Highlights of week one

The first week of the official Victorian campaign period ended with the one and only televised leaders’ debate, which Labor staged in textbook fashion for a modern election front-runner: it was held as early in the campaign as possible, with no offer of a re-match on the table. It was precisely thus for John Howard at the 2004 federal election, except that Steve Bracks went one better by holding it on a Friday night, which minimised the size of the potential audience. The Poll Bludger caught bits and pieces of the audio webcast through a faltering internet connection, and agreed with the consensus that an initially shaky Ted Baillieu improved as the debate progressed, while Bracks performed with sufficient competence to ensure the occasion would be forgotten within a week. "A dull nil-all draw", reckoned Monash University’s Nick Economou, which is the usual verdict on these occasions. Accordingly, Bracks got what he wanted: he avoids the charge of cowardice levelled at Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke when they refused to face their opponents in 1983 and 1987, while still depriving his opponent of meaningful campaign oxygen.

Beyond that, the main theme to emerge in the first week was the negativity of both sides’ advertising, prompting much tut-tutting about Americanised campaign tactics. Another feature was the localised nature of early election promises, which provided grist for the mill of the first round of election guide Campaign Updates:

Cranbourne (Labor 10.8%): The Coalition took advantage of a local sore point with Thursday’s promise to spend $10 million extending the Cranbourne rail line 1.5 kilometres to a new station at Cranbourne East, which Labor promised at the 1999 election but has so far failed to deliver. Also on Thursday, Environment Minister John Thwaites promised $21 million would be spent on an extension to Cranbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

Yan Yean (Labor 9.5%): and Mill Park (Labor 26.8%): Here too the Coalition has promised to come good on an unfulfilled Labor rail line extension promise from 1999, extending the Epping line (which until 1959 extended a further 15 kilometres to Whittlesea) to South Morang at a cost of $12 million. Labor claims this costing ignores the factor which has prevented the government from proceeding with the project: the resulting need for track duplication further down the line, which it claims would cost as much as $300 million. Local residents have received letters from Transport Minister Peter Batchelor apologising for the decision to delay the project.

Ivanhoe (Labor 12.5%): The $1.7 billion health package announced by Steve Bracks on Thursday included creation of an elective surgery centre at the Austin Hospital in Heidelberg.

Bellarine (Labor 8.3%): A poll in the Geelong Advertiser last Saturday showed Labor member Lisa Neville trailing Liberal candidate Don Gibson on the primary vote. The paper provided results from its survey of 352 respondents to within one decimal place, from which it can be inferred that the raw figures were Liberal 119, Labor 101, Greens 42, Family First 6 and others 15, with 69 undecided. The size of the latter figure suggests that undecided respondents were not given a follow-up question asking who they were leaning towards, a common failing of polls run by local newspapers. After distribution of the undecided, the results are Liberal 42 per cent, Labor 36 per cent, Greens 15 per cent, Family First 2 per cent, others 5 per cent.

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.

27 comments on “Highlights of week one”

  1. The debate would have been more interesting and better if there was more that just the Liberal and Labor leader there say the Green and the Nat leaders.

  2. Melbourne State MP, Bronwyn Pike, has to quote a line out of ‘Yes Minister’, made a courageous decision.


    Bronwyn Pike, who is a member of the Left, has criticised Family First and called on the ALP to place them last on the ballot paper behind the Greens. Bronwyn Pike’s statement published in today’s the Age, could cost her a seat in the State lower-house, but will it?

    Bronwyn needs every preference she can get to ward off a rear-guard attack from the very party that she has now sort to protect, the Australian Greens. Preference negotiations are still to be finalised and Bronwyn Pike’s public statements may alienate Family First.

    In what may be seen as a gamble could very well be a clever strategic tactic. Family First have already stated that they intend to put the Australian Greens last on their registered preference and HTV cards. Bronwyn Pike comes from a Christian support base which makes it hard if not outright impossible for Family First to react by placing her behind the Greens in the preference stakes, so the’re preferences are lock in.

    Comforted in full knowledge that the Family First has no other option but to preference her before the Greens Pike has played a gamble that may very well pay dividends whilst winning brownie points with the electorate and Green voters.

    If the ALP can not secure 50% or more of the primary vote Bronwyn will need every preference she can secure ahead of the Greens to hold on to her seat on the grren vynal. The ALP will be hoping that the Liberal party will out-poll the Greens and as such will secure the seat for the ALP on Green preferences. The Liberal Party needs to only pick up 2-3% of the vote to put an end to the Greens chances of winning the prized Melbourne lower-house seat. If the Liberal Party out-poll the Greens then Bronwyn Pike can rest in the knowledge that the Green’s preferences will flow to Labor placing her well above the 50% quota required to win the seat. In fact a number of ALP members are seriously thinking of strategically voting 1 Liberal and 2 Labor as a form of insurance policy.

    As the election progresses Bronwyn has more then 80% chance of retaining the seat.

  3. What if in Melb. there is
    a a big general swing to the Libs

    b a big swing to the Greens

    c a big strategic ALP vote 1 for the Libs

    could the Greens win on Health Minesterial prefrences? (probably not)

  4. Sorry, Melbcity, but I wouldn’t even bother about reading Slanderyou’s blog. Apart from it making no sense, it’s ability to make me seriously ill in the stomach is only matched by that other nauseating Andrew, he of the Wednesday column in the Herald Sun.

  5. I wouldn’t take much heed of what Landeryou says – he truly is the lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe.

    While conventional wisdom from the likes of Antony Green says Labor is safe in Bellarine, the Advertiser poll reflects what I’ve been saying all along – Labor is seriously on the nose in Geelong, and in particular Lisa Neville (Bellarine) and Michael Crutchfield (South Barwon).

  6. Landeryou is entertaining and gets inside scoops.

    btw Ozpolitics.info is down because his domain has expired I think.

  7. Order of primary vote in Melbourne
    ALP – Liberal – Green – Family First
    Family First will go to Liberals and ALP before the Greens, Liberals will flow towards ALP enough to give Pike the seat.

    The regional cities of Geelong – Ballarat – Bendigo don’t appear to be on anyone’s rader, but Rebecca keeps saying the ALP are on the nose in Geelong is there a reason for this and what would the scale of this be, for leading up to 99 I recall many in rural Victoria being quite angry, but everyone in Melbourne was unaware

  8. I find all media comments bias and it is up to the reader to ascertain what they make of it. Whilst I do not agree with some comments published nevertheless I think Andrews blog is worthy of reading at times. The above link is one such example. If we only read information that backs up our already formed opinion then what does that say about us.

    Re Melbourne:
    Whilst it is yet to be seen I do not believe Bronwyn will lose Melbourne. I do not think the Green vote is strong enough to out-poll the Liberal Party. In an election where every vote counts Family First will provide some insurance. With Chamberlain out of the race Bronwyn will most likely secure 50.5% primary. I have insuficent information at this statge to make an asessment on Richmond. But Richard Wynn ius a skill politican (One who should have won Melbourne and would have it it was not for the Left backing a losing candidate. They should have let Dick run) – That’s History… I also do not believe the Greens can direct its members preference allocations. I recall the Anti-Nuclear Party attempt to stuff up the nunawading campaign (Set back the environment movement years) and many of those involved with the anti-nuclear party are members of the Greens.

  9. A strong swing to the liberals will secure the vote to the ALP as Green Preferences will push Bronwyn over 60%. The only upset is if the Greens out-poll the Liberals and the Liberal vopt flows to the Greens ahead of Labor. In this election it is a big ask. Many Liberal Voters do not want the Liberals to elect Green Candidates. The nationals should run in Melbourne and start broadening their base. That is unless they are beyond resurrection.

  10. The Greens push for a lower-house seat comes to an end with reports that the ALP and Liberal party have reached a deal that would see the Liberal Party preference Labor ahead of the Australian Greens. The Age November 6, 2006


    In a move that will also see the National Party become part of Victoria’s political history Labor has secured its place in Richmond and Melbourne leaving the Greens with the hope of only winning a upper-house seat.

    Game over for the Greens in Melbourne. With the challenge out of reach the question that remains is will it effect their appeal and support in the upper-house? It could go both ways it could help the Greens secure votes or it could dampen it. Three weeks to go and already the Greens are on a losing street.

  11. Don’t pop the champagne yet, melbcity.

    Senior Labor and Liberal sources confirmed to The Age yesterday that a deal to freeze out the minor parties was possible before next Sunday’s deadline for registration of how-to-vote cards.

    Not really anything new here. Stephen Mayne broke the news of these negotiations in the October 24 edition of Bracksed.

    It does sound like a good deal from the perspective of both parties though.

  12. Will the Liberals now try and finnish off the Nationals by directing preferences against them?

    Will the Nats go to Labor with an anti-Lib deal offer to try and stop there own destruction?

  13. The Liberal’s focus on Geelong suggests that their own polling gives them a chance. Bad news for Carbines, shoddily treated by her own faction by being dumped to no. 3 despite her hard work in Bellarine in 1996, her 20 years of classroom teaching brings more life-experience to parliament than a lot of other Labor candidates. Might give the Greens a prospect if they can get ahead of Carbines. Ironical when carbines is one of the greener Labor MPs, not happy with channel-deepening from what I hear.

  14. In today’s Crikey, Charles Richardson suggests that the Greens could trump Labor’s proposal by offering to direct preferences to the Liberals in outer suburban seats. Since the Liberals are more eager to win seats off Labor than seats off the Nationals.

    But I think this ignores a couple of things:

    1. As many have pointed out, the Greens ability to ‘direct’ the preferences of their voters seems marginal at best.
    2. Whilst most Labor voters couldn’t give a stuff whether the Libs or Nats win conservative rural seats, many Greens voters are soft Labor supporters. They would be aghast at the Greens directing preferences to the Liberals and there could be a backlash against the Greens as a result.

  15. Liberals may expect too much from a deal, apart from Rodney which does look shakey for the Nats. Libs will have to get ahead of Labor (and Green preferences make this more difficult as in Swan Hill in 2002). Even when ALP votes are distributed some of them will be 1st preference Green voters not Labor ticket voters. I suspect that the Greens expect Labor to wheel and deal to hold the inner-city seats as long as there is a Council deal I think they will reconcile themselves to the inner-city seats being beyond reach.

  16. The Green vote is interesting for many whom voted for them last time voted for Kennett in 99, so where will they go this time, I see several posters agree towards the Libs, leaving a hardcore Green vote which is more left wing therefore will flow more strongly towards the ALP.

  17. Viva the end of democracy -so its seems – with major parties muscling in to take out the minor parties. The Dems are well and truly gone… the Nats are heading towards the end of their life and the Greens can’t quite get across the line [Tas is a somewhat exception down due to the lowerhouse being proportional]. FF isn’t really a mention as their senate seat was be poor misjudgement of Labor and its allies. If such a deal by the majors does go ahead, it looks like we could be heading an American ‘Democracy’ where two majors dominate and there is less than a handful of independents [no minor party representatives] in both their houses of parliament. This is more of a power grab by both Liberal and Labor parties. The question is… will it pay off or will there be a backlash? The Nats seemed to have survived in Qld quite well [don’t get too picky on rural bias here folks], I’d definetly like to see how they go on Nov 25. Perhaps by getting rid of the Nats in Vic, the Libs have a chance to finally take them down Federally and in their remaining strongsholds throughout NSW and QLD. [The Nats will be finished in SA once their sole representative retires.]…… I can’t wait to see how this election turns out! The stakes are high… who will the winners be??? [Rhetorical question by the way… I think it’s more of a question of by how much the winners win.]

  18. PO: I think you’re being a bit melodramatic.

    The major parties have no obligation to keep the minor parties alive. Witness the treatment of One Nation.

    Furthermore, this only relates to the lower house. Where the parties don’t control preferences, but merely offer suggestions in the form of how to vote cards. (Yes it’s a shame they so many voters blindly follow their HTV rather than exercising their own choice. Is that what is meant by getting the government we deserve?)

  19. David The Greens are not in a position to direct preferences away form Labor. If you think there was an outcry about Family First securing preferences ahead of the Greens then wait and see the backlash that would flow into the upper-house should the Greens try and direct preferences. Greens have – to zero chance of winning a lower-house seat and any preference games in the lower-house will only diminish their chances in the upper-house. The Greens best chance is to run a positive campaign and not one revenge and payback.

  20. The STV prefrence lists present a huge opportunity for political tricks, as about the only rule is they must have at least five preferences (is there a rule that lists must preference their own candidates first). Other tricks that might be tried include doing a preference deal with a party then preferencing up their list instead of down.

  21. Whence this strange notion that Labor has a duty to help the Greens win seats? They slag us all over the place and then expect us to do their legwork for them. Labor, like everyone else, allocates its preferences in such a way as to maximise its chances. That’s why we cut a preference deal with Family First in 2004, and although it didn’t come off (thanks to Mad Mark), it was the right thing to do and I think we should do it again in 2007 as the best way of winning three Senate seats. If the Greens want to get into Parliament, they can get out and persuade more people to vote for them, and not expect to coast in on our surplus.

  22. if the Nationals issused open tickets they could do the Liberals some damage in rural seats. Talking of which does Labor give themselves a chance in Benambra? It is an open seat, the ALP candidate has a profile and the government is making announcements in the region.

  23. Adam,
    I agree that it’s every party for themselves with preference deals. I also recall that the 2004 Senate preference deal was an attempt to save Jacinta Collins’ Senate spot. That the calculation backfired, of itself doesn’t invalidate the strategy. However, I would have thought that Senator Fielding’s Senate performance has been a chastening experience on balance, following the inevitable backlash among a significant proportion of Labor voters who were “misled”.
    Hypothetically, Labor would surely find it easier to deal either with 1-3 Greens’ Legislative Councillors, or on issues where they are particularly bolshie, just deal with the Libs – assuming that there is no majority party.
    There is also the point that Labor is likely to have difficulties staffing booths if they repeat the 2004 preference deal with FF.

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