With the polls turning heavily against Scott Morrison and his government, there is a looming and complicated threat facing the prime minister.
With disaffection across both major parties and a strong field of independent candidates in key seats at the upcoming federal election, the possibility of a hung parliament looms large.
One man who was at the centre of the drama the last time that happened, thinks the Morrison government is in trouble.
Independent heavyweight Tony Windsor was one of three lower house independents who held the balance of power after the 2010 election delivered a hung parliament. If history repeats, very few people know the significance of the moment like he does.
According to Mr Windsor, distrust of prime minister Scott Morrison and general disillusionment with the government on major issues will see the Coalition lose office in the upcoming election as voters go to Labor and independent candidates.
Yahoo News Australia spoke with Mr Windsor about the slew of independent candidates nominating to stand in government-held seats and what their success would mean.
He believes that the government will lose the election regardless of the number of independents but admits there is a chance of a hung parliament if the Coalition holds onto enough seats on preferences.
Mr Windsor said it is looking more and more likely that Labor leader Anthony Albanese will be the next Australian PM as we head towards an expected May election day.
“I think they’ll lose government irrespective (of independents) but with so many independents standing in key Liberal seats I think it doesn’t look good for the government,” Mr Windsor told Yahoo News Australia.
“It will either be a hung parliament or majority Labor in my view.
“I think more and more people are realising that Morrison’s not the man for the job.
“They might not be totally enthused with Anthony Albanese either but I think they can see a degree of decency in Albanese that’s hard to find in Morrison.”
'Manipulation and mistruths'
Mr Windsor said the government's failure to deliver on a promise to enact a watchdog to police corruption at the federal level of politics will come back to haunt it as voters see the "manipulation and mistruths of Morrison in particular but some of his ministers as well," he said.
“The age-old story that governments can be in there too long and since Morrison’s been in there, there is no real narrative, no view of the future.
“It’s all about the short-term ... If he can win the front page here and there no matter what it says he sees himself as being successful.
“I think the community is wising up to that. That it’s not good enough.”
Mr Windsor, along with fellow former independent Robert Oakeshott, held the balance of power in 2010 after both Labor and the Coalition failed to secure enough seats to form a majority government.
He and Mr Oakeshott made a now infamous deal with Labor leader Julia Gillard to form government with a number of conditions, including introducing the infamous carbon tax.
Tony Windsor backing new crop of independents
Mr Windsor is also on the advisory council with Mr Oakeshott for lobby group Climate 200, which is helping to fund the campaigns of a number of independent candidates across Australia.
He said many have a good chance of winning government-held seats thanks to the widespread disillusionment and distrust of Mr Morrison.
“I don’t know all of the individuals, but I think people like Zoe Daniel (in Goldstein) for instance and the lady that’s standing against Angus Taylor in Hume, Penny Ackery, and some of the others as well.
“I understand she’s (Ms Ackery) got a very large support base on the ground.
“The easiest way for an independent to win a seat, and probably the only way, is to have a massive support base on the ground.
“You’ll never defeat the parties with dollars, advertising campaigns - if you’re a danger to them they’ll just pour more and more money in.
“But if you’ve got people on the ground who are disciples of the candidate who are out there preaching every day why he or she is a good idea, it’s pretty hard to roll that sort of stuff with dollars.”
“When I stood again in 2016 against Barnaby Joyce, we spent about $750,000 - they spent something like $3.5 million – and $750,000 is generally considered an outlandish amount of money to spend.”
When asked about the impact the minor parties – such as the Palmer United Party – could have on the election, Mr Windsor dismissed their chances, claiming they are merely there to act as a “sweeper” for the Liberal party, which sees votes being redirected to major parties through the preference system.
“Palmer’s campaign is nothing more than a sweeper for the Liberal party…he’s just trying to dredge up that disillusioned vote.
“That’s why Morrison hasn’t attacked him, he’s working for him.
“People that vote for Palmer will just follow the ticket…they’re a bit like Hanson voters.
“I’d imagine Hanson and Palmer are just going to run as sweepers and they could be quite effective in some seats too.
“The policy mix that Palmer is running is Liberal in front of Labor (on the preference list). He did that last time too, quite effectively.
“Palmer is the key to Morrison surviving as there’s a lot of disillusioned voters out there.”
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