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Election year hope and hijinks



Entering an election year is like coming home for the holiday season. It's full of hope and hijinks but also promises and pain. And like every family, each party has its quirks.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison gesturing (Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)The Coalition is like a couple who have broken up but still live together because nobody wants to move out. The Liberal Party has a lot of soul searching to do, especially about its women problem, but is unlikely to do so any time soon. Meanwhile the Nationals will try to find common ground with their constituents amid concerns about inaction on climate change, water management and changing social values.

In 2019 voters face a frenetic campaign from Scott Morrison. The former marketing man, seen by many as less a leader and more a relief teacher, has already shown he plays politics fast and hard. Morrison will focus his message on the 'quiet Australians' who seem to be the silent majority 2.0.

Expect journalists and the Australian public to be exhausted by his announcements — notably an anticipated suite of tax cuts in the mini budget in April — and confused by his flip flopping on policy positions. After all, he is probably here for a good time, not a long time.

Malcolm Turnbull will remain an albatross for the government — his poorly explained demise a curse on their final (and very few) sitting weeks. Morrison has ruled out an early election in March but considering the difficult Parliament — without a majority in the Lower House — that they're due to return to in February, it will be interesting to see if he decides to resume it at all.

Labor is like a blended family — they have learnt from their past relationships and are now somewhat functional. In readying themselves to win government they have kept most disagreements behind closed caucus doors — aside from the occasional outburst of aspiration from Anthony Albanese.

Having retained the same leadership team for its five years in the wilderness, Labor must be proud of the disciplined front it has put up publicly. In light of Bill Shorten's relative unpopularity the party is likely to emphasise this team as part of its campaign strategy. In the lead up to the election the ALP will continue to release progressive policies, but nothing that will rock the boat, lest they leave themselves open to easy attacks from the Coalition.


"2019 will be the year of having a go to get a go but it will also be slow going in terms of real reform."


The Greens are like that cousin that each time you get together you hope they are doing better than last year. Unfortunately it seems the party may have peaked — a lacklustre leadership post Bob Brown — and it's all downhill from here. Some even say that at the New South Wales level the tensions may lead to a Greens split, which would make things interesting with the late March state election.

Just like that racist aunty at Christmas, One Nation — and spin-off extremist Fraser Anning — will endure as a frustrating presence in politics. Despite their half baked policies and hair brained attempts at getting attention, Pauline Hanson and her motley crew have a hold on the Coalition — who will persist in using them as a yardstick on which to measure how loud its own dog whistling can be.

Then there's Centre Alliance, formerly the Nick Xenophon Party, whose members are now like an uncle's ex-wives — they have common ground but differ in their concerns somewhat. The Senate, in which the party currently holds two seats, is staring down a shake-up with half the spots in contest. If Parliament does resume we will likely see a careful crossbench trying to stymie any last ditch attempts by the government at passing controversial policy.

The holiday season isn't complete without surprise guests and estranged family members. Reactions to Rob Oakeshott's decision to contest the safe Nationals held seat of Cowper have been mixed so far — the Murdoch press focusing on his backing of the Gillard government while Antony Green gives him a fighting chance.

Like those guests at Christmas, the rise of community candidates will see an assortment of popular figures and more serious contenders hoping to replicate the success of Kerryn Phelps. Warringah will be a hot seat to watch as every man and his dog takes a shot at unseating Tony Abbott. The ring-ins with better prospects of pleasing voters will have a high-profile, a listening ear and a penchant for centrist policy.

Some are wondering whether Peta Credlin will finally put her hand up for a go at running so she can call her own shots. There is speculation she could take a crack at the north-west Victorian seat of Malee if the Nationals put up a dud candidate in the wake of the Broad scandal. But even if she stays on screen at Sky News as a commentator rather than leaping into our loungerooms as a candidate, Credlin will continue to be someone that politicians find too much credence in.

Indi will be an interesting seat to watch in the election with incumbent Cathy McGowan having announced her successor. Their Voices for Indi model, which has been emulated in Warringah, will be tested as the new community candidate runs. If deputy Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie parachutes into the seat it could become a battleground.

2019 will be the year of having a go to get a go but it will also be slow going in terms of real reform. Hopefully a post-election Parliament will green light some meaningful reform to improve people's lives rather than always culture warring. Until then, I wouldn't hold your breath.



Eliza BerlageEliza Berlage is a Canberra based journalist and podcast producer with a background in sociology. She currently works in the Parliament House press gallery as a researcher for The Conversation's chief political correspondent Michelle Grattan. 

Main image: Prime Minister Scott Morrison (Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)

Topic tags: Eliza Berlage, 2019 election, Scott Morrison, Bill Shorten, Peta Credlin, Nationals, Clive Palmer



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Existing comments

As an admirer of the left-leaning Anthony Albanese I can hope that his occasional outbursts of ambition are realised - preferably before the forthcoming election!

Pam | 18 January 2019  

Climate change and poverty are the two biggest challenges we face and they are both interlinked. The Coalition have an abysmal record in both these areas, so it's time for another party/parties to be elected.

Grant Allen | 18 January 2019  

I love Eliza's style. It reminds me of the pre-season prognostications of sports journalists of what will happen in the AFL or NRL. Of course once the season starts a whole lot of new factors emerge. For the most part prophesies are forgotten & we get involved in the training track reports, team selection, the weekly contests, the referees, the injuries, the judiciary hearings, the misbehaving, then it's back to the training track. Eliza demonstrates so well how politics is viewed by so many Australians. It is a blood sport. What many Australians don't realise is that they have skin in the game. And the prize is not some piece of silverware. It is the right to govern the country for another three years. Maybe if there were more jouralists like Eliza in the Main Stream Media more Australians would follow politics as avidly as they follow their footie teams. More Eliza Berlage please.

Uncle Pat | 21 January 2019  

Eliza thats a well thought out article. But you've forgotten the cashed up United Australia Party who are spending $55m on their election campaign. With the total disillusionment of the electorate over the recent protracted Rudd Gillard leadership debacle and the corresponding debacle led by that gold digger Dutton, backed by Abbott and Andrews to butcher Turnbull's leadership, there will be some major upsets this time round. I agree that Morrison is a caretaker and that neither the Libs nor the LNP can keep a woman, but its the dog eat dog attitude of both major parties that's upsetting the electorate. They are fed up with sledging, hatred, one upmanship, back stabbing and point scoring. More than that they are fed up with stupidity and waste and knee jerk reactions from both sides of politics. They are fed up with the avarice with which politicians gut their expense accounts. They are also fed up with the Jobs for the boys that inevitably follows the far too frequent palace revolutions.

Francis Armstrong | 21 January 2019  

Who is to say the Liberals have women problems? Do they. I thought they picked the best for the job. So maybe the author could tell us what CARMEN LAWRENCE, ANNA BLIGH, JOAN KIRNER, KRISTINA KENEALLY and JULIA GILLARD have in common. The answer is they were abject failures once they became leaders. Now it is true many men have been abject failures as well but the ALP failures percentage per head suggests that maybe, just maybe, our society, our family and our values would be just a little better if a parent was at home in the morning and afternoon to see the kids off to school and look after them when they got back. A mothers love is what is needed more than ever in todays world not a mothers money so we can have a second car or tv.

PHILLIP ROWAN | 21 January 2019  

At times, Eliza, your approach seemed very much like you were doing politics as Tony Robinson does his wonderfully funny, but highly informative, historical travelogues. I'm not a narrow party man, more a sort of 19th Century small 'l' liberal. They have, to a great extent, been expunged from the current Liberal Party. The likes of Petro Georgiou; Russell Broadbent; Bruce Baird and Judi Moylan would, I think, find it hard to gain preselection these days. I blame this on John Howard, who also, very sadly for the country, did not have a succession plan for Peter Costello. Costello had economic nous: absolutely essential for any Prime Minister. He may have been politically conservative but I think he was also aware of the genuine social needs out there. I think most of our current politicians are of the 'Me, Me and More Me' school and basically wedded to their own pet schemes and interests, or the very narrow sectional ones of their main political and financial supporters. Where does this leave the country longterm? We need someone with a cohesive vision like Menzies had for his 'little people'. Say what you like, he had the nation's respect and trust. So few of our current politicians have either.

Edward Fido | 22 January 2019  

Oops! Menzies referred to 'The Forgotten People'. My bad.

Edward Fido | 23 January 2019  

Dear Eliza, what are we to make of the current early bombardment of simplistic messages from Clive Palmer's United Australia party? Or is it more realistic just to ignore it? Clearly he is spending money, including invasive texts to mobile phones (including mine).

Dennis | 23 January 2019  

In just cannot stand Bill Shorten. I can't vote Labour with him as leader. I'd rather Morrison.

Lynne Redknap | 26 January 2019  

Run, Eliza; run! ;)

Michael Furtado | 29 January 2019  

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