Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison reacts during House of Representatives Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, February 16, 2021. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison reacts during House of Representatives Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, February 16, 2021. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING

The four words that could undo PM

In the recent weeks since the return of Parliament from its summer break, a major change in atmosphere has occurred, as the parties begin to prepare for what is likely an election year.

With less than 25 weeks until the first possible normal election date (August 7) and fewer still until the potential dissolution of Parliament, election strategies and campaign promises are no doubt already being put together.

But with Australia going to the polls amid a pandemic for the first time in over a century, things are likely to be a bit different to our usual elections, with the public taking a very different perspective into the polling booth.

It can be largely summed up in a four word slogan made famous by former US President Bill Clinton's campaign team during the 1992 Presidential election, "It's the economy stupid".

During the campaign it was emphasised how a Clinton Administration would approach things differently and place a heavy focus on the economy, after the US emerged from recession just a year earlier.

Bill Clinton with wife Hillary Rodham Clinton during his 1992 presidential campaign. Picture: Sportsphoto Agency.
Bill Clinton with wife Hillary Rodham Clinton during his 1992 presidential campaign. Picture: Sportsphoto Agency.

In the end, Clinton's strategy of focusing on the economy would deliver him to the White House, despite President George H. W. Bush holding a 90 per cent approval rating just 20 months earlier.

This is a feat Opposition leader Anthony Albanese would no doubt like to equal, as a consensus continues to build that the upcoming election is Prime Minister Scott Morrison's to lose.

With retail sales are at record highs and parts of the economy enjoying an unexpected economic boom, due to $257 billion in stimulus from the Morrison government. It's perhaps unsurprising that some political commentators are increasingly putting their money on the Prime Minister.

The Coalition is said to be confident Prime Minister Scott Morrison will win the next election. Picture: David Caird
The Coalition is said to be confident Prime Minister Scott Morrison will win the next election. Picture: David Caird

In the words of the 10 News Political editor Peter van Onselen: "Scott Morrison remains a certainty to win the next election, delivering the Coalition government a fourth term in office.

"The PM is so confident that he is looking to bring the next election forward to capitalise on his dominance.

"Don't take my word for it. Government MPs and senators are supremely confident they can't lose. Coalition strategists are too. Even Morrison's own office is quick to point out just how electorally invincible they are."

But as speculation continues to build about exactly when Australia will head back to the polls, the latest Newspoll has the Coalition neck and neck with Labor.

The latest Newspoll shows ALP and the Coalition as neck and neck. Source: The Australian.
The latest Newspoll shows ALP and the Coalition as neck and neck. Source: The Australian.

Given the Morrison government's unprecedented abandonment of its traditionally fiscally conservative priorities, in favour of the largest stimulus program in the history of Australia, one would have imagined the government would be riding high.

Yet here we stand less than 6 months out from the first possible polling date and arguably the nation's most respected poll suggests the tightest of races.

This likely makes the state of the economy and the public's perception of the Morrison government's economic management of the economy more important than ever.

Conventional wisdom and more than a few political commentators, suggest that incumbency and the government's pandemic response will see the polls shift toward the government.

But as 2021 continues to unfold, it's clear that things are often unconventional in this new world we find ourselves in.

This takes us back to the economy. As it stands, Australians expectations of the economy and the ongoing recovery are extremely high.

According to Westpac's consumer sentiment index, households were recently more confident about the economy and their financial futures than at any point in the past 10 years. Amid a global pandemic that is still acting as a wrecking ball through economies across the world, this is quite the optimistic outlook from our fellow Australians.

Households were recently more confident about the economy and their financial futures.
Households were recently more confident about the economy and their financial futures.

Meanwhile, the number of consumers expecting to become unemployed is also near decade lows, despite JobKeeper coming to a conclusion for around 1.6 million remaining recipients at the end of March.

Unemployment expectations and the unemployment rate. Source: IFM Investors.
Unemployment expectations and the unemployment rate. Source: IFM Investors.

Taking a look across these various data points, it quickly becomes clear that Australians aren't just expecting a return to the mediocre growth and labour market outcomes that defined 2019.

They are seemingly expecting an outright economic boom to speed Australia out of the economic doldrums.

Amid these heightened expectations for the nation's economic future, the opposition is looking to prove its economic management credentials. Recently it was revealed that Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese had told shadow cabinet to find cuts and spending offsets.

This only further reinforces that the economy will likely become one of the defining issues of the upcoming election campaign.

Money talk could be the thing that decides our next PM. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese during the Last Post ceremony at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Money talk could be the thing that decides our next PM. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese during the Last Post ceremony at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

As my colleague Jason Murphy recently covered, with the conclusion of JobKeeper and the JobSeeker supplement coming up at the end of March, the nation will find itself increasingly reliant on households spending their savings to support the economy.

Households are seemingly expecting an economic boom at the same time around 45 per cent of respondents to a News.com.au poll say the future is too uncertain to spend their savings.

With a further 36 per cent saying they have no savings to spend, the public may be setting themselves up for disappointment.

Any sort of pre-election disappointment in the economy could spell trouble for a Morrison government, which has long made its management of the economy the singularly most important aspect of its political platform.

Come Election Day, perhaps the political pundits and commentators will be as right about Morrison's predicted victory as they were wrong about Bill Shorten's in 2019.

But in the highly uncertain world we find ourselves in, it's possible that Labor and Anthony Albanese may find a path to victory based on four simple words.

"It's the economy stupid".

Tarric Brooker is a freelance journalist and social commentator | @AvidCommentator

Originally published as The four words that could undo PM


Driver swerving across road almost five times legal limit

Premium Content Driver swerving across road almost five times legal limit

A Cannonvale man was so far over the legal alcohol limit he was unable to control...

Man’s jaw broken in one-punch assault in party precinct

Premium Content Man’s jaw broken in one-punch assault in party precinct

A Cannonvale man’s jaw was broken in two places in a sickening assault captured on...

SHOCK TREND: ‘Wrong sex’ bubs aborted

Premium Content SHOCK TREND: ‘Wrong sex’ bubs aborted

Qld parents are aborting babies that are not their preferred gender