Behind the cacophony of Europe’s darkest days and nights since sunlight was let in at the end of the 1939 to 1945 Great War, the political tectonic plates appear to have stopped moving in Australia.
Granted, there might still be some life in these forces fed by three years of chaos, tumult, uncertainty and keenly felt fear. And that was before war in Eastern Europe.
However, there is serious doubt any movement will be great enough to save Scott Morrison and his perpetually ego-driven, bumbling, error-prone administration from a fateful destiny.
It’s a rule of the electoral game that the recitation of “never say never” and “anything can happen” is mandatory.
Sure these maxims are fallback truths, but from where we are, it would take the repeat miracle Morrison craves and the personal second coming he so arrogantly believes in to even get him close to saving his electoral hide.
History, the wicked master of political experience, says it won’t be enough.
How did we get here?
A few things should be noted to understand this fairly confident assessment.
First, how we got here in a statistical sense. The ground started shifting in late June, early July last year when the Labor vote began to edge up and the Coalition plateaued and then slipped.
The Poll Bludger site, a repository of much stat-laden wisdom, charts this, from a point where the Coalition was three to eight primary points ahead of Labor early in the second quarter of 2021 to that time when the paths started to cross.
It began right at the end of June – both major parties hovered around 36 to 37 per cent primary vote – and then the Great Divergence appeared here and there in December and then grew pronounced in January. Now it’s what can be safely called a trend.
Labor has been in front of the Coalition on a two-party-preferred basis in the past 19 published polls, according to Poll Bludger.
The site’s tracking assessment is a national divide of 56 per cent to Labor and 44 per cent to the Coalition.
This is a point over this week’s Newspoll number, a one-point change that’s well and truly inside the margin of error.
Kevin Bonham, the respected Tasmanian poll analyst, calls the current state of play as putting the Coalition “outside the historic recovery window”, adding the back pages suggest no one has won from the position currently occupied by Morrison’s team.
Bonham points out the “miracle” win in 2019 was built on a (losing) two-party Coalition vote in three polls at a concurrent time in the cycle of 47 per cent.
The past three Newspolls put the Liberal National side at 44/45/45. There’s a chasm between making up six points and regaining three.
Bonham adds the caveat that the statistics do not mean Morrison can’t win “but the closer you get to the election without meaningful recovery, the slimmer the chance gets”.
(It should be noted, in passing, this stubborn, won’t-be-budged Labor lead persists after three weeks of intense focus on national security, China, Russia, Ukraine and Labor’s alleged weakness on all of these.)
Jump in support for Labor in Queensland
The other breadcrumbs charting a path towards a Coalition loss were in last week’s Resolve Political Monitor poll published in the Nine newspapers (the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age) and the tail end of the YouGov poll rolled out over four days in the Brisbane News Corp outlets.
Resolve recorded a statistically interesting move away from Morrison (just inside the margin of error but similar to other movements) but the real news was buried in the fine detail on the Queensland vote.
According to Resolve, from January this year to February, support for Labor in Queensland jumped from 26 per cent to 33 per cent – a move those in the trade call statistically significant.
With the Greens on 13 per cent and One Nation and the others on 21 per cent, it’s easy to get Labor in Queensland to a two-party vote well above 51 per cent.
This accords with the Poll Bludger assessment of where the Queensland vote is based on published polls: The site’s Perth-based analyst William Bowe gives the ALP 52.7 per cent, which represents an earth-moving swing of 11.1 per cent from the 2019 result.
If this happened and was a steady swing across the state (neither of these are likely) it would see Labor pick up 11 seats in the state from Longman to Brisbane’s north east to the bayside Liberal electorate of Bowman.
Local factors will be at play – strong members who have kept their ears close to the electoral ground might buck any trend and some districts are just not that into the ALP – but Labor might be in a much stronger position in Queensland than many inside the Canberra terrarium admit or expect.
The other bit of evidence was in the under-reported detail of the YouGov poll, which measured support for Labor’s Anthony Albanese and Morrison.
Neither leader was held in high esteem – both had net negative satisfaction levels – but Morrison’s disapproval was a towering 47 per cent.
That is a big worry for the Coalition in a state where he’s supposed to be more popular than anywhere else in the country.
Albanese’s relative dissatisfaction – just 38 per cent – is not the end of the story as there’s a 30 per cent slice of the voting public there for the taking in the “undecided” column.
Voters can expect to see a lot of Morrison and Albanese in this state during the 90 days until the likely election date.
The difference will be a Prime Minister trying to desperately repair his reputation and a Labor leader building on his positives.
As we know too well, Queensland – wet one day, fascinating the next.