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The Vote Panel: Wage wars and leaked polls

With just one week to go until election day, the debate over the minimum wage has taken the spotlight. And, the polls are showing some Coalition strongholds are at risk of falling.
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With just one week to go until election day, the debate over the minimum wage has taken the spotlight.

And, the polls are showing some Coalition strongholds are at risk of falling. 

So, what can we glean about how Labor and the Coalition are gearing up for the final days of the campaign and should we trust the polls, this time around? 

Today, to analyse all the latest events, we’re joined by chief political correspondent for The Saturday Paper, Karen Middleton, columnist for The Saturday Paper, Paul Bongiorno, and election analyst from The Tally Room, Ben Raue.

 
Read Transcript

[Theme Music Starts]

 

From Schwartz Media and 7am, I’m Ruby Jones and this is The Vote.

 

With just one week to go until election day, the debate over the minimum wage has taken the spotlight.

 

And, the polls are showing some Coalition strongholds are at risk of falling. 

 

So, what can we glean about how Labor and the Coalition are gearing up for the final days of the campaign, and should we trust the polls, this time around? 

 

Today, to analyse all the latest events, we’re joined by: Chief political correspondent for The Saturday Paper, Karen Middleton, election analyst from The Tally Room, Ben Raue, and columnist for The Saturday Paper, Paul Bongiorno.

 

It’s Friday May 13

[Theme Music Ends]

RUBY:
So. Good morning, everyone. How are we all?

KAREN:
Well, it's week five and a half. That's how we are.

RUBY:
It's a matter of days now until the election, not weeks anymore. We're getting close. And Paul, how are you?

PAUL:
I'm pretty good, considering my age and other infirmities.

RUBY:
And Ben, how are you?

BEN:
Busy, but good. 

RUBY:
Mmhmm, mmhmm. So the big issue this week was the minimum wage, Karen. This week we heard Anthony Albanese say that it should keep up with inflation and confirmed that by that he meant that it should go up by 5.1%, which is the inflation rate at the moment. And the way that this all came about was interesting. It was in reply to a question from a journalist. 

Archival Tape -- Anthony Albanese:
“We think no one should go backwards. People should be at least keeping up. At least keeping up with the cost of living.”


Archival Tape -- Journalist at press conference:
“Does that mean you would support a wage hike of at least 5.1% just to keep up with inflation?”

Archival Tape -- Anthony Albanese:
Absolutely…no, that’s it. Absolutely…

RUBY:
So was this part of a planned policy announcement from Labor or was it more of a kind of accidental commitment to a rise of this nature in the minimum wage? What was going on?

KAREN:
Well, it wasn't really either. I was at that press conference in Melbourne and he is saying he didn't mean that they would put that in their own submission. So that becomes a bit of a semantic point.

Archival Tape -- Anthony Albanese:
Well, what we know is that at the last increase the Fair Work Commission made was 2.5%, even though inflation was just 1.1. So we know that the Fair Work Commission has taken these issues into account. We've clearly said that people should not fall further behind…

KAREN:
Did he overreach when he even made that commitment? He says no. Labor has doubled down on it and says, well, it's perfectly consistent with our message, which is that everyone's wages aren't keeping up with inflation and effectively those on the lowest wages are going backwards. And so he says, you know, ergo, logic tells you in order to not go backwards, you need to have a wage rise for the minimum wage that outstrips inflation by at least 0.1 of a percent, and inflation is now hovering around five. So he says it's common sense and logical. 

RUBY:
Mm. And the coalition is obviously saying that, you know, all of this shows that Labor can't be trusted on the economy. Scott Morrison is calling him Albanese a loose unit, suggesting that all of this is being made up on the fly. And the other point, Karen, that you've kind of alluded to is that they're saying that obviously the prime minister doesn't set the minimum wage. That's done by the Fair Work Commission. And so I suppose the question there is, is should Albanese really be weighing into this specifics in this way? 

KAREN:
Well, I think that's the question is, was it smart to weigh in on the specifics or not? And everyone's got a different view. But Labor is not taking a backward step, and a number of people have tried to portray this as being walked back. It's not being walked back. They're really happy to have the argument because A) it makes Scott Morrison look like he doesn't support your wages going up at all and B) it helps to portray Labor as the caring side, whereas the government is the heartless side. So it plays to their argument they think anyway.

PAUL:
Well, I was told at the beginning of the week I asked a very senior Labour person, how are you going to bring home the bacon? And he said, we're going to go to the central plank of our campaign, which is cost of living and wages. But they couldn’t believe their luck when Scott Morrison decided to pick a huge fight on this very issue.

RUBY:
I mean, I suppose you can tell that they're happy with it because Anthony Albanese started to carry around a $1 coin with him everywhere to show that this is the amount that the minimum wage will go up by under me.

KAREN:
That’s right. Politicians love nothing more than a visual aid, and that is what he now has in the shape of a $1 coin. So they will keep on going. And it's also turned the economic debate on its head a little bit, because this way Labor has suddenly flipped this issue into a version of economic debate that's on its turf because it's about the lowest earners, whether you care for people or not, whether you're looking at the human dimension in the economy or you're only a boffin in an ivory tower, playing with an abacus and looking at everything in the macro.

PAUL:
Well, Jim Chalmers, the shadow treasurer, says that first of all, the inflation number of 5.1% a couple of weeks ago and then the beginning of the cycle of the raising of interest rates and the whole argument over wages stagnating over the last nine years. What it did for the Labor campaign, it landed this issue on the kitchen tables of Australia. It was no longer, as Karen was saying, an academic debate, it was something that was literally at home on the kitchen table. 

RUBY:
Mm. So it sounds like neither of you think that the Coalition's line on this about Anthony Albanese being a loose unit, economic policy being made up on the fly is really landing.

KAREN:
Clearly Scott Morrison and the Coalition think the word loose is important. Now I don't know for sure, but I would. Not be surprised if they have tested that word because Scott Morrison, you can tell when he repeats something over and over like the word action and the word plan and the word shield. You can be fairly sure that they have focus group tested these and these are the concepts that are coming up that are resonating with people and all of a sudden loose has been thrown into the lexicon in the last few days about Anthony Albanese. That's I'm sure not not an accident. So they will be hoping that that does resonate, that that is a way to come back at this argument to say, look, this guy sounds good, he sounds like he cares for you, but actually he really doesn't know what he's talking about. And you can't be sure he's not solid, he's not credible. He's a bit loose. That's what they're trying to say. Now, we'll know in a week or so how effective that was. But people are voting already. And that's that's the alarming thing for the party that's behind, which at this point is, is the government, the Liberal Nationals.

BEN:
Actually, as of Wednesday night, I think it's about 1.7 million votes that are with the AEC. There's probably hundreds of thousands of more postal votes that are already in the mail. So it's probably about 2 million people out of about 17 million voters who've already cast their votes by the weekend. It'll probably be more like three. So it's a huge share of the vote that's already been lodged. 

KAREN:
Yes, people are making up their minds as we go. And that's why this is a really febrile period this last fortnight, because people are going to the polling booths as they are hearing these messages in real time. They don't have any time to stop and think about it. That's why emotional stuff will be effective, because it affects people's thinking. And then they go straight in and they vote. 

RUBY:
We'll be back in a moment.

[Advertisement]

Archival Tape -- Sandra Sully (10 News):
“Now to the election leak that could spell the end of the Morrison government. Confidential internal government polling obtained exclusively by 10 News First reveals Scott Morrison is in serious trouble, and going backwards in several key seats that he must win to have any hope of reelection…”

RUBY:
Another interesting thing that's come out this week is this leak of internal Liberal Party polling which showed some Liberal Party strongholds could be in real trouble. And I know that we hear a lot about polls and about polling and there's questions over what you can trust. But I'm just hoping, Karen, that you could tell us these internal polls, how different are they from the polls that we, the public, normally get to see? And how important are they for parties when they're deciding their strategy?

KAREN:
The polls that we tend to see are national polls, so we don't tend to see a breakdown state by state. And what matters is the vote in each of those potential swinging seats, marginals or more substantively held seats that have suddenly got to heel independent or some other factor in them. What we need to know is what the vote is doing in those seats. Now, that's really expensive to do. So the major polls that newspapers and the like do don't often do marginal seat polling. So we're looking at two party preferred votes in primary votes that do give us an indication of how things are trending, but they're not perfect. We could see Labor, I think we've said it before, but Labor could be ahead in the two party preferred vote as they are. But if they are hitting seats they already hold, or if they're ahead in seats that the Liberals hold by such a margin that it isn't going to make a difference, the sum total could be zero, but if they're ahead in marginal seats where it will make a difference, then that is significant. And when we talk about this election being close, we might end up with the result that isn't close. But when we say it's close, it's close in a whole stack of seats. If all those seats swing one way, you could get a decisive result. And we're now seeing a, you know, a YouGov poll that we may speak about, that is suggesting that we might see a decisive Labor majority.

What happens with internal party polling is they are doing tracking polling. They're doing it for a significant period of the campaign, most of the campaign, sort of every night, getting a sense of what's happening in key seats. And we did have some of these internal polling in our paper on *The Saturday Paper* last weekend in my story is that it's matching up on either side. And it's suggesting that the Liberals for example, are in deep trouble in Parramatta, in western Sydney and even Gilmore on the New South Wales south coast where the former state minister Andrew Constance is running. People have assumed he would win that…they're not assuming that now. It's harder. And you saw Scott Morrison go there in the last few days and that tells you he doesn't think it's in the bag.

RUBY:
Mm. So Ben, as Karen is saying, some of these seats they're very safe Liberal seats. So are we likely to see some of these go?

BEN:
Maybe not seats that are super safe, but I do think that there are seats that are not the ones that you expect to be the first rung of seats that are now in play. And I think there's some indications that the campaign is focussing on places that are not not the ones where a super close election would be decided. You know, we were talking about Bennelong as one example I wanted to mention. Karen mentioned Parramatta. I live in Parramatta. I'm, I've been noticing we have not heard a single thing in our letterbox in the Liberal Party. We've got about a dozen things from Labor. Meanwhile, Morrison's turned up in the seat like four times and I wonder if there's a bit of a disconnect between his strategy which may be focussed on the slim chance he might stay as Prime Minister, whereas the party, the party has a different agenda, right? Like if they're on track to lose badly, then their objective may well be to save the furniture and save seats that they actually can hold on to. So I'm really curious to see how that plays out because when you look at seats like you take Parramatta and Gilmore off the table.

I would say if, you know, we've had a few polls that are really good for Labor, Ipsos had 57. I think that's probably an outlier. Newspolls now on 54, I was going through the results. I'm not sure Labor's ever gotten 54 in a two party preferred election. Whitlam and Hawke never did it, so a 54% to pay, for example, would be a landslide victory like that would be they would sweep a bunch of seats. They probably would be a couple of surprises. There'd be some surprises of seats that they didn't pick up, and probably the ones that are always the super close ones would would flip. That may not happen, but it looks like a realistic option, and it's not particularly inconsistent with the way that the parties are behaving now.

RUBY:
Hmm. 

PAUL:
Well, the other thing to say is that momentum is so important in the last two weeks. And if you have a look at the YouGov MRP poll, there were a number of seats that that poll couldn't choose between. They were 5050. And they're the sort of seats, as you were saying, Ben, that could go whoomphah, you know, one way or maybe stay where they are. 

RUBY:
And Paul, you mention that the YouGov polling that was very interesting, it showed that Labor would win an estimated 12 seats, which would give it a majority of five in the House of Reps. So that's that would be a landslide, I would say. But it also showed that there were some key Liberals losing their seats. There would be people like Josh Frydenberg. And so I just wonder poll if something like that were to happen, if the Liberals were to lose some of their their safer seats, their blue ribbon seats, some of their more high profile politicians, what would that mean for the Liberal Party?

PAUL:
Well, it would mean they'd have to do a lot of regrouping and rethinking and it could also depend on who saves their seats and then who is leader, because that leader would then become the person who has to set about rebuilding the party. So yeah, but we've got to be careful even if there's a big landslide to Labor. I know this is a national federal election, but just think about the Campbell Newman landslide that was enormous and on paper it wiped the Labor Party out and yet he within one term lost the next election. 

KAREN:
And this is where Anthony Albanese as a strategist is quite interesting because he's thinking about the second term. He's been planning for that. He's a long term player and he's already planning for that because I think he's quite conscious of that risk. I've interviewed him for this Saturday's paper and and that's one of the things that he emphasises that they are best in their policy formulation, in their reluctance to make grand commitments, and they're in their attempt to try and work out what they can afford to do, what's realistic and to manage expectations. And he talked this week about about that: expectations, management. And under-promising and over-delivering. That's what he's thinking about. He's thinking about the second term and the risk that you come in with a great wave and then you collapse and you get kicked out again. And he doesn't want that to happen to Labor because it's happened before. So it's interesting that that's his thinking, I think. 

RUBY:
Mm. And so Paul, bearing the polling in mind as well as what you were saying about momentum going into the final week of the campaign, what do you think that Scott Morrison is going to be focussing on to try and engineer a swing back to the government in the final days? 

PAUL:
Interestingly, that we can do better than this. And that was his big peroration in the debate on Wednesday night. That's a very clever, positive, negative attitude, because if he can do better, you're going to do better than the other guy. And Labor's social media spend already is about twice to three times bigger than it was at the last election and it's relentlessly negative. We can do better than this awful person who is our Prime Minister is the real message there and that will be hammered during the week. And Albanese, as you say, will be saying he will be trying to be inclusive and assuring. And the other interesting thing, Morrison, if you can believe all the opinion polls, you know, shares with Anthony Albanese, you know, an unpopularity, if you like, a greater unpopularity.

RUBY:
Final thoughts at all, Ben?

BEN:
I will be looking to see if there's any signs of the coalition recovering because the options for the coalition seem to be really narrowing. Like things are looking tough for them, they're not really cutting through. We hear about more and more seats that they really do need to hold onto where things are looking pretty grim and I think Labor's position is looking even stronger as we get towards the end. Morrison seems to be running out of time.

RUBY:
Well, I’m really looking forward to talking to you this time next week, and I suppose we’ll be right on the eve of the election by then!

PAUL:
So Ben's going to have to give a prediction and we're going to hold him to it.

RUBY:
Thank you all so much for your time.

KAREN:
Thanks, Ruby

BEN:
Thank you

PAUL:
Thank you, Ruby. See you next week.

[Advertisement]

RUBY:
Also in the news today…

More than 100 social services organisations and consumer rights groups are calling on the next federal parliament to regulate buy now, pay later products like AfterPay and ZipPay, and legislate safeguards to prevent financial harm.

 

Currently, buy now pay later products are not covered by the National Credit Code, which means the usual safeguard processes – like assessing a customer’s ability to repay the loan or hardship provisions – don’t apply.

 

And 

 

North Korea has reported its first case of the omicron variant of COVID-19. The country’s leader Kim Jong Un has declared a “maximum emergency” and ordered a national lockdown. 

 

7am is a daily show from The Monthly and The Saturday Paper. It’s produced by Elle Marsh, Kara Jensen-Mackinnon, Anu Hasbold and Alex Gow. Research assistance for this episode by Meghan Dansie.

 

Our senior producer is Ruby Schwartz and our technical producer is Atticus Bastow.

 

Brian Campeau mixes the show. Our editor is Scott Mitchell. Erik Jensen is our editor-in-chief. 


Our theme music is by Ned Beckley and Josh Hogan of Envelope Audio. And original music in this week's episodes was composed by Alex Gow.

I’m Ruby Jones, this is 7am. See you next week.

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