Scott Morrison has called an election for May 21, saying voters face a stark choice and warning about Labor’s economic management.
Scott Morrison has conceded his personal popularity is dragging on the Liberal Party vote as he insisted the election is “not about me.”
Speaking at a press conference in Canberra where he confirmed the election will be held on May 21, he was hit with questions over voters who have deserted him.
But it was his swift departure from the press conference after taking only a handful of questions that prompted groans and laughter from the press pack.
“You got into this campaign with a much higher disapproval rating. What do you say to voters?’’ the Prime Minister was asked.
“This election, others will seek to make it about me,’’ Mr Morrison said.
“It’s actually about the people who are watching this right now. It’s about what we’ve demonstrated over these past three years.”
Earlier, the Prime Minister said “this election is about you.”
Mr Morrison also pledged to serve a full-term if he is re-elected and not resign and hand the top job to a successor.
“Of course, I do, because there’s a lot to do,’’ he said.
“And I’m pleased that I’m standing here again before you today.
“This election is a choice between a government that you know and that has been delivering and a labour opposition that you don’t.”
Mr Morrison also revealed that Education Minister Alan Tudge, who stood down from the ministry over a sex scandal surrounding his extramarital affair with a former press conference was still a member of his cabinet suggesting he may return to the job after the election.
End of speculation
The Prime Minister’s VIP aircraft departed Sydney earlier this morning and he arrived at Government House in Canberra to dissolve Parliament about 10.15am.
Ending the guessing game after weeks of speculation, Mr Morrison met with the Governor-General this morning.
He starts the election race behind Labor in the polls, but in an election ad released last night declared Australians faced a clear choice.
‘Plan for the future’
“Our Government is not perfect,” Mr Morrison said.
“But we have been upfront. You know what we stand for, you can see our record of delivery, and you can see our plan for the future.
“Our economy has a lot of moving parts and a lot of risks. But also, many opportunities.”
In an opinion piece titled “the choice” released today Mr Morrison said Australians shouldn’t risk a change of government.
“Anthony Albanese and Labor have no economic plan. They would weaken our economy and put our recovery at risk,” he said.
“Mr Albanese has never held a financial portfolio. He’s never held a national security portfolio. He’s never delivered a Budget.
“Labor has a record of higher taxes. Albanese has argued for higher taxes on retirees, housing and families and inheritances.
“Now is not the time to risk it.”
Slim margin for victory
Scott Morrison won the 2019 election against the odds by a whisker.
Across Australia, the swing was just 1.17 per cent to the Coalition, delivering a slim victory.
The Prime Minister is hoping to replicate that come-from-behind surprise victory again but it’s a tougher ask this time around. He’s further behind in the polls and has the handicap of the controversies and character questions that have swirled in this term of government.
They include the Hawaii holiday during the summer bushfires when Mr Morrison declared he “didn’t hold a hose”, the allegations of abuse in parliament and the vaccine rollout.
What is Scott Morrison’s main attack on Anthony Albanese?
Better the devil you know best sums up the Prime Minister’s negative attack on the Labor Party.
Mr Morrison has described Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese as a “blank page”.
“You don’t know anything about the Labor Party. They haven’t told you anything,’’ he said last week.
“So this election will be an opportunity, they are currently a complete blank page. They have had three years to tell you what the economic plan would be after they were rejected at the last election and they still haven’t told you.
“They are not going to skate to an election without the proper scrutiny that should come … because this election campaign is very important. It determines how strong Australia will be in one of our most uncertain times.
“Mr Albanese has ducked and weaved. He pretended to be everybody under the sun. Except for himself. And that’s a real risk.”
How many seats does Labor need to win?
There are still 151 seats in the House of Representatives. Seventy-six remains the magic number for victory.
Right now, the Labor Party is on 68 seats, with the Australian Greens retaining its single seat. However, as a result of a redistribution in Victoria, Labor has gained a new electorate in Hawke, which is expected to be safe Labor. So in real terms Labor starts the contest on 69 seats and needs to secure a net gain of seven seats to win the election.
In theory, that shouldn’t be too difficult based on published polls. In fact, if the latest Newspoll was replicated on polling day Labor would pick up as many as 17 seats.
In practice, it is a tougher task than it first appears. Labor’s primary vote remains dangerously low. According to Newspoll the opposition has recently dipped by three points to 38 per cent. That suggests a vulnerability that the Prime Minister can exploit, particularly if he can drive it down further during the campaign.
There’s always a danger Labor will not secure the swing it needs in the states where it can pick up seats or indeed in the seats it needs to win. That could leave Mr Albanese fighting to secure the seats he needs or even facing a hung parliament and needing the support of Independents or the Greens to govern.
Can Scott Morrison still win the election?
The short answer is yes. Mr Morrison’s “miracle” victory in 2019 delivered him 77 seats. However, a Liberal MP Craig Kelly later quit the party taking his official tally to 76 seats. The Liberal Party is hopeful it may claim back that seat of Hughes at the election.
In other words, Scott Morrison starts the election with 76 seats and needs to hold all of those seats or lose some and regain others to retain a majority. That’s an impossible task according to the published polls, which suggest a substantial swing to the Labor Party. But the Prime Minister is hoping he can narrow that lead during the campaign, as he did in the previous contest.
Where are the key battlegrounds?
All roads to a Labor victory lead through NSW and into Queensland. The reason is that the seats the Labor Party can pick up in other states do not currently appear to provide the magic number of seven seats.
WA and SA
If you go around the country starting with Western Australia there are up to four seats up for grabs. Labor is confident of picking up two seats and that could go higher. Seats to watch include Pearce, previously held by Christian Porter, Hasluck and Swan. But if we conservatively start with two seats in WA, moving to South Australia there’s only one seat it is likely to pick up, the seat of Boothby which Labor has not won since the 1940s.
While there’s speculation an independent could provide a strong challenge in the seat of Grey and that the seat of Sturt could be vulnerable to Labor, that’s held by a strong margin. It’s possible if there’s a big swing but not regarded as in the likely category.
Heading down to Tasmania, there’s not a great deal of signs of joy for Labor. For example the Liberal member for Bass, Bridget Archer, who has spoken out against the Prime Minister on issues including religious discrimination, could retain that seat in part as a result of her independence. There’s a huge vote for Jacqui Lambie in the Senate – possibly as high as 20 per cent. But there’s even speculation that the Liberal Party could take back the seat of Lyons. So Labor could end up on election night securing just 3 or 4 seats in WA, SA and Tasmania.
Moving to Victoria, Labor is targeting the seat of Chisholm, but the Liberals are also targeting some marginal Labor seats including Dunkely and Corangamite. That basically leaves the election result being decided in NSW and Queensland.
NSW and NT
The NSW preselection mess means many candidates have only recently been confirmed and that plays into Labor’s hands. The key Liberal held seats to watch are Lindsay, Robertson, Reid and Banks.
However, there’s also some Labor-held marginals to keep your eye on. They include Gilmore and Eden-Monaro. In the Northern Territory, a popular Labor MP Warren Snowdon is retiring but the seat is held by a 5 per cent margin.
The seats to watch in Queensland include Longman and Leichhardt.
Campaign will decide outcome
When Labor campaigners count their seats right now, they are looking at a modest victory rather than a landslide.
It’s true that if the electorate swings strongly behind Anthony Albanese during the campaign that a solid majority of seats will follow.
But the Labor Party itself does not believe the outcome of the campaign is a foregone conclusion. It all comes down to the campaign.