“So that’s why I say it could be one of those elections where we may not know the result on the night – which would be, from where we’ve come, remarkable.”
Senator Sinodinos said the NSW Central Coast seat of Dobell, held by Labor’s Emma McBride, was “in play”, while he believed Liberal candidate Warren Mundine had “consolidated” in the NSW South Coast seat of Gilmore.
Meanwhile, Mr Albanese said in some key electorates such as Nicolle Flint’s marginal seat of Boothby in South Australia, Labor was really campaigning against Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton rather than Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Ms Flint backed Mr Dutton in the leadership coup and Labor has made that a key feature of its campaign against her.
The comments were made at a function hosted by Newgate Communications at the Sydney Opera House and moderated by National Press Club vice-president Steve Lewis.
Senator Sinodinos and Mr Albanese agreed that groupthink – particularly as it proliferated online and through social media – was damaging Australian politics.
“The way the algorithms work, particularly with AI, is that they send you an increasingly extreme version of what you want to hear,” Mr Albanese said.
“You’ll end up with the Ku Klux Klan stuff on one level or [a] completely extreme version of identity politics on the other. Because that’s the way they keep you watching, that’s the way the platforms work in terms of money to get ads. I think that’s a potential problem.”
Mr Albanese went on to say there had been a”perfectly legitimate” case against marriage equality, but many on the left did not accept this because they believe “everyone thinks” the same way as they do. He said this was evident on both sides of the political spectrum and in his Sydney electorate of Grayndler.
“There are people in my electorate in the inner west [who] get really angry that I keep getting elected – because the people they speak to, they don’t know anyone who doesn’t vote Green,” Mr Albanese said.
“They think they’re gonna win. They think everyone wants to stop Adani. They think everyone wants particular things. They don’t know where Adani is! They don’t! I asked someone the other day and they said ‘it’s on the Great Barrier Reef’. Actually it’s not, you know.”
Senator Sinodinos said social media was creating a selection bias where people only exposed themselves to news and views they already agreed with.
“It’s reducing the extent of the physical interaction that’s going on and the extent to which you eyeball people,” he said. “I think it’s Balkanising things and it’s a very dangerous trend.”
Senator Sinodinos also took aim at the Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus for urging a Labor government to legislate a “living wage” equivalent to 60 per cent of the median wage – a commitment Bill Shorten has not made.
“So what?” Mr Albanese responded. “You’ve got IPA [Institute of Public Affairs] nutters calling for all sorts of stuff.”
Senator Sinodinus suggested Mr Albanese was equating Ms McManus to “IPA nutters” and claimed the ACTU boss would be “sitting at the cabinet table if you guys get into office”.
Michael Koziol is a political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.