Sunday, 12 June 2022

So what exactly happened at Kirribilli House on Election Night 21 May 2022?


We may never know the full story of the night it was confirmed that Scott John Morrison had come close to destroying the Liberal Party of Australia, but here is a sanitized version of how events unfolded…….

Weekend Australian, 11 June 2022, p.6, excerpt:

No Liberal strategists anticipated the Coalition’s seat total to plunge from 76 to 58.

I wasn’t expecting us to win but wasn’t expecting our seat count to be so low,” a senior campaign source said.

The Liberal Party’s final polling in the 20 marginal seats it was tracking nightly was accurate – just 0.8 per cent out from the two-party-preferred result.

That final tracking poll was 72 hours from the close of polls.

Misplaced confidence

Undeterred, Morrison remained “relentlessly disciplined in his confidence” and upbeat in the final days of the campaign. At that point, there were high hopes at senior levels of the Liberal team that the 5 per cent of undecided voters could fall their way.

Morrison’s confidence was also attributed to how Labor’s primary vote had plummeted in the final weeks of the campaign, according to Crosby Textor research. Morrison’s view was understood to be that Labor couldn’t form majority government with a primary vote that had crashed so low.

At midday on election day, Finkelstein was downcast about their chance of success, confiding to his colleagues that Anthony Albanese would win. “He thinks the undecided started to fall the way of change on Thursday night and last night,” a source said at the time.

Federal Liberal campaign director Andrew Hirst was also pessimistic and was bracing for a loss, although not as brutal as the scenario that eventuated.

The Prime Minister, however, dismissed Finkelstein’s dire prediction. “Yaron is just tired, he’s exhausted after a long campaign,” Morrison said early in the afternoon to a close confidant.

Those close to Morrison say he was “quietly confident” that he could win minority government; that he could pull off a miracle once again.

On election night, Sky News host Paul Murray was reporting from the Liberal function at the Sofitel hotel in Sydney’s CBD.

He recalls that at the start of the night there was no sense of the scale of the impending defeat.

There are times when you’re going to lose so everyone walks in going ‘how bad is this going to be’,” he said.

But that wasn’t the mood in the room on election night. Instead there was an initial sense of hope.

The whole scenario is they weren’t supposed to win last time,” Murray said. “They all had muscle memory of winning against the trend.

On election night, everyone saw Labor’s vote was down so they assumed this was happening again. Even in the second hour when it started going against the Libs, they were very much of the view that pre-poll hasn’t been counted yet.

Then there was the final realisation that the train is not going to arrive.” At Kirribilli House, Morrison remained hopeful and upbeat as he bundled into his study with his closest friends, advisers and strategists including David Gazard, ­Andrew Carswell, Finkelstein, Adrian Harrington and John Kunkel. Morrison sat at his desk, ­examining the raw numbers as they were coming in from the Australian Electoral Commission.

Outside, Jenny Morrison, ever-positive and smiling, entertained about 20 of the couple’s friends from the Shire.

The first hour looked to be a repeat of 2019, with early polling showing Labor’s depressed primary vote.

Then there was a view in the room, about 7.30 to 8pm, that there wouldn’t be a definitive result that night.

Nail in the coffin

But then it changed.

The pre-poll voting, which we would have thought favoured us, it just didn’t,” said one source from the room.

When those results started being dropped, it cemented the trend. And then it changed really quickly.” Morrison left the room to take a long call from Frydenberg, who a source said was “in a pretty bad way”.

During the half-hour that he was out of the room, the size of the “teal” problem crystallised.

Morrison walked back in and said: “How is it looking?” “It’s not good,” an adviser said.

I know it’s not good,” Morrison replied.

It’s got worse,” a friend replied.

Then the Mackellar numbers started flowing in. “Jason (Falinski) is in trouble,” Morrison said.

A source in the room said that “when Jason’s results became clear, that’s when hope was abandoned”.

Finkelstein was the one who called it, according to those present. “We will be conceding tonight,” he said….

Morrison may have resigned as leader of the federal parliamentary Liberal Party, but this is not necessarily a signal that he will not fight to keep a degree of influence within the party in the hope of rebuilding his power base.

Currently he appears to be putting forward ideas on how to rebuild the Coalition and rebrand the Liberal Party:

In the wake of the election, Morrison has expressed an idea to some of his confidants about a possible strategy to deal with the independents in future elections: establish the Liberal National Party brand Australia-wide as the main conservative political movement.

Instead of the Nationals being the Coalition partner, he has suggested setting up a new progressive Liberal movement as the Coalition partner. It could run a different brand in the inner-city seats.

He has also begun accepting invitations to events where his former leadership status is recognised and where he can begin post-election networking.

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