A miracle cried the Australian and world media in unison with Scott Morrison at the shock Australian election result, a great comfort for commentators, (myself included), who were all calling a change of government. After all, how are we mere mortals expected to combat miracles? A miracle is something freakily unexplainable. For 3 years the polls consistently had Labour solidly in front of the Coalition, right up to voting day. So what went wrong?
First we must questions the pollsters’ methodology. We seemingly witnessed the same thing with Trump, indeed on election day the admittedly heavily biased Huffington Post’s pollsters had the odds of a Trump victory at 1%. But polls don’t take into account the peculiarities of the voting system in America. Remember Hilary did score several million more votes than Trump and thus in a more rational system would have won. Thus the polls were right.
So too in Australia, their polls basically only meaningful in a first past the post system and even that’s not impeccable. In 1981 Labour received more votes than National but still lost. And again, in 2017 Labour were well whacked by National but MMP gave them office.
Australia’s preferential voting system swung it for the Coalition. It’s virtually impossible to forecast that through polls.
With the benefit of hindsight what else may have caused the upset?
First and perhaps most obvious, possibly comforted by the polls, Labour leader Shorten promised a massive increase in social expenditure to be paid by higher taxes. By contrast Scott Morrison promised sweeping tax cuts to be introduced in the next few months. Amazing as it may seem to the left, voters decided they’d rather spend their own money than have the government do it for them.
Second; the green uprising in NSW and Victoria, while dumping Abbott who won’t be missed, went down badly in the mining states of Queensland and West Australia.
Miracles are usually good news and so it proved with the revelation that the betting outfit Sportsbet.com.au, to score a discount, paid out over $5m early to punters backing Labour. Now it’s in line for a further $15m beating on the punters, who against the odds, picked the Coalition.
Even more delightful was news that the oafish mining magnate Clive Palmer blew $80m in advertising but failed to win a seat for his right-wing Party. So much for money winning elections. It certainly helps but is never the be-all with the outcome.
In the post-mortem interviews for the first time we saw Shorten’s stunning wife Chloe. Had she been by his side throughout the campaign, who knows, the result might have been different.
Bill Shorten can be forgiven should he emulate Jim Bolger following his near defeat in 1993. “Bugger the polls” Jim told the media, a sentiment henceforth we should not forget.