2018 will be a year of federal campaigning, so what are the key issues facing the major Parties?
We've been saying for some time, that although a federal election isn't likely until 2019, the election campaign begins in 2018. We're off and racing.
The Coalition and Labor have around 12 months to burn their key messages into the minds of voters and at the same time outline the risks and consequences of voting for their opponents.
Cost of living
The Coalition usually leads Labor on economic management. However, flashing their economic credentials is no longer enough for the Government. The September Quarter GDP figures released late last year revealed household consumption grew at just 2.2%, well below the pre-GFC average of 4%. This reinforces polling that shows while voters understand the economy is doing relatively well, they don't believe they are receiving the benefits.
Malcolm Turnbull needs to talk into the lives of voters and show them how he intends to ease cost of living pressures.
We've previously talked about how prominently the energy policy debate will feature in the lead up to the next federal election. Household power bills remind voters of the ridiculously high price of electricity in this country. There is also concern among both households and business over reliable power supply. Tinkering with small projects like Snowy Hydro 2 is not enough. Turnbull will need to show how he intends to lock in reliable and affordable power going forward.
2017 was again marked by vile acts of terror around the world. Voters want to have confidence that their Government is doing everything it can to keep them safe.
This will include strong domestic security policies as well as maintaining our strict border control regime to combat people smuggling.
The Government's primary risk is being distracted by the 'news cycle'; diverting its communication strategy from its key messages to peripheral issues like the Republic debate.
Arguably Labor's strongest suit is health funding. Labor was highly successful with its 'Medi-scare' campaign in 2016 and should continue to keep pressure on the Government's health credentials as the year progresses. Labor needs to explain to voters how it intends to provide quality public health care and why the Coalition's policies could put this at risk.
Successive Newspolls show education continues to be one of the most important issues to voters. It's a traditional winner for Labor, who will need to drill the issue of school funding down to the 'family' level and show voters how they will lock in a fair go for their kids over the next decade.
In 2017, the Government was dogged by the citizenship debacle, losing a highly effective Minister, Fiona Nash, and forced to fight two critical bi-elections. It painted a picture of a Government unable to run its own household, let alone the nation.
Labor will need to foster this perception effectively in 2018.
Opposition Bill Shorten has a profile problem. He continues to lag behind Turnbull as preferred PM and if reports can be believed, his on-ground campaigning during the Bennelong bi-election had a negative impact on support for Labor.
There is also a lot of voter uncertainty surrounding Shorten's connections to the Trade Union movement which Labor will have to inoculate against over 2018.
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