Idle speculation about the federal election

Adam Carr asks: "William, could we have a thread dedicated to idle speculation about the federal election, as you have done for the NSW election?" His wish is my command. By way of a conversation starter, I note that the Australian Electoral Commission recently released an extensive list of parties that have been deregistered by virtue of last year’s electoral law "reforms", one of which sought to do away with minor parties taking the name of major parties in vain, principally Liberals for Forests. This was to be achieved by deregistering all parties that had never achieved federal parliamentary representation six months after the passage of the bill, then requiring them to register again under the new rules. I didn’t think this worth mentioning at the time, as I assumed it would be a fairly simple matter for parties other than Liberals for Forests, leaving aside the irritation of some added paperwork. However, those with their noses closer to the grindstone of minor party politics evidently don’t see it that way. Stephen Mayne, until very recently a principal of the People Power party, had this to say in today’s Crikey email:

The Howard government is known for its cynicism but the deregistration of 19 political parties when the nation wasn’t paying attention on December 27 must surely go down as one of its lowest acts. What sort of democracy allows a government to unilaterally and automatically deregister all political parties that don’t have an MP? Talk about abusing control of both houses … If this had happened before the 2004 election there is no way that Family First would have got up in Victoria because it relied on preferences from the likes of liberals for forests. The strangest part of this debacle is that the media has shown no interest whatsoever in reporting this assault on democracy. Imagine if there was some form of business where the regulator could get away with saying all small competitors were automatically deregistered. The big have got bigger in John Howard’s Australia and the corner store competing with Woolworths knows exactly how all these minor parties must feel.

The practical upshot is that most existing minor parties must provide renewed proof that they have at least 500 members. The exceptions are the Greens, other than the Queensland branch; Family First; the Australian Democrats; the Nuclear Disarmament Party; the NSW division of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (curiously, given that One Nation only ever won a seat in Queensland), and the Democratic Labor Party (which evidently persuaded the AEC it was the same party that existed prior to 1978). I personally am unclear as to how often parties are required to do this in the normal course of events; anyone who can enlighten me is invited to do so in comments.

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.

244 comments on “Idle speculation about the federal election”

Comments Page 5 of 5
1 4 5
  1. Adam,

    I did mean you when I said “ALP insider”. As you are not in a faction, you obviously cannot be an insider, so please accept my apologies for my unwarranted elevation (?) of your status. I reword my comment as, ‘An ALP supporter and close observer of politics thinks that a “Rudd government will probably be the nearest thing to a Christian Democrat government Australia has ever had”.’

  2. It’s interesting that someone has raised the prospect of a double dissolution.

    I actually think that it is all but certain that a newly elected Rudd government will go to a double dissolution in late 2008.

    The reason I think so is Industrial Relations. In the case of most policy areas there would be some room to work with a Coalition senate majority and I wouldn’t see the hypothetical Labor government having the backbone to go to an election over many of its policies (it’s new education policies, to take one example of many).

    But with industrial relations I would think that Labor would push very hard, and likewise it would be one issue where the Liberals would be harder to budge, and I reckon it would be very advantageous to a fresh Labor government to call a double dissolution solely on the issue of industrial relations against a recently-beaten Liberal government which would still be reeling from the departure of Howard.

  3. Surely Sacha with a higher revenue base helping the ‘business climate’, by which I assume you mean ordinary taxpayers subsidising uncompetative private business, would be much easier?

    Just think what Howard could have done for the ‘business climate’ if 11 years ago instead of setting out to destroy education and training he’d looked to improve it? Business might actually find employees with the skills they want today? Bit radical isn’t it?

  4. a question for the constitutional boffins out there….based on a Rudd government being elected in 2007.

    Would that government be able to start piling up the double dissolution triggers right away (under the current senate whose term ends 30.6. 2008) or would they have to wait for legislation to be rejected by the new senate (term starting 1.7.2008)??

    This would surely make a difference to the timing of a DD as if they had to wait for the new senate … mid (post July 1) 2009 would be more likely.

    If they went before July 1 2009, that would trigger a second election before May 2011 as those senators elected would have terms expire 30.6.2011.

  5. From memory, to create a DD trigger a bill must be rejected twice by the Senate in successive sessions, or something like that. I doubt there would be time in the period between the election of a Rudd government in October 2007 and the expiry of the old Senate in June 2008 for this to be achieved, even it were constitutionally permissible.

  6. The AEC has just released its disclosure returns for political party donations in 2005/06. There are hours of fun to be had here, but unfortunately I’m too busy. The only thing I looked at was the ALP (NSW) page, which was topped by a $110,000 donation from North Steyne Investments. This turns out to be the company of Bob Ell, a major backer of pro-development candidates for Tweed Shire in 2004. The council was sacked the following year after an inquiry found the majority of councillors were (the ABC reports) ‘”puppets” of a developer controlled group’. Like I said, hours of fun.

    BTW, this is the last time we’ll be privy to disclosures of donations of between $1500 and $10,000, thanks to the government’s electoral “reforms”. Donors can now give $9999 to each of a party’s federal, state and territory branches and nobody will be the wiser.

  7. Sacha,

    I would have sought advice from Treasury on the comparative rates across the taxes and charges in Victoria and other states.

    I haven’t given much thought to the “business climate” argument. I think most economic factors are controlled by the federal government, if they are controlled at all. I also still hear a lot of hype about how the Kennett government turned around the atmosphere of Victoria from depression to go-ahead, but I have lived here all my life and I never saw it. It was just spin, spin, spin, lapped up by a servile media. If John Cain had lost in 1988, the recession would have hit the Liberals and they would probably have lost in 1992 – and we would have been spared the revolution we didn’t have to have.

  8. “Would that government be able to start piling up the double dissolution triggers right away (under the current senate whose term ends 30.6. 2008) or would they have to wait for legislation to be rejected by the new senate (term starting 1.7.2008)??”

    As far as I can tell, there’s nothing in Law that prevents triggers being built up before a new Senate sits. There must be a 90 day wait between a bill being rejected or failing to be passed by the Senate, and the House passing the Bill for a second time (and the Senate failing to pass it again). Then it’s a potential trigger. If a Rudd Government got really busy, you could *theoretically* be back at the polls in Feb 2008. That’s not going to happen, but first half of 2008 is certainly possible.

    “If they went before July 1 2009, that would trigger a second election before May 2011 as those senators elected would have terms expire 30.6.2011.”

    If there were an election in the first half of 2008, the Senate terms would be backdated to July 1 2007, so there’d be another half Senate election due in late May 2010.


  9. Watch out for this article in the Advertiser tomorrow …

    Five SA Labor seats ‘set to fall’


    EXCLUSIVE: PRIME Minister John Howard’s Government faces a potential disaster at the next election, with all five marginal seats in South Australia set to fall to Labor.

    The latest Advertiser polls conducted in the Liberal-held seat of Wakefield and the Labor-held Hindmarsh, show voters are abandoning the Howard Government in droves, raising the possibility of a clean sweep of SA’s marginals.

    There are five marginal seats in SA of which three are currently in Government hands.

    In the inner-western seat of Hindmarsh, currently held by the ALP by 0.1 per cent, a massive 60 per cent of those polled would have voted Labor if the election were held now.

    In Wakefield, based around Gawler and extending into the mid-north, the first-term Liberal MP, David Fawcett, would have been easily defeated.

    The startling results show the ALP is decisively back in the race for the 2007 election following the potentially damaging change of leadership last year.

    The results in Hindmarsh and Wakefield reinforce a trend revealed in this week’s Advertiser poll of the southern metropolitan seat of Kingston, where the ALP led the Liberal Party by 56 to 44 per cent after preferences.

    While opinion polls so far out from an election should be read with a degree of caution, the results in South Australia suggest voters may be preparing to switch to Labor after more than 11 years of the Howard Government.

    Kingston Liberal MP Kym Richardson said the poll result in his seat was “a kick in the guts,” after working hard in the area for the past two years.

  10. Just a pair of observations Sacha, nothing particularly stunning or controversial about either. My apologies if I’ve offended you by buying into a private conversation, it was my intend. If the smart alec expression is a bit much I spent to long with narky lawyers and I’m not going to apologise for that but some consideration must be extended to me.

    If you are really interested in comparative state taxation, and assuming you don’t have access to a State Treasury, I know the OSR in New South Wales complies a comparative report on state taxes. Not sure if it is public or not. All the OSR’s have web-sites with bucket loads of information on them.

  11. I doubt that polls like the SA one cited above are worth very much during the Rudd honeymoon period. Parliament resumes next week and the political year will start to hot up. Let\s see where we are in the polls in a couple of months. Don\t forget that Howard went into 1998, 2001 and 2004 trailing in the polls, and each time he found a way back into office. The `turn` in 2004 was Mad Mark\s `troops out by Xmas` comment in March – he went down in the polls and never recovered. So let\s see where Rudd is in April. If he\s still ahead then I will start to get excited. (Curse this Indonesian keyboard!)

  12. The ’tiser story above is more sloppy journalism than anything else

    It is 3 Liberal marginals to fall, the other two seats (Adelaide + Hindmarsh) have already ‘fallen’!! And the 3 seats are all quite plausible too!!

    Whatever, SA will probably more tuned into the Water Wars than anywhere else.

  13. I think its always worth remembering that opinion polls are just that, a snapshot of opinion at a particular point in time. I’m only really qualified to comment on Hindmarsh, and whatever happens between now and the election, I’d be shocked if this seat isnt relatively safe labor after the next election (5%+). Steve Georganas successfully contested this seat last time after narrowly missing out in 2001 and 1998. Only the previous Liberal member, Chris Gallus’ personal vote has saved this seat for the libs in the past. The previous liberal candidate Simon Birmingham soon moved on from this seat …. The Libs would be better off concentrating on Adelaide, but even that might be asking too much.

    As for the Howard water solution … If Morris Iemma was fairly keen, Steve Bracks somewhat keen and Mike Rann not at all keen (repsonse proportional to how far “up” the Murray they are!!) … I think the South Australian public would be pretty sceptical about any state government that cedes power to the commonwealth on this basis. Water may end up being a vote turner down Adelaide way …

  14. Adam

    Can you provide statistics on how many and which EU counties are Parliamentary democracies vs Presidential dictatorships ? Also what is your view on Preferential voting as opposed to the two round ballot systems? It would be great if you could develop your database so you could punch in a few basic characteristics and regional criteria and obtain a list. Great site by the way.

  15. The poll results in adelaide are going to have an interesting effect on the Labor party there. Federally Labor hasn’t made any real gains since 1996, even in 2004 when they won 2 seats it was matched by a loss of two seats.

    Matched with the huge successes Labor enjoys in state elections I’ve heard a few party members wonder if federal elections are worth the effort.

    I think that these poll results are going to help Labor get the volunteers and donations out, which could have a real effect on the election

  16. Good to see you back MelbCity.

    If you mean the European Union, then all are democracies.

    If you mean Europe, there is one dictatorship left, Belarus.

    I’m sure Adam will correct my amateurish knowledge.

  17. If something isn’t done about Melbourne PT by the election there is a good chance that the ALP will lose quite a few VIC seats

  18. MelbCity
    I would class every country in the EU as a functioning democracy – in fact it is a criterion for membership. Some of the new members – Poland, Romania – are a bit wobbly, but all have fair elections, free press, independent judiciary etc etc.

    Outside the EU, only Belarus can be classed a clear non-democracy, unless we count Azerbaijan and the Central Asian states as part of Europe, which I don’t. Russia is sliding backwards, but we will see what happens at the end of Putin’s term before making a judgement. Serbia has just run clean elections, and Albania looks like getting through a whole electoral cycle without upheavals for the first time. Bosnia is still very shaky.

  19. Afterthought: If Turkey is a European country, it still has big problems, particularly the 10% threshhold which keeps the Kurds out of Parliament, the restrictions on free speech and the continuing unaccountability of the Army and the security forces to the elected government.

  20. Enviroyouth, think most electors can distinguish between state and federal issues.

    Interesting opinion poll results in SA and the next 3 months is crucial. Everyone seems to compare Rudd 2007 to Latham 2004 however they are poles apart. Rudd is a more polished operator.

    Lets remember, 2001 was won by the Libs on the back of 9/11 (terror threat/Tampa etc) whilst 2004 was won due to Latham’s incompetence (and his skeletons in the closet). This year is a different ball game given interest rates have risen since last election (Howard’s trust issue no longer there) then IR laws (wasn’t even mentioned in 2004 (and therefore trust again exposed – what is planned this time?) plus add Iraq (no going away by years end I believe) and then David Hicks. Whilst no one issue is a vote turner, it does add up.

    Plus Rudd is from Qld and is well known up there and ALP has poor representation. A swing of 6%+ in Qld is on the cards.

  21. Trevor how many voters have you actually asked if they know the difference?
    Most of the time when I was helping the Greens was spent explaining that Bob Brown was in the senate and had nothing to do with what happened in the Vic Goverment, Bracks is not their local senator, things like that.

    Also if the ALP does something wrong they will punish the ALP at whatever election comes next. Its what happened with workchoices where I was. Work choices hurt them, the Libs implemented work choices, therefore the local state libs should be punished.

  22. The reason why the libs got punished at the last state election is a lack good policy and good candidates in key seats and people saw pass Baillieu’s spin. Work choices maybe have help in some area for Labor but you should go and have a look at Narracan and Morwell IR was a big issue and the libs won both seats overall the lack of good policy and ted ballieu was what killed the libs

    Melbourne PT WILL NOT be issue at the federal election their bigger issue to deal with like, climate change water, work choices education, national security health, david hicks and the war all before Melbourne PT which, is state issue and it will only be an issue in the inner city if at all. Labor will not loss inner city seat to greens or libs anyway

  23. Trevor Says: February 3rd, 2007 at 9:13 am. For what it’s worth I believe you are spot on. Howard – the miracle worker (the myth continues) – will find it much harder against a confident and competent Rudd with the issues you mentioned. I’m not convinced Howard is “loved” by the the voting public as much as journalists would have us believe.

  24. In 1990 the ALP were thumped in Victoria in part because the state ALP Government was on the nose.

    If Bracks doesn’t fix Public Transport, remembering the Scoresby back flip was to keep PT working could cost the ALP votes.

    But in saying that Howard has never been popular in Victoria and all sitting Liberal MPs have solid margins, I’m not expecting too many seats to change.

    Melbourne Ports, Chisholm and Bendigo are winnable for the Liberals while I can’t see any clear pick ups for the ALP at this stage, even though I feel the ALP are travelling well.

  25. In 1990 the state was stuffed but the state is fine and bracks is not on the nose.

    melborne ports chisholm will be fine for the labor party but bendigo is not looking good

    labor can win Corangamite 5% and McMillan 4.8 % and maybe La Trobe, Deakin and McEwen

  26. Adam, I think you have left out some of the mini-states. Liechtenstein (in what I think is a world first) effectively voted to cease to be a democracy a few years ago, giving the hereditary ruler virtually absolute power.

    I don’t think the Vatican city can be considered a democracy, and I’m not too sure about Monaco or Andorra.

    Still, it’s pretty exciting to think that only one state with more than 50,000 people is not a democracy, even if quite a few are a bit wobbly. BTW, this is certainly off topic, maybe William should create a thread for discussion of international elections

  27. In the event of a double dissolution (could be one next year) I think that the Greens would get their first candidate up in each state and would probably get their second up in Tasmania and might get some of their second candidates up in other states if preferences go well.

  28. We would need to gain a few points to have a chance of winning two senators in a state on the mainland in a DD. I guess it’s possible if we get a swing of a few points, but it would definitely need to include us winning more primary votes, preferences wouldn’t be enough.

    But we generally do better against incumbent Labor governments (potential pro-Green voters see Labor as worse and Liberals as no threat) than against incumbent Liberal governments (they see Labor as the way to defeat the Liberals) so maybe we could see our vote go up at a Labor-called DD election in, say, NSW, Victoria and WA.

  29. In answer to Adam’s query further up the page. Here’s Malcolm Mackerras from a couple of weeks back. (I’ve only just come across this article myself.)

    There would be a case for Andren to say that “the reality is that my seat of Calare has been abolished so I shall contest Macquarie since it now includes Bathurst and Lithgow”.

    I have well-informed contacts in both Bathurst and Orange (the latter remaining in Calare) and they tell me that no doubt exists in the minds of local observers as to what will happen.

    Andren, they confidently predict, will contest Calare and win it.

    Furthermore, if the seat had instead been called Parkes he would still have contested and won it since it includes Orange.

    Mackerras has also gone back on his November prediction that Howard would win a fifth term. Now he favours Rudd.

    Which is curious because his November article in The Australian appeared to factor in the possibility of Rudd ousting Beazley. And the redistribution, the factor he points to now, had also been finalised by then.

  30. Serious error in Milne’s article in the Oz, today. He talks about the 5 marginal seats in SA and how Labor needs 16 seats to win Gov’t. As such, he goes on about how critical SA will be to Labor’s chances of Gov’t (agreed) and makes the logical conclusion that if Labor can take all of SA’s 5 marginal seats it will need just 11 seats to win Gov’t. He has all but forgotten that Labor already hold 2 of those 5 marginal seats and, assuming they take the 3 Liberal-held marginal seats, will need an additional 13 seats outside of SA, not 11. Bad mistake on his part, I think. Thoughts?

  31. Tom and Ben Raue make a good point about how the Greens could win senate seats in the mainland states in a DD. A point they have omitted is that they are likely on current patterns to be long term senators (and in Tasmania possibly 2 long term senators) which would mean that the Greens would have significant numbers in the Senate at the DD+1 election as no sitting senators would be up re-election.

    Another aspect of a DD would be that Family First may be able to get few (short term senators) up in Vic, SA, and may be other states.

  32. 1. Milne is an idiot and if you read his columns you will go blind.
    2. Yes I forgot Liechtenstein, which now cannot be classed as a democracy since the people have surrendered their rights to the Ruling Prince. Vatican City isn’t a democracy but then it isn’t a country either – it’s a sovereign state only to provide a diplomatic personality for the Catholic Church. It has no “people.” Andorra and Monaco are both democracies.
    3. I am in Perth at the moment and the chattering classes here are chattering about the Peel by-election and what a disaster it is for the state Liberals. The question is, what implications, if any, does it have for the federal election, now probably eight months away? We have all got used to saying “there is no flow-on from state to federal politics” (because if there was, Kim Beazley would now be PM). But just how hopeless and demoralised can the state Liberal branches get before this starts to flow through into their federal campaigning? Can Howard really carry the election all by himself with no help at all from his very badly broken party machine?

  33. Given this thread ostensibly began as ‘idle speculation about the Federal election’ I thought I might bring it back to that for a moment. It was suggested on the 7:30 report that Howard might try for an August election, largely to get it out of the way before the APEC summit. It’s been suggested that rubbing shoulders with Bush will be more of an electoral liability this time round and Howard doesn’t want to risk being seen too closely with Bush. Interesting thought. I think it’s overstated the importance of the American alliance to an Australian election and given Bush a little too much credit for the way he can influence an Australian election, but what are everyone elses thoughts?

  34. “Tom and Ben Raue make a good point about how the Greens could win senate seats in the mainland states in a DD. A point they have omitted is that they are likely on current patterns to be long term senators…”

    You might be overlooking section 13 of the Constitution which gives the Senate itself the power to decide which Senators are long-term and which are short-term. I believe in practice they largely follow the order of election, but I recall in 1987 there was some argy-bargy where the Government and the Democrats argued on the basis of primary votes that certain Democrats should be long-term at the expense of Nats who were actually elected first.

    13. As soon as may be after the Senate first meets, and after each first meeting of the Senate following a dissolution thereof, the Senate shall divide the senators chosen for each State into two classes, as nearly equal in number as practicable; and the places of the senators of the first class shall become vacant at the expiration of three years, and the places of those of the second class at the expiration of six years, from the beginning of their term of service; and afterwards the places of senators shall become vacant at the expiration of six years from the beginning of their term of service.

  35. Yes Darryl, and the impact of the Senate voting the way it did in 1987 was to help the Democrats help the balance of power after the 1990 election. If it hadn’t voted the way it did, the balance of power would have been shared between the Democrats, Jo Vallentine and Brian Harradine (from memory).

  36. Psephophile, is it possible that Milne is considering Boothby (5.4%) and Sturt (6.8%) as potentially marginal, given recent polling in other SA electorates?

Comments are closed.

Comments Page 5 of 5
1 4 5