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Newspoll 54 and the tightening contest for power

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Liberal Leader Scott Morrison and Labor Leader Bill Shorten (Screenshots via YouTube)

The Coalition appears to be within one point of a potential hung parliament.

After 54 consecutive Newspoll defeats, the retirement from politics by multiple key leadership figures and a series of damaging scandals, the Coalition is just a one-point gain in the polls away from potentially clinching a hung parliament.

How has Labor’s almost unbeatable eight-point lead in the polls evaporated in less than two months?

While some political commentators point to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s skills as a “good retail politician” and the Coalition’s "strong policy platform" as an explanation for the Coalition’s unlikely comeback, the electorate remains uninspired and unimpressed by Morrison’s performance on the campaign trail and the Coalition’s lack of vision for the future.

This election may be a contest between two opposing sides of politics, but it was always going to be Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s to lose, with the Coalition once again running a campaign largely based on opposing Labor’s proposed policies, rather than providing a comprehensive alternative of their own.

Despite making a series of policy announcements that have largely found their mark with the electorate, somehow the campaign’s momentum continues to rest with the Coalition despite their campaign’s obvious shortfalls, at least for the time being.

As housing prices continue to fall, wages continue to stagnate and uncertainty in the broader economy continues to mount, there is a growing sense of unease within the electorate that perhaps all is not well and the Australian economic miracle is finally faltering.

At first glance, a slowing economy and growing uncertainty should be doing major damage to the electability of the current Coalition Government, offering Labor a key boost to their fortunes and seriously undermining the Coalition’s message that they are superior economic managers, yet it's possibly having the opposite effect.

This is arguably due to the fact that Bill Shorten and the Labor Party have largely failed to sufficiently acknowledge the growing severity of the challenges our nation faces, while some of Labor’s most vocal supporters in the finance and economics community continue to raise the alarm.

While academic and Treasury research into Labor’s proposed changes to the capital gains tax discount and negative gearing project a relatively negligible impact on housing prices, and the economy more broadly, that has perhaps failed to take into account the changes that have taken place within the public’s collective consciousness in the last 12 to 18 months.

With an ever-increasing number of homeowners finding themselves in negative equity and housing prices falling at more than ten per cent per annum in both Sydney and Melbourne, the public has arguably become more reticent to support Labor’s tax reforms due to their potential economic impact.

Financial and political commentators may be able to point to all sorts of data points and research illustrating how Labor’s changes will affect the economy, but that often fails to completely take into account the sentiment and confidence of the public which is showing increasing weakness across a range of different demographics.

As our nation continues into an uncertain future, the challenges we face will need to be confronted with more than just a "steady as she goes" approach from Labor. The electorate needs to be reassured that a Shorten government will consider the prevailing sentiment and concerns of the public before rushing headlong into implementing Labor’s tax reform agenda.

Perhaps by acknowledging the true scope of the challenges faced by our nation, Labor can begin to recapture a greater sense of momentum in the campaign, while at the same time offering a concerned electorate a measure of reassurance that the economic prosperity of the nation will not be compromised in pursuit of Labor’s tax reform agenda.

Tarric Brooker is a freelance journalist and political commentator. You can follow him on Twitter @AvidCommentator.

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