Senior federal ministers have indicated there were lessons for the coalition following South Australia’s recent election.
Saturday saw Labor’s Peter Malinauskas claim victory, the first time a government has lost an election since the beginning of the pandemic, with the incumbent Liberals defeated after just one term in office.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said while the state poll was fought on local issues, there were takeaways for the federal government, ahead of May’s election.
“There is definitely political lessons in this, the political lessons are that you can’t just rest on what you have done for the electorate, despite we have gone through the biggest challenge since World War II in COVID-19,” he told the Nine Network on Monday.
“What the electorate is now looking for is their future, the political lesson for us is to make sure we can clearly articulate that and give them a pathway forward.”
Mr Littleproud said next week’s federal budget would be a key opportunity to focus on the future.
The federal election is due to be held by May 21 at the latest, with polls showing Labor in the lead, as well as Anthony Albanese and Scott Morrison level as preferred prime minister.
However, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said he wasn’t concerned by the polls, despite the South Australian election result.
“Pollsters don’t win elections, voters do,” he told the Seven Network.
“The Australian people will make a choice that the most competent group (for the country) is the coalition.”
Labor frontbencher Mark Butler told ABC Radio there were many similarities between the approaches of Peter Malinauskas as opposition leader and federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese.
“Peter Malinauskas, like Anthony, has been very busy preparing a focused policy agenda that will look beyond the pandemic, that would look at building a better future,” he said.
“They’re the only two oppositions that haven’t been essentially underwater through the quarter of the pandemic and that’s in part because both were resolved to play a constructive role.”
Mr Butler said polling from South Australia also showed worrying signs for the federal government.
“One-in-two voters indicated in the research that they were less likely to vote Liberal or for (former premier) Stephen Marshall once they learned that Stephen Marshall was from the same party as Scott Morrison,” he said.
“(Morrison) was a very big drag on the Liberal vote here in South Australia.”
There have been reports ]Morrison has been asked by Liberal campaigners to stay away from key NSW seats during the federal election.
Littleproud said Mr Morrison would be on the ground in seats across the country when the election is on.
“This hasn’t been an easy term. I don’t think any other prime minister had to face up to such a wide-ranging number of challenges in our nation’s history,” he said.
“Of course, that will take some skin off him.”