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”

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  1. Shanahan, Price and co at the Oz were in desperate need on some political viagra from Newspoll to satisfy their agenda. They did’t get it, and their impotent, logically flawed and peurile rants in today’s edition are incapable of satisfying anything but their own overblown egos. An F for flacid performance.

  2. And indeed this poll IS within the margin of error of the previous one. Still it breaks the run of improvement for Howard. Labor has been steady between 57 and 60 in all the polls for two months. I will take that. 🙂

  3. Not only was Latham from the Right faction, but had been described prior to his election as “the most right-wing MP in the caucus”. My experience of him in my area was that his economic policies were very much about liberalisation, and he was generally very much against Labor acting in a socially progressive way on issues like indigenous people, refugees, gays, etc. He compromised on these things when he was elected Leader, and he had some really creative ideas that I found appealing concerning social issues in western suburbs of Sydney and social capital, but have no doubt that Latham was definitely on the right wing of the ALP, both in his politics and his factional allegiance.

  4. Matt Price on ABC Radio yesterday made an interesting point: perhaps the populace have stopped listening to Howard, it mightn’t matter how big the bribes are.
    Dare I say it – the Libs must be wishing for a terrorist attack on Australian soil, between now and November.

  5. Interesting tidbit relating to the Galaxy poll. Apparently, the IR question was posed along the lines of whether the respondent supported John Howard’s policy which some people say “will cost jobs and cut wages” or Kevin Rudd’s policy which will “give more power to unions and hurt Australia’s economic prosperity”.

    Both are lines being run out by the ALP/Coalition – and the result when Rudd’s way, 53-35.

  6. Coota Bulldog – that is interesting and “The Australian” (and its band of “Get Rudders”) are pushing Labor to change their IR policy. What a bloody joke.
    The other interesting thing is in the Newspoll. The same people who gave Labor that high first preference vote gave the budget a tick. Doesn’t this indicate they do not feel threatened economically by a Labor government? This economic advantage the government holds may prove to be less of a hindrance to Labor being elected than what is being proposed by the so called experts.

  7. The most interesting of Newspoll’s findings was that 31% of respondents said they thought Labor would have delivered a better budget. That is a good statistic for the ALP as it strives to emphasise its economic management credentials at a time when the pundits are applauding the treasurer’s “masterclass” budget.

  8. There is a theory going the rounds of the Labor Party that with the good economic times rolling, people may be prepared to make that switch in government. Back in 2004, the “rates will be higher under Labor” campaign worked well because there was uncertainty at the time about the economy.

    Three years on, well into a commodities boom that continues to roar along, it’s harder to mount the case that the economic clouds are darkening. Note that Costello often talks about the skill needed to manage an economy at “full capacity” with big issues on the horizon.

  9. The fact is if the polls were the other way around no-one would give Labor any chance of turning them around this far out from an election. Yet, according to some betting agencies the coalition are still in with a very good chance. I’m not saying the polls will stay as they are but surely Labor must be now favoured to win the next election, even by a small margin. This type of polling result ie all polls agreeing Labor are a mile in front, must signify something major is happening out there. I suppose that will come in time if the polls don’t move greatly in the next month.

  10. The coalition is still in the game because they are the government. They still have all the powers of incumbentcy, such as the ability to spend millions on advertising, and the ability to use government departments to come up with new election policies. Oppositions just can’t afford to get this far behind because they don’t have the resources to get back into the game at a later stage.

  11. What gets me is that Labor’s IR policy is basically non-existant (the full detail is unknown) and yet people prefer Rudd’s policy. I will make a bold
    The Howard Government will be returned by a 5 seat majority.
    The swing against Howard will be less then 1% in Bennelong.
    The high water mark has been reached and Howard will be gone.
    Consequently, does anyone know who will be running in my local area, Casey. This is a case in point for Labor, there primary vote in seats such as this is starting off a vary low base, just over 30% in Casey and the Libs over approx 55% I am not quite sure how well people expect Labor to do with such ground to catch up on.
    Labors low primary vote is problem for them

  12. Name an Australian government that has been returned after showing the likes of these opinion polls for this length of time this far out from an election.
    Adam, name the issues that will turn this election around for the government.

  13. By the way, is that the Adam (May 11th, 2007 at 5:32 am) who said, “I said in February that if Labor was still well ahead at the end of May I would start to get excited, and that is still my view.”? If so what in these latest set of polls has you now saying, “The Howard Government will be returned by a 5 seat majority. The swing against Howard will be less then 1% in Bennelong.”?

  14. For those interested, I’ve been plotting the 2007 Newspoll figures against the 2004 ones at the same time of year:

    The most obvious thing is how much the graphs correspond, only with a pretty consistent 4% improvement in the Labor polling this time around.

  15. I don’t understand any of Adam’s post, but I’m just a girl and I remember we aren’t welcome here.

  16. Mr Q – thanks for that. What it does show though is that the gap to close is so much bigger than in 2004. I also note that in the last two years of a change of federal government in 1983 Labor’s primary vote was 49.5 and the coalitions 43.6 (TPP – 53.2, 46.8) and in 1996 Labor’s primary vote was 38.75 and the coalitions 47.2 (TPP – 46.6, 53.6). The closer elections were those elections around them where no change took place. So if a change is going to take place it seems it needs to be fairly dramatic and the polls at the moment are quite dramatic. Unfortunately I can’t find the poll predictions for those years.

  17. Adam,
    Dympna Beard who was the State member for Kilsyth for a term – narrowly lost last year – is the Labor candidate for Casey, pre-selected late last week.

  18. I think there must be two Adams. I just don’t think the adam in Germany would be making such contradictory statements.

  19. # jasmine_Anadyr Says:
    May 15th, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    I don’t understand any of Adam’s post, but I’m just a girl and I remember we aren’t welcome here.

    What makes you say that Jasmine?

  20. Im glad Dympna Beard is the Labor candidate for Casey. Ive met her a few times at various VIC ALP functions and she is a very nice person. Though with Labors spectacular poll standing i suspect the 13% Casey margin will still be impossible to overcome. Theres a change in the air, i can feel it. Like so many tories before him Howard has stayed on too long and is now paying the price

  21. Bill I was just referring back to the whole women in politics and poor Julie Bishop sub-plot in a post-stream. Saw her last night on late-line – poor girl.

    But the two Adams got me confused …

  22. Adam Says:
    May 15th, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    What gets me is that Labor’s IR policy is basically non-existant (the full detail is unknown) and yet people prefer Rudd’s policy. I will make a bold
    The Howard Government will be returned by a 5 seat majority.
    The swing against Howard will be less then 1% in Bennelong.
    The high water mark has been reached and Howard will be gone.

    ???? Adam this just aint you

  23. This Adam is now in Brussels, and is not the Adam who commented earlier. Other-Adam, please use another name, I was here first. I am still of the view that the election outcome cannot be called. After 1999 in Victoria, I think my view is that no election can ever be called. However, if Labor is still over 55% at the end of May, I will start to become optimistic.

  24. With the way the polls are, Labor doesnt need to fill in any detail on its IR policy. Arrogance or confidance? More detail does need to be provided though, however as long as Joe Hockey is out there selling desperate messages like 2day-why worry. Hockeys performance 2day was just awful, the memory of Gillards stuff ups are well and truly forgotten, which they shouldnt but if the survival of the Howard Govt means anything to people like Joe Hockey-he better buck up soon

  25. I can see the next headline. Idle speculation the Adams. On a serious note this shows a dangerous problem where more than one person can log on with the same name.

    Why is it that two polls can have the Greens at 9 and 4 percent. This shows that polls are totally useless. I can believe 1 or 2 percent difference in major parties but 5 percent on a small party is just wrong

  26. Yes Bill that’s true: for example, someone has been coming here using your name and trying to discredit you by making all kinds of extreme and silly statements

  27. I think it is far to early to make concrete election predictions. The Australian electorate rarely changes the federal Government at elections and, as far as I am aware, never in a time of economic boom (possible exception 1996). I believe that elections have resulted in a change of government only 6 times since 1914: 1929, 1931, 1949, 1972, 1983 and 1996.

    My heart very much says yes but my mind says probably not.

  28. oakeshott – hang on, “My heart very much says yes but my mind says probably not”, that’s a prediction isn’t it? I’d be interested in the rationale behind that comment though oakeshott. What do you see will change the polls so dramatically?

  29. I think that a number of conclusions can be drawn from the polls, though I agree with the above commenters that the election outcome is not one of them.

    It would be great to see more seat-by-seat polls, though I suspect they would be less heartening from a Labor perspective. As a Victorian, I don’t think Labor is likely to gain any ground here, but should hold onto its marginals, and, in the presence of a very big swing, could perhaps cause a surprise in places like McEwen. Still, as a Scullin-ite, I realise it is useless if an extra 5-10% of my neighbours go back to Labor, and I wonder if some of the good polling is a kind of ‘correction’ on the poor results of 2004, particularly in safe seats.

    Labor should, by rights, have done far better in 2004. The basic issues were very similar, with the exception of IR (i.e. economic management, Iraq, interest rates, Iraq, Hicks, ‘trust’, etc).

    By way of some tentative conclusions, I would suggest:

    1. There is a mood for change, and this has been reasonably consistent over several months. It’s just a question of whether this ‘mood’ felt in the right seats.

    2. Howard (and the rest of the front bench) look far less invincible when put under a bit of pressure. This should have been un almost unloseable election for the Libs, but they are doing their best to let Labor in. Howard is no ‘political genius’, and I think people are starting to reinterpret his past success (with the economy, for instance) as being at least partly the result of good fortune.

    3. Finally, I think we can say with absolute certainty that whoever is responding to these polls clearly does not read or believe the histrionics in The Australian.

  30. oakeshott – “I believe that elections have resulted in a change of government only 6 times since 1914: 1929, 1931, 1949, 1972, 1983 and 1996.” Given that logic are you suggesting we will never have a change of government again? If not, and I guess I’m just rephrasing the question above here but why shouldn’t this election be the one to have a change given the obvious, unheard of, advantage Labor holds at the moment?

  31. Dr Carr,

    Thank God you have found the time to share your incisive and brilliant analysis with us all during your European speaking engagements.

    You may yet get your “executive” cubicle!

  32. I am not a fan of Rudd but i think the electorate finds him attractive and appealing.. and whom speaks in a clear, articulate, positve and logical way. I know this may seem simplistic but being catching to the eye helps a great and this is in Rudds’ favour.. and that is why this time next win he will be Prime Minister… unless something like September 11 happened again..
    Their is little difference between the parties but Howard will go on from now until election day that he Labor will ruin the economy…and really economies fall apart due to overseas occurrences and the fortunes of time.. If their are differences i think Climate Change and the style of Government we recieve will be differences.

  33. There are in fact few stable democracies in which changes of government are frequent, and they are mostly countries which inflict some form of PR on themselves (Italy, Belgium). France has had only two changes since 1958, Germany only four since 1949, Japan only one brief one since 1945. Britain has had three Labour governments since 1945, New Zealand three since 1949. The US changes more frequently – the White House changing party seven times since 1952. So Australia is only marginally more resistant to change than most long-established democracies, particularly those with electoral sytems which, like ours, encourage stable majority governments.

  34. The Speaker – I was waiting to see who would fall for it! Malcolm Frazer was the prime minister at that election and was returned with a very large majority.

    “probably not” isn’t a concrete prediction like “the government has no chance of getting back from this position”. We are a long way from even the start of the campaign – who knows what the coalition has in store – a terrorist threat?, immigration?, dirt on rudd (what was Alan Ramsey referring to?), even perhaps just a catchy jingle.

    In good economic times, despite what the electors say they feel about the tiredness of the government or its policies, precedent shows that when it comes to tossing a government out they rarely do it. When there is an economic downturn it is a different matter.

  35. To be honest, I can’t see why or where this “mood for change” has come from. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t understand the mind (or lack thereof) when it comes to Aussie punters doing their democratic duty.

    There is no GST, no Tampa, IRAQ hasn’t figured in much public opinion, so I wonder if our PM is as confused as us. As much as I have been impressed by Rudd, please don’t tell me it is just because “we are bored with him”???!!

    That is as bad as saying a pollie is too fat, no personality, dresses badly or has bad hair. As far as I am aware, such characteristics are scrutinised very carefully during pre-selection to ensure that politicians have as many of these as possible 🙂

    Why, why, why?? Why are we enamored by Rudd and yawning at Howard. Howard is clever, gives us money and genuinely loves cricket.

  36. BTW with regard to an “obvious, unheard of advantage Labor holds at the moment”. Newspoll had the primary vote at Alp 48/Coalition 35 in March 2001 – within the margins of error of the current poll. Labor lost a significant number of seats at the next election.

  37. ‘Why are we enamored by Rudd and yawning at Howard. Howard is clever, gives us money and genuinely loves cricket.’

    I don’t think people are in love with Rudd, but I suspect he is credible in the eyes of voters. His approval ratings are far better than Beazley’s. And I don’t thinking people are ‘yawning’ at Howard; rather, they are holding their noses.

    The Liberals have the accumulated weight of 11 years worth of scandal dragging them down. Individual issues (like AWB, or Iraq) might not do much to sway many voters, but in sum, they could make the government look rather dodgy, especially when viewed through the lens of Workchoices.

  38. Oakeshott I think you would have to concede that Labor’s poll position is now superior to its position at the equivalent times in 1998, 2001 or 2004. If Howard is to win this election, he will need a bigger recovery, in less time, than he achieved in those years, and without the assistance of Tampa, 9/11 or Mad Mark. It is not impossible, but each fortnight that passes without a significant inprovement in the coalition’s numbers makes it less likely, n’est ce pas?

  39. I suspect the reason is that people are generally fed up with the current government, and I believe this threshold was crossed when the government introduced WorkChoices. WCs is quite a betrayal to those loyal Howard Battlers (or at least is perceived to be), and all Labor had to to was replace Beazley with someone people wanted to listen to. Rudd has delivered this, and IR is not the wedge issue for Labor that, say, refugees were/ are – a belief in collective bargaining is probably the one common value left, so it was relatively easy for Labor to oppose WCs. Luckily for them, this opposition seems to have the majority support of the population.

    Of course, if Labor does end up being elected later this year, WCs won’t be the only issue, and by itself it’s not enough, but climate change, Iraq, education, “the future” – these are all issues playing into the Rudd narrative of Labor representing the future. WCs got Labor back into the game, and events have since conspired to sink the government. When the tide goes out, it does so very quickly.

  40. I’m glad that has picked on a quote Howard made on The 7:30 Report tonight. Howard said this:

    “Ultimately we’ll find out whether it’s not been, you know, an interesting exercise by the Australian public in its innate sense of humour. We’ll find that out on election day.”

    Of course Howard isn’t showing any arrogance or hubris, he just thinks people don’t want to vote for his government because of a joke! If Rudd said this Howard would be all over him calling him an out of touch elitist!

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