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Campaign’16: Bill Shorten in the Regions and the Leaders’ Forum

By Denis Bright

From the Regions to Sydney, Bill Shorten’s campaign seems to be bringing back support from Labor voters who sought refuge with minor parties in 2010 and 2013.

Fresh from strategic visits to Tasmania, North and Central Queensland, Bill Shorten has been acclaimed by the audience of the People’s Forum in Windsor NSW as the preferred winner by a 49 to 29 vote margin with 29 undecided voters.

However, neither leader made major communication errors.

Only Peta Credlin in her capacity as Sky News commentator had words of caution for the Prime Minister. Her perceptions of him as Mr Harbourside Mansion would inevitably become a liability across Western Sydney in juxtaposition with Bill Shorten’s social market commitments.

Bill Shorten’s more authentic campaign magic was evident on the day Prime Minister Turnbull called the double dissolution election.

The Opposition Leader’s background as an effective union representative was reconstructed by a slick visit to the Beaconsfield gold-mine. This was strategically near the tenth anniversary of the rescue of Brant Webb and Todd Russelll after fourteen nights underground and the tragic death of Larry Knight in the original rockfall.

The ABC’s archives from 2006 record Bill Shorten’s restatement of the traditional roles for trade unions in hazardous workplaces:

Well there were a number of AWU officials there, it wasn’t just me. We had a couple of roles, one was the welfare of the families, to help complement their family networks, another role was to talk to our remaining members. They were the rescue teams, they’re trying to make sense of this, they’re working very hard. There is certain things which unions do automatically, you know you make sure the workers’ compeers are lined up, you make sure the superannuation’s sorted out, there are sort of some well worn paths that unions tread in these matters. (ABC Sunday Profile 14 May 2006).

This emotional commitment to the Labor Movement sustained the ALP vote through thick and thin in mining towns and industrial areas across Australia until the rise of minor populist parties fragmented traditional voting patterns. Few votes went straight to the LNP.

ABC Online 12 May 2016

ABC Online 12 May 2016

Beaconsfield is in the Labor electorate of Lyons where enough heartland towns and small mining centres stayed with Labor in 2013. It was still a tight result across Lyons with a 13.5 per cent swing against Labor after preferences and 10.2 per cent in Beaconsfield itself.

The Reach Tel poll has Labor slightly ahead in Lyons and the adjacent electorate of Bass.

Labor’s fightback in 2016 comes from a leader who is well aware of Labor’s challenge from both the LNP and a series of minor parties including Jacqui Lambie’s Putting Tasmania First Party at the forthcoming election.

Public polling is not available from Bill Shorten’s recent visit to the electorates of Leichhardt, Herbert and Dawson.

In Capricornia, the welcome mat was put out for Bill Shorten and Chloe. The seat is held by the LNP with a margin of less than 0.8 per cent after preferences.

1 Campaigning in Capricornia

All successful local campaigns are of course well choreographed events much the same as Malcolm Turnbull’s train and bus trips to public engagements.

In Rockhampton, the local media was enthusiastic about Bill Shorten’s visit and the campaign team assisted with details of the potential local impact of Labor’s hundred national policies.

A key focus of Labor’s outreach was on job creation through social market commitments to essential training programmes to address high levels of youth unemployment.

The LNP won Capricornia in 2013 largely through leakage of preferences from minor parties. Minor parties accounted for 23.4 per cent of the vote in 2013.

The primary vote for the LNP’s Michelle Landry was actually down by 0.84 per cent to 39.58 per cent.

Surprisingly, the distribution of Palmer United Party preferences was evenly balanced. Overall the LNP gained almost half the preferences from the minor parties.
This time Labor candidate Leisa Neaton has been successful in localizating the positive impacts of policy initiatives from upgrades to the Bruce Highway to support for key education and training priorities. Her coverage has been taken up by The Morning Bulletin to the extent that the sitting LNP member has been forced to take a reactive approach to Labor’s initiatives.

2 The Sky News Forum

This reactive approach from the federal LNP was also evident at the Sky News Forum as Bill Shorten pushed the line of health and training policies first over the trickle-down effects of long-term tax cuts to big business, the retention of negative gearing policies and the appeal of a more market-oriented banking system.


ABC Online 13 May 2016

Ironically both leaders were committed to a fairer Australia which the Prime Minister claimed could be achieved through retention of market-based development strategies.

Taming this subjective assessment is a sobering result from automated phone polling in Queensland and Sydney commissioned by the Murdoch Press.

Any uniform swing of 3 per cent against the LNP in Queensland is still well short of a landslide to Labor.

In Western Sydney, the initial polling would take only some of the marginal LNP.

Preliminary results from the ABC’s Compass survey offers justification to Bill Shorten’s steadfast commitment to social market issues of jobs, education and training and defence of Medicare. There is little interest in the issue of industrial relations and restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission which was in-fact the justification for an early double dissolution election.

3 Current Perspectives

At the commencement of Week 2 of the long campaign, the LNP has attempted to divert the attention away from Bill Shorten’s social market agendas.

The LNP would prefer more focus on the old chestnut issues of asylum seekers and terrorist threats. It can expect a flat response to its small business agendas as that sector of the electorate is largely locked into the support base of the LNP.

Electoral volatility is clearly in the unstable support base of the minor parties. The Palmer United Party (PUP) achieved double digit support levels in fifteen Queensland electorates. Several other electorates are on the threshold of that range.

The PUP vote was largely a protest vote against the major parties rather than ideological affirmation in 2013 as shown by the distribution of preferences in electorates like Capricornia.

Campaigning by Bill Shorten against the futility of a vote for minor parties might well be Labor’s stabilizing message in the long campaign ahead. Indications are that Labor is successfully re-engaging with social market agendas in the long traditions of Andrew Fisher, John Curtin and Arthur Calwell in his epic 1961 campaign mode which brought all federal electorates from Wide Bay to the current Durack (WA) back to Labor.


Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in developing pragmatic public policies for a social market that is quite compatible with contemporary globalization. Denis will be absent for three weeks in Southern Europe from the 19 May enjoying some of the dividends from his Q Super Fund. He will report back later in the campaign as trends become more firmly established by mid-June.

See also: Campaign’16: Bill Shorten in North Queensland



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  1. David

    I note the sewer receptacle the Daily Telegraph is using ReachTel to poll marginals for it. I treat what ends up in print after the DT have fiddled the figures given to them, to suit their agenda, with the same contempt I treat their front pages

  2. Ken Butler

    Bill Shorten has real potential to be the John Curtin of the early 21st century.
    Time will tell but the signs are promising.

  3. Backyard Bob


    Could you elaborate on that comparison? For me I don’t see Bill shining Curtin’s shoes.

  4. Glenn K

    I am just wondering if all the “too close to call” polls will generate a fear factor of the LNP returning…..resulting in a big swing to the ALP on election day….just saying, it’s a big possiblity 🙂 all those 2013 protest votes correcting the horror of their mistake….

  5. Jack Russell

    I’m sure that Bill and party well know the value of not saying too much too soon, given the enormity of Australia’s spiteful, corrupted, idealogical and/or profiteering institutions aligned against him, and the 99%.

  6. my say

    if the voters take notice of the murdoch kill Bill campaign ,it is going to be very difficult for bill to get a fair go ,even our ABC is in on the act now along with all Turnbuls rich mates
    It is about time the voters looked at what they are going to loose ,instead of being brain washed by the MSM
    If the voters haven’t learnt any thing from the last three years of a liberal government then we have no hope, god help us

  7. Gangey1959

    “Taming this subjective assessment is a sobering result from automated phone polling in Queensland and Sydney commissioned by the Murdoch Press. Any uniform swing of 3 per cent against the LNP in Queensland is still well short of a landslide to Labor. In Western Sydney, the initial polling would take only some of the marginal LNP.”
    So uncle muckraker is trying to fiddle the books yet again. What a surprise.
    The front pages of his ‘flag rag’ herald sun’ down here in Melbourne are just disgusting. Two more months of bullshit and lies, (Followed by 3 more years of crap and lies until next time). interspersed by football must knows. Lucky us.
    Is the Earth flat and healthy yet or is it still a ball and dying at a massive rate of knots ?
    I just hope his new wife screws him to death a week before the election so that he never finds out the result.

  8. Ken Butler

    I can understand and respect your reservations. You are obviously deeper into Labor history and ethos than I am.
    For me it is more of a gut feeling based on the unassuming shy naturalness of both Labor men that is nevertheless surprisingly accompanied by the capacity to deliver when the chips are down and a real care for the welfare of all Australians.

    Bill is growing into the role with unifying genuineness ; Malcolm is being diminished in the role by enforced, disunited duplicity.
    We are who we are.
    These are my personal impressions, as an 85 year old battler still working a small business to support a pensioner wife and a severely handicapped son , not a rehash of the thoughts or sycophantic propaganda of others.

  9. Backyard Bob


    Thanks for the elaboration. I do agree Bill is growing into the role and looking better all the time, along with Labor as a whole. I was curious because Curtin is a Labor and cultural legend for us Lefties. If Bill were able to achieve anything at all that might warrant a comparison, that would be a wonderful thing.

    Let’s hope he gets the chance to at least aspire to such a thing.

  10. cornlegend

    Besides the Shorten/Turnbull Sky News Forum, attended by a hand picked audience Bill still managed to win the debate.
    Other than this Forum, Bill has attended 25 other Community Forums throughout the country and I have managed to attend 3 of those.
    These were not hand picked audiences, were really well attended and from what I saw, and local Media reports from other venues, . people were impressed by his quiet determination to get the job done.
    Of course National MSM have avoided reporting on these events.
    Little has been reported on online media either.
    One Forum with 100 swinging voters was reported in the Guardian .

    “Bill Shorten has addressed one hundred swinging voters in the government’s most marginal electorate, the Queensland seat of Petrie.

    An exit poll taken after the event suggested 68% of participants at the people’s forum are more likely to vote Labor than they were before this evening, 9% were less likely and 23% were undecided.

    Bill has time to keep chipping away, introducing further Policies, and do it in a calm and deliberate manner.
    People seem to appreciate that after the attack dog Abbott approach and the blundering flustered Turnbull style.
    Only time will tell

  11. Jack Russell

    Bill and party have not wasted 3 years in opposition.

    They’ve worked out how to deliver the most they can do for the people and the country in their first term, given what can be undone to achieve that in 3 years. Then, in a second term, how to achieve more, built on the progress of the first term.

    The diabolical legislative mine field left by the neo-cons is going to take time and scrupulous attention to detail to unpick, including removing all the IPA/LNP minions placed in our institutions and statutory bodies.

    A big job that has needed to be done since Howard, but needs a majority government to achieve.

  12. New Directions Appreciated

    Bill Shorten is running a courageous campaign with a strategic focus on the politics of our national identity.

    Do we really want more Napoleonic leaders who talk down to us and manipulate our fears?

    Toppling an entrenched government is difficult and the protest vote to small parties in 2013 has not helped. The PUP has been a disaster as the article tells everyone.

    Do voters now seriously believe that there will be a Green Government or an NXP Prime Minister with a support base in South Australia?

    Bill Shorten is renewing Labor as the Radical Centre Party that can deliver a stable government which unites town and country.

  13. Möbius Ecko

    Good news for Shorten from Morgan.

    Morgan Poll Federal Primary Votes: L/NP 36.5 (-3.5) ALP 33 (+0.5) GRN 15.5 (+2) NXT 5 (+1)

    NXT over 19% in SA.

  14. Theresa

    Looks like it is going to be interesting campaign in the lead up to the election. Thanks for the insights Denis. I look forward to inspiring policies and social market alternatives being put on the table by Bill and his Labor team.

  15. Catherine

    Bill Shorten is the sensible alternative who can deliver a stable consensus building government. Hopefully there will be some surprise results to deliver a new generation of great political legends.

  16. Paul

    Thanks again Denis,

    It’s still quite early in the campaign. I think Bill has had a great start but there is a long way to go.

    I anticipate that there will be less minor party votes this time round.

    It’s going to be an interesting 6 weeks.

  17. Lalnama

    Great article Denis, it is going to be a long campaign, so far the Labour Party & Bill Shorten remain focused & effective in getting their message across to the electorate. They must remain united for the length of the campaign to run the distance &’have a Labour Government in power .

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