Victoria Holds The Key To Shorten's 'Unloseable' Election
ANALYSIS: Three months ago, it seemed unbelievable. One month ago, it seemed unthinkable. Now, it's possible.
Scott Morrison’s team still thinks they could be on the verge of the most unlikely of election wins, with a handful of votes in a handful of seats to decide this campaign.
Up to 20 seats are thought to be on a knife-edge, and with a whole quarter of the Australian electorate having already voted early -- and those votes not to be counted on election night -- we could potentially be left without a clear result this weekend.
A last-minute wildcard factor is the sad death of iconic Labor PM Bob Hawke on Thursday. What effect his death will have, especially in his native Victoria, is impossible to predict at this late stage -- but with unanimous praise of the ALP stalwart blanketing media on the campaign’s final day, and without wanting to appear cynical, his untimely death won’t hurt Labor’s vote.
Newspoll figures blew out to 56-44, putting the Coalition on track for a crushing defeat at the ballot box. Morrison was derided as a placeholder PM, a seat warmer for Shorten, simply the last leftovers of a chaotic administration in its death throes.
But through sheer grit, an unwavering dedication to daggy photo ops, and a relentless commitment to on-brand messaging -- whether you liked it or not -- Morrison has dragged his party into contention.
The last Newspoll stood at 51-49, with a two-percent margin of error, as the PM's team pointed out with barely-concealed excitement.
Having spent the last two weeks on campaign buses -- last week with Shorten, this week with Morrison -- the potent combination of anticipation, nerves and excitement from both sides was impossible to ignore.
It’s hard to believe Morrison will pull off an outright win.
The good showing more it's likely to be a scenario of saving furniture and solidifying Morrison’s potential to stay as opposition leader and have another crack at the next election.
One Liberal campaigner quietly told me they wished Morrison had had another few months as PM before this poll, confident he would have made up the ground on Labor.
Shorten's side are more reserved, giving little away about their chances, but one advisor I chatted to on the campaign trail brought up John Hewson's 1993 "unloseable" election, saying they didn't want to be responsible for a similar historic and infamous defeat.
Perhaps a giveaway is the hectic schedule -- or lack thereof -- from the campaigns.
Morrison was packing in three, four, five events a day this week, while Shorten clocked around two. Maybe that was about picking battles and not going overboard, but the logic goes that a man with ground to make up would work harder, while a man leading wouldn’t need to keep the pedal to the metal.
What both sides agree on, is that it's tight.
Morrison's team claim we may not get a definitive result on Saturday night, with government to be decided by a number of wafer-thin seats -- such as the Liberal-held Corangamite, on the incredibly small 0.03 percent margin -- where final counting may take a day or more to complete.
Despite bookies heavily backing them, Labor has rarely talked of any result beyond barely scraping into majority government, talking around the low-80s out of 151 seats.
A clutch of seats in Western Australia are in play, and with timezone differences, it may be well into Saturday night before we get a clear picture of whether the national swing is on or not.
Stalwart MPs like Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton are under pressure, and their losses may be the headline news -- but with Queensland and NSW expected to end in a virtual wash for both sides, and retain the status quo, both Labor and Liberal are sweating on results in Victoria.
If five or more Victorian Liberals are booted, that could be game over for the Coalition.
The seat to watch is Reid, in Sydney, the most-visited electorate this campaign by the two leaders, while treasurer Josh Frydenberg has his hands full in Kooyong.
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The PM has worked hard, criss-crossing the country and seeming to be a more active campaigner than Shorten -- but has been criticised for a “threadbare” campaign, outlining little new policy.
Aside from tax cuts and regular strategic sprinkles of cash around sporting grounds and roads projects, his daily plan been to pummel Shorten.
Labor outlined a bold, big-target election platform around tax reform and climate change, which Morrison has taken a sledgehammer to each day. In contrast, the public saw more of the PM kicking footballs, playing cricket or shearing sheep than announcing policies.
In a way, he had no choice. If a two-term conservative government started rolling out swathes of new policy at election time, it'd be seen as cynical, with questions over why these ideas weren't enacted earlier.
Five weeks of campaigning finally come to an end on Saturday. If nothing else, Morrison has stitched together -- even if only temporarily -- the warring factions of his fractured party and ushered a truce in their brutal blood feud. It's more than most expected from him.
Listen to Hugh Riminton and Peter Van Onselen in The Professor and The Hack discuss all things #Auspol.