Why Scott Morrison Shouldn't Be Too Excited About The NSW Election Result
ANALYSIS: It's a morale boost for the Liberals, but the NSW election win won't exactly inspire huge confidence as the federal Coalition hurtles toward a national poll.
The counting in the Good State continues, but Gladys Berejiklian has claimed victory for her Liberal party. The government will be returned with a slim majority, which will please those in the blue party -- especially just months from a federal poll.
But the result was far from certain even just a week ago, was helped along by a perfectly-timed drop of a nuclear dirt bomb on Labor's Michael Daley, and isn't exactly a resounding affirmation for how the public may vote when Scott Morrison makes his case at the ballot box.
There were fears that the NSW Liberals would get whacked by voters fed up with in-fighting, bickering, controversy, scandal and turmoil at the federal level.
It happened in the Victorian state election, just three months after the ugly leadership spill that saw Malcolm Turnbull booted from the top job, when the Liberals there were resoundingly walloped at the ballot box -- and it was feared that could spill over into NSW.
But now we know Gladys and the Libs have scraped back into office -- albeit while the Labor party picked up swings in around 50 of the 84 seats in NSW, and the Shooters party picked up some big swings from the Nationals in rural seats, up to 37 percent in Orange.
The Liberals and Nationals increased their vote in 27 seats, but by small numbers.
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As you'll often hear from pundits, voters can differentiate between federal and state issues, and most make election choices based on the issues in that level of government. But even while federal Liberals talk up the state result as a good sign, the NSW numbers don't exactly bode well for Morrison and his pals -- as 10's political editor Peter van Onselen points out.
For one, even though Berejiklian's government was not exactly unpopular, and remained relatively scandal-free through their time in government and this campaign, they've been returned with a slightly reduced majority.
Unlike their Canberra colleagues, Berejiklian's was a government that wasn't too unpopular, hadn't had a lot of scandals, and hadn't continually dumped its leader. NSW Liberals aren't as on the nose as their federal friends. They made some unpopular choices (*cough cough* lockout laws) but the tide hasn't turned against them.
Compared to Morrison's federal team, the NSW squad have looked like angels -- and they still went backwards. How will those electoral maps look for the federal Libs?
The effect of the "Asians with PhDs" scandal on Labor's Michael Daley also can't be underestimated. Polls had the two major parties deadlocked in the week leading up to the poll, but the racism controversy seriously dented Labor's prospects, and may be seen in time as a true deciding factor.
That same effect can't be relied upon at a federal level -- Bill Shorten has been federal leader for nearly six years and already gone through an election, so all his dirty laundry has, presumably, been aired already.
The untested Daley took the mantle of opposition leader just a few months ago, so was susceptible to a dirt drop like this. Shorten, presumably, wouldn't have many such skeletons left in his closet.
The NSW Liberals suffered swings against them in a stack of seats -- not uncommon for an incumbent government. But again, those big swings to the Shooters away from the Nationals, in normally stronghold seats, is a worrying sign on a federal level where the junior Coalition partner has been mired in scandal and controversy.
As has been pointed out by many, the Shooters have given rural voters a true alternative, and it seems to be well-received by those frustrated with the Nationals. The Nationals brand is already in turmoil, and there is frustration about how the two Coalition parties need to work together better.
Federal Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce says the Liberals need to concentrate more on the bush; federal Liberals just want the Nats to stop creating scandal. Could this federal election be the death knell for the Coalition arrangement as we know it?
As PVO pointed out above, it could be said the state Liberals won in spite of their federal friends. Berejiklian was said to have been reluctant to campaign alongside PM ScoMo, instead joined at the hip with former Prime Minister John Howard -- now 12 years removed from office.
Morrison did make an appearance in the campaign on Saturday -- complete with fresh buzzcut hairdo, cooking snags in a Cronulla Sharks baseball cap -- but the PM didn't spend a lot of time out on the hustings in NSW.
(To be fair, Shorten didn't make many appearances in this campaign either, but this was in Morrison's home state, while Shorten hails from Victoria.)
Berejiklian talked up her "strong and stable" government on Sunday, buzzwords that have been a constant in Australian politics in recent years as political parties which have been anything but strong and stable have tried to convince voters they are just that.
It harked back to a time when Turnbull stood under a campaign sign bearing that same promise in 2016 -- and we all know what happened to him.
Berejiklian, without being too nasty, tried to draw a line between her relatively stable government and her more erratic federal colleagues. Morrison, as the beneficiary of the latest leadership spill, is a symbol of instability. She tried to quarantine her government from the federal Libs -- and when even your colleagues give a polite "thanks but no thanks" to your help, it's not a great sign.
While the Liberals will be happy to have picked up a state win, especially in light of the Victorian belting, it is small consolation for the federal party. NSW is unlikely to be a big deciding factor in the national poll, with Victoria and QLD to be bigger battlegrounds -- so a decent showing in Sydney won't exactly be a crucial sign for the Coalition hoping to cling to power.