The campaign’s final days

Albanese’s National Press Club address

Albanese’s National Press Club address on Wednesday was well-crafted and delivered with enthusiasm. It was structured around principles to guide a Labor administration, including a commitment to “find common ground to address common interests”. In most election campaigns such a statement would qualify as a cliché, as a statement that any aspiring politician would make, but in this campaign it has meaning because it contrasts with Morrison’s politics of tribal identity and divisiveness.

While the general message was about living standards, there were also references to a Hawke-Keating approach to structural reform, and to the traditional Labor emphasis on the “social wage”: our wellbeing depends not only on what we can buy in private markets, but also on health care, education and other public goods.

There was only one significant announcement – about abolition of two of the Coalition’s political slush funds – saving the budget $0.75 billion. That was presumably intended to satisfy journalists who see nothing more important in economic management than budgetary bookkeeping, and who find writing about political and economic principles beyond their abilities. Another significant commitment was to “implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full”.

For those who seek an understanding of how Labor would govern, it’s worthwhile listening to or watching his address, because it incorporates the party’s guiding principles.

For those interested in assessing Albanese’s performance under pressure and his command of policy details, it’s worthwhile tuning in at the 32-minute mark, where 40 minutes of questions and answers start. The journalists at Press Club sessions are higher calibre than some of the wannabes who travel on the election trail. They were pushing Albanese to go into depth across the full gamut of public policy, and he did not disappoint. He was well across details and hard numbers. There were at least two attempts by journalists from the Murdoch media to force Albanese into making categorical commitments about taxation and labour relations. He handled these deftly, knowing that the answers to such questions can be used by partisan media to embarrass a government when circumstances call for policy flexibility.

Morrison’s National Press Club address









How to vote to stop the return of Morrison, Joyce, Canavan and Dutton

It used to be so easy: Labor vs Liberal or National depending on your region.

Then came the Greens: we could vote 1 Greens, 2 Labor, or the other way around, and be fairly sure our vote would go to Labor after the Greens were knocked out and their preferences were distributed.

That was until Andrew Bandt won Melbourne for the Greens in 2010 and has held it with an increasing margin ever since. In many seats three-way competitions are here to stay.

Now in some seats, there are four-way competitions – Coalition, Labor, Green, Independent all polling well. To Morrison’s horror, voters in many electorates have something richer than a binary choice.

Voters whose main concern is to see Morrison and his cronies out of office will have to think carefully if they live in an electorate where there are three or more strong candidates.

Crispin Hull explains how, and in what circumstances, someone who seeks to elect a Labor or other progressive candidate should vote strategically to ensure that he or she doesn’t unintentionally help the Coalition: The case for strategic voting. If one is in a Coalition-held seat where there is a strong progressive independent or Green candidate, in some circumstances putting Labor first can help the Coalition, Hull explains. It’s counter-intuitive, but it occurs because, in the distribution of preferences, the order in which candidates are eliminated can have significant consequences for the outcome.

Writing in Crikey William Bowe goes further into advice for those seeking to support Labor, Greens or progressive independents in specific seats, including North Sydney, Griffith, Brisbane, Higgins, Ryan and by implication other seats with strong independents. The year of voting strategically — key seats to watch and consider.

(Those seeking a return of the Morrison Government, on the other hand, need do no more than to copy the directions on a how-to-vote card, allowing tribal identity to substitute for democratic engagement.)

The Senate

One should note that Hull’s article is about the House of representatives vote. The Senate is different territory, and the Senate race in the ACT has its own characteristics, in that there are only two senators to be elected (as opposed to six in the states), and there are at least three serious candidates. These are the two sitting Labor and Liberal senators, and a strongly-polling independent, none of whom is likely to win a quota (33.4 percent) on first round. There is also another strongly-polling independent, and the Greens always do well in the ACT. Although the ACT is normally seen as a progressive-Labor holdout, this election could go in almost any direction as ABC journalists Markus Mannheim and Adam Shirley explain. William Bowe’s article, linked above, also has warnings for ACT voters seeking to displace incumbent right-wing Liberal Senator Zed Seselja. Julia Gillard has written to every household in Canberra asking people to “put Katy Gallagher [the incumbent Labor Senator] number 1 on the Senate ballot paper”, notably not suggesting that people put Labor’s second candidate at number 2. 

Even if Labor wins in the House of Representatives, it is almost impossible for it to enjoy a Senate majority, and it may not even enjoy a Labor + Green + centrist or progressive majority. That’s one reason why the ACT Senate contest is important. The other is that Katy Gallagher is a highly-experienced administrator, having been Chief Minister of the ACT, and is now the shadow finance minister. A Labor government without Gallagher would find it hard to replace her with such an experienced person.

Most boondoggles are probably illegal

Anyone who pores over Section 51 of the Constitution – the part that specifies the powers of the Commonwealth – may be surprised that it makes no mention of dog parks, change rooms, or playgrounds. These are reasonably the responsibility of state and local governments.

Yet in the election campaign the Coalition and Labor between them have promised 282 projects that are outside the bounds set by Section 51 and which, by any reasonable interpretation of federalism, should be the responsibility of state and local governments: Constitutional doubt over dog parks, BMX tracks and wall murals, reported by Shane Wright and Katina Curtis in The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Coalition is the main offender. It has made $5.1 billion of promises, all but $1.1 billion of which is directed to shoring up Coalition-held seats. Labor’s promises are a modest $1.1 million, directed mainly to Coalition-held seats.  

Over his four years in office Morrison has made it clear that he sees public revenue as an extension of party funds, with the spoils to be split between the Liberal and National Parties. This is corruption, and Labor has been unable to resist the temptation to go along with the practice, albeit in a more modest and transparent way. Such projects are also administratively expensive, because they usually require Commonwealth public servants to be involved in trivially small ventures, which are far better left to state and local employees with local knowledge and established procedures.

In the campaign they serve another political purpose for Morrison, in that they give him a series of announcements, as cover for the absence of any serious policy proposals.


In a few hours even the best of polls will have no more value than a discarded lottery ticket. But if you must have a look, take your pick from William Bowe’s Poll Bludger (and note that he has a donation drive).

Bowe’s work is of a high standard. It stands out as a piece of sceptical sanity and mathematical rigour in a world where so many people with a public voice reveal little understanding of basic statistics and mathematics. But be aware of three qualifications that are relevant for this election: