Dispatches from the phony war: episode one

Today the Poll Bludger commemorates Anzac Day with the first in what will be a regular series drawing together the major events of the preceding week as momentum builds towards the coming federal election.

• Prime Minister John Howard gave little away when probed by Neil Mitchell of Melbourne’s 3AW on Wednesday about the likely election date, but hypothetical mentions of late October and mid-November proved enough to provoke a flurry of nebulous speculation regardless. He at least ruled out the "sacred" weekends at the end of September and the start of October, which is very mildly interesting given that the 1998 election was in fact held on October 3.

Roy Morgan yesterday released a poll taken over the two previous weekends showing Labor and the Coalition each gaining 1.5 per cent on the primary vote at the expense of independents and Greens. With Labor recovering from a dip a fortnight earlier, Morgan has shown little fluctuation for Labor this year around its current level of 45 per cent. The Coalition however has reached its highest level for the year at 41 per cent primary and 45.5 per cent two-party preferred, although this doesn’t represent a major breakout from the 38-40 and 44-45 per cent bands in which they have been operating throughout this year. The poll also shows the Coalition recovering a lead on the question of who voters expect to win, which they had surrendered at the two previous polls.

• As discussed in my previous post, Tuesday’s Newspoll had the Coalition up from 40 to 43 per cent with Labor fading from 44 to 42. This represents the Coalition’s best showing since December 12-14, in the second week of Latham’s leadership. Confusingly, Labor’s two-party preferred rating is steady at 53 per cent. Mark Latham recovered exactly half of the 14 per cent he lost from his satisfaction rating in the previous poll, bouncing back to 59 per cent (historical perspective: Alexander Downer recovered 3 per cent in the poll following his record 17 per cent belly-flop at the poll of 5-7 August 1994), while John Howard’s rose from 51 to 53 per cent.

• The Geelong Advertiser reported on Friday that Labor’s polling has them ahead in the Colac/Great Ocean Road electorate of Corangamite. Such an outcome would be a tremendous result for Labor, with Liberal member Stewart McArthur currently sitting on a margin of 5.4 per cent after a redistribution that cost him 0.3 per cent. The poll reportedly involved 2000 respondents and had Labor with 51 per cent of the primary vote, confirming a similar poll the party conducted three weeks earlier showing them on 50.5 per cent. Internal polling results are normally top secret party information, and no source is disclosed by the Advertiser. One can’t help noting that their release to the local media would have been helpful in encouraging cynicism over the Prime Minister’s motives in visiting the electorate twice this month.

• Former Australian Medical Association state president Dr Ingrid Tall won preselection for Labor’s most marginal seat, Brisbane, held by Arch Bevis with a margin of 0.9 per cent. Tall defeated unsuccessful 2001 candidate Sebastian Monsour 55 votes to 43. Monsour, a brother-in-law of Brisbane Mayor Campbell Newman, was at the centre of the "Brisbane Water-gate&quot incident on council election night which excited the Courier Mail but not the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.