Federal election 2013: ‘Gimmee’ the good times

Now that the media and the bookies agree that the results are a foregone conclusion, with potentially more than 20 new bums on green seats, we can consider voter motivations for change.

Most of those that are increasingly dissatisfied with the direction the government has been taking have already accepted the best way to get the benefits of tax cuts whilst retaining the benefit of “compensation payments” is to vote for a change in government.

This week’s fall in Australians expecting to be ‘better off’ financially this time next year reflects gloom about how spending cuts by whichever side wins the election are going to impact directly on family finances.

Westpac senior economist Andrew Hanlan suggests that mining investment is not giving the economy the boost that it once did, and spending from consumers, business and governments is not picking up the slack.

“The absence of strong gains in mining capex, at a time of below trend global growth, has exposed a lack of strength across the broader domestic economy,” says Hanlan.

The last week’s focus on apprenticeships, jobs and the war in Syria are likely to have come too late to shift more than one in twenty voters to reconsider their intentions. Parental leave and gay marriage may have a marginal effect in a couple of seats, but will not make any real difference.

Under these conditions Tony Abbott is going to relaunch his claim for a “mandate” whilst Kevin Rudd will continue to claim there is a (highly disputed by the fact-checkers) “$70 billion black hole”.  As Michelle Grattan points out in The Conversation, however, it is worth noting Abbott’s view in other circumstances.

Abbott wrote after the Howard government’s 2007 defeat:

“[Opposition leader Brendan] Nelson is right to resist the intellectual bullying inherent in talk of ‘mandates’. The elected opposition is no less entitled than the elected government to exercise judgement and to try to keep its election commitments.”

The weekly Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence Rating for the last month of the campaign has shown a steady rise in consumer confidence despite claims by the shadow treasurer to the contrary.

Significantly for those that still think that electors may come back to Rudd, there is a 5% drop to 39% of Australians expecting to be ‘better off’ financially this time next year compared to just 12% (unchanged) that expect their family to be ‘worse off’ financially.

The rise in consumer confidence is driven by increases in confidence about Australia’s financial conditions over the next 12 months and for the next five years.

Gary Morgan says, “Driving the rise in consumer confidence was increased confidence about the Australian economy with 36% (up 4%) of Australians expecting ‘good times’ for the Australian economy over the next 12 months and 40% (up 2%) expecting ‘good times’ for the Australian economy over the next five years.”

“Consumer confidence is now at its highest since mid-April (123.8). The latest Morgan Poll shows the L-NP (52%, up 0.5% in a week) increasing its lead over the ALP (48%) on a two-party preferred basis.

“The L-NP’s lead is even larger when the strong preference flows from the Palmer United Party (PUP) are taken into account. Support for the new party has risen to 4% nationally and 7.5% in Queensland, and with preferences directed towards the Coalition, this gives the L-NP an even stronger lead: L-NP (53%) cf. ALP (47%).”

As one Q&A twitterer pointed out this week, the hostile reception for the PM reflected a series of “gimmee” expectations. Electors want the Abbott carbon tax cuts, security, and return to Howard’s white picket fences.

The other lot may or may not have created nearly a million jobs and got us through that GFC thing, but now it is time for the good times.

Dr Colin Benjamin OAM is the chairman of Cultural Infusion Ltd and director general of the Life: ‘Be in it’ Australia charity.


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