Is ALP throwing Canning to keep Abbott?

By Leith van Onselen

A new opinion poll for the upcoming Canning by-election, conducted by Essential Research, has the Coalition leading Labor 51% to 49% on a two-party preferred basis, suggesting the Coalition will be returned, but with a big swing against it (the Liberals currently hold the seat with a 12% margin).

According to Essential, first preference support for the Liberals is down 15 points from the federal election two years ago to 36%, whereas backing for the ALP is up five points to 31%. Meanwhile, 15% of voters remain undecided two weeks out from polling day, suggesting the result could still go either way.

According to my cousin, Peter van Onselen, the view from within the Coalition is that losing Canning would unequivocally end Tony Abbott’s Prime Ministership, whereas if the Government holds the seat, there are a number of possible outcomes, depending on the size of the swing:

Anything less than 4 per cent will be a miracle for the government, immediately ending leadership spec­ulation and probably ensuring unity between now and polling day…

A swing of between 4 per cent and 6 per cent would be a good result for Abbott, considering how the government is travelling. While it would change the government if it happened nationally, with time between now and the next election a contained swing could be a sign that in a campaign the government had a fighting chance. Detractors would still complain, but their voices would be diminished. Abbott would be safe as leader.

A swing of between 6 per cent and 8 per cent probably wouldn’t end Abbott’s leadership, certainly not immediately, and his supporters would spin the result as strong under the circumstances. But backbiting would be inevitable, with no guarantees it would go anywhere. Morale would be low… Labor would salivate at such a result.

An 8 per cent to 10 per cent swing against the government in all likelihood would end Abbott’s leadership, but it could be a drawn-out process…

A swing of more than 10 per cent, even if the Liberals held the seat, would guarantee Abbott’s demise.

With the above in mind, it is perhaps not surprising to read that Labor might be attempting to throw the Canning by-election in a bid to keep Abbott in power and the Coalition in a state of flux. From Sky News:

Sky News revealed Ms Bishop told colleagues that Labor is not pouring the resources the Liberals had expected into winning the seat.

Another government minister said Labor was ‘no where to be seen’ on the ground in terms of advertising and other campaign material…

Another cabinet minister told Sky News that Labor appeared to be ‘running dead’ in Canning because they believe a bad result for the Liberals would see Prime Minister Tony Abbott rolled by his colleagues.

The minister stressed that Labor did not want to see that happen.

The SMH has more:

Labor strategists concede the government’s unpopularity, and that of the Prime Minister in particular, provide the opposition’s best hopes for victory in 2016. Thus, they fear a shock byelection loss for the government would shatter the party room resolve and could see Mr Abbott replaced by the more centrist and popular Malcolm Turnbull…

Nevertheless, Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, is playing coy, stating that “it’s a priority to do well because I believe Australia needs a new direction”.

It’s a strange thing, Australian politics.

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  1. Shorten knows full well that if Abbott goes he wouldn’t be far behind. Bring it on, we need better leadership on both sides of politics!

  2. Perhaps the ALP don’t want to go all out for a seat which in 12 months time will be harder to hold onto after the redistribution? It is not like the WA branch of ALP has been any good at running campaigns lately either. They only ended up with one Senator at the Senate redo.

    Sounds more like the anti-Abbott forces within the Liberals coming on with an excuse for the party winning despite Abbott.

    • Plus if it was any other time in a seat requiring an 11% swing, the opposition wouldn’t even be running.

      • Mining BoganMEMBER

        Agree. Labor has bugger all money to waste on a meaningless cause. Let Abbott do the work for them.

  3. It’s plausible but I’m not sure I completely buy that.

    For one thing, ANY change of leader for the Libs would be problematic since it dredges up comparison with the Rudd / Gillard / Rudd debacle. The grassroots core Lib voters in particular won’t like it.

    Second, I really don’t believe Malcolm Turnbull will ever lead the Libs again, no matter what the opinion polls say. Last time around he almost split the Liberal Party in two. The Hard Right owns the soul of Menzies’ party these days. It would also create difficulties for their relationship with the National Party.

    The only viable candidate to lead the Libs is one that can invoke solidarity in the ranks.
    Julie Bishop “might” fit that description. But she suffers the disadvantage of
    a) being a woman – this the “blokey” party remember
    b) being seen as a bit of a light weight on economics – she was dumped after just 6 months as Shadow Treasurer if you recall.

    That leaves Morrison.
    He has had a meteoric rise but it would be something of a Hail Mary pass to make him PM given his relative inexperience. He hasn’t even been running Social Services, his first “big” portfolio for a year.

    There is nobody outside the Turnbull – Bishop – Morrison trio who is even worth considering.
    Pyne? Robb? A younster like Frydenburg? I don’t think so.

    Most likely scenario is that a bad result in Canning will see Hockey thrown onto the sacrificial bonfire.

    For Labor, ANY time you can claim a Prime Minister’s scalp it is a win for the opposition.
    Any change at the top for the Libs creates it’s new set of problems for the tories, as described above.

    If Labor IS throwing the game in Canning, I think they are making a mistake.

    • You’re right for the most part, but the RGR debacle is different kettle of fish. Rudd was a popular PM with middle Australia when he was knifed. The public never warmed to Gillard because of that reason more than any other – helped along, of course, by Abbott’s tenacity in opposition.

      Abbott is an unpoular PM. A leadership change is wanted and Turnbull is the pretty much the only choice for the Libs if they want to win the next election. And that’s probably a big IF….

    • If Abbott goes (doesn’t matter who replaces him) the LNP vote bounces to at least 50-50 probably higher which puts enormous pressure Shorten’s leadership. If they’re running dead in Canning, that’s why.

  4. Port Adelaide play Fremantle this weekend – CrownBet has the Power at $1.11 and Freo at $6.75. It’s called playing the long game…..

  5. Yes, they are.
    Why would they want to win Canning? Swings in by-elections are always bigger than in general elections so if they were to scrape a win they would just give it back in a couple of months.

    Better to pick up the 50k public funding they get for running a candidate and bank it for the real contest.

    • The funding is $2.59 per vote. I can’t see any of the other candidates outside of the Greens, Liberals and Labor getting more than 4%.

      Also 12 candidates…. time to up the deposit to at least $2,000, opposed to the current $500.

      • PUP got almost 7% in Canning for the 2013 election.
        They’ve also draw number 1 spot on the ticket so they’ll get a percentage point of donkey vote.
        By-elections tend to be good for the 3rd party protest vote, so Palmer Party might crack the 4% mark.
        I still don’t know where his party’s preferences are flowing on the HTV cards. That will be something to watch.

      • I think the PUP might have lost some shine since 2013. It will be interesting to see if they employ election day staff this time. I doubt Clive wants to throw too much money at a by-election.

    • “Swings in by-elections are always bigger than in general elections so if they were to scrape a win they would just give it back in a couple of months.”

      Cannning will be redistributed before the next federal election and will likely become slightly more favourable to the Libs. Burt (new seat partially based on Canning) is marginal Liberal based on the last election which was a terrible one for Labor.

      If I was Labor, I’d run dead to keep Abbott in charge and then try to win Burt at the next election.

  6. innocent bystander

    so Labor are only good enough to beat an Abbott led Liberal party?
    can’t beat the Liberals led by anyone else?
    if that is all they think of themselves why should voters think differently?

    the bar is set so low.

    • “so Labor are only good enough to beat an Abbott led Liberal party?”

      There’s a difference between “best chance” and “only chance”. If you had a chance to increase the odds in your favour for something, would you take it?

      • innocent bystander

        a lot can happen between now and the next Federal election.
        Labor not giving it their best shot is treating the electorate with disregard/contempt.
        … oh wait

      • “Labor not giving it their best shot is treating the electorate with disregard/contempt.”

        And who was the one who started this talk about Labor tanking? Oh yeah, it was Julie Bishop.

  7. This is a rubbish report.

    This is a safe LNP seat with a margin of 12%, which makes it very difficult for them to win. Even if they did, it is doubtful that Labor will be able to hold on to it for more than a single term. Labor resources on the ground are limited and funds for campaigning are also limited.

    There is little reason for Labor to run hard at this seat and commit serious resources towards it when other seats at the next election can deliver much better value for resources spent.

    • In “ordinary” circumstances I would agree.
      But these are NOT ordinary circumstances.
      Loss of Canning will kill a Prime Ministership.
      There are big stakes and important issues in play.

    • “Even if they did, it is doubtful that Labor will be able to hold on to it for more than a single term.”

      Canning, yes. But Burt (new seat partially based on Canning) will be in play for Labor at the next election and the benefit of being an incumbent in Canning for a year or so would definitely help. I’d still tank if I was Labor though.

  8. Australia needs Abbott to win, and with a less that 5%swing so he sure to contest the 2016 federal election.

    Australians need to rock up on election day, look at the ballot, read what is in front if them and think….

    “Abbott or Shorten…. Abbott or Shorten…Abbott or Shorten… these are my choices….Abbott or Shorten…. who to pick?”

    Nothing will succinctly express what type if country we have become when were posed with a choice of Abbott or Shorten.

    There is no null choice, you can’t omit the office. You have to pick one.

    This is your country Australia. This is the consequence of your actions dating back to March 1996. This is who you are, you deserve this.

    • “Abbott or Shorten”
      isn’t that only if you live in either of their electorates? Most people live in electorates that have a back bencher that represents them and their voting choice doesn’t come close to that kind of option.

      I get that you are trying to say that you have to choose one side or the other, but I think that is a false dichotomy.

      The solution? …. vote out the incumbent.

    • No, you can definitely choose to vote for a minor party or independent with the idea of preventing whoever is the next PM from effectively governing. Clearly this has been happening enough to influence the outcome since at least 2010.

  9. The only person with adequate positive reputation to save LNP is Malcolm. The others carry too much baggage, although we can see people like Pyne distancing themselves.
    Malcolm can’t do it unless both sides come to him and request. He will not lead a coup – he needs to be invited – hence his waiting game. He needs a united party – or as united as possible. Therefore he is waiting for desperation to reach the point that even the Right Wing will ask him.
    As for Canning – populated with retirees wealthy enough to live by the sea – will they risk their Super profits for the good of the Country? My call is it will be close but LNP with reduced majority. Everyone keep calm. This game of waiting has so much longer to run.

    • If they switch to Malcolm, what do they gain?
      A measure of general public popularity, certainly. But that can be fleeting (see KRudd Mk II).

      What do they lose?
      – Most of the grassroots Lib footsoldiers who won’t have a bar of it.
      – Donors most probably
      – The Bolt / Jones / Hadley / Murdoch press media loons
      – Creates a disgruntled and suspicious hard right faction
      – ditto above for the National Party

      And finally there is the “What Do We Do About Tony?”
      He doesn’t stike me as the kind of person to go quietly into the good night.

      A lot of negatives with the “Malcolm Scenario”.

      • “– Donors most probably”

        Going to have to completely disagree with that one. There have been plenty of articles on how Abbott and Hockey are killing the Libs’ ability to raise funds. Check Niki Savva in today’s Australian regarding Abbott’s lack of ability to raise money recently in WA.

        In the west, it gets crooker by the day. Not all that long ago Liberal politicians travelling west could count on hoovering up squillions in donations from devoted followers, so many that not all of them could fit into the grand ballrooms hired for the occasion.

        Yet in the lead-up to the Prime Minister’s visit to Perth a fortnight ago, efforts by the Liberal Party to organise a fundraiser began awkwardly and ended in acrimony. The party wanted 10 people to pay $20,000 a head for the privilege of privately meeting Abbott. According to well-placed members of the party, there were only four takers, two of whom were prepared to pay but not attend, so reluctant were they to be in the same room as Abbott — one because he was so disappointed in Abbott for not delivering the stability and confidence he had promised, and the other because despite promises of no new taxes, the government had imposed the high income levy.

        To fill the table, it was decided to halve the price. Those who had paid the full amount were furious when they found out. According to sources they have been demanding half their money back.

        How embarrassment, as Effie would say.

  10. wasabinatorMEMBER

    It seems to me that Labor’s Faceless Men issue has been replaced by this mob’s Mindless Men.

    • Systematic state-sactioned genocide is bad. But terrorism is badder. It’s just baddies vs badder baddies.

      Fucking idiot.

      • Mining BoganMEMBER

        “Terrorism is a fact in life, but we should in no way let this affect our everyday routine. You defeat evil by not letting it cower you. Rest assured that our intelligence agencies and police forces are watching over you.”

        That’s what he would have said if he wasn’t completely insane.

    • I can’t imagine that would have any effect on Jewish support for the Liberals.

      Edit: I wonder if Dutton would describe Abbott’s comment as “hysterical” and “waging a jihad” against basic history and common sense.

      • Really?
        They seem a bit touchy about that period of history.

        EDIT: I imagine the next move will be to get Frydenberg to offer a non-apology on Abbott’s behalf. Interesting to see how well or otherwise it works out.

    • the reasons, such as it is, is because “they broadcast it to the world with an affrontery [sic] that is hard to credit” and the Nazis didn’t stream live or use social media. And people say Abbott knows nothing about technology.

      It’s a remark of unforgivable stupidity.

      • Goebbels and Streicher would have loved twitter.

        “‘Think of the [media] as a great keyboard on which the government can play.'” – Goebbels, updated slightly for contemporary usage.

      • Except Winston Churchill told the British not to be fearful, but to be stern. Abbott is the opposite. Australians, fat, stupid, and self-entitled as they are, are also shit-scared of their own shadow. A nation of weak scared paranoid cowards.

      • Also, kind of seems a more appropriate in the face of a formal declaration of war from a successful (at the time) belligerent who is actually making incursions (and, albeit to a limited extent, actually occupying) into your territory, as opposed to being on the other side of the world, and unable to leave their own territory.

    • He actually said the Nazis and the communists (I suppose he means Leninist-Stalinists who actually achieved power) were emabarrassed about their deeds. wtf??

  11. Just off the phone to a mate in Mandurah, as you know heaps of peeps in Canning are retired or were FIFO.
    Agreed that the voting is close seems 50 evens for the majors, but what is hitting the electorate right between the eyes is the fall in the dollar and the increasing cost to consumer goods as a result, (cost of outboard fuel was a major gripe) So who knows. Big Clive is well placed. WW

  12. Primary vote might be the real interesting thing. Last election, Randall got 51.1% of the vote. Hastie will be lucky to crack the high 30’s even in a mild swing. So the headline will be the massive dip in primary and the pressure will be on Abbott from that point of view.

  13. I seriously want Abbott to be in after the next election. A depression is coming to Australia, and I can’t think of a single person better suited to be leader when it hits. It is going to be comedy gold! Champagne comedy! The recriminations from Abbott… the whining of the populace… everyone blaming everyone else. It will be delicious. And I will be sitting back and laughing as you slide into a once in a century depression… because you deserve it. Ha ha ha ha ha!

    • It may also ensure the LNP remains in the political wilderness for some time. Though at this point Labor may only be a marginally better proposition.

  14. I want Malcom in as soon as possible to see what he will do? For example, whether he will remove middle class welfare and bringing in a land tax. If he did that I would prefer LNP instead of Lab because we are in recession in real terms and its is only going to get worse. I think the LNP will limit the increase in public debt more than Lab during such times (yes, recent history tends to somewhat go against such an argument). Australia already has World beating private debt and consequently we certain don’t need our public debt rising much further. I lean to the left, but personally I no longer think the Labor party does.