Shortcuts / 26 May 2022

Digging into the election result

The 2022 federal election was quite a ride… What we saw was a result that ushers in a change of government to Labor, sends the Coalition into opposition for some deep reflection, and the arrival of the biggest crossbench the Australian Parliament has seen since WWII. So in this Squiz Shortcut, we’ll get into where things have landed, the trends that delivered that remarkable result, and what’s next.

Let’s start with the winners…
That’s Labor under our new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. He was sworn in on Monday making it one of the quickest transitions of government in our history.

When did Labor claim the win?
It became clear on Saturday night that the Coalition had lost and Scott Morrison conceded defeat at about 10pm. He said it was clear that it would only be Labor who could form a government, whether that was in the majority or minority.

And the count is ongoing?
Yep – as things currently stand, Labor is on track to form a majority government – but they aren’t there yet and the counting continues.

So they had a thumping win?
No. They’ll do that while recording a lower primary vote than they got in 2019.

So how did they win this election?
Labor saw a fall in support, but the Coalition did worse. So on first preference votes, Labor received about 32.7%, down on 33.3% in 2019. The Coalition raked in a bit more than 36%, which is a swing against them of more than 5%.

How does that work if the Coalition got more primary votes?
Welcome to preferential voting… Of the large group of voters who didn’t put Labor or the Coalition first, more preferenced Team Albanese’s candidates over Team Morrison’s. 

Got you. So it was a good result for Labor… 
Yes, but it didn’t go all their way. Labor didn’t win a seat from the Coalition in Queensland. Both Labor and the Coalition came under pressure from the Greens, who won the seats of Griffith from Labor and Ryan from the Liberal National Party.

Isn’t getting a good result reliant on performing well in Queensland?
Usually… But Labor doesn’t hold a House of Reps seat north of Brisbane, and given the party put a lot of time and effort into winning over Queensland voters, it’s expected that will be part of their campaign review.

Where did Labor’s efforts pay off this election?
Western Oz, where Labor clawed back a few seats from the Coalition. The Liberals took a 9% hit on their primary vote in the state this election.

Where did that play out?
Across the Perth metro region. Aside from Canning MP Andrew Hastie’s electorate, the city is dominated by Labor MPs. And for the first time since 1998, 2 Labor MP’s received a primary vote above 50%: Madeleine King in Brand and Matt Keogh in Burt.

So there’s a lot of love for Labor in WA?
That’s for sure, at both the state and now federal level. Premier Mark McGowan has an incredibly high approval rating there, and the Coalition suffered a record defeat at the March 2021 state election when they retained just 2 members in the lower house.

What was behind it?
Pundits say Labor successfully framed the federal election as a contest between PM Scott Morrison and McGowan, rather than Morrison versus Albanese. And the handling of the pandemic has been said to be a big factor in this election, with campaign observers pointing to Morrison’s criticism of states that kept their hard borders up and the Coalition’s brief support of Clive Palmer’s High Court bid to have the WA border torn down.

Anything else notable about Labor’s election victory?
That we’ve seen a change in government without a landslide. At every other election since WWII where there’s been a change of government, the incoming administration has had a healthy majority. This time Labor is scratching for the 76 seats to have a majority of one, and that could change how they pursue their agenda for the next term in parliament.

What were some of the big issues for voters this time around?
When you put aside the issues of Scott Morrison’s popularity, experts say he was correct when he said there were 2 tiers of voters whose concerns line up with their incomes. Cost of living concerns were top of mind for those in the suburbs/regions, while climate change and integrity issues worried higher-income voters in the affluent ‘Teal’ seats. And there’s also been a lot of commentary about the election partly being a rejection of both major parties.

How did that play out?
The 6 crossbenchers from the last parliament retained their seats – and there are another 9 set to join them.

Where did they pick up support?
To start with, the Greens did well in Brissie. Not only did they pick up an inner-city seat from the Coalition – that’s Ryan – they picked up one from Labor too, former PM Kevin Rudd’s old seat Griffith. They ran strong local campaigns picking up on the local issues of concern – things like the mitigation of airport noise.

Before we get into the Teals, remind me who they are again?
They are those candidates backed by Simon Holmes à Court and his Climate200 fundraising group. They’re independents – not a party – but they do have very similar positions on climate action and the establishment of an integrity commission.

And they smashed this election?
Yep – they had great success in picking off Liberal incumbents in affluent electorates in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, defeating sitting MPs like Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Tim Wilson. The Teals won some of the seats with a double-digit swing towards them, which is hard to produce as a first-time independent candidate.

So what went down?
There’s a lot to unpick, but many voters in those seats appear to be thinking about climate change more than in previous elections. It’s worth noting that it’s the first election of the last handful where the Coalition has lost the climate debate when it came to the election. 

Will a big crossbench change how federal parliament functions?
We’ll have to wait and see, but most crossbenchers sit comfortably with most of Labor’s agenda, so Albanese should have a better time making a go of it than the Coalition could. That’s not to say it will be easy…

What’s next for the Coalition?
The Liberals have to elect a new leader – Peter Dutton is shaping up as the man who will take it on. The Nationals are heading for a leadership ballot with Darren Chester taking on Barnaby Joyce – those party meetings are scheduled for Monday. Also on Monday, the Labor caucus will get together to confirm its ministry. 

Onwards and upwards…
That’s the spirit.

Squiz recommends:

The path to power: How the 2022 federal election was won and lostABC Four Corners

How the election result has changed our citiesABC

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