republican model. I think it is quite problematic in Australia. For a start manufacturing right-wing cohorts around issues like religion, 2nd amendment rights, and abortion in order to have a high turnout is less effective due to compulsory voting.

    A more subtle point is that the Liberal Brand appeals to some aspirational demographics because it is seen as the party of wealth. As one Liberal voting friend explained to me “I don’t live in Brighton – but I can vote Liberal”. So the risk is that the Liberal brand gets trashed in the previous blue-ribbon seat but ends up being less desirable to the aspirational voters because of that.

    From the Labor side, I think a good long-term strategy would be to paint the Liberal brand as being a cheap knock-off of a conservative party, not the real deal, and solely interested in having their hand in the cookie jar.

Comments Page 3 of 3
1 2 3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *