Malcolm Turnbull and WA Premier Colin Barnett
Malcolm Turnbull and WA Premier Colin Barnett

While political leaders and strategists attempt to control every aspect of their campaigns in the last week before the election, there are many elements that affect voters’ opinions that are out of the control of party HQ. Alongside debates about how Australia could be affected by Brexit or a President Trump, political fortunes also ride on how the political parties are performing at a state level. While some voters don’t conflate the performance of federal and state governments, many judge the performance of federal parties on their state colleagues and vice-versa.


The Labor government in Victoria was polling well and could even have been seen as a positive for the federal ALP until the CFA-UFU saga, which has taken the wind from their sails. The Herald Sun‘s Ellen Whinnett reported that Labor had “hit the panic button” over the crisis and expected to lose multiple seats over the issue. Marginal seats like Corangamite, La Trobe, McEwen (even with the Liberals’ Chris Jermyn’s constant gaffes) are in danger, and Labor leader Bill Shorten’s mealy-mouthed answers on the issues have not helped shift sentiment against the party. The Liberal Party called the country back to an early election based on claims of union thuggery (remember that?), and this fiasco has played into that narrative.

Western Australia 

The Liberal government in WA is like Kryptonite to Malcolm Turnbull’s Superman, although it’s unlikely the bad sentiment will swing enough votes to really make Liberals on the east coast nervous. Premier Colin Barnett’s government brought down an extremely unpopular budget last month, which the opposition called “the worst set of books in our history”. Barnett has accused Turnbull of a failure of leadership over the never-ending issue of GST revenue distribution, but that isn’t unexpected when it comes to WA’s relationship with Canberra. Despite a few visits to the west in the first few weeks of campaigning, Turnbull and Barnett didn’t cross paths, let alone campaign together, until Julie Bishop’s campaign launch on June 14. Turnbull talked up Barnett’s economic management, but the Premier wasn’t following Turnbull around in a high-vis vest.


The election campaign in the middle of the year means that Queensland is another state that has brought down a budget during the campaign, with mixed results for the federal ALP. The budget hasn’t been received well, and although it is focusing on job creation, the headline that is breaking through is the plan to use $4 billion of the $10 billion surplus in the public servants super funds to go towards paying off the state’s debts. Before the budget was handed down, trends were looking good for Shorten, but the negative perceptions of the Queensland budget will affect his chances on July 2. However Queensland’s been known to turn on a dime when it comes to leadership as shown from the transition from Labor to Campbell Newman and back to Labor again.


How is Teflon Mike’s popularity affecting the many vital marginal seats in western Sydney? The NSW government announced its incredibly unpopular council amalgamations this year, and these have not gone well all over the state, and Labor leader Bill Shorten has promised to reverse them if elected. Whether this will actually win any votes is yet to be seen.

South Australia 

Bill Shorten has done at least one press conference with South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill, promising $100 million to buy out steel manufacturer Arrium. The South Australian government isn’t necessarily helping or hindering its Labor Party counterparts, with the Nick Xenophon factor strongest in the state. The Labor government here is probably not winning the ALP votes, but it’s not turning voters off either, like in Victoria.


The Liberal government in Tasmania has also faced a disgraced minister during the election campaign, with former mining minister Adam Brooks forced to stand down after being found to have used his business email address for his work as an MP. It’s doubtful this will actually affect the way people vote. The floods that have affected much of the state have been the main news story across Tassie for much of the campaign.

Northern Territory 

The Northern Territory has just two lower house seats, both of which are extremely marginal. While the NT government has been embroiled in scandal with the former sports minister Nathan Barrett sending explicit videos of himself engaging in a sexual act, it seems unlikely that this would affect either party’s chances on July 2. Both Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull have campaigned in Darwin more than once in the past six weeks.


The two lower house seats in our nation’s capital are safe Labor seats, so there’s not much the ACT government could do to change that. Liberal Senator for the ACT Zed Seselja has been campaigning saying that federal Labor will reduce house values while territory Labor is jacking up house rates.