A “bulldozed” Liberal party is likely to move further to the right in response to a sweeping federal election defeat that put Labor in power as voters deserted the major parties in favour of independents.
That’s the assessment of Nine political editor Chris Uhlmann ahead of what he expects to be a trial by fire for Prime Minister-elect Anthony Albanese, regardless of whether his party can form majority government or must negotiate with a historically large cross bench.
Speaking to 60 Minutes on Sunday night, Uhlmann said Albanese didn’t win the election, “Scott Morrison lost it”.
“What was bulldozed was the Liberal party and what we’ve seen is an epic change in politics,” he said, referencing Morrison’s mid-campaign characterisation of himself as “a bit of a bulldozer”.
“You know, they say that there are decades when nothing changes and weeks where everything changes and everything changed last night.
“We’ll be seeing the ramifications of this for years to come.
Uhlmann explained Labor’s small-target election campaign, designed to turn the vote into a referendum on Scott Morrisons2, worked well but had unintended consequences.
The teal independents picking up the mood for change was “really the big story” of the ballot, while Labor didn’t make the argument for its own cause strongly enough, leading to an “epic decline” in the primary vote for both major parties.
A wave of independent women running prominently on issues such as stronger climate change action and government integrity ousted sitting MPs from blue-ribbon seats in Melbourne and Sydney on Saturday.
“Because there was no great agenda that Anthony Albanese was attracting that vote to, he decided to go small target, not making a big argument for change, but basically just a kind of evolution of the process,” Uhlmann said.
“People didn’t want evolution. They wanted revolution.
“They got their revolution; they didn’t get it from the Labor party.”
But while Labor analysts will be asking questions about the party’s dismal primary vote, a win is a win.
It’s the Liberal party that has emerged from the election battered, bruised and in search of a new direction having lost a swathe of heartland inner-city seats.
“The settlement in this will be brutal internally. And I think that this is a party that will spread out into the suburbs into the regions,” Uhlmann said.
“There are votes to be had. They’re just not in the inner-city.
“So the message the coalition will take out of this: who knows, but I’m betting at this stage that they won’t be going left, they’ll be going right.”
Outgoing defence minister Peter Dutton, who is ahead in a tight contest with Labor’s Ali France in the Brisbane seat of Dickson, was the other top name mentioned pre-election alongside Frydenberg in case of a Coalition defeat.
Uhlmann said Dutton was “in with a good show” but expected departing energy and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor and others to also be in the mix.
“But whoever emerges from that is a more conservative leader,” he said.
“So don’t go looking for the fact that the Liberal party is going to get the message that there’s some kind of progressive value for them, because a large chunk of what’s left of their vote doesn’t think that way.”
Uhlmann also highlighted two clear positives Australians could take out of the election regardless of which side of politics they fell on.
They were the peaceful transfer of power kickstarted by Morrison’s “gracious” concession speech on Saturday night and the well-known story of Albanese’s journey from the son of a single mum on a disability pension to the Lodge in Canberra.
“This is a great story,” Uhlmann said.
“This is a story of a man who did come from very humble backgrounds, from housing commission homes, to rise to be the prime minister of Australia, is a great thing that we have a democracy that does that.”