Christopher Pyne: Nobody Ever Got Anywhere Changing Horses Midstream
In 1987, Prime Minister Bob Hawke called an early election -- a double dissolution election -- over the issue of whether every Australian should have an identification card: the “Australia Card”.
But really, the election was called to make political capital out of the disunity created by the long-forgotten “Joh for PM” campaign. Joh Bjelke Petersen was the Premier of Queensland who wanted to transpose his brand of politics from Queensland to Canberra.
Labor had a superb campaign theme song (quite possibly the last time it did).
I can still remember the words and the tune now:
“We’ve got to keep on holding tight, to that great Australian dream. Nobody ever got anywhere, changing horses in midstream. Together, let’s stick together, Australians together, let’s see it through.”
There was more, but you get the picture.
In the days of autonomous vehicles and electric cars, the saying “nobody ever got anywhere changing horses in midstream” is not one you hear very often. But it's an apt description for the choice facing voters at the election on May 18.
We have a prime minister who has been in office for short period of time. He’s doing well against the odds. In the latest Newspoll, Scott Morrison is preferred over the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, by a net 11 percent of voters; Shorten has a minus 18 percent approval rating whereas Morrison is about even.
The Liberals could almost rerun the 1987 Labor campaign pitch. Why would Australians change horses midstream? Why wouldn’t we give Scott Morrison another three years to show us what he can do to make our nation even better? Why would the public vote out someone who is having a real go in favour of a person they have never warmed to in all the time he has been at the helm of the Labor Party in Canberra?
These are all good questions.
The fundamental policy settings in our country are sound.
The economy is one of the fastest growing among Western nations. Unemployment is low and there have been a record one million new jobs created in the last five years.
Interest rates are at record lows. The Reserve Bank only this week kept them steady -- the longest run of steady interest rates ever. Inflation is within the bands that the Reserve Bank regards as acceptable. The national budget is back in the black and back on track.
We are investing in our nation’s security, whether it's protecting our borders or the largest build-up in our military capability in our peacetime history.
These are all reasons why the election is still close. The Liberal and National Parties are making up ground. The next week is going to be absolutely crucial. The election will come down to this last week. Every contest in every seat is going to decide the outcome. Whether it’s the traditional marginal seats with percentage swings required to change hands of less than three or four percent (like Boothby and Braddon) right through to the safer seats being contested by independents against the Liberal and National Parties (think Warringah and Wentworth).
There is one thing I can predict with absolute certainty: no one is going to win a landslide on May 18. The result won’t be another 1996, 2007 or 2013. The outcome will be decided in a handful of seats, some of which, until now, may not even be on the major parties’ radar screens (like Lyne or Lingiari).
For all those inveterate punters looking to place a last-minute bet with one of the betting agencies -- keep in mind that 1987 campaign jingle: “nobody ever got anywhere, changing horses in midstream”.
Australians have a habit of rewarding the underdog. They love a contest. Scott Morrison has made this a contest. I wouldn’t be surprised if we might just be about to witness an upset.
Listen to Hugh Riminton and Peter Van Onselen in The Professor and The Hack discuss all things #Auspol.