Idle speculation: budget edition

None of this actually has anything to do with the budget, but you know how it is …

• The ALP’s national executive, which was empowered by the recent national conference to select candidates for 25 New South Wales seats, announced the candidates for 10 seats on Saturday. In the western Sydney seat of Blaxland, sitting member Michael Hatton has been dumped in favour of another member of the Right, Transurban executive and former Bob Carr staffer Jason Claire. Hatton has held the seat since replacing Paul Keating at a by-election held in the wake of the 1996 election defeat. Others who had designs on Blaxland included constitutional expert George Williams, Bankstown mayor Tania Mihailuk and Electrical Trades Union chief Bernie Riordan. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Mihailuk had been “likely” to win, possibly explaining Hatton’s decision to lodge disciplinary charges against her for “failing to properly manage her branch affairs”.

• The national executive has also chosen Penrith mayor David Bradbury (said by Brad Norington of The Australian to have “historical links” to the Transport Workers Union) to make his third successive run against Jackie Kelly in Lindsay. Joe Hildebrand of the Daily Telegraph reports that Bradbury’s win has greatly displeased the National Union of Workers, which had thrown its weight behind 23-year-old school teacher May Hayek. Others to get the nod in Coalition-held seats included human rights lawyer George Newhouse, who will run against Malcolm Turnbull in Wentworth (where the redistribution has cut Turnbull’s margin from 5.6 per cent to 2.6 per cent); former ministerial staffer Greg Holland, who will make his second run against Danna Vale in the long-lost seat of Hughes (which fell in 1996, and now has a post-redistribution margin of 8.8 per cent); Belinda Neal, former Senator and wife of state Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca, who will attempt to unseat Jim Lloyd in Robertson (margin now 6.9 per cent); and ambulance officer Tim Arneman, who suffered a 68-vote defeat in Port Stephens at the state election, and now faces Bob Baldwin in Paterson (6.8 per cent).

• Two incumbents have emerged from the national executive process unscathed: Julia Irwin in Fowler and Jennie George in Throsby. A highly fancied bid by former national party president Warren Mundine to unseat Irwin fell foul of the party’s affirmative action targets, after a number of defeats by female candidates in other seats. The irony of an indigenous candidate being squeezed out on affirmative action grounds was widely noted. The Australian Jewish News reports that both Rudd’s office and Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby told the paper to keep quiet about the challenge to Irwin, a vocal critic of Israel, the former saying that “the best way to ensure her survival is for you guys to cover it”. According to Kerry-Anne Walsh of the Sun-Herald, Jennie George’s endorsement followed a “faction deal made between the Left and Right” that would “raise eyebrows”.

Mark Davis of the Sydney Morning Herald reports that affirmative action supporters in the New South Wales ALP’s Left have revolted against the factional leadership’s decision to deliver the number two Senate position to Doug Cameron, former national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union. Seven women have nominated against Cameron for the factional ballot, including management consultant and 2003 state election candidate Imogen Wareing. The first and third positions on the ticket are reserved for the Right; it is anticipated that Ursula Stephens will be demoted from her number one position in 2001 to number three, making way for state party secretary Mark Arbib.

• A factional row has erupted in the New South Wales Liberal Party after its nomination review panel rejected country vice-president Scott McDonald’s Senate preselection nomination. The move safeguarded Left faction member Marise Payne’s third position on the Coalition ticket, behind Helen Coonan and the Nationals’ John Williams (who replaces the retiring Sandy Macdonald). Background to the dispute was provided by Imre Salusinszky of The Australian:

As part of its general reassertion of authority following the years in exile that began under former premier Nick Greiner, the Right has had its eye on the spot occupied by Marise Payne, who hails from the Left faction. Desperate to avoid predictably bad headlines in the Fairfax newspapers and on the ABC about right-wing “extremists” controlling the party, Howard told Heffernan to work the numbers for Payne. Heffernan went at the task the only way he knows: like a bull at a gate. At a fiery meeting last month, he tried to curtail the preselection process entirely and moved that the state executive simply re-endorse the sitting team. When this failed, Heffernan took the fight to the party’s nominations review committee, of which he is one of three members. The committee threw out the nomination of the Right’s challenger to Payne, state vice-president Scott McDonald. Designed to vet candidates on the grounds of character or ethics, or because their candidacy could damage the party, the committee operates as a “black box” and does not give reasons for its decisions. But it is understood the issue was a conflict of interest, McDonald having already spoken against Heffernan’s motion on the executive. The move has upset the NSW Right like nothing else done in the name of its Dear Leader. Meanwhile, the Left, for once, finds itself supporting Howard and Heffernan.

• Controversial Right faction powerbroker Alex Hawke has thrown his hat in the ring to contest Liberal preselection for Mitchell, where incumbent Alan Cadman proposes to run again despite a universal perception he is past his use-by date. Also in the running are Australian Hotels Association deputy chief executive officer David Elliot and state party vice-president Nick Campbell, described by Irfan Yusuf at Crikey as “the NSW Right’s main number-cruncher”.

• Western Australian Liberal Senator Ian Campbell, who lost his cabinet position in March on the flimsy basis that he had been at a meeting with Brian Burke, has announced he will quit politics in the coming weeks. The party moved quickly to fill the vacancy with Mathias Cormann, who last week defeated incumbent Ross Lightfoot to take the number three position on the ticket for this year’s election. Since the position filled by Cormann does not expire until 2011, the number three position is again up for grabs. According to Robert Taylor of The West Australian, “party insiders said it made sense to shift Mr Cormann into the Senate immediately and search for a strong number three given that Mr Cormann’s dominant presence in the last preselection discouraged many people from nominating”. Names of potential aspirants have yet to surface in the media; however, Campbell last month dismissed speculation that he might be about to resign as “wishful thinking” from those hoping to fill a vacancy, naming Cormann and Nick Bruining, a financial journalist who ran unsuccessfully for the state upper house in 2001.

• The ABC reports a field of nine candidates will seek preselection for the Liberals’ Tasmanian Senate ticket, which will be held “next month in Launceston”. They include two incumbents, John Watson and Richard Colbeck (who were number two and number three in 2001), along with “former state MHA David Fry, former Liberal staffer David Bushby, former political staffer Giulia Jones and Don Morris, the chief of staff to Senate Preisdent Paul Calvert”. The number one candidate from 2001, Senate President Paul Calvert, is retiring.

• In the seat of Newcastle, Labor member Sharon Grierson will face a challenge from David March, president of the party’s Merewether West branch, at a preselection vote to be held on May 26.

• In South Australia, Labor has announced candidates for the Liberal-held seats of Barker (Karen Lock), Grey (Karin Bolton) and Mayo (Mary Brewerton).

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.

393 comments on “Idle speculation: budget edition”

Comments Page 1 of 8
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    Treasurer trumps Labor
    A sharp lesson for Rudd
    Clever politics and good sense too
    Labor outflanked
    Mother of all surprises- Costello cares
    Battlers win the greatest relief
    Rug pulled from under Rudd’s feet
    Everyone’s a winner
    Bringing home the bacon for PM’s battlers
    Anything to put the toothpaste back in the tube

    Sorry… I made the last one up. But all the rest are foaming at the mouth headlines from this morning’s Australian….. each story with the Oz’s mandatory “you heard it here first” sentence.

    Well, it’s needed of course-. ever since Dennis Shanahan’s bold attempt to destabilise Labor last year went awfully pear-shaped when “stout party” collapsed prematurely and his successor shot to a 20% TPP lead.

    “Whatever have you done?”, Howard must have thundered over their hot line, “Fix it”.

    And fix it is what Dennis and the Oz have been struggling to do ever since. Problem is, until now no mud has stuck and Howard’s gained no traction. There may have been a sea change in the way voters view Howard- as if the scales have finally been lifted from their eyes. Nothing may work under these circumstances.

    The budget will be the real test though. Tip-point for the last 2 elections has been May— and Howard has about 5 months left to swing the TPP by the necessary 9 percentage points. That’s a slightly bigger ask than 2001 (7%) and 2004 (6%) but, with Dennis and The Oz egging him on, he might just get there.

  2. Yes, this is a Budget borne of some desperation, but a pretty good one (in political terms) nonetheless. Next week’s Newspoll will be VERY interesting, I think. If the punters aren’t buying after all that largesse, then the government is done for. Anything less than, say, a 46% 2PP for the Libs spells doom for them.

  3. I will be watching the trends with the primary vote for the major parties in the opinion polling undertaken over the next 3 months. For JWH to realise any hopes of a fifth term, he needs the Coalition primary vote around mid August to be about 42% or higher, with a corresponding dip in the ALP’s primary vote.

  4. Hugo Says: Next week’s Newspoll will be VERY interesting, I think.

    Yes, won’t it? Funny how Newspoll skipped a week a little while back. Surely they didn’t do it to align the polling with the Budget?

    Of course not.

  5. Didn’t the media fawn over Howard’s Murray-Darling initative as a brillant move to cut into Labor’s lead on the environment some time ago? Budget will make little difference, the govt’s strong card is prosperity.

  6. Quick scan of the blogs and media voxpops this morning suggests overwhelming cynicism. Interesting how so much of the media (including the Tele splash, once seen as Howard’s bellwether) have picked up Labor’s “clever” line. The last budget to really move the polls was in 1993 with the infamous deferral of the L_A_W tax cuts. Agree with Geoff – the punters, to the extent that they’re still listening, have already factored economic management into their current voting intentions so I’d be surprised if Newspoll moves much out of its recent range. Reaction would be interesting if Labor actually went up a point or two with the normal statistical variability.

  7. I do find this constant referral to Howard as clever amusing.

    It amuses because by inferrence it means Rudd Gillard and Swan aren’t clever.

    Who cares anyway, Rudd told us on Monday hes going to win, and hes the smartest guy in the country, its all over bar the shouting

  8. there’s “clever” as in intelligent but there’s also “clever” as in (rat) cunning – cf “too clever by half.” methinks the punters are picking up more of the rodent variety these days, that’s coming through loud and clear in focus groups and Labor’s milking it for all its worth. Howard used similar techniques on Keating.

  9. I am interested to see the comments from affected groups filter into the media over the next few days. I am particuarly thinking about higher education where the sector has, quite remarkably, got more then they asked for.

    I think that the reponse comments from goups such as the avcc or defence groups may have more impact then Costello’s budget speech

  10. The ‘clever’ tactic worries me too. Although i think it works well with people who can understand that there is a difference between cleverness and intelligence (and also between both of these and wisdom) i think there is a big part of australia that might not get the subtle irony. eg. some above comments and also my brother saying “even rudd says that howards the smartest bloke in the country, why get rid of him now”

  11. I think everybody is getting a little excited about the forthcoming Newspoll. One of the “clever” aspects of this Budget is that Costello has kept a lot of the ammo up the Howard Government’s sleeve for later on. The various hand-outs to be liberally dispensed amongst the great unwashed over the coming weeks will have some impact as well. Make no mistake about it, the Howard Government is in trouble and I am far from convinced that the budget or the flow-on from it will save them. However, suggesting that anything less than 46% 2PP next Tuesday morning “spells doom” is silly.

    Remember Malcolm Fraser? He came from well behind in the polls at the time of calling an election 3 times.

    Depth of support, not breadth, is what matters and I strongly suspect the present overwhelming support for St Kevin is very soft.

    Incidentally, Wayne Swan performance on 7.30 Report last night confirmed that he is still one of the Howard Government’s best assets

  12. Off-topic – i have to say that William’s coverage is excellent and leaves Wikipedia in the dust.

    People “diss” WP with good reason – it is full of inaccuracies, misquotations and bad spelling! As has been pointed out, when people attempt to correct the mistakes, the origiinal poster often changes them back again. I’m sure that it contains loads of correct information but when there’s also so much rubbish, it renders the whole thing unreliable. The way people get to contribute to reference books is by becoming recognised experts in their field by publishing material that is peer reviewed before publication. And it is this editorial process that Wikipedia lacks… If you go and read something on Wikipedia, you don’t know whether it is true, opinion or a load of nonsense posted by an idiot five minutes ago.

    It’s a resource where you can not be sure of the veracity of the content unless you already know the content and confirm it’s true. It’s very nature will ensure that this is always the case making it a flawed resource.

  13. Agree with you there Chris. Wayne Swan was awful on the 7.30 Report and it just got worse … it was a golden moment for those of us that can’t stand the whining. BTW, did anyone think that Peter Costellow looked downright strange on the 7.30 Rep, it might have been the lighting but he looked like his own cartoon. Looked normal on the SBS news however.

  14. Have my own doubts about Swan, but I don’t think his appearance on the 7.30 Report Budget Special is going to be seen by too many “undecided voters” – most people will have got their Budget news from the headlines and the 6.00 news.

    Re my 46% 2PP comment – I’ll admit that I plucked that figure out of the ether, but my point was that the government needs to see some improvement in their poll position off the back of this Budget. If the ALP is still 55+% into June, it may well confirm the hypothesis that people have already made up their minds, and that nothing can save the government.

    That said, it’s a long way to go, and Costello certainly made a few steps in the right direction (from the Libs’ point of view) last night.

  15. I would have thought that regardless of the budget, this election is going to be very close. Therefore, barring any major cock-ups by either side leading up to the election, the election will almost certainly be won and lost on the basis of the election campaign itself.

    Frankly, Labor’s campain in 2004 was dreadful. The budget response will be important for Labor, but the election campaign itself will be the telling factor …

  16. Swan doesn’t give me much confidence either. I wish Rudd had given the job to Lindsay Tanner.
    Dennis Shanahan: regular cheerleader for John Howard! I’ll be laughing if he has egg on his face next Tuesday when the next Newspoll is published.

  17. On a separate subject

    What is this obsession that Mr Rudd has on high speed boardband. Apart from creating more jobs for his union mates, why would you set up a business to complete with Telstra/Optus/IInet etc. It does not seem to make sense.

    I have dial up at home and I have no problem doing 99% of the things on the internet. I only really need boardband if I want to download illegal movies or Porn

    Maybe that is the education revolution, Mr Rudd want us to all be able to download as much porn as we want

  18. dovif – it’s hard to electronically transfer very large files (eg graphics or movies as you mention) with very slow connections. I can assure you that some businesses need to have the capability to transfer very large files electronically. It’s not much good if you’re a graphic design company talking to a client and every revision to your file takes 5 minutes (or longer) for the client to download.

  19. Very fast connections allow greater access to infomation, including for education. For example, videos can be extremely useful teaching tools, and fast connections allow videos to be downloaded (eg from Youtube) and watched in real-time.

  20. Also increased broadband speeds could help accelerate the move towards internet delivery of television, why watch what some mindless hack at a commercial station wants you watch at 7:30 when you can legally download programs to cater to broader tastes. Something I’m sure that appeals to uncle Rupert, which is why he is positioning himself to offer movies on demand over the internet and has been castigating Australian for its poor internet performance.

  21. In response to Chris from Edgecliff, I want to stand up for Swan. The a*** isn’t falling out of the economy. The thing’s going gangbusters. Devastating critiques just aren’t there to be had.

    In this difficult situation for any Opposition, he is at least partly responsible for the perception, which has troubled Howard, that the economy is on autopilot.

    Swan (and Rudd of course) have been pretty effective in arguing that the Coalition’s economic management credentials are like an ability to fly a kite in a cyclone.

    As for the comparison with Carlton, I can’t think of any policy issue that Swan has stuffed up. He is a sophisticated operator. In another portfolio, say IR, it is hard to imagine Swan allowing himself to be positioned so that big business could credibly spray all over him.

  22. Chris from Egdecliff: don’t forget Simon Crean. His performance as Shadow Treasurer in the 2004 election campaign was woeful.

  23. dovif Says

    Maybe that is the education revolution, Mr Rudd want us to all be able to download as much porn as we want.

    That dovif is a very silly thing to say

  24. The next lot of polls will, IMHO, show just how soft Labor’s vote is. If the voters can bought off easily and Labor’s vote falls significantly we must assume it was soft. If the polls show little or marginal change the conclusion would have to be that the vote is not as soft as some people believe, in which case the government is in for real trouble. For what it’s worth I’m tipping the latter because I believe the government is “on the nose” for many reasons but mainly for its IR policy.

  25. I wonder hoew many newspaper journalists are on AWA’s? Now that would be incentive to champion the coalitions cause wouldn’t it?

  26. Yes, I think you’re right on both counts Gary – I well remember seeing Andrew Bolt state, without any shadow of irony, that he was “very happy” with his AWA. I’d imagine as a senior columnist with the Herald Sun that he would be. In fact, I suspect that the preponderance of AWAs (esp at News Corp) means that most journalists just don’t get what a betrayal and what a threat to lifestyle that WorkChoices is to the average voter. I think your point about the relative “softness” of the ALP vote is well made too, which was part of my reasoning behind my earlier “if-Labor-is-still-55+-into-June-the-government-is stuffed” line of argument.

  27. I’ve followed your line of argument Hugo and think you are spot on. The next month of polls will be interesting indeed.

  28. Speaker,
    Bryan’s Oz Politics site has polls through 2004 on this thread:
    I don’t recall the precise date of the Budget, but it seems there was a dip in ALP 2PP in the aftermath of the Budget – most pronounced in Newspoll – which was promptly reversed. The inexorable slide in Labor’s vote – best tracked by Nielsen which was closest with the final result – came from August onwards.
    Note, I’m relying on the graphs that Bryan provides, as I can’t use a deteriorating memory to give that level of detail.

  29. Mr Speaker.. Insider’s covered this last Sunday.

    BARRIE CASSIDY: Now the Coalition went into that budget trailing Labor – 48 to 52. And the first weekend’s poll after the Budget dripped with voter cynicism. The Coalition actually lost ground.
    So, cynicism initially, then two weeks later – look at the poll – the Coalition shot to a 53 – 47 lead. That was a 10 point turnaround in just three weeks. And keep in mind Labor’s lead right now is 14 points. So expect “families” to pepper the speech again on Tuesday night.

  30. Greetings from Nuremberg, kinder. It is pouring rain here but still a very pretty town, although it has a bit of a theme-park feel to it having mostly been rebuilt from the very thorough blitzing it got from the USAAF in 1945.

    Having not seen the budget or read much about it I will refrain from comment until we see some polls, which is all that matters, nein?

    What I will say (again) is this: everyone here needs constantly to remind themselves that we all live in the same 10% elite bubble as the people who write for the Australian or chat with each other on the ABC. NO-ONE IS LISTENING TO THEM OR TO US. The voters who will decide this election do not read the Australian, or watch the ABC, or chat on political blogs. They at best flick through the Hun or the Tele, but they mainly get their political news from 10 second grabs on the 6pm news.

    The only budget comment that matters is the comment that the proles make in the next round of polls, not what Shanahan or Bolt or anyone else says in the elite media. Just keep repeating to yourselves: “proles, polls, proles, polls” until this is fixed in your minds.

  31. I notice also that the “most read article” at the SMH website is “man chops off head with chainsaw.” These are uber-elite online readers of an elite newspaper, and even they don´t care about politics. Geddit?

  32. Speaking of Europe (as Adam was obliquely) what is the washup in France? I noted the very high turnout of 85% and Sego’s warning/threat of violence (sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy really) but haven’t heard a great deal here about what voters were thinking in voting in Sarkozy – any thoughts/commentary Adam?

    And I think Adam is right about where people are getting their news. Catch the train or bus from Bondi and its a mixture of SMH, Tele and Oz, but catch the train from Sutherland or Granville and its the Tele or maybe a local paper being read, if anything.

  33. KEVIN Rudd has signalled a major shift on Labor’s longstanding pledge to
    ban full-fee university degrees as he fights to counter Peter Costello’s
    education budget.

    As vice-chancellors confirmed that the Budget changes meant thousands of
    university students faced a $1000-a-year increase in HECS fees for
    accounting, economics and commerce courses, the Opposition Leader
    shocked his own front bench by refusing to rule out a backflip on
    full-fee degrees.

    The shift could see a Labor government allow some students to be offered
    a full-fee degree if they fail to secure a place based on their marks –
    an option repeatedly attacked by Labor frontbenchers as “queue-jumping”
    by rich students.,23599,21704798-421,00.html

  34. Bill, I’d be wary about believing too much that you read in News Corp papers – there is a pretty naked agenda against Labor going on in them at the moment. Indeed, I think any article about the election, especially in the Oz, is so tainted with said agenda as to be worthless as a source of news.

  35. News Corp carbon neutral by 2010

    NEWS Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch has announced a dramatic shake-up to make all the company’s businesses carbon neutral to combat the “clear, catastrophic threat” of climate change.

  36. More elitism by Rudd. Why should Rich kids jump the list at UNI? Win votes at the expense of the have nots? sounds like Howard

  37. “The voters who will decide this election do not read the Australian, or watch the ABC, or chat on political blogs. They at best flick through the Hun or the Tele, but they mainly get their political news from 10 second grabs on the 6pm news.”

    That’s right – and these the people to whom Labor/the Coalition are directing their attentions to. That’s why electoral advertising is so blunt and without nuance.

  38. OPPOSITION Leader Kevin Rudd has refused to rule out having some form of
    statutory individual contracts in Labor’s industrial relations policy.
    In a hint at a policy about-face in the wake of Prime Minister John
    Howard’s shift last week, Mr Rudd pointedly failed to repeat Labor’s
    pledge to abolish all statutory contracts — despite being asked six
    times yesterday.

    Instead, he stuck to a narrower script of condemning “Mr Howard’s
    (Australian Workplace Agreements)”, leaving open the prospect of some
    other variant.

    The policy wobble, which was cautiously welcomed by business, came as Mr
    Rudd said that Labor’s chief business adviser, Sir Rod Eddington, had
    not been consulted on the party’s IR policy because of “logistical
    problems” with his overseas travel schedule before its release.

  39. Slightly OT but with reference to budget

    Anybody know why it is the Opposition Leader and not the Shadow Treasurer who gets the budget right of reply? The PM doesn’t deliver the budget, so why does the OL get all the attention in the reply?

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