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Heather du Plessis-Allan: Australia's election should be a warning for National

Heather du Plessis-Allan ,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 21 May 2019, 11:46AM
Simon Bridges should be cautious after Bill Shorten's downfall, writes Heather. (Photo / NZ Herald)

I don’t want to be one of those annoying people who say I knew this was going to happen, but the Australian election result doesn’t surprise me.

I had a sneaky suspicion that the Coalition was going to take it out. It just didn’t feel right that Labor would win. 

Labor was ahead in the polls for seven different polls in a row. Those polls had Labour at 51 per cent, ahead of the Coalition’s 49.

So sure was Labor’s win that one bookie even paid out $1.3 million early to punters last Thursday. That’s how certain it was Labor was finally going to take the election

However, there was a big but: Labor’s leader Bill Shorten wasn’t popular. He was polling at 42 per cent, but Scott Morrison was polling at 58 per cent.

And that is why I thought Labor wouldn’t win, because people don’t elect people they don’t like. They elect people they trust, people they want to have a beer with, and clearly more of them wanted to have a beer with Morrison than with Shorten.

And that is what matters on Election Day. Arguably more than policies about fracking, climate change, negative gearing, what matters more than all of that seems to be whether you like the leader or not.

We’ve already learnt that lesson in New Zealand. Look at Jacindamania: nothing about the party changed, the policies were all exactly the same, the team was exactly the same. The only thing that changed was that Andrew Little stepped down, and Jacinda Ardern stepped up.  Leaders matter.

So what we watched happen in Australia, there’s a lesson in this for National.

National is in the same position as Labor. Looking at the party vote thinking it’s going to be fine.

But it won’t. National might be sitting on over 40 percent, which is a massive, unprecedented number for an opposition in my life time. They might think the only missing piece is a coalition party.

However, if your leader is unpopular, that 40 per cent will vanish on election day. A Christian Party won’t be enough to save you.

And is Simon Bridges unpopular?  Oh yes he is – he’s sitting on five per cent.

So National can preserve if its want to, they can keep Bridges in the leadership, but if he’s still there next year, he might be our Bill Shorten – a guy who squandered an incredible vote share.

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