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Abbott's Gambit

Abbott's Gambit: The 2013 Australian Federal Election

Carol Johnson
John Wanna
Hsu-Ann Lee
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Abbott's Gambit
    Book Description:

    This book provides a truly comprehensive analysis of the 2013 federal election in Australia, which brought the conservative Abbott government to power, consigned the fractious Labor Party to the Opposition benches and ended the ‘hung parliament’ experiment of 2010–13 in which the Greens and three independents lent their support to form a minority Labor government.

    eISBN: 978-1-925022-09-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Carol Johnson and John Wanna
  4. Contributors
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. Introduction: Analysing the 2013 Australian federal election
    (pp. 1-14)

    Australians historically do not change governments lightly. Yet the 2013 federal election heralded a change of government—only the seventh time Australians have voted to change their national government since the Second World War. Tony Abbott, who had been Opposition Leader since 1 December 2009, became Australia’s 28th Prime Minister on 18 September 2013 leading a Liberal–National Coalition with a comfortable majority in the lower house of parliament but well short of a majority in the upper house. The election result occurred after a surreal seven-and-a-half months of campaigning (actually 227 days) in which the Coalition largely held its...

  6. Part 1. Campaign Themes and Context

    • 1. An Overview of the 2013 Federal Election Campaign: Ruinous politics, cynical adversarialism and contending agendas
      (pp. 17-34)
      Jennifer Rayner and John Wanna

      It was often suggested in the Australian media that the 2013 federal election campaign began effectively on 30 January 2013, when the then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard took the unprecedented step of announcing the election date in a speech to the National Press Club eight months out from polling day. Others may suggest that the campaign truly began when Kevin Rudd returned to the prime ministership on 26 June after a bitter war of attrition within his party. But looking back on how the election unfolded, it seems clear that the campaign began in earnest three years earlier on 7 September...

    • 2. The Battle for Hearts and Minds
      (pp. 35-48)
      Carol Johnson

      It is increasingly recognised that emotion plays a very important role in politics and at election time in particular. Emotion (for example, in terms of feeling fear, anxiety, hope, empathy, pride) is central to election policy debates. Politicians evoke emotions such as fear and anxiety to encourage opposition to government debt or to garner support for tougher border security measures. They evoke feelings of hope to foster support for the vision of the future enshrined in party policies. They encourage feelings of pride to support arguments based on national identity. They encourage feelings of empathy for some groups that are...

    • 3. The Leadership Contest: An end to the ‘messiah complex’?
      (pp. 49-64)
      Paul Strangio and James Walter

      Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had only just fired the starting gun on the 2013 election campaign, but commentators were already in no doubt about the nature of the campaign that would unfold during the ensuing five weeks: ‘This federal election will be the most presidential in style, communications and frenzy in our history’ (Dusevic 2013). In Australia we have grown accustomed over recent decades to media representations of each national election as a new high water mark in ‘presidential’ campaigning. The 2013 campaign was certainly no exception; the term ‘presidential’ was a ubiquitous reference point for journalists, especially in their...

  7. Part 2. Vital Images of the Campaign—The Media, Campaign Advertising, Polls, Predictions and the Cartoons

    • 4. The Empire Strikes Back: Mainstream media still matters
      (pp. 67-80)
      Wayne Errington

      With so much attention being paid to the new forms of media transforming the public sphere, we can forget that most Australians follow election campaigns the old-fashioned way. According to the Australian Election Study (AES), those electors reporting that they follow election campaigns in the traditional media ‘a good deal’ are well down from the highs of the 1960s but they still dwarf those relying on the internet. In the 2013 election those who followed the election ‘a good deal’ on television amounted to 30 per cent, 15 per cent for radio and 17 per cent for newspapers. Close interest...

    • 5. New Media in the Electoral Context: The new normal
      (pp. 81-94)
      Peter John Chen

      The political impact and use of new media technologies—the internet, social media and mobile communication—have been subject to specific attention in the coverage of federal elections for nearly a decade now. Over this time, the use of new media has moved from being a novelty for parties, candidates, civil society organisations and established media to becoming an important—if still secondary—aspect of political communication in the electoral process. This new significance is seen in the professionalisation of channel management by political actors, heightened risk management by political organisations, and increased use of international knowledge transfer and learning....

    • 6. Campaign Advertising and Communication Strategies in the Election of 2013
      (pp. 95-108)
      Sally Young

      For 40 years, Australia’s major political parties have prioritised television and viewed it as the pre-eminent medium for communicating with voters during an election. As Gough Whitlam’s speechwriter, Graham Freudenberg (2000: 122), observed first-hand, the 1969 election was ‘the last campaign that wasn’t tailored mainly to TV’. From 1972 onwards, the parties have focused both their ‘paid media’ strategies (commercial advertising) and their ‘free media’ (media management) activities upon TV (Young 2011: 126–45). But in 2013, with fragmenting media audiences diminishing television’s impact and audience reach, the major parties took a multi-faceted approach. While TV ads were still the...

    • 7. Making Policy and Winning Votes: Election promises and political strategies in the 2013 campaign
      (pp. 109-122)
      Nicholas Reece

      This chapter examines the intersection of public policy and politics in the 2013 federal election campaign. More than any other point in the political cycle, election campaigns are a time in which candidates and political parties release a large amount of new policy in the hope that it will win them increased public support. The candidates and the parties also attack the policies and policy record of their opponents to decrease support for their competitors. Political parties release policy they claim will benefit the nation. But, the parties also use policies in a highly strategic way to enhance their campaign...

    • 8. How the Pollsters Called the Horse Race: Changing polling technologies, cost pressures, and the concentration on the two-party-preferred
      (pp. 123-142)
      Murray Goot

      For students of public opinion polls—more particularly, students of the pollsters’ attempts to monitor voting intentions and predict election outcomes—three features of the 2013 campaign stood out and, in assessing the performance of the polls, it is on these features that this chapter will dwell: the substantial increase in the number of polling organisations involved as new pollsters sought to publicise their skills to potential clients; the spread of ‘robo’ polls, a development that allowed the press to recover its pre-eminent position as the sponsor of pre-election polls; and the proliferation of polling technologies as pollsters grappled with...

    • 9. All That Glitters: Betting markets and the 2013 Australian federal election
      (pp. 143-160)
      Simon Jackman

      Political betting markets featured prominently in pre-election prognostication, perhaps more so ahead of the 2013 election than in any other recent Australian election. Major newspapers such as theAustralianand theAustralian Financial Reviewfrequently reported on the state of the national betting markets, offering daily updates after the election date was announced. I routinely referenced the betting markets in weekly columns I was penning for theGuardian Australia

      The attention garnered by political betting markets is a relatively recent development. To be sure, political betting has been around for a long time in Australia; the survey by Rhode and...

    • 10. Nearly All About Kevin: The election as drawn by Australian cartoonists
      (pp. 161-188)
      Haydon Manning and Robert Phiddian

      In her account of the Danish cartoon furore of 2005, Klausen (2009: 6) notes that ‘political cartoons tell a story or make a comment on current events’, and ‘use exaggerated physiognomic features to make a statement about the fundamental nature of a person or thing’. On the subject of ‘person’, it is our contention that the cartoons of the 2013 election broadly mirrored the wider campaign, particularly in focusing on the nature and antics of Prime Minister Rudd and less on those of his challenger, Tony Abbott.

      To all dispassionate spectators, 2013 was an election where a change of government...

  8. Part 3. Party Perspectives

    • 11. The Liberal Campaign in the 2013 Federal Election
      (pp. 191-202)
      Brian Loughnane

      On Saturday 7 September 2013 the Liberal and National Coalition won a decisive majority, the Labor Party recorded its lowest primary vote in over 100 years and the Greens had their worst Senate vote in three elections. The Coalition’s success was driven by the support of the Australian people for our Plan to build a strong prosperous economy and a safe, secure Australia. It was the result of strong leadership by Tony Abbott, supported by his colleagues, and a clear strategy which was implemented with discipline and professionalism over two terms of parliament.

      Under Tony Abbott’s leadership, in the past...

    • 12. The Labor Party Campaign and Aftermath
      (pp. 203-210)
      George Wright

      Labor did not so much lose the election as lose government. In Australian football terms, we had put the Liberals 10 goals ahead when the year started. Labor’s defeat in 2013 had been determined years earlier as we persisted with a jaw-dropping lack of unity and seemingly endless infighting. It is remarkable that, amid all of that, we advanced literally hundreds of legislative reforms. However, very few of those were noticed by the public as a result of the number of news stories on our disunity. Even though Kevin Rudd’s opponents went silently after he resumed the leadership in June...

    • 13. The 2013 Federal Election: The Greens campaign
      (pp. 211-222)
      Andrew Bartlett

      For a political party with a relatively short history, all elections can seem historic. However, the 2013 federal election was ground-breaking for the Greens in both positive and negative ways. For those who closely follow the fortunes of minor or ‘third’ parties, there were some noteworthy firsts.

      The 2013 election saw a minor party (excluding the National/Country Party) retain a lower house seat for the first time, with Adam Bandt holding on to the seat of Melbourne with a swing of more than 7 per cent towards the Greens, taking his primary vote to 42.62 per cent. Senators Peter Whish-Wilson...

  9. Part 4. Regional Variations in Voting Trends

    • 14. The Electoral Geography of the 2013 Election: Voting patterns in the states and regions for the Lower House
      (pp. 225-248)

      Analyses of Australian federal elections at the sub-national level are traditionally organised on the bases of the various individual states and territories. Such data provides a summary of party support and swings, and allows comparative analyses—but may mask significant differences in the patterns of party support within and across the state and territory borders. This chapter first provides a summary of the electoral contests in the states for the House of Representatives where government is decided, and then offers a detailed analysis of the election in Australia’s main regions using electoral clusters. The chapter does not cover the electoral...

    • 15. Regional Place-Based Identities and Party Strategies at the 2013 Federal Election
      (pp. 249-274)
      Geoff Robinson

      During the prime ministership of Julia Gillard themes of place-based identities were prominent in Australian political discourse. At the 2010 federal election Labor’s two-party-preferred vote reached historic highs in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania but fell sharply in Queensland and Western Australia. During the last year of the Gillard Government observers competed to produce more gloomy scenarios of a Labor collapse both in states such as Queensland and Western Australia and ill-defined regions such as ‘western Sydney’ (Kenny 2013; Shanahan 2012). On election night, 7 September 2013, these predictions were largely unfulfilled. The final result demonstrated a general, rather than...

    • 16. The Contest for Rural Representation: The celebrated contest over Indi and the fate of the independents
      (pp. 275-292)
      Jennifer Curtin and Brian Costar

      Over the past decade, independent parliamentarians have become a recurring feature of Australian federal politics (and elsewhere). This has sparked speculation about the extent to which independents represent a permanent challenge to the stability of two-party-dominant systems, both in Australia and internationally.¹ At the state level, independents have regularly held the balance of power and federally, in the Senate, there have been occasions when independents as well as minor parties have shared the title of power broker. Consequently, over the past 20 years there has been occasional scholarly debate over whether the vote for ‘other’ parties represents a fragmentation of...

    • 17. The Advent of Two New Micro Parties: The Palmer United Party and Katter’s Australia Party
      (pp. 293-308)
      Tom King

      This chapter provides an analysis of the performance of the Palmer United Party (PUP) and Katter’s Australia Party (KAP) at the 2013 federal election in terms of the number of candidates fielded and the overall results nationally and in each state. The chapter analyses the swings these micro parties received and examines where their votes appeared to come from. This entails analysing which major party or parties had swings against them that saw votes flow to either KAP or PUP. This chapter concludes that Palmer’s fledgling party performed far better collectively than the KAP candidates who were led by an...

  10. Part 5. Salient Issues

    • 18. An Impecunious Election: The significance of fiscal and economic issues
      (pp. 311-322)
      John Wanna

      Fiscal and economic policy loomed large as a policy contest in the 2013 election, but as an issue or set of issues it failed to capture the public mood or spark much overwhelming interest.² Economic issues were more latent than front and centre, when some commentators felt that ‘the economy should have been the cornerstone of the whole campaign’ (see Harmon 2013). Indeed, the AES survey conducted immediately after the election found, unsurprisingly, that the management of the economy was rated by 94.5 per cent of respondents as very important and 81.4 per cent similarly thought taxation issues were important,...

    • 19. Ethnic Voting and Asylum Issues
      (pp. 323-340)
      James Jupp

      In many democratic societies there is a strong tendency for voters from ethnic or religious minorities to support the party of the ‘left’, however this may be locally defined. This was initially noticed in the United States, where it is an important concern of political scientists and partisans. Similar trends are noticeable in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In the seats where immigrant communities have concentrated, ethnic minority support for the ALP is consistently strong (Jupp 1981 and 1984). This support was largely sustained in 2013, despite general swings towards the Liberals. This chapter argues that predictions of a...

    • 20. The Environment in the 2013 Election: Controversies over climate change, the carbon tax and conservation
      (pp. 341-358)
      Nick Economou

      The environment has been a major part of the national political debate in Australia since the Franklin Dam dispute in Tasmania became an issue in the 1983 federal election. Labor won that election and subsequently sought to legislate to make good on its campaign promise to stop the Franklin Dam project from proceeding. This decision became the first of a series of conservation-oriented interventions that helped construct the notion that the Australian Labor Party—the party traditionally of blue-collar workers and their trade unions—was also the party most willing to respond to the environmental agenda (Papadakis 1993; Economou 2000)....

    • 21. Unstable Bipartisanship or Off the Agenda? Social issues during the 2013 election campaign
      (pp. 359-374)
      Rob Manwaring, Gwen Gray and Lionel Orchard

      The 2013 federal election was dominated by economic issues, carbon policy and the controversies surrounding asylum seekers, driven by the Abbott Coalition’s campaign to damage the economic and political credibility of the Rudd–Gillard governments. As a result, the role and place of social policy issues during the campaign was uncertain and had less prominence. With the exception of the issue of paid parental leave, traditional social policy issues such as education and health did not play a decisive and direct role in the outcome. In part, this was the result of a deliberate strategy by the Coalition to neutralise...

    • 22. Gender and the 2013 Election: The Abbott ‘mandate’
      (pp. 375-390)
      Kirsty McLaren and Marian Sawer

      In the 2013 federal election, Tony Abbott was again wooing women voters with his relatively generous paid parental leave scheme and the constant sight of his wife and daughters on the campaign trail. Like Julia Gillard in 2010, Kevin Rudd was assuring voters that he was not someone to make an issue of gender and he failed to produce a women’s policy. Despite these attempts to neutralise gender it continued to be an undercurrent in the election, in part because of the preceding replacement of Australia’s first woman prime minister and in part because of campaigning around the gender implications...

  11. Part 6. The Results

    • 23. Explaining the Results
      (pp. 393-410)
      Antony Green

      Labor came to office in 2007 with its strongest hold on government in the nation’s history—it was, for the first time, in office nationally and in every state and territory. Six years later Labor left national office with its lowest first preference vote in a century. For only the third time since the First World War, a governing party failed to win a third term in office. From a clean sweep of governments in 2007, by mid-2014 Labor’s last bastions were minority governments in South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.¹

      Based on the national two-party-preferred vote, Labor’s 2013...

    • 24. Documenting the Inevitable: Voting behaviour at the 2013 Australian election
      (pp. 411-424)
      Clive Bean and Ian McAllister

      In late June 2010, with the federal election looming, Kevin Rudd was replaced by his deputy, Julia Gillard, in a now infamous move against the serving prime minister (Simms and Wanna 2012). The election was held less than two months afterwards. Almost exactly three years later, in an ironic reversal of fortunes, the Australian Labor Party caucus reversed its stance and replaced Gillard with Rudd. As in 2010, the 2013 election also followed just over two months later.

      The latter move, in particular, was a culmination of the disunity that had been evident within the Labor Government for most of...

  12. Conclusion: Reflections on Abbott’s Gambit—Mantras, manipulation and mandates
    (pp. 425-436)
    Carol Johnson and John Wanna

    The chapters in this volume chart the 2013 federal election in some depth: acknowledging the economic and social context in which it occurred; exploring its immediate history and the political context of a hung parliament; highlighting the role of an outright adversarial opposition intent solely on displacing the Labor Government; focusing on the leadership contest between the main protagonists, each marred in some way in the eyes of the electorate; examining the media coverage and often partisan commentary; reporting the frantic attempts to stage manage the main campaign; even following the meanderings and peccadillos of the campaign as they transpired...