By Joe Montero
Scott Morrison and his team haven’t yet lost May’s federal election but it’s not going too well for them. Their fall isn’t yet written in stone. Still, it doesn’t look good for them.
The results of the weekend’s four by-elections in New South Wales made it obvious that the Liberal Party is in trouble. These may have been state by-elections but this doesn’t mean that there are no federal causes and consequences.
Labor didn’t contest Willoughby. They nearly took Strathfield, previously held with a huge margin by resigned premier Gladys Berejiklian, and they won Bega and Monaro.
Current premier Dominic Perrottet and the state government are getting a lot of the flack. It is true that there are issues around the handling of Omicron and the smell of corruption around a dodgy grants program, to name but two state issues. There are also local issues. All had an effect.
So did federal politics, and it would be short-sighted not to take on this connection with perceptions about the government. What was seen in New South Wales on the weekends is emerging all over Australia.
Political apologists who do not want to face this, insist on limiting their analysis to the superficial and concentrate on the personalities and deny the national implications.
A survey by the Australian National University’s (ANU) Centre for Social Research and Methods, found that 66.6 percent of adult Australians have no or little faith in the federal government. The survey was conducted at the end of January, which makes its findings current.
Along with this, 42.6 of adult Australians were found to lack confidence in public services. Hardly surprising when they become less and less people friendly.
Both figures are telling. And it’s not that this is a once off result. The ANU’s survey is in accord with what other surveys and opinion polls have been saying for a while. And it now appears that these views are becoming even more pronounced.
Labor is having enormous difficulty capitalising on this, which means, Labor has not won the trust of Australia. Perhaps it will in the months ahead. Perhaps it won’t. Time will tell.
Maybe this is partly because people are not seeing a clear alternative, and it’s not easy getting across a mostly hostile media, especially when it comes to the Murdoch empire.
Even so, there is the deeper problem of connecting to what is the most important political development of our time. Australia is starting to turn its back on what it considers a political elite and beginning to look for alternatives. Australia wants a new direction.
Most of the big-name media political commentators and big political party strategists are ignoring this. They prefer to pretend that it’s not there and stick to business as usual. This will feed even more disconnection with the people in the street. Business as usual will give rise to more discontent.
Disconnection will be the elephant in the room at the coming federal election, and Australia will continue to politically polarise.
Given the extent of his unpopularity, there should be a landslide against Scott Morrison and his government. There won’t be. Labor is not capturing the mood. Despite this, Labor might just squeak in and put an end to the Morrison government. This would be an important step forward, providing a space to regroup and get widespread agreement on what a new direction looks like.
There is a real possibility of a hung parliament or minority government, just like in New South Wales. It could be either Liberal or Labor.
The only certainty is that what is coming is uncertain in the changing Australian political climate.