Neither major party was forecasting an election outcome which had Scott Morrison returning as Prime Minister as they mounted final-day campaigns that revealed two very different views about how and where today’s poll will be won and lost.
Coalition sources on election eve were conceding that the government would likely fall short of the 76 seats needed for a parliamentary majority.
A senior Labor strategist said polling suggested the party could claim a one- to four-seat majority, but the scope for its victory was narrow and required stringing together minor gains in multiple states.
The internal predictions come as the final pre-election Roy Morgan polling and Newspoll on Friday reported an ALP federal-election winning two-party preferred vote of 53 per cent to the Coalition’s 47 per cent.
Early on, campaigns are a confidence game – exciting expectations attracts media attention, hype and sometimes a misdirection of opposition resources.
Much was made of Coalition visits to Labor seats these six weeks, but gaining an electorate like Parramatta now seems a non-starter – and when it counted most Mr Morrison was playing pure defence.
No pretext was offered for Mr Morrison to spend key time in a Liberal stronghold and the three WA seats under opposition attack: Swan, Pearce and Hasluck.
A visit to one Labor electorate was held but not much was done to dispel the idea it was purely to add qualifications such as these to stories about Coalition woes. Mr Morrison went to Labor’s Cowan but only after he had sent the traveling press home.
The New Daily understands voter surveys have Mr Morrison’s mercy mission only saving Hasluck, a seat secured mostly by the personal vote of frontbencher Ken Wyatt. But in Curtin teal independent Kate Chaney is ahead in very safe Liberal territory.
Mr Morrison will seek to add to his finish with a Sydney marginal blitz, but sandbagging a state that has been for the Coalition since the Hawke years is a distress signal for a government that cannot afford to lose a seat despite Liberals saying the race would tighten.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese answered critics of his campaigning style with an public campaign event almost certain to have had more impact than any other.
Mr Albanese was fond of saying that, like an AFL team coming home strong, Labor should kick with the wind in the fourth quarter of the campaign.
Only former Prime Minister Julia Gillard could have brought atmospherics on demand. With her appearances so rare the sighting of Ms Gillard can move a crowd like no one else in Australian political life.
The former Labor PM was mobbed at Cabra Dominican high school on Friday. A handful of students even recognised the current Opposition Leader too.
Ms Gillard said: “As you know I don’t do this much anymore. In fact I never do it, but I’ve made a particular exception today,” she said.
“Vote Labor and vote for Albo to be the prime minister.
“I am very confident it will be a government for women.”
The appeal of this doesn’t need explaining but outside the electorate it will aid Labor’s broader vote, which is enjoying a surge in support from women who want Mr Morrison out. A lack of “empathy” observed by women voters in the PM has been behind one of the biggest shifts in Labor’s votes.
In Boothby, where Ms Gillard earlier appeared for coffee with Penny Wong, Mark Butler and Mr Albanese Labor is planning on claiming a key chess square the Liberal party has never lost since its inception in the Whitlam era.
Ms Gillard appeared in Sturt too, but the party won’t claim that seat, sitting on less than 7 per cent.
But all the same, a bold move on the final day has produced the opposite effect of Mr Morrison’s finish: it is ambitious and will likely rally core party supporters.
Labor’s wish list
The rest of Labor’s run home involved a perfunctory appearance at a polling station in Bass in northern Tasmania and Victoria’s Chisholm, revealing two other seats figuring in Labor’s victory strategy.
In Bass Mr Albanese on his way to the polling station passed the seat’s incumbent Liberal MP Bridget Archer and said hello. She was about to deliver Mr Morrison a kicking
Where else does polling tell Labor it can piece together a majority? Two perhaps in NSW, or more needed if it loses Macquarie or Gilmore. Sources said only the Liberal seat of Reid seems certain to fall, booting out Fiona Martin MP.
The most consequential trend in Labor’s own polling has been the snuffing out of its hopes of reviving the federal party’s Queensland brand.
“That was always going to be the easy route to a governing majority but we are going to have to do it by bit,” an ALP source said.
Hopes for the Sunshine State have been pared right back again to one net gain, perhaps Brisbane.
There’s plenty more besides recently in play or believed to be gains, but polling on individual seats is dicey and Labor reckons the effect of local campaigns will distort bigger trends especially so this year.