Highlights of week three

After two weeks of carelessness, the Coalition campaign was struck in its third week by misfortune. The death of his father-in-law on Wednesday took Lawrence Springborg away from the hustings for three crucial days and probably saw off any hope of momentum building in the final part of the campaign. Even on Wednesday, Tony Koch of The Australian was reporting that the Nationals had been concentrating on rural areas where the election could not possibly be decided, as they had "made a decision to protect themselves" after Bruce Flegg’s troubles early in the campaign. With only one campaign week left to salvage the situation, it can be presumed that much of Springborg’s efforts will be spent holding the line for the Nationals in Charters Towers, Burdekin and Hinchinbrook.

The parties initially responded to Springborg’s family tragedy by agreeing to suspend negative advertising, but this ended with a vengeance on Friday when the Coalition fielded an ad aggressive enough to have brought joy to Andrew Landeryou’s heart. I suppose the proper thing would be to link to it on the Coalition website, but I have been itching for an excuse to join the YouTube generation for a while now.

The impact of attack ads in the American context is well understood: they lead to significantly lower turnout. A UCLA experiment during the 1990 Californian gubernatorial campaign exposed some voters to positively worded ads and other voters to negative ones, and found that even one attack ad reduced turnout by 1 per cent. In Australia of course, such an impact would be negated (or at least mitigated) by compulsory voting, and would presumably find expression through some sort of protest vote. But minor parties and potential independent candidates seem to have been caught napping by the brief, short-notice campaign, and any impact they might be having has so far escaped the polling agencies. With respect to the major party contest, there is no certainty that the damage done to Labor will outweigh the sense that the Coalition is becoming increasingly desperate.

Some new Campaign Update additions for the electorate guide:

Charters Towers (Nationals 2.7%): The Australian carried a report by Ian Gerard on Friday which queried whether "dissatisfaction with the health system" would overcome "the voices of the thousands of coalminers who have flooded into the sprawling regional seat of Charters Towers in recent years". Labor candidate Bruce Scott (not to be confused with the federal Nationals member for Maranoa) sounded a note of caution on the latter point, saying "it depends where these miners are registered, a lot of them are probably fly-in fly-out". The electorate’s coal industry is centred around Moranbah in its south, where Labor records big majorities that are overwhelmed by Nationals-voting rural booths to the north.

Indooroopilly (Labor 2.1%): Labor member Ronan Lee’s opposition to uranium mining was back in the news after equivocal statements on the issue from Peter Beattie and Anna Bligh. Appropriately enough, Lee is among the Labor candidates to whom the Greens are recommending a second preference. AAP reports that the Coalition accused Lee of campaigning "almost as an independent" after fielding campaign signs with no ALP branding.

Clayfield (Labor 1.2%): Clayfield, which includes Brisbane Airport and is located a short distance north-east of the CBD, was a big target of the Coalition’s promise to spend an extra $1.4 billion bringing forward completion of the Airport Link and adjoining North-South Bypass Tunnel under the city.

Gaven (Nationals 3.4%): Labor was on the attack after the Gold Coast Bulletin reported Nationals member Alex Douglas had allowed his 18-year-old son to attend a high-school formal after-party held at the Bandidos bikie gang clubhouse at Mermaid Beach.

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.

16 comments on “Highlights of week three”

  1. The trouble with this ad is that the “Dr Death” scandal has been huge news in Qld for about 18 months at least, and has been in the news again during the election campaign.

    Surely everyone who wants to punish Beattie has _already_ decided what they want to do?

    The only thing that could ‘fix’ the health system are big tax increases to pay for more staff. No one is offering this.

    The Coalition has not said how they will actually fix things, and their disunity means that many here will not take them seriously.

    The ads will not work.

  2. Her delivery lacks grit and force – it’s kind of… you know, like the Coalition campaign… helpless. With the lighting – dark, with a shadow under the chair – you would have expected some conviction to what she was saying. It’s hard to believe this woman really blames Beattie for her brother’s death and I don’t think voters will change their minds due to this campaign tactic at all. I intensely dislike the man, but Beattie’s heavily-lacquered spin seems more life-like than this ad.

  3. I can’t see the ad, because I don’t have the appropriate plugin, alas. It doesn’t sound like the brightest of ideas though.

    I dropped by, however, to point out that the Gympie page needs updating – Elisa Roberts has done *another* backflip and will indeed commit to serving a full term if elected. This is crossing the line into the plainly ridiculous.

  4. Are there Federal issues such as IR affecting the poll results so far? Most, if not all, polls have Federal Labor’s primary vote in the low forties. This makes them a real chance at the next election. Much of that improvement I believe is an underlying uneasiness with these new IR laws. Maybe it is safer for people to have Labor Governments in the states to protect themselves from rampant Liberalism.

  5. Gary, in short, yes.

    Graham Young and I picked up WorkChoices as a big issue for voters – which is unsurprisingly working in Labor’s favour – in our online polling.

    Discussed here and also by Graham on the same blog.

    Team Beattie is running an ad highlighting WorkChoices and interest rates as reasons to vote against the Coalition.

    I’ll have more to say about this in my Crikey column tomorrow.

  6. Didn’t anyone else see in the ad’s shadows a grim reaper looking peter beattie and a man lying on a hospital bed. Probably my imagination!!!

  7. As soon as I read the ABC article on Elisa Roberts… I was like bloody hell can’t this woman make up her mind … I don’t remember anyone in my time being so indecisive with their decision to run as a candidate. Perhaps this is her tactic of keeping on the front pages and keeping the nationals out? If so… it’s working.

  8. I’d have said Roberts was pretty likely to hold on at the start of the campaign, but I can’t see how she could possibly hold on after this.

    Has there been any other time in history when a candidate has changed their mind eight times in the space of two months, including twice during the actual campaign, as to whether they would actually run?

    I guess it is making the campaign interesting though.

  9. Just saw the attack add, I think the add lacked one line which could of made it much more effective. that line being why beattie is to blame. Without it it seems to really lack a big punch.

    it puts the blame on beattie, but dosn’t actually specify if he was his incompetence / corruption / plain evilness that is the problem.

    as for her being feral… i rekon ive seen her on a today tonight ‘neighbours from hell’ story ­čśŤ

  10. Ronan Lee running posters sublimating the term Labor is nothing. There are numerous multi-storey billboards featuring Premier Bleattie and Deputy Captain Bligh, with all mention of ‘ALP’ supplanted by the ‘brand’ of ‘Team Beattie’.

    Then visit http://www.teambeattie.com and be invited to ‘scroll down for Heather Beattie’s famous choc chip cookie recipe’. Pumpkin scones anyone?

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