Spin cycle

Yesterday, the Daily Telegraph reported that Labor’s marginal seat polling indicated it was only one seat away from losing its grip on its parliamentary majority. Today’s follow-up article serves up the extra seat: Newcastle, where Labor has "all but written off its star candidate Jodi McKay". Dumped Labor member Bryce Gaudry is credited with "cutting into the Labor vote", leaving "the way open for popular independent and Lord Mayor John Tate to snatch victory". Skepticism about Labor’s figures has spilled over from Crikey, Tim Dunlop and this site and into the news pages of the Sydney Morning Herald, which reports suggestions from a "senior Liberal source" that ALP state secretary Mark Arbib was "making it up". The surveys reportedly had samples of 150 (which the Telegraph has thus far neglected to reveal), so the margin for error wouldn’t have been much different if he had been. Nonetheless, the Liberals went to some effort to debunk the alleged Labor findings, providing the Herald with a progress report of their own.

Curiously, this mostly backed up what Labor was saying: the Liberals were "leading" in Menai, Miranda, Port Stephens and Camden ("set to fall" in the Telegraph article), with "a chance of winning Penrith and Tweed" (which the Tele said were "line-ball"). The only specific point of contention was that the Liberals had "ridiculed" suggestions they were ahead 53-47 in John Aquilina’s seat of Riverstone. The SMH also reports that Arbib has since said the Labor vote was 50 per cent in Wollondilly and 52 per cent in Londonderry (apparently on the primary vote), and suggests the Greens were found to be posing little threat in Balmain and Marrickville. However, the Wollondilly figure is directly contradicted in the Telegraph, which says the seat is "on a knife edge, leaning just 51 to 49 per cent the Government’s way".

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.

28 comments on “Spin cycle”

  1. Has morris iemma really written Jodi McKay off or is he trying to win her a sympathy vote and stem the tide of rusted on Labor voters who are heading to independents?

    And what of the proposition that ‘Newcastle has changed’? Seems odd that she is the only 30-something hopeful female running in the entire area. The Hunter seems pretty rusted on middle-aged to me.

  2. more yawns,

    Do not believe any polls you are not allowed to read yourself.
    how many people were interviewed and what is the margin of error?

    Moreover parties do surveys in seats which means you really do not know what the vote is in each seat at all unless you extrapolate from an absurdly low sample.

    Always ask those who spruik ‘internal party polling’ why it is at adds with public polls as it shouldn’t be

  3. Actually, despite my cynicism, I do think Riverstone might be an interesting one, given the demographic change in the area. The influx of affluent fundamentalist Christian types helped deliver Greenway to the Libs at fed level. Possibly might happen here.

  4. Marcus

    Unfortunately, what a lot on the left who do not realise that alot of Christians tend to vote Liberal anyway. Despite it lacking the conservatism that it had in the passed, in terms of industrial relations change, you can’t make the argument that Greenway alone was won on Christian fundamentalists voting Liberal.
    Perhaps the high informal vote, over 10%, I believe and the Latham
    experiement was all that was required. After all Dobell swung to the Libs
    by an extra 4% or so and that was a seat that they had rarely held.
    But just the same there are alot of ‘Christian fundamentalists’ who would
    swing. So I don’t see your point.

  5. Hmmm, “Christian fundamentalists who swing” is a rather unpleasant thought. But leaving that aside, nothing has really happened in the last few weeks to change my mind that Iemma is heading for a comfortable re-election. For those among you who might be surprised by this, I think you need to consider the way that most swing voters vote. It seems to me that they weigh up the choice before them – it is nothing to do with the competence or otherwise of the government. Or rather it is, but only in comparison to the opposition, which is to say, the choice which is before them.

    Consequently, in this election, we have a long-term government with a short-term leader whom people seem to like, up against an opposition without much in the way of talent, including a lacklustre leader. Swinging voters aren’t looking for perfection, they just choice the best of a bad lot, which in this case would have to be Iemma. Throw in a couple of issues which are reasonating out there (eg IR), and it’s no great surprise that the ALP will be returned.

  6. Wollondilly and Londonderry are both interesting seats because they are polarised generally between Conservative Rural areas and ALP Urban Areas with similar numbers each end.

    While I don’t necessarily assume that Arbib’s figures are correct, any poll numbers would have to be taken carefully.

    Also… it would seem to me that if the Libs are winning Camden (9% Swing), they would be well and truly home in Wollondilly (3%) just next door, but who knows…

    I guess we only have three more weeks to find out.

  7. Adam

    Of course these Christian types are Liberal-leaning. That’s not my point. My point is that- as far as I understand- there’s now alot more of them then before. so the ratio of them to the (I presume) tradional Labor voters closer to Blacktown has increased.
    (I admit I’m not a Sydneysider, but I remember from the fed election commentary that the northern Blacktown area is becoming more like the Hills region every day).

  8. Very interesting that Iemma was yesterday campaigning in the Liberal marginal seat of South Coast. This would indicate to me the ALP thinks they’ve got a good chance of winning that one back.
    I think we can all agree Miranda, Menai and Camden are likely to go back to the Coalition. As for the other marginal seats, who knows?
    I’m getting a lot more mail this time from the Liberals in my seat of Epping: their polling must be showing a supposedly blue ribbon seat isn’t that secure for them this time.

  9. On Goulburn, I understand there is a developing sense of “anyone but Goward” down there. She has not performed well at public events (doesn’t take kindly to anyone questioning her, and has already been branding people as ‘liars’), although the ALP candidate Parker has stumbled and misfired as well. Certainly in Goulburn itself there is a stronger anti-Goward feeling than back up towards the Southern Highlands end of the electorate, which will probably be the thing that gets her the seat at the end of the day. I also hear that the independent Paul Stephenson has been performing very well.

    One other thing – part of the anti-Goward feeling is due to her installation – while Seaton had been considering not standing again, Debnam did not wait to allow her to make the announcement to the electorate (and branches/supporters) before throwing Goward forward as the replacement. This left a bad taste about Goward and Debnam.

  10. We just received coloured letterboxing from Edward Mandla, the Lib candidate in Sydney, referring to the Moore/Labor govt (as in Clover Moore). I thought that that was a bit of a stretch!

  11. On Riverstone: when i was a kid out there in the 1970s Windsor Rd was a clear social dividing line between the west and the north-west, now the mortgage belt overlaps both. The Christian theory is a beat-up. On Goulburn: in 1978 and 1981 it was clearly held for the Nats only on the personal vote of their MP. Could it now be drifting back to Labor as it is pulled into the Sydney sphere?

  12. I concur with Evan’s comments about Epping. I got 2 bits of Liberal direct mail yesterday alone, and there are thousands of Lib coreflutes up. Maybe the dissident Lib independent Levine is drawing enough away from Greg Smith to make it interesting, or maybe Labor is just polling well. Either way, it’s remarkable that the Libs are spending so much money in a seat that has never been won by Labor (either as Epping or its previous incarnation Eastwood) and has a 7.6% margin. Doesn’t bode well for their overall chances.

  13. Sources say 3 more direct mailings before Poll authorised by Liberal HQ in Willoughby. There circling the wagons in Reilly Street.

  14. Andrew, I think you’re reading into things in Epping a bit. My understanding is that Greg Smith has a significant supporter base and wants to win on primaries. He’s one of the Liberals higher-profile candidates, hence the expenditure.

  15. Good question, Ben – I’d suggest that the Libs have the least chance of winning out of themselves, Clover, the Greens and Lab. Edward Mandla hasn’t distinguished himself by continuing to say that he’s “listening” to what people think about the injecting centre, as he’s been “listening” for over 6 months! I think that that’s just code to not antagonise people who are either for the injecting centre or against it, especially as the official Liberal policy is to close it down the first day Debnam is Premier!

  16. I suspect the leaflets in Sydney have been done at the candidates expense. The major parties tend to spend minimal amounts on any but the key seats. Any other campaigning is done at the sacrificial lamb (sorry, candidate’s) expense.

  17. In Epping, maybe the recent council by-election results (C-Ward) have spooked the Libs a little: declared Liberal candidates, from memory, fared rather poorly, and both times an Indie was elected (admittedly the second was a declared member of the Liberal party, but was also a former mayor of the Council). The Greens achieved 33% of the primary vote in the Feb. 17 by-election – more reflective of a ‘who the heck are these two independents’ vote than a genuine swing to the Greens, perhaps, but it is at least POSSIBLE that there are small-l liberals in Epping who are fed up with Debnam’s right-wing posturing and scaremongering, and are looking for any alternative.

    I doubt it’s a seat-to-watch, but perhaps the election of the Right faction Greg Smith made a little impact, it was one of the more high-profile preselections of the campaign.

    Pat Reilly in Willoughby: I live in the seat, but there is very little recognition of him outside Willoughby Council itself… how do the ‘commentariat’ rate his chances?

  18. Josh WK, both Hornsby C-Ward wins were for declared Liberals. Not much more that can be said there. Greg Smith just seems to be trying to build name recognition, replacing a popular local.

    People (including Marcus) should note that Riverstone does not really have any of Blacktown proper in it anymore (that bit was moved into Toongabbie). The seat is exclusively north of the M7, right smack bang in the middle of new housing estates. How this will affect it is anyone’s guess, but it certainly isn’t Old Labor anymore.

    Apart from the fact that the Liberals aren’t in Riley St anymore (they had to sell it to finance excessive expenditure on the 1999 campaign) I am starting to doubt their strategy.

    Most people I talk to want to give Labor a kick, but seem to doubt the competence of the opposition. At the same time, some good grassroots campaigning may swing it either way in particular seats.

    If Iemma is in the South Coast for real, he must have similar poll results to the official ones, but maybe it just helps him in Kiama.

  19. Yes, both winners of the Hornsby Council C Ward By-elections were Liberals posing as Independents: not uncommon in this part of the world.
    Andrew, like you, I’ve received a mountain of mail from the Libs in Epping. Nothing as yet from Labor or the independent, but I presume they don’t have the resources available to Greg Smith. The ALP of course isn’t going to bother campaigning too much in Epping, a seat they will never win.
    The independent candidate Martin Levine however might have a chance, if enough disaffected Liberals lodge a protest vote over Greg Smith’s preselection.

  20. Talking about “independents”, it’s fairly common in Camden and Wollondilly (although not in Campbelltown, where even the indies register parties and effectively run as a coalition, that’s cause Ctown has no wards and is more like a PR/party list system as a consequence).

    The seat of Camden was won off Labor by Liz Kernohan, the “independent” (ie. Liberal) Mayor of Camden in 1991. When she retired in 2003, it was won back by Labor’s candidate, the “independent” Mayor of Camden (and Kernohan returned to council as an “independent” for six months in 2004 before passing away), and the Liberal candidate this time, with quite a good chance of winning, is the “independent” Mayor of Camden.

    Likewise Phil Costa, the Labor candidate for Wollondilly, is the “independent” Mayor of Wollondilly. Although I think someone forgot to let the other Wollondilly councillors in on the joke, as they reacted fairly angrily when he was preselecting, voting no confidence in him as Mayor and restricting his ability to speak on behalf of the Council.

  21. In Kogarah, I received more pamphlet and signs of the labor candidate Cherie Burton than normal letter last week, I don’t even know if the Liberals are running in the seat. On Tuesday we also had a visit at Kogarah station by the celebrity Labor personality Frank Sartor, there was two things wrong with this
    a. Rochdale (where he was parachuted into, is 2km down the road
    b. I heard quite a few people muttering that thank god he is not their mp, when you are that popular, a wiser choice would be to lay low

  22. The current seat of Epping may have taken in some northern parts of the pre-99 seat of Eastwood but has far closer resemblance to the pre-99 seat of Northcott. Basically fairly safe Lib territory although Smith’s brand may not go down well in all areas.

    Re comments on Hornsby Council. It is the fashion for local Libs to portray themselves as Independents. Mind you, they run tickets that are authorised by prominent local Lib identities and booths manned by same people who man Lib booths at state and Fed polls. Granted, a few DO identify themselves as members of the Lib party in the local press but not all ……… including some who are serial preselection candidates. Doesn’t bother me that they are Libs rather that they’d have the balls to stand as what they are ……. something that the local Greens and ALP have done.

    Riverstone being moved further north towards Windsor will aid the Libs but may be a bit too much of a stretch this time. Do remember the Lib candidate in 2003 (one Ray Williams – intending Lib member for Hawkesbury) carrying on like he was a shoo-in ……. and failing to carry 1 booth on 2PP.

    Had a nice old chuckle re the comments on Prue Goward’s “thin skin”. Nice to know that things never change. Remember her ABC TV days when she fancied herself as quite the little attack dog …… but couldn’t handle it when fire was returned. Potential Lib leader methinks not.

  23. Not that it counts for much I guess, but it does show I suggest the level of interest by the candidates themselves in the election – I went to Beecroft on Monday to check out the pre-polling in Epping- there were only 2 candidates represented – Smith with corflutes and an energetic young man and a lady representing Levine- with a bag of how-to-vote cards but no corflutes or posters.

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