CORRECTS STYLE OF SUBHEADS
By Jill Fraser
MELBOURNE, Australia (AA) – With just under three weeks to go before Australians flock to the polls for the July 2 federal election, the boredom factor is reported to be almost on par with the level of disenchantment with the present prime minister.
Polls show that Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull is failing to live up to the electorate’s expectations, plus voters are turning away in droves from the overtly stage-managed campaigns of the two main parties.
According to two of Australia’s leading political analysts, it’s looking likely that neither party will win enough seats to govern solo.
“Based on the current [national] polls, Australia is heading for a ‘hung parliament’,” Nicholas Reece, a principal fellow at the University of Melbourne, told Anadolu Agency on Monday.
Griffith University political scientist Paul Williams agrees.
“Initially I said the swing against the government would be 2.5 percent. I now think it will be closer to 4 percent. That will give Labor 15 to 17 seats.”
Labor needs to gain 19 seats on a uniform swing of 4 percent to form a majority government.
A hung parliament would mirror then Labor leader Julia Gillard’s June 2010 deal with the Greens, which was highly criticized by the Coalition, then in opposition, for being ineffective despite it’s legislative achievements.
“There’s a cruel irony here because Australians consistently tell pollsters that they don’t like hung parliaments and minority government. Yet their voting behavior is changing in such a way that hung parliaments and minority governments are more common and prevalent than ever,” Reece said.
With polls revealing a move to independents and minor parties in the House of Representatives -- the lower house -- last week, Turnbull used a business speech in Sydney on Friday to warn of the downside of not delivering a clear parliamentary majority and the danger of a hung parliament to the economy.
"Just a few thousand votes across a handful of seats will decide if the Greens and independents will be once again calling the shots in a Shorten-Greens minority government,” Turnbull said referring to Labor leader Bill Shorten.
“So now is not the time for a protest vote or a wasted vote; it is the time to use your vote in support of a strong economic plan -- and to prevent a hung parliament that would bring government and our economic transition to a grinding halt, costing jobs and imperiling our future.”
Both Reece and Williams stress that everything could change in the final weeks of the campaign when voters -- voting is compulsory in Australia -- start to switch on.
“While national polls suggest a hung parliament, seat-by-seat polls suggest the government’s vote is holding up better in key marginal seats suggesting the [Liberal/National Parties] Coalition could hold on to government,” Reece adds.
- Dead Heat
The latest polls show the Coalition and Labor in a dead heat.
Turnbull -- whose focus is on the economy -- continues to lead Shorten -- focused on education and health -- by more than 10 percent as preferred prime minister, but his popularity stock is plummeting.
In October, shortly after replacing his former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Turnbull’s approval rating as preferred prime minister was polling at 70 percent. Shorten, meanwhile, was on 24 percent.
Williams reckons Turnbull exhibited poor judgment by not calling election before Christmas.
“I wrote an opinion piece for The Australian saying, Malcolm you need to go now. This is as good as it gets. His popularity spiked in Feb but since then it’s been falling,” Williams said.
The length of the campaign, which voters know was Turnbull’s decision, has worked against him according to Williams.
“People have been describing it as bland at best and at worse, tedious. Certainly uninspiring,” he said.
Reece also notes the “overriding feeling within the electorate of disappointment in Turnbull”.
“When he replaced Abbott he was seen as a charismatic politician, a good communicator, highly intelligent and with views that were more centrist than the more conservative right wing faction of the middle ground of his party," he says.
“He found popularity through his position on climate change, marriage equality and his more moderate views even around refugees. But as part of his agreement to become leader he’s done a Faustian bargain with his party."
- Changing fortunes
According to Reece, the long electoral campaign has worked in Shorten’s favor.
“If you go back six months the consensus was that Shorten was unelectable,” he said. “But as has been a hallmark of his career he has surprised people during this campaign. He has campaigned very well. A survey last week of media appearances showed that Shorten has done over 25 one-on-one media appearances during the campaign. Turnbull has only done four.”
Turnbull and Bill Shorten will go head-to-head in their third debate this week -- the format and date are yet to be announced -- hosted by news.com.au and Facebook.
Williams believes the aim is to target young voters.
Outside of the two party leaders, both Williams and Reece predict that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s Lower House seat is under threat by independent Tony Windsor and that One Nation and anti-Muslim campaigner Pauline Hanson is in a strong position to win a Senate seat.