Politics with Michelle Grattan
Corrected version: Richard Eccleston on the electoral mood in Tasmania

Corrected version: Richard Eccleston on the electoral mood in Tasmania

May 8, 2019

University of Tasmania political science professor, Richard Eccleston, says a lack of a coherent energy policy could count against the Coalition in the island state.

“The party which seems to offer the more compelling commitment to climate change and renewable production will probably be well placed to capitalize on that [Tasmania’s environmental interests].”

Eccleston told The Conversation the volatile seats of Braddon and Bass could won by the Liberals.

However he says Lyons should be a “safe Labor hold” after to the controversy over the Liberals’ now-dumped candidate Jessica Whelan.

On the Senate, Eccleston says there will be an impact from the minor parties, with fisherman Craig Garland - who attracted a big vote at the Braddon byelection - “a name to watch”. But he doesn’t think Jacqui Lambie will be successful. Lambie, who resigned from the Senate in the citizenship crisis, is trying to make a comeback.

“She’s clearly got a profile but I think she’ll be struggling to get a seat at a half-Senate election.”

Tim Colebatch on the battle in Victoria - and the Senate

Tim Colebatch on the battle in Victoria - and the Senate

May 6, 2019

Inside Story’s Tim Colebatch says three Victorian seats are seen as “pretty certain” wins for Labor - Dunkley, Corangamite and Chisholm. A number of others “are really open” - Casey, La Trobe, Deakin, Flinders and possibly even Higgins.

“It does strike me that [the Liberals] they’ve done a lot to show the flag in Victoria. Morrison has been down there frequently”.

Colebatch tells The Conversation climate change is a big factor in many of the blue ribbon Victorian electorates.

“The failure of the government to tackle climate change is a real drawback for the Liberals when they try and confront an electorate like this, because it’s full of an educated and wealthy people who understand that we have to do something and don’t mind the cost of doing it.”

On the Senate, Colebatch thinks it will have fewer crossbenchers because of the larger vote needed in a half-Senate election; he says it will be particularly hard for the minor parties of the right to get in.

William Bowe on the state of election play in WA

William Bowe on the state of election play in WA

April 30, 2019

Western Australia-based William Bowe, who runs The Poll Bludger website, says “there is a feeling that there is a Labor resurgence in the state”.

Bowe told The Conversation a “floundering” state economy after the mining boom downturn, with falling house prices and rising unemployment, has created a sense that “prosperity has been lost. And that sense of downward mobility is very dangerous for the government”.

“Because Western Australians are not feeling as prosperous, they are more receptive to a Labor message,” he said.

On the Liberal seats in play, Bowe says Swan is the most vulnerable, followed by Hasluck. But Labor also has its eyes on the possible prizes of Pearce (held by Attorney-general Christian Porter) and Stirling (vacated by minister Michael Keenan).

“There was a poll out a week ago that showed that it [Pearce] was line-ball. […] It’s certainly not the case that Christian Porter is gone for all money, but he has a fight on his hands and that’s not something that the Liberals are accustomed to in that electorate.”

On the other side, the Liberals are targeting Anne Aly’s ultra-marginal seat of Cowan. “[The Liberals] have got a leader who I think goes down better in an electorate like Cowan,” Bowe said. But he’d be “very surprised” if the seat were in danger.

Andrew Hughes on political advertising - and Clive Palmer

Andrew Hughes on political advertising - and Clive Palmer

April 29, 2019

ANU marketing lecturer Andrew Hughes says this is the first election where the advertising spend and activity has been more focussed on digital.

He told The Conversation that on Monday, the first day of pre-polling, there was a surge in social media ads - the Coalition had over 230 different ads on Facebook while Labor had over 200.

"The sheer volume of ads is probably the highest we’ve ever seen in Australian politics because of the number of ads just on Facebook alone," he said.

He also spoke about the major parties pivoting between positive and negative ads and the effectiveness of this strategy, personal branding, and the rise of micro-targeting.

Hughes said Clive Palmer's huge advertising spending spree seemed to be working for him - but it raised the question of the need for caps.

Also, "as that tipping point between traditional and social media goes more in favour of social media [...] in the future I believe the conversation will be on how many ads Australians should be exposed to as a quantity, not by dollar value."

Caroline Fisher on the spin machines of #AusVotes19

Caroline Fisher on the spin machines of #AusVotes19

April 24, 2019

While the major party leaders seem to have curated their images, University of Canberra assistant professor in communications and media Caroline Fisher says they can’t always control how these could be manipulated.

Fisher says there has been “a real attempt to soften” Scott Morrison as the “daggy dad” through candid personal selfies. In contrast, Bill Shorten has opted for more professional shots which portray him “in a more prime ministerial light” but “are almost otherworldly”.

She also discusses the way family, particularly their wives, have been used to increase warmth and relatability, as well as the use of negative messaging in the campaign.

Jim Chalmers on Labor’s budget reaction

Jim Chalmers on Labor’s budget reaction

April 3, 2019

Shadow Finance minister Jim Chalmers said Labor was looking for ways to make things fairer for low-income earners who were “largely left behind” in the government’s budget.

He told The Conversation the measures “would be through the tax system and would most likely be around the low and middle income tax offset which the government introduced”.

Peter Martin and Tim Colebatch on budget strategy and numbers

Peter Martin and Tim Colebatch on budget strategy and numbers

April 2, 2019

From inside the budget lockup, The Conversation’s Business and Economics editor Peter Martin and political and economic journalist Tim Colebatch from Inside Story shared their reactions to the pre-election budget.

Martin said the budget featured a substantial tax cut “that goes back in time” and that while the government was forecasting “good times around the corner,” there has been barely any sign of them.

He also said he thought while the budget gives Labor an advantage, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is unlikely to be embarrassed by it in the future.

Colebatch told The Conversation it “was a modest budget” and that the spending measures were “really fairly restrained”.

“It recognises that the debate has shifted and people are less likely to be bought by big spending and more likely to be bought by the impression of fiscal reticence and control and delivering a budget surplus,” he said.

Jenny Macklin on inequality and Labor values

Jenny Macklin on inequality and Labor values

March 26, 2019

After more than two decades, Jenny Macklin is in her final days as an MP. Her legacies from her time as a Labor minister include parental leave and the landmark National Disability Insurance Scheme.

In this podcast she tells The Conversation a Labor government would fix “one of the worst” problems of the NDIS by abolishing the cap on the number of staff that could be employed in the agency. “There are other issues as well […] there’s problems with the pricing of services. There just hasn’t been the quick response that has been needed,” Macklin said.

She also speaks about the need to listen to and support Indigenous-led programs to close the gap, as well as implement measures to address increasing inequality in Australia.

Ian McAllister on voters and issues in the coming election

Ian McAllister on voters and issues in the coming election

March 4, 2019

The Australian Election Study, conducted by the Australian National University, has been running since 1987.

Its director Ian McAllister says one thing voters will want at this poll is stability.

McAllister says that for the first time in a long while, one of the major parties - Labor - has put forward some “very constructive policies”. But, he told The Conversation, Bill Shorten is very unpopular: he “ranks below any leader we’ve ever recorded across virtually every personal quality including things like trust, competence, integrity”.

McAllister says the Coalition’s challenge is that the Liberals haven’t been looking after their base.

He expects the election to highlight a “generational gap in voting” and probably a much higher level of “split-ticket voting” - people voting differently for the two houses.

Tony Abbott and Zali Steggall on Warringah votes

Tony Abbott and Zali Steggall on Warringah votes

March 1, 2019

The Sydney electorate of Warringah will be one of the most fascinating battlegrounds in the May election, with a high profile independent Zali Stegall challenging former prime minister Tony Abbott.

Despite the seat being on about 11 per cent, Abbott describes this as a “full on marginal seat campaign”.

Abbott is running hard on local issues. He says over-development and traffic congestion are the biggest issues and if reelected he is keen to use his position to be a “champion” for the Northern beaches tunnel. He’s trying to tone down his stridency, this week attempting to avoid being drawn to deeply into the row around the criminal conviction of Cardinal George Pell.

Steggall, a lawyer and former Olympian, is running against Abbott on a campaign that says Warringah voters want “a new voice”.

Keenly focused on climate change policy, Steggall is very critical of the government’s efforts and says even Labor’s energy policy “needs again to be toughened up.”

Steggall, who grew up and lives in the electorate, has only had Abbott as an MP and has never voted Liberal nor has she had voted Labor.

Pressed on who she had voted for, she told The Conversation she has mostly voted independent but “wouldn’t want to say never” to having voted Greens.