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Scott Morrison campaigning in Western Sydney. Image courtesy: Western Weekender. Scott Morrison campaigning in Western Sydney. Image courtesy: Western Weekender. Featured
05 June 2019 Posted by 


Next term is the Government's to lose
VANQUISHED Liberal opposition leader, John Hewson described his 1993 Fightback policy manifesto as “the longest suicide note in political history”.
That’s the last time we heard the phrase “unlosable election”. Critics of defeated Labor leader Bill Shorten dusted the jibe off again after he defied years of positive polling and lost the May 18 contest.
So resounding was the rejection of Labor’s detailed agenda, we’re unlikely to see an opposition - either side - take such a broad sweep of policy proposals to the Australian electorate again.
With the exception of Queensland, the spurning of Labor’s health, education and tax reform plans was harshest across its former heartland, western Sydney.
Prime Minister, Scott Morrison’s pitch was simple. “Labor can’t manage money.” It resonated. Morrison didn’t take on Labor’s health or education funding agenda. 
He refused to offer comparable detail. He didn’t have to. None of the opposition’s objectives were achievable, he argued, without a track record of being able to pay for them.
Addressing a gathering of business leaders at BankWest stadium in the final week of the campaign, Morrison reflected on Shorten calling him a “classic space invader”. “Bill Shorten” the prime minister quipped, “wants to invade your wallet.”
It was a clunky retort, and with every major poll in the nation saying he didn’t stand a chance, nobody left the stadium that morning with an inkling of the drama ahead.
Traditional battleground
Forget Queensland, never mind Victoria, the coming parliamentary term and subsequent election will see the spotlight shone once more on the traditional electoral battleground, the West. For over two years, all the major pollsters told us otherwise, as did election day exit polls. They were wrong.
Across western Sydney, the swing against Labor was 3.7 per cent, more than three times the national average. Former social housing executive, Melissa McIntosh took back Lindsay for the Liberals with a 7.6 per cent primary vote surge.
Hawkesbury councillor, Sarah Richards came close tro saring Macquarie for the Liberals, a seat neither leader bothered to visit during the campaign, surprising pundits nationwide.
Even the safest Labor seats weren’t spared, with community networking entrepreneur and Liberal candidate, Livingston Chettipally drawing around a six per cent swing away from sitting member Ed Husic.
There were big shifts in sentiment too in Chris Bowen’s electorate of McMahon, where he endured a -5.6 per cent swing, in the faced of Liberal challenger, Vivek Singha.
The shadow treasurer pointed to religion. “People of faith” he told NewsCorp, “no longer feel that progressive politics cares about them.”
Regardless of whether faith is the issue, interestingly, in Bowen’s culturally diverse electorate, One Nation attracted 8.2 per cent of the vote, out-polling the Greens nearly two-to-one, confirming there is indeed a retreat from “progressive” politics in some sections of the West.
While Clive Palmer failed to get over the line this time, his estimated $60m advertising blitz had a considerable impact on western Sydney. The United Australia Party fared well across the West, attracting over four per cent of the vote in the Labor seats of Chifley, Fowler and Werriwa.
Only bright spot
The only bright spot for Labor was Macarthur, where well-liked member Dr Mike Freelander ever so slightly bucked the trend against his party. We saw this at the NSW election too, where Labor attracted a 9 per cent swing in their favour across the outer South West.
With down-to-earth Anthony Albanese appointed as Opposition Leader, the party will address the lag of Shorten’s chronic unpopularity, but they can hardly put up the ‘under new management’ sign they could have with a generational change figure like Queenslander, Jim Chalmers.
As for the Coalition, now they’ve snatched the “miracle” victory, the next term is there’s to lose. With Morrison offering very little by way of a policy agenda, they won’t be weighed down by detail like a Labor, who will look to shed all manner of taxation reforms attached like barnacles to their campaign.
One thing is certain. With the most marginal seat in the country and among the largest swings at the polls, western Sydney has officially reclaimed its title as Australia’s political battleground. As if it ever wasn’t.
Dr Andy Marks is assistant vice-chancellor at Western Sydney University.


Publisher and editor, Michael Walls.
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