As the 2023 New South Wales Election approaches, Streem hosted NSW Election 2023: What to expect, a webinar with four experts in NSW politics, to unpack what communications and corporate affairs professionals need to know ahead of polling day on 25 March.
Our panel of four leading Australian political insiders, Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Senior Advisor to two NSW Coalition Premiers Clive Mathieson, adviser to Labor Premiers including Morris Iemma and Prime Ministers Eamonn Fitzpatrick, Senior Advisor to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Annie O’Rourke, and National Reporter at the AFR Samantha Hutchinson, broke down everything you need to know about the NSW Election.
1. Expect the unexpected
It seems to be a constant of every election campaign, but it bears repeating: expect the unexpected. Whether it’s a policy, campaign event, or election outcome, election campaigns reliably produce surprises, and with tight polling and a diverse electoral map, the NSW Election will be no exception to this.
Dominic Perrottet himself is perhaps the ultimate example of this. The panel noted how, when he ascended to the role of Premier in late 2021, many expected a conservative government averse to social progress. The reality of his premiership has been quite contrary to these expectations, with significant developments on sensitive topics including euthanasia, and an election campaign with gambling reform as a central tenet.
Perrottet’s performance has created an environment where Labor has a comfortable lead in the polls, but Perrottet remains ahead of Chris Minns, the opposition leader, as preferred premier. More surprises are just about the only sure thing in this campaign.
2. It’s all about delivery
Schools, hospitals, roads, emergency management, public transport. State governments are fundamentally all about the delivery of services and infrastructure to their constituents, and that’s set to be a key factor in the NSW Election campaign.
All panellists mentioned the importance of voters benefitting from the successful delivery of major infrastructure projects and important services as being a major vote mover. For those in regional electorates, Clive noted that seats are often won and lost on a single major issue, often related to health or infrastructure. With a tight result forecast, how voters feel about the services and infrastructure delivered by the Coalition government will prove crucial.
3. Cost of living hits home
While cost of living was a factor during last year’s federal election, successive interest rate rises and spiralling prices has made the issue front and centre during the NSW Election campaign.
State governments are limited in how they can influence cost of living, but there are some key areas where they can act to mitigate rising costs, including in regards to toll roads, and by providing voters with vouchers, similar to the Dine and Discover vouchers during the pandemic, to spur spending without consumers reaching into their pockets.
Whichever major party can best convince voters it will better manage the cost of living is sure to have a leg up come polling day.
4. Leadership matters
Presidential-style campaigning has been common in Australian elections in recent decades, and the NSW Election is set to stick to this trend, with the two major party leaders set to be the cornerstones of each party’s campaign.
As discussed above, Dominic Perrottet’s pragmatic approach to governing has positively surprised many voters, giving the Coalition a fighting chance of a victory on March 25. Labor leader Chris Minns is taking notes from Anthony Albanese’s successful federal campaign, running what Annie called a “smart target” strategy, focusing on issues the party has determined are key to voters, rather than trying to win every political point.
These two contrasting leaders present a very different leadership matchup than what was seen at the federal election. How the leadership contest will play out ahead of polling day will be central in deciding which party sits on the government benches for the next four years.
5. Federal flow-on
Although state and federal politicians like to assert that state and federal issues are separate matters, there’s no denying that come election time, voters are far less likely to make such clear distinctions.
One concern that the Coalition will have is whether or not there is a ‘hangover’ from the federal election, with voters still looking to act against long-term, Coalition governments that are starting to show their age, as was the case last year.
For Labor, there will be a degree of anxiety that the Albanese Government is experiencing its first political challenges right as NSW goes to the polls, thanks to announced changes to Superannuation taxation and cost of living pressures.
Much more was uncovered during the webinar than these five key insights, so be sure to watch or listen to a recording of the full event to get across everything you need to know ahead of the NSW Election.
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