The election is in the home straight, and whatever the outcome, both the House and Senate of Australia’s Federal Parliament look set to be markedly changed. Businesses should be ready to review and bolster advocacy efforts.

Bill Shorten’s Labor Opposition have consistently led major opinion polls. If Labor seizes power, it will likely come via two pathways.

Firstly, demographic shifts could favour Labor due to an influx of young voters who are animated most by issues that the Coalition are perceived to have neglected.

Secondly, Labor has a potential geographic path to victory distinct from recent Federal elections. It could secure a majority even without making electoral gains in the traditional battleground of Queensland.

But Labor should be wary.  Victory for the Coalition could materialise via the labyrinthine system of preferences from increasingly popular minor parties. Even without an outright Coalition win, this may force a hung parliament.

Demographic shifts favour left-wing parties

Australia’s voting base is ageing. Nonetheless, a record 88.8% of eligible 18-24 year-olds are now registered to vote, making up some 1.7 million electors.

The youth vote could be influential in certain marginal seats such as Lindsay and Brisbane, where the total number of 18-24 year-olds approaches 15,000, about 13% of both electorates.

Crucially, first, second and third-time voters are not rusted-on to parties but are seen as persuadable. However, this time they will be hard for the Coalition to win over.

Coalition falls behind on key youth issues

Left-wing parties and independents are perceived policy leaders in youth-salient issues. On climate change, TAFE funding and housing affordability, Labor looks to have the stronger credentials of the two major parties.

Penalty rates are also likely to be a strong motivator for young voters, given that Shorten has pledged to restore Sunday penalty rates within 100 days of being elected. Detailed research conducted by the Centre for Work and Life at the University of South Australia has demonstrated that around 40% of young people rely on penalty rates to pay for essentials like food and rent.  

These starkly perceived policy differences between Labor and the Coalition in this election could significantly affect the outcome in many tight seats.

Queensland may not be key decider in a potential Labor win

Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard relied heavily on strong electoral support in the Sunshine State. However, this time Queensland may not be as critical to a Labor victory as it has been in the past.

How Labor could seize government

Labor may gain the net seven seats to form a majority without using Queensland wins.

Recent Victorian electorate boundary redistributions brought new gains for Labor. Western Melbourne’s new seat of Fraser is effectively gifted to Labor with a very safe notional margin of 20%.

The Liberal held seats of Dunkley and Corangamite saw similarly advantageous boundary redistributions for Labor. Other seats at risk for the Coalition include Latrobe, Chisholm, Deakin, Higgins, Flinders and Casey.

In New South Wales, Gilmore sits on a hyper-marginal 0.8% lead and Labor will no doubt be looking to capitalise on well-publicised local divisions among conservatives.

In Sydney, Banks (1.4%) and Reid (4.7%) have tight margins and are working-class and minority suburbs where Labor has seen previous success. The NSW central coast seat of Robertson (1.2%) is similarly up for grabs.

In Western Australia, where Mr Shorten has made many high-profile visits, the suburban seats of Hasluck (2.1%), Swan (3.6%) and Pearce (3.7%) are vulnerable to a national swing against the Coalition, and Labor will be quietly confident of making at least some seat gains in Perth.

Atypically, Labor may not need to rely on Queensland gains for victory in this election. That is not to say that Queensland seats won’t fall – the Coalition is especially vulnerable in Forde, Dickson, Capricornia, and Flynn.

Overall, the 16 seats mentioned in other states suggest that an aggregate gain of seven seats could easily occur for Federal Labor before Queensland is even contemplated.

Minor party preferences could facilitate a win for the Coalition

The Coalition’s most likely path to a win or a hung parliament would be via strong preference flows from increasingly popular minor parties and independents.

It has been somewhat overlooked in the major published opinion polls that the average primary vote of the ALP is down to 34.2%. The Coalition sits on an equally surprising low of 37.6%. This leaves around 28% of the first choice vote up for grabs by non-major parties.

Historically, when the non-major party primary vote has exceeded 25% of the overall vote in Australian elections, it has coincided with seismic shifts in the national political landscape and the economy.

The Coalition must have at least some hope that the growth in popularity of minor parties and rural independents would see preference flows back to the Coalition in the two-party preferred count.

What could this election mean for your business?

Labor has several conceivable paths to victory, whereas the Coalition’s is precariously narrow.

Understanding how the outcome of the election affects your organisation is critical. At The Civic Group, it’s what we do every day.

With a potential change of Government and a Senate that could include several minority parties and independents, it has never been more important for businesses to adopt an informed approach to advocacy.

With a bipartisan team of public affairs and government relations professionals, the Civic Group are adept at guiding your business through the process of strategic advocacy. Contact us for advice on navigating the ever-changing political landscape.