It happened in America. It happened in Sri Lanka. It happened in Israel and the United Kingdom … twice. Now it has happened in Australia. What is the ‘it?’ The ‘it’ is called ‘an upset’ or ‘shock’ election result. All this … and more … within the last four years.
Even if you are not Australian or understand Australian politics, there is a lesson for everyone, including in Britain, the USA, and the rest of the world. The 2019 Election in Australia may be a foretaste of greater shock elections to come. Let’s learn why.
Australians went to the polls for a May 18, 2019 federal election. The governing party, the Liberal-National Coalition (from henceforth called ‘Coalition’), which, despite the name, is meant to be the conservative party, was trailing in every poll for the last two years, often by double-digits.
The left-of-centre opposition Labor Party was tipped to take over government. Not only did the regular opinion polls support them but also the exit polls, the media, pundits, and the elites. As one commentator said, Election 2019 was Labor’s to lose.
People were in a gambling mood; apparently one man bet $1 million, while some betting agencies paid out before the results were announced.
Then the grand announcement came on election night. The Coalition, under the leadership of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, had won! Everyone, including the winner, was in shock.
How did the polls get it so wrong?
Australia’s polling agencies often get it so right. But not this time. Why?
Theories: Why Labor Lost?
Of course, the theories abound. The Labor Party may have been ahead in the polls but their leader since 2013, Bill Shorten, was not. He consistently lost in the ‘preferred prime minister’ category again and again.
Labor also released their proposed policies that they would implement once they took office. These policies were not ‘vote-getters.’ They included the ‘death tax,’ a rise in the corporate tax rate hike, more climate change regulations, removal of the investment property tax-exemption called ‘negative-gearing.’
There was a credible threat to religious freedom under Labor, though they denied it. Shorten promised to ‘de-recognise’ Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and set aside $55 million for a plebiscite on whether Australia should become a republic.
Some of these policies were tried in the 1980s and 1990s — and they failed. Why resurrect them now?
There were also hints of class warfare: tax to the max the ‘high-end of town.’ These sentiments don’t normally go well in an egalitarian society like Australia.
There were parallels between Bill Shorten 2019 and Hillary Clinton 2016: both were ahead in the polls yet personally unpopular. Both were promised the ‘un-loseable’ election, yet lost, anyway.
And the Winner Is …
The winner is Scott Morrison, who has only been in office as Prime Minister 9 months. He took over from left-of-centre Malcolm Turnbull. Morrison won the election in his own right and obtained a majority government … despite the polls.
How did ‘Scomo,’ as he is popularly known, do it? Experts said that Scomo, who has a marketing background, rebranded himself as the everyday, sports-mad, ‘daggy-dad’ who wears a baseball hat.
He managed to reunite a fractured Liberal Party that had a toxic atmosphere, including accusations of misogyny (not exactly a vote-winner in the era of #metoo). Thus, his party reunification efforts were no small feat.
He also appealed to voter sentiment that favoured economic management over climate change regulations. Economic management is one of the Coalition’s perceived strengths.
Now with the experts’ opinion stated, here are some things to consider.
Why did Scomo win?
1. Straw in the wind: This author cannot remember who or when, but there was an immensely prescient article in a major Australia newspaper, perhaps 12-24 months ago. It had to do with the opinion polls — Labor vs. the Coalition. Rather than predict a Labor win, the author stated the opposite: yes, Australian Labor Party was ahead in the polls currently, but not as much as they should be. The writer accurately predicted that Bill Shorten’s chances of being prime minister were being diminished to nil because of the narrow poll margin. He proved to be amazingly right.
1. Preferred PM: While Mr Morrison did not reverse the opinion polls in favour of his party, he did manage to narrow the gap to 51- 49 in favour of Labor. That’s pretty good compared to the double-digit gap early on. More importantly, he managed to win the respect of the electorate as ‘preferred prime minister,’ again and again, both against Shorten and even Turnbull.
2. Conservative factor: Something often overlooked was that ScoMo won back the conservative votes. A quick history lesson: the Liberal National Coalition has the reputation of being the ‘right-of-centre’ or ‘conservative’ party. They came to power in 2013 under Tony Abbott, who was a genuinely conservative man. Though he was energetic and productive, Abbott was greatly disliked by the media, did poorly in the polls, and was replaced in a ‘party room coup’ by Malcolm Turnbull in 2015. Mr Turnbull, who gained a national profile as the leader of the Australian Republican Movement in the 1990s, was not even remotely conservative. He wanted to make the Liberal Party a ‘centrist’ political party (NOTE: Being ‘centrist’ and ‘moderate’ does not mean what you think it means. It usually implies being middle of the road economically but left-wing morally). Many conservative people were alienated by Turnbull and forsook the Liberal Party. Last August 2018, after losing poll after poll, Mr Turnbull was ousted by his party and Scott Morrison took his place. Mr Morrison, a Pentecostal Christian, is reasonably conservative, and many conservatives have returned to the fold.
3. Finally, and most importantly, the God-factor: A point overlooked by everyone, including many Christians, is the God-factor. It is God who promotes and demotes leaders (Psalm 75:6-7). God’s people are to pray for ‘kings and all who are in authority,’ whether we voted for them or not (I Timothy 2:1-4). We are called to ‘vote on our knees’ before we ‘vote on our feet.’ The two great upset elections of 2016: Brexit and Donald Trump, were bathed in prayer. Regarding Scomo and Shock Election 2019, I am reminded of a message from Andrew Evans, former superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Australia, as well as former member of the South Australian parliament. His words were something like this: ‘Church, wake up. We have a Pentecostal Christian as Prime Minister in Canberra, but he won’t be there for long if you don’t pray for him.’ Andrew Evans has a well-earned reputation as a Christian leader and even in his 80s he still wields great influence. Obviously, people listened. Remember that God is not a member of any political party; but He will hear the prayers of those who pray for His ‘kingdom come’ and His ‘will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’
So, as we consider our original question — how did the polls get it so wrong — remember that a praying, fasting, interceding church, will do more to alter the politics, culture, and spiritual atmosphere of a nation, than any other force in society. Prayer is more powerful than polls and can reverse poll results. As the newly elected Prime Minister put it: ‘I believe in miracles.’
Now that the election is over, don’t roll over and go back to sleep! It is time to pray for the Prime Minister, government, and, yes, the opposition Labor Party as they seek a new leader. Let’s pray for the the nation, more than ever!!
PS: 2019 ‘Understanding the Times Tour’ The 5 Annual, Australia-Wide, Understanding the Times Tour’ will be held from late August to early November 2019. Topic: Four Cities that are Shaking the World: Washington, London, Canberra, and Jerusalem.
Melbourne: Monday 26 August at Breakthrough Church, Bayswater; Perth: Friday 1 November, Subiaco Church of Christ, and many other venues in-between.
For further information, log onto: tan.org.au; vision.org.au/kameel-tour; email: firstname.lastname@example.org