Opinion article

2019 election – a redux of 2013?

While everyone has an opinion on the upcoming election, election predictions months before the polling date can be fraught with danger, writes John Dawkins AO and Sandy Kay-Oswald.

Everyone has an opinion on the outcome of the 2019 election, which is likely to be held on either 11 or 18 May.

One national newspaper has even gone so far as to ‘call’ the election for the ALP and while all polls are suggesting an Australia Labor Party victory, it is important to remember that election predictions months before the polling date can be fraught with danger. Steven Marshall absolutely could not lose to Jay Weatherill in South Australia in 2014, but he did. John Hewson was going to be the Prime Minister in a canter in 1993, but then he lost. In 2004 John Howard came from a worse position than Scott Morrison is currently in to increase his majority.

However, these results are the exception rather than the norm. Further challenging the Liberal/National Coalition’s chances is the fact that, due to redistributions in Victoria and the ACT and the move of some backbenchers to the crossbench, they actually need to pick up seats in order to hold on to Government. As such the current most likely outcome is an ALP victory. If this happens it will be the shortest time the ALP has been out of Government since World War II.

The most significant areas of activity and where the parties will be focusing their resources are in Queensland – as has consistently been the case over recent decades – and Victoria. Queensland traditionally plays a significant part of a federal election campaign due to the number of marginal seats in the state and their proclivity to swing. Seats that will be key targets for the ALP will be Capricornia, Forde, Flynn, Petrie and Dickson. Potential Coalition gains are in seats like Herbert.

Victoria is potentially highly problematic for the Coalition. Seats that have never been in play like Kooyong, Flinders and Higgins are now being considered as potential ALP/Green/independent targets. While it is unlikely that any of these seats will change it will mean scarce Coalition resources will be directed there, where they would otherwise be used to protect seats like La Trobe and Corangamite. It looks as if there will be more limited movements in Western Australia and New South Wales. Its possible there will be no change in South Australia, and it’s not out of the realms of possibility that the Coalition wins a seat in Tasmania.

Any shift in the Senate is likely to be more muted. Senate elections traditionally have less movement than House of Representative elections. An ALP majority in the Senate is almost impossible, though never say never. There is a possibility that the ALP and Greens will be able to form a majority – similar to after the 2010 election – however, even that is reasonably unlikely.

The most likely outcome for a future ALP Government is that it will have to rely on both the Greens and a handful of cross-benchers where it seeks to pass contentious legislation. An interesting scenario may be one where the Greens control a ‘blocking minority’ meaning that if they combine with the Liberal/National Coalition and opposed particular legislation it would not be able to pass.

The question then becomes what significant changes will arise in the event of an ALP victory. The key areas of reform are in tax policy and workplace relations. The ALP has been quite open regarding their proposed changes to tax policy particularly regarding income tax, residential property investment and retirement incomes. On industrial relations, the ALP has flagged changes to the treatment of ‘permanent casuals’, reversal of the penalty rates decision handed down by the Fair Work Commission and a move back to industry-wide bargaining in some areas of the economy. 

Expect to see changes in the welfare system with some indication that there will be adjustment to programs that assist Australians get back to work. Then there is implementation of financial services sector reform in the aftermath of the Hayne Royal Commission.

The election in 2019 will be a significant one for a range of reasons. It may be the first in the modern era where the successful party is promising tax increases as well as tax cuts. It may also be another election – similar to 2013 – where the voters give voice to their frustration with the current administration regardless of the popularity of the victorious leader.

Whatever happens it will be an interesting one, and we will be watching with a keen interest.

About the authors

Sandy Kay-Oswald

See all articles
Sandy Kay-Oswald has served in senior advisory positions in various portfolios to Liberal Ministers, most recently in Defence Industry. He is the Director – Public Affairs for GRACosway in Adelaide.

John Dawkins

See all articles
John Dawkins AO served as a Cabinet Minister in the governments of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. He has been the Co-Chair of national strategic advisory firm, GRACosway, since 2000.