Albo poised to pose a threat in Queensland

THIS is the start; mark it in your diary, Federal Labor is now competitive.

Put aside Monday's Newspoll in The Australian that puts the Coalition and Labor neck-and-neck, a slight shift can be felt in Queensland, voters are feeling rattled by the economy, job security and drought.

It is hard to accept that the Coalition will hold on to all of its 23 Queensland seats in 2022 - too many are volatile, and that spells trouble given the Morrison Government holds just a two seat majority.

Take the North and Central Queensland seats, which were marginal heading into the May election.

On the face of it, now having a margin of more than 11 per cent may seem comfortable for the LNP's Capricornia MP Michelle Landry. Labor's primary vote plummeted by 14 per cent but Landry's primary vote increased by just 0.6 per cent. Preferences, namely from One Nation, contributed to her massive swing.

In Flynn, many predicted LNP incumbent Ken O'Dowd would lose. He now has a margin of 7.6 per cent, although his primary increased by just 0.8 per cent.

Labor suffered a 4.7 swing against it in Flynn, with voters getting behind Clive Palmer and One Nation.

And then there's Dawson, which now has a margin of 11 per cent. George Christensen's primary vote increased by 0.3 per cent, yet Labor's primate vote was hammered, freefalling by 12.5 per cent. In Dawson, One Nation's primary vote was 13 per cent.

It is likely O'Dowd will not contest Flynn next election (that comes with benefits and perils) and Landry and Christensen are good local members but they again have a fight on their hands.

Complacency will kill them, especially if Anthony Albanese can resuscitate Labor's vote in Queensland. Bets are he will - it is hard to see how it could get any worse.

Bill Shorten and wife Chloe in the TAB marquee at Flemington on Melbourne Cup day.
Bill Shorten and wife Chloe in the TAB marquee at Flemington on Melbourne Cup day.

They also won't have Bill Shorten to campaign against and it is hard to see why Palmer will write another $60 million cheque to skewer the Labor Party.

There also appears to be a difference between Shorten and Albanese. Shorten was a populist who was unpopular. Albanese is not a populist but has a cult following is some circles.

The question is who will middle Australia prefer and trust - Scott Morrison or Albanese?

Christmas is only weeks away and while voters want a break from work and politics, there is a cloud hanging over many of them. It's insecurity, and when voters feel that way they turn to their Government for answers. The "She'll be right, mate" answer is starting to wear thin.

With Shorten's leadership a distant memory now, Albanese now has a real chance at breaking Labor's election drought.

Australian Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.
Australian Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.

Next year, voters will take more notice of the alternative if their insecurity intensifies.

Some commentators say Labor is doomed electorally.

That has given too many Morrison Government MPs a false sense of security. They believe he will be dumped within the term.

That's because Labor under Albanese has made some serious missteps since taking on the leadership - namely making a beeline to Biloela to capitalise on the Sri Lankan asylum seeker facing deportation, declaring a "climate change emergency" in parliament, and shouting from the roof tops that they had uncovered great Coalition scandals only to prosecute them for a couple of days before giving up (think Gladys Lui and the fuss Labor made and trying to pin her to the Chinese Communist Party and Labor getting excited that Jason Wood "was in big trouble", accusing him of misusing his parliamentary office as a "fundraising vehicle for the Liberal Party").

Albanese has shifted his rhetoric, focusing on jobs and the economy, less about social values that are close to his heart.

He is right to wait until closer to the election before he announces economic policies.

The economy and leadership will define Morrison ahead of the next election.

Morrison has good political instincts but can be stubborn.

Overall, it was Morrison who led the way during the election. Most of his big names were tucked away fighting their marginal seats.

But he has to let his senior colleagues shoulder more responsibility - and he appears to be doing so by forcing the Nationals to do a bigger sale job on the Government's drought package.

He and his Government also need to do a better sell of the economy, to give the country the confidence it needs to spend and invest.

If Albanese and Labor offer an economic narrative - that the public trusts can be implemented - then the Government will be in trouble come 2022.

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