A fortnight is a long time…

Want to know the real dominant election issue? The electorate’s ‘unsurety’, and the role major banks have in it.



Colin Benjamin

The election is not over until 16 of the most marginal seats decide that, while they still like their local MP, they now would prefer to give Rudd the chance to be more committed to long-term family security rather than believe the very responsible and economically conservative views of the two alternative prime ministers.


As indicated in earlier columns, now is the time to revise downwards expansionary domestic business projections – despite the flood of election largesse – and reset all small business terms of trade. Cash will be king and lines of credit will be “my precious, my precious”.


Earlier this year (August) I suggested that it wasn’t time to write off the Howard Government’s prospects of re-election just because mid-year polls were showing Labor ahead.


As in the past two elections in 2001 and 2004, everyone jumped at shadows and assumed that the Liberal-National Party primary vote would lead to a change in government at only 1% more than the latest Galaxy poll. 


Following earlier views in this blog that the Costello tsunami should not be neglected as a key concern, that did not justify the “henny penny” routines of some commentators, watch out for even more internationally generated uncertainty provocation from 10 days before the poll.


This year’s Tampa may well be CEOs taking responsibility for the moral collapse of their financially distressed enterprises, and bankers facing jail for past lending practices.


What nobody will tell you is that the dominant election issue for the next few weeks, and facing the incoming government of either (lack of?) persuasion, is the increasing anxiety caused by the major banks’ credit crunch.


Many electors are already feeling the pressure of dinner time calls from their financial institution urging them to find ways to cut back on basic household expenditure as the bank lending departments decide to follow the RBA.


The banks are pushing up the level of anxiety and stress facing small professional firms, independent contractors and small business that are facing higher costs and more administrative burdens.


The reality is that according to some unpublished research conducted by Morgan Research that is available to federal and state health authorities, half of the 32 most marginal seats across the country have demonstrated above-average levels of “unsurety” – the measure of treated anxiety, panic attacks, depression and stress in the community in the last year.


Unfortunately for Rudd’s prospects of avoiding a 1969 result (the biggest swing to Labor which still didn’t manage to win), Bass, Bennelong, Boothby, Solomon and Wentworth may be hot seats due to local candidates campaigns in seats with below average levels of “unsurety”.


These are the electorates that will be encouraged to adopt the “now is not the time” theme and reduce household and business risk and uncertainty.


This is the foundation stone of the view that Rudd may do a Beazley and capture a majority of the votes but not get the 16 seats he needs to govern without the support of the member for “Ethanol” in Northern Queensland.


The Government has only to restore confidence in its ability to manage the home economy (not the national economy) and frighten half a dozen anxious suburbs with CCTV cameras and the threat of a typical financial collapse whenever Labor has been elected to manage the turbulence of a potential recession, or residual fear of the deficit funding of the state governments.


We have seen very little of the key research team Crosby Textor, but nobody should underestimate their capacity to highlight risk and uncertainty for mortgage belt residents in the last couple of weeks of the campaign.


Their unpublished research will have confirmed that 70% of the electorate have no understanding of the IR measures, and after Wednesday’s press club session even less interest in the arcane forms of the industrial relations club debate. Hence the promise of full employment and the freedom of small business to use the WorkChoices AWAs to lock in favourable industrial relations practice.


Small business, industrial contractors and the founders of the work reform ads from the business and farming community will continue to point to the links between Labor and the unions and their belief that the clocks will be set back by a Rudd government (“just ask Peter Garrett” we will hear).


The Textor-led coalition of business interests will continue to demand greater freedom for employers to destabilise the expectations of organised labour and be encouraged to rush to take up AWAs that will stay in place for half a decade.


Nothing much will change in the IR system no matter who is elected, but there are warning sounds in the comments of Howard ministers seeking to give themselves room to manoeuvre when things get tough.


Skills shortages and investment in education will set the ground rules for a revitalisation of local health and education facilities. The Hockey commitment that there will be no more WorkChoices reforms may be seen as a recognition that the control of the Senate led to inadequate scrutiny and implementation procedures.


Either way, the introduction can be modified as appropriate to develop better prospects and technical education competencies for those seeking to practice clinical representation.


What will change in the second and third week of November is the potential for a runaway inflation economy making imported gifts ever cheaper and exported manufactured goods a candidate for Howard’s history classes.


Australia may have started to develop counter-cyclic smoothing of the national economy, but at the same time it is a strong supporter of working class homes cutting their consumption while affluent families increase their net wealth and pick up the low hanging fruit of households and businesses that will not be able to get sufficient credit in the market place.


They are concerned about what they are going to do about the loss of lifestyle options that come with keeping up the mortgage, child care and school fees and the chances of their kids ever moving out to their own homes. Mark 13 November as the high risk tipping point this year.







 To read more Colin Benjamin blogs, click here.



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