A risky but sensible gamble: Shorten’s messaging strategy ahead of Australia’s federal election

The federal election in

Australia

is expected to be called on the weekend, and voters will likely go to the polls in May. Taking account of the latest difficulties which have marred the Coalition’s chances to win a third consecutive term in office, it is not surprising that tomorrow’s budget will be the last straw for Prime Minister

Scott Morrison

to cling to for his own political survival. After all, it is opposition leader

Bill Shorten’s

election to lose. But, remembering Australian history only too well, such things can and sometimes do happen. In 1993, for example, the roles were reversed, and since the government headed by Labor Prime Minister

Paul Keating

had taken a political beating in the polls seemingly on the way out, Liberal opposition leader

John Hewson

was already seen as the next occupant of the Lodge. After the Australian Liberal Party had mounted its

Fightback

economic offensive, it was seen to be brave, innovative and competent again. Yet, politics is an unpredictable animal, and Keating was as good as his word and did Hewson

slowly, scraping over the finish-line on election night.

Roads for votes

Scott Morrison is by no means the only embattled prime minister in a Commonwealth country who wants to use the budget to shift the political debate away from issues which have undermined his own leadership. Therefore, it is no surprise that the

budget

contains plenty of giveaways to farmers in rural Australia, and, perhaps even more significantly, will increase spending on infrastructure such as roads on a massive scale. But, as veteran journalist and commentator

Laura Tingle

cautions, using the budget as a fiscal weapon during an ongoing election campaign does not necessarily change votes, since most people have already factored in possible benefits delivered in any pre-election budget. Thus, the budget is no masterstroke of the Coalition, but rather illustrates the extent of despair within Coalition ranks at present.

A battle over messaging and for media attention

Labor knows that it has the edge over the Coalition at present. But the party also understands the volatility of electoral politics these days and is starting to counter the narrative of the government by introducing its policy package on the

environment and climate change.

Labor had plenty of time to observe the demise of left leaning political parties elsewhere in the Western world and seems to have learned the right lessons by focusing its political messaging on issues such as income inequality, healthcare, education and climate change, heeding advice given by social researcher

Rebecca Huntley

in her much acclaimed essay

Australia Fair

in which she argues that there is potentially majority support for new, more daring policy prescriptions to tackle intractable issues such as economic injustices, decent healthcare, educational opportunities for all and combating climate change. If the

Australian Labor Party

gets it right and returns to government as a united and constructive political party, other social-democratic parties in the West can learn a lot from politics currently playing itself out down-under.

As election day is approaching fast, you find more coverage on Australian politics

here.

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