And up to 30 per cent of voters were «soft» – inclined to vote a certain way but not yet locked in. It’s now clear that many voters did not make up their minds until the end.
He was right to focus laser-like on the economy. Bill Shorten’s temporising on Adani cost him dearly in North Queensland. Morrison’s persona played well in Brisbane, too.
A broader pattern in this election was the swing to the Coalition in outer suburbs and regions, even in the Hunter in NSW and in regional Victoria.
The Turnbull effect has dissipated in Wentworth and does not appear to have been decisive in Victoria. Climate change may have been much discussed in the campaign but the economic narrative seems to have prevailed.
Bill Shorten pressed emotional buttons but failed to convince on the nuts and bolts of his own policies such as climate. As Paul Keating used to say of the GST, if you don’t understand it, don’t vote for it.
Labor’s class war policies and rhetoric failed to win over some swinging voters and alienated self-funded retirees on fixed incomes. That’s not how you build a big tent.
Morrison now has unrivalled authority to reshape his government and turbocharge its agenda. He is beholden to no faction or sectional group. His contract is with the Australian people.
He can be the great unifier and build a big tent at the centre of national politics. He respects traditional beliefs but will not pursue pointless culture wars. He also knows that nature abhors a vacuum. If the government doesn’t dominate the national agenda, others will.
The great unifier can begin by picking the eyes out of popular Labor policies to win over sceptical voters. Menzies did this after his near loss in 1961. This can be part of his pitch to realise the promise of Australia for all Australians.
Morrison knows that politics at its most fundamental is about creating the conditions for people to get on with their lives and realise their own aspirations. People are free to realise their own vision rather than having a collective top-down vision imposed on them.
The promise of Australia is about equality of opportunity to have a go, and affordable access to essential government services with no one left behind. That promise does not require grand projects but steady progress with trust engendered by clearly articulating reforms in advance and keeping election promises.
There are plenty of challenges ahead. The energy transition is well under way. Investment in renewables remains high and will impact the stability of the electricity system. Back-up storage and firming capacity need to be expedited. The advent of major power schemes such as Snowy 2.0 and the «battery of the nation» in Tasmania will put further pressure on the system.
Handled well, Australia has the capacity to be the Saudi Arabia of alternative energy with a new competitive cost base.
The digital age is disrupting all industries. The government must grasp the nettle and map out the future of work in Australia and how its skills policies and transition programs can accelerate the process while re-equipping the workforce for this new world.
The government’s defence build-up, space agency and programs, and cybersecurity strategy can build new industries here.
Australians have demonstrated that they trust Scott Morrison. That trust can be the foundation for a new round of reform and managed change for all of us.
Arthur Sinodins is a Liberal senator for NSW and was chief of staff to former prime minister John Howard.