In the last few weeks since the return of Parliament from its summer holidays, there has been a major change in atmosphere as parties begin to prepare for what is likely to be an election year.
With less than 25 weeks to go before the first possible election date (August 7) and even less for the possible dissolution of Parliament, election strategies and campaign promises are no doubt already being prepared.
But if Australia goes to the polls in the middle of a pandemic for the first time in more than a century, things are likely to be a little different from our usual elections, with a very different public perspective at the polls.
It can be summed up largely in a four-word slogan that made former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s campaign team famous during the 1992 presidential election: “It’s a stupid economy.”
During the campaign it was emphasized how a Clinton administration would approach things differently and put a big focus on the economy, after the US came out of the recession just a year earlier.
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In the end, Clinton’s strategy of focusing on the economy would deliver him to the White House, even though President George HW Bush had a 90% approval rating just 20 months earlier.
This is a feat Opposition leader Anthony Albanese would certainly like to match, as there is still a consensus that the next election will have to lose Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
With retail sales at record highs and parts of the economy enjoying an unexpected economic boom, due to the $ 257 billion stimulus from the Morrison government. It is perhaps not surprising that some political commentators are increasingly allocating more money to the prime minister.
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In the words of 10 News Political editor Peter van Onselen: “Scott Morrison remains a certainty to win the next election, handing the coalition government a fourth term.
“The prime minister is so confident that he wants to advance the next election to take advantage of his rule.
“Do not believe my word. Government MPs and senators are totally confident they can’t lose. Coalition strategists are too. Even Morrison’s office is quick to point out the degree of electoral invincibility they have.
But while speculation continues to grow exactly when Australia returns to the polls, the latest Newspoll has the Labor Coalition with Labor.
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Given the Morrison government’s unprecedented abandonment of its traditionally fiscally conservative priorities, in favor of the largest stimulus program in Australian history, one would have imagined the government would be up to the task.
Still, we are less than 6 months away from the first possible voting date, and arguably the nation’s most respected poll suggests the narrowest run.
This probably makes the state of the economy and the public’s perception of the Morrison government’s economic management over the economy more important than ever.
Conventional wisdom and more than a few political commentators suggest that government ownership and pandemic response will cause polls to shift to government.
But as 2021 continues to unfold, it is clear that things are often unconventional in this new world we find ourselves in.
This brings us back to the economy. Today, Australians ’expectations of the economy and continued recovery are extremely high.
According to Westpac’s Consumer Sentiment Index, households were recently more confident about the economy and its financial futures than at any time in the last ten years. In the midst of a global pandemic that still acts like a shattering ball across economies around the world, this is the optimistic outlook of our fellow Australians.
Meanwhile, the number of consumers expecting to remain unemployed is also near a decade low, although JobKeeper concluded that there were about 1.6 million recipients remaining at the end of March.
Taking a look at these various data points, it becomes clear that Australians are not just expecting a return to the mediocre growth and labor market results they set in 2019.
Apparently, they are expecting an absolute economic boom to get Australia out of the economic losses.
Amid these higher expectations for the nation’s economic future, the opposition wants to demonstrate its economic management credentials. It was recently revealed that opposition leader Anthony Albanese had told the shadow cabinet to find spending cuts and compensation.
This only further reinforces that the economy is likely to become one of the decisive themes of the upcoming election campaign.
As my colleague Jason Murphy recently commented, with the conclusion of JobKeeper and the JobSeeker supplement in late March, the nation will increasingly rely on families to spend their savings to support the economy.
It seems that families expect an economic boom at the same time, with around 45% of respondents to a News.com.au survey claiming that the future is too uncertain to spend their savings.
With 36% more saying they have no savings to spend, the public may be disappointed.
Any kind of pre-election disappointment in the economy could cause problems for a Morrison government, which has long made its management of the economy the uniquely most important aspect of its political platform.
Come election day, maybe political experts and commentators will be as right about Morrison’s predicted victory as they were wrong about Bill Shorten’s 2019 victory.
But in the highly uncertain world we find ourselves in, it is possible for Labor and Anthony Albanese to find a path to victory based on four simple words.
“It’s a stupid economy.”
Tarric Brooker is a freelance journalist and social commentator @AvidCommentator