federal election
(Image: AAP/Dan Peled)

With three polls this week from Newspoll, Morgan and Essential all showing Labor on track for a narrow win, the Coalition looks to have run out of time to close the gap, especially with around 3.5 million people having already voted.

However, there remain the undecideds, people so utterly indifferent to politics that they will likely go to vote on Saturday not knowing whom they’ll support until the pencil is in their hand. A JWS Research poll from the 2016 election found 23% of voters didn’t make up their mind until polling day, with older voters less likely and younger voters more likely to do that. That means an important chunk of the electorate can still be moved even at the very death of the campaign. And the Coalition is pinning its hopes on scaring undecideds away from voting Labor.

On this, it has learnt from Labor’s successful Mediscare campaign in 2016. Labor unleashed a scare campaign around the privatisation of Medicare in the last week of that campaign. It was based on a complete lie about Coalition intentions to somehow sell off Medicare, and was utterly shameless in its mendacity.

It was also highly effective, and a key reason a mid-campaign swing back to Malcolm Turnbull failed to deliver him a decent majority. The Liberals were furious — having forgotten the extraordinary lies they told about Labor’s carbon pricing scheme when they were in opposition.

Given Labor’s “big target” strategy, the Coalition has plenty of material to work with. The focus on Labor’s taxation levels — a staple of the Coalition campaign — has dropped away, in favour of what was intended to be a final week scare campaign about Labor’s negative gearing policy, off the back of the announcement of ScoMoBank on Sunday.

That has misfired a little: Labor promptly endorsed ScoMoBank, and no one else did. Indeed, the Financial Review, which is supporting the Coalition — and which stands to benefit from increased housing demand via the ownership of Domain by its parent company Nine — has gone feral on ScoMoBank, running a series of articles detailing what a disaster it will be.

That hasn’t stopped Morrison going full bore on negative gearing, lying that Labor’s policies would cause house prices to fall and rents to rise. A variety of campaign material has been designed to back that up: Liberal candidates like Peter Dutton have been sending out fake rent increase notices to voters; other Liberals have sent out fictitious “Mortgage Revaluation Notices”; the Dave Sharma campaign in Wentworth has tried to link Kerryn Phelps — who opposes Labor’s policy — to “homeowners” being hit by negative gearing changes, regardless of the fact that homeowners definitionally don’t negatively gear.

Head of the loss-making mortgage firm Yellow Brick Road, Liberal donor Mark Bouris, has been doing robocalls attacking Labor (apparently unauthorised, and thus in breach of electoral laws). This has been backed up by an extraordinary display of partisanship from real estate firm Raine and Horne, which has been sending propaganda material to tenants warning them about Labor’s policies.

It’s not the only scare campaign, of course. There’s still the campaign around the ending of the franking credit rort. Angus Taylor has decided to create his own scare campaign around electric car charging stations, which he and Liberal candidates like Warren Mundine insist Labor will force every household to install (one of the interesting footnotes of this election, no matter the result, is the disappearance of whatever credibility Mundine had on public policy).

But the focus will be on property prices and rents all the way to Saturday evening, with social media not covered by the laughable analog-era election blackout.

Labor and progressives can rail at these scare campaigns and denounce the lies they’re based on, but they’re no worse than Mediscare. Both sides routinely treat voters as mugs and lie to their faces. What Labor may rue is that it has chosen not to run with its own big scare campaign in the dying days of the campaign to shift undecideds in its direction.

Twenty three per cent of the electorate is a lot of people yet to make up their minds.

Peter Fray

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