Idle Speculation: budget bounce edition

The following should be old news for the type of person who visits this site, but I will reiterate it for the record. The post-budget Newspoll has produced a surprise 2 per cent two-party shift in Labor’s favour, despite strong support for the budget itself, while another post-budget poll from Galaxy has Labor leading 57-43. There is slightly better news for the Coalition from a Galaxy poll of 800 voters in the Prime Minister’s electorate of Bennelong, which puts Labor’s lead at a not-insurmountable 52-48. Other developments of the past week:

• Gerard McManus of the Herald Sun gives some background to ALP state secretary Mark Arbib’s bid for Senate preselection in New South Wales:

Arbib reportedly wants to take over from Victorian senator Stephen Conroy as Labor’s Senate deputy leader – a contest that will cause serious internal ructions. However, under the original plan Arbib was to have taken the place of Michael Forshaw, a senator since 1994, who had himself taken the spot of another Labor head office chief, Graham Richardson. Senator Forshaw is not up for re-election and therefore his resignation would have created a casual vacancy for Arbib to step in. The problem was Senator Forshaw refused to go, demanding a promise in writing that he would be “looked after” in a similar way to the way Senator Amanda Vanstone was recently taken care of when she quit the Senate. But when the NSW powerbrokers declined to oblige, Forshaw decided to stay put, forcing the party to tip another woman, Senator Ursula Stevens (sic – should be Stephens – PB), down to the precarious third spot on the Senate ticket at the coming election. Senator Stevens is a former party president and possibly the only Labor senator who did not come straight from a union or an MP’s office into parliament.

• Don Farrell, the powerful state secretary of the Right faction Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, has announced he will run for Labor Senate preselection in South Australia. It would appear that he is set to take the faction’s reserved position from incumbent Linda Kirk, who fell from favour after backing Kevin Rudd’s leadership bid in December and defying the conservative union’s opposition to the RU486 abortion pill. Farrell had earlier denied having designs on the seat, leading to a consensus that Kirk would be replaced by Adelaide lawyer Tim Stanley. According to Greg Kelton of The Advertiser, “Mr Farrell last ran for Parliament 20 years ago in the seat of Adelaide but was defeated after a particularly vicious campaign with racist overtones”. This refers to a 1988 by-election held upon the resignation of Chris Hurford, at which Labor lost a seat it had held since 1943; perhaps this site’s South Australian readers can provide further detail on the nature of the campaign.

• John Watson, a Tasmanian Liberal Senator since 1977, was dumped from the party ticket in Saturday’s preselection vote. The ticket will be headed by incumbent Richard Colbeck, followed by two political staffers, David Bushby and Don Morris.

• Colourful Melbourne libertarian Prodos Marinakis, whose endorsement as Liberal candidate for the state seat of Richmond was overturned by the party on the grounds that he was too interesting, has withdrawn his nomination for the Melbourne preselection citing “personal reasons&#148.

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.

262 comments on “Idle Speculation: budget bounce edition”

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  1. When is the SDA going to be visible at YR@W campaigns or is it the case of letting the militant unions do the job and then claim the victory. Rishworth is a SDA boss yet i havent seen her ” supporters ” out flying the flag. Thats the problem with the right it doesn’t like to be in the trenches but has its hand out for the reward. pathetic really.

  2. Bill,

    It has been pointed out to you time and time again how illogical your argument about the SDA is, so I do not propose to do so yet again, though I wonder how obsessing about it helps either your campaign or the discussion on this site.


    I know nothing about Family First’s Tasmanian Senate candidate, but if the words of Steve Fielding in The Weekend Australian are a guide to FF thinking, then he has not been taking enough notice of his ex-Harradine staffers. He voted against WorkBlah, but he now, like the Democrats, wants to keep AWAs (though modified). Remember, Brian Harradine voted against the Howard Government’s first lot of IR legislation, and it was passed only with the help of the Democrats. No party that clams to put the family first can support the Liberals’ IR laws. It seems the choice next election is very clear: Greens and Labor (including the SDA) for the employee and the family; and the Liberals, the Nationals, the Democrats and now Family First pro-AWA. For Bill’s benefit, that does not mean Labor will make a blanket preference allocation to the Greens. On a personal note, there is no way I could put one of the pro-AWA parties ahead of any of the anti-AWA parties for the Senate.

  3. “Poll in the West Australian today showing Govt in front 51-49 two-party preferred – just up from 50-50 in March.

    If this keeps moving in Howards favor and with the time zones the election might not be decided to late in the evening. I still think Howard will win the election but by a very small margin”

    Personally I would take that poll with a massive rock of salt (probably a crystal of the waste brine from the Cockburn Desal Plant). With the current stoush between WA Labor and The Worst, I wouldn’t be surprised if that rag has chosen to massage the figures to present a picture favourable to their stakeholders. I’d wait for a Sunday Mail Galaxy poll or a WA-specific Newspoll before believing it.

    That said, even if there’s a slight lag for Labor in WA, that must mean a sizeable lead in the eastern states.

  4. Winning Canning and Kalgoorlie (despite the funny pre-selection) would be lovely, but so long as Stirling and Hasluck come home to Labor (as they would on those numbers) it wont be bad. But really other than getting a bit of say in Government for WA, it doesn’t look like Rudd will be hanging out waiting for WA seats to claim Govt does it.

    No i’m not counting on a definite Labor win, but if we are giving the polls credibility (and anything in the West should be assumed to be wrong, not just taken with a grain of salt), then lets look at all the polls and really when did WA matter.

  5. People are talking about a 10% swing in Victoria to Labor. That just isn’t going to happen. I understand people’s exuberance, but that is a very unrealistic figure. You’re talking about Labor gaining 60-70% of the 2PP vote in a lot of seats…

    Don’t get me wrong, I want Rudd to win (more accurately, I want Howard to lose) but Rudd will do well to get a 5% swing. A 5% swing IS a HUGE SWING. Anything above that is heading into record territory, especially in Victoria where Labor already has a high vote (compared to the rest of the country).

    Remember, it could be a landslide to Labor but still have the Libs hanging in there. They just need to hold a handful of marginal seats and even a huge 5-7% swing won’t be enough.

    A 10% swing is NOT going to happen.

  6. I think proportionately the swing to Labor in Victoria will be substantial, that is greater than that in NSW, in particular.
    2004 was a very poor result for Labor in Victoria, by comparison with all but one election since 1984. There were two specific factors at work, tolls on the East link freeway and scared mortgagees.
    The mortgage belt’s susceptibility to the Howard line on interest rates influenced seats like Calwell (swing 7.9%) and Scullin (5.5%) without threatening their Labor status. Both factors impacted in Aston (7.1%), Isaacs (8.9%), Holt (6.4%) Dunkley (4.2%), Casey (4.0%), Deakin 3.5%. In the outer east and south-east this effect was only muted in LaTrobe (2.1%), which I would speculate was due to a new Liberal candidate.
    I would concur with Dembo that a 10% Victorian swing is highly improbable, but 6 or 7 is certainly not out of the question; then it becomes a question of how that’s distributed. My hypothesis is that seats like Deakin and McEwen are more vulnerable than a simple look at their height on the pendulum would suggest.

  7. Peter Hartcher in the SMH has not got a clue. Michelle Grattan in The Age I believe has read the ACNielsen polling accurately. IR is going to be the big issue this election and on that, Labor is streets ahead. This spells real trouble for the coalition.

  8. James – but why do that when the respondents have stated their preference? Besides we know that the 2004 election was not particularly good for Labor. Why not distribute the preferences according to the 1998 election. It is just as relevant.

  9. Chris: “Greens and Labor (including the SDA) for the employee and the family; and the Liberals, the Nationals, the Democrats and now Family First pro-AWA”

    That is a way too simplistic reading of the Democrats and FF positions. I think the Dems want a blend of both individual statutory contracts and awards, with the ISCs coupled to the awards so people on them can’t be worse off. That seems to me a great solution. I suspect FF have a similar policy.

    What is the SDA?

  10. Hartcher is a Liberal Party hack, much like Dennis Shanahan.
    Today’s SMH: making much of the Liberal primary vote increasing by 2%, yet the 2PP figure is unchanged. The SMH editorial staff want a Howard victory, because of the supposed strength of the economy and their hatred for anything associated with Unions. Rudd will only get an endorsement out of them if he “bones” Gillard and the ACTU, and retains AWAs.

  11. Dembo, you must be new here.
    The SDA is The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association, the “shop girls” union. It is right wing aligned – and the biggest union in Australia. Its leadership is very socially conservative and some members of this blog seem to obsess over it. Rarely a day goes by without it being mentioned
    During the NSW election the SDA also stood for the Seven Day Adventist Church and there was some confused discussion on whether SDA members would vote on a Saturday.

  12. I have now read what Peter Hartcher had to say about the ACNielsen poll. Some contributors might say I am obtuse but I did not read his analysis as that of a “Liberal Party hack”. It seems to me that he stated what is clear at this point in the electoral cycle, that is, the Australian Labor Party is well ahead because the perception of the voting public at this time is that the other side has an unfair workplace relations policy. He also noted that the other side might yet be in the game because there is a countervailing perception that it is better able to manage the economy. I agree with the existence of those perceptions in the community. If the latter perception carries no weight, then all of us might as well “put down the binoculars” and call it for Kev (good luck to him, he has already told us he is going to win).

  13. On a DD, you’re right Mr Speaker. Thank you for the correction.

    An interesting point is whether the most rational strategy for the Coalition would be to knock back Rudd’s IR legislation. It might make the best sense for them just to let it through and pray for a recession.

    Someone here might know of an exception, but my impression is that Australian’s have always given new governments a second chance. They even gave Whitlam a second chance, quite an extraordinary indulgence when you think about it.

    Another problem is that if Rudd wins a convincing victory in 2007, the rational strategy for the Coalition should be to try to capture the redefined middle ground (as David Cameron has been doing with the Tories). Promising to push the principles of WorkChoices down their throats once again does not seem the way to do it.

    On the other hands, outfits in shock, anger and predictable denial are not known for doing a lot of rational things.

    At ground zero after the blast, a big floppy Wet will emerge from under every rock croaking “I could have told you so”.

    But there will be enough surviving (if emaciated) spiders of the Dries still around to claim that the real reason for the disaster was that Howard did not go nearly far enough to create the Free Market Paradise, where no IR legislation would exist at all, and in which (quite obviously!) everyone would be better off.

    The ideal setting, in other words, to do some really dumb things.

  14. If Rudd wins expect a rush by Liberals to criticise Howard’s ‘big government conservatism’ and his social conservatism, an alignment of these two groups (think Andrew Norton as an example) may hold the ascendancy. But the Nats will have more influence, it is possible that the Libs could lose heavily and the Nats lose no seats, Nats don’t like Workchoices but they like big government conservatism.

  15. David, I agree with your summation of Peter Hartcher’s article, I just don’t agree with some of his or Skirton’s conclusions. What I get out of these polls is this. People know the government is great at managing the economy. They know that they don’t like the government’s IR policy and that Labor can be trusted with IR. They prefer Labor over the coalition. So, the conclusion, logically, is that IR is the driving force behind their vote. Surely if it was the economy we would see different figures. Also, logically, if people know the economy is good reminding them of this in an election will have minimal effect on their vote. It’s having minimal effect now.

  16. The last elected PM to be given only 1 term and the only one since 1914 was James Scullin in 1929-31. He faced a hostile Senate but refused to go to a DD because of fear he would lose – he was obliterated in any case.

    The only other one term elected PM, since the establishment of a stable 2 party system was Joseph Cook 1913 -1914. He also faced a hostile senate and decided on a DD ( I think the trigger was an IR law). The Commonwealth Liberals lost control of both houses in the DD.

    Make what you will of these precedents but I think a DD will only occur when the Government is nice and ready for it.

  17. “The last elected PM to be given only 1 term and the only one since 1914 was James Scullin in 1929-31. ”

    You need to refine the statement slightly to protect it from a possible ambiguity that would allow pedants to point out that John Curtin, Ben Chifley, Harold Holt, John Gorton and Paul Keating were all PMs who only won one general election :-).

  18. Gary Bruce,

    I think the feeling behind Hartcher’s article is that they are unhappy with the Govt on IR and are saying now that this will cause them to vote Labor.

    When the election comes around and they actually have to vote rather than just tell a pollster something the “who will manage the economy better?” question will become more important and so they might swing back behind Howard.

    Hartcher desn’t seem to say that is what WILL happen, rather he thinks that is possible enough to give the Coalition some hope.

    In the end, it may or may not happen (you obviously think not), but that doesn’t mean it should be discounted as impossible. We are all in the realm of speculation and prediction, after all.

  19. For the long term future of the Liberal Party it might be better if they do lose in 2007.

    If the economy were to turn down in the following 3 years, the new IR laws may be a very ugly tool in the hands of employers. Examples of workers ‘crucified by these evil laws’ would multiply and politically it could be extremely ugly for the libs at the following election. The landslide would then be on big time.

    On the other hand, if the ALP wins, and the economy turns down, the Libs can say, ‘Hey, we left the economy in good shape, we were good economic managers, and these turkeys have let it all go’.

  20. “That is why I said elected (as in elected by the electorate not a caucus)”

    And that’s the problem. PJK fits that description – elected once, given one term then voted out.

    But I’ll withdraw my pedantry. We all know what you mean 🙂

  21. “For the long term future of the Liberal Party it might be better if they do lose in 2007.”

    Hmm, so the worst of all worlds for them could be if they lose the election, keep control of the Senate, oppose any new IR legislation and then there is a downturn that causes employers to start playing hardball before a DD comes along. 🙂

  22. Matt D – I don’t rule it out as impossible either, just highly unlikely. To me it just doesn’t add up.
    If anyone can argue a logical case for it happening I’m all ears.

  23. On a side note, and remembering all the usual distinctions about the difference between the various levels of Govt, in the Waverley Council by-election last weekend (in the heart of Turnbull’s electorate of Wentworth), the final vote showed a drop of 8.5% in the ALP vote compared to the same booths in the recent state election (25%), a drop in the Lib vote of 6% (37%), the Green vote rose by 0.5% (24%), with Independents collecting the rest. Given that this was form a Lib Councillor who went bankrupt and had to resign, I might have expected a swing against them (although the Libs actually had a swing to them compared to their last Council election of over 3%). But the surprising thing was the swing against the ALP – their own workers expected it to be an easy win, with the local Mayor being ALP Wentworth candidate George Newhouse.

  24. Chris: On a personal note, there is no way I could put one of the pro-AWA parties ahead of any of the anti-AWA parties for the Senate.

    Comrade! We will recruit you yet. 🙂

  25. RE WA Polling.

    If I was Rudd, I’d take some heart from the weekend’s westpoll, notoriously inaccurate as it is. We all need to remember how bad the ALP vote was in 2004 – a primary vote of 34.&% versus the Libs 48.1% translate to a dismal 44.% 2PP for the ALP. Any poll that shows a 2PP for the ALP in WA puts Hasluck and Stirling in the bag and starts to make Kalgoorlie look interesting.

  26. “That is why I said elected (as in elected by the electorate not a caucus)”

    Sadly, oakeshott country, in our wonderful constitutional monarchy (LOL) Prime Ministers are chosen by the GG and not elected by the electorate.

    Hopefully this will change some time in the near futute.

  27. Morgan Poll from Friday 18th May

    > Support for The Greens is 8% (up 1%), Family First 1.5% (unchanged), Australian Democrats 1% (unchanged), One Nation 0.5% (unchanged) and Other Parties and Independent Candidates 2% (down 1%)
    > With preferences distributed as they were at the 2004 election, the two-party preferred vote was ALP 59.5% (down 0.5%), L-NP 40.5% (up 0.5%)
    > If an election had been held last weekend the ALP would have won easily.

    Galaxy Poll – Wednesday 16th May

    > Labor’s primary vote remains steady at 49 per cent, while the Coalition’s vote has moved up two points to 39 per cent since the last poll in April.
    > Of the minor parties, support for the Greens remains unchanged at 9 per cent, while support for independents and others slipped to 3 per cent since last month’s poll.

  28. To Martin B.

    Some points on your comment.

    1. Economic downturns don’t usually happen that quickly – 6 months of stats are required for a recession.
    2. If there was an economic downturn, the Libs could blame the ALP for bring it on – the we are better economic managers card.
    3. Paradoxically – retaining work choices in a downturn may be advantageous for either side (if in power) as it may keep people in work (despite whatever bastardry may occur) and keep down the unemployment rate – a job being better than the dole ….

  29. Prime Ministers, Premiers and Ministers should be chosen by the Lower House of Parliament, which should be elected by PR (a sort of indirect election). Then the Executive would be properly democraticly chosen yet instantly accountable.

  30. Dembo the SDA are the Union who cover places like Subway, Macdonald’s etc as well as Retail chain workers etc. A union that has the potential to be strong. My problem is its ineffectiveness and non supporting of YR@W in marginal seats. The ALP candidate in Kingston is from the SDA yet it is the more left wing unions that will make this seat hers. It would be nice when an community action is planned here that the SDA would show up in droves showing support not only for our struggle but their own candidate.

  31. Tom

    Prime ministers and cabinet ministers are effectively elected by the parliament now as they have to maintain the confidence of their own party (holding the majority of seats) and keep the confidence of the parliament. In a minority government situation, it is the responsibility of the prime minster or premier to demonstrate to the ‘crown’ that they have the confidence of the parliament and that they can ‘form’ a government. It is effectively the same in any parliamentary system no matter how they are elected, with the exception of Israel, where they have a sort of presidential prime minister – and what a shambles that is.

  32. Tom, that was a time of constitutional crisis and doesn’t count. And in any case, the Government lacked the confidence of the lower house, and not surprisingly an election was held just over a month after he was appointed. So the system worked exactly as it should’ve.

  33. The other case I can think of where the PM did not have the confidence of the lower house was Barton from 1 Jan 1901 until the first election.

  34. Under a direct election of the PM, there’s no guarantee they would be able to stitch together a majority in the lower house – people may recall that Barak faced a problem stitching together a majority in the Knesset when he was elected Israeli PM.

  35. Sasha:
    re Waverley Council byelection results – they came from our own scrutineer’s who were at the count and check count (so came from the Returning Officer). The final allocation of preferences will be Tuesday and then I imagine they will be posted on the Waverley Council site and the Elections NSW site at some point.

  36. There were recently two council byelections in the Hornsby Council area, and less than half of those enrolled bothered to vote – the electoral commission made a lot of money out of fines. And, Conservative voters are more likely to turn out than Labor or Green voters.
    So, I wouldn’t read too much into results for a byelection in a single ward of Waverley Council.

  37. Directly electing the PM cannot work. Either the leader of the government is accountable to the Parliament (ie. a PM) or the voters directly (a President). You can’t do both.

    A way to fix that is through a voting system like MMP in New Zealand. In New Zealand, your party vote is effectively a vote for who you want to be PM, separate to who you want as your local member. So a PR system is the closest we get to directly elected PMs, as MPs represent voters proportionally, thus a majority electing a PM would represent a proportionate majority of voters. But because PR rarely returns a one-party majority, it’s not direct election.

  38. Evan:
    re Council byelections – that would be my normal reaction excepting that the Green vote stayed up, and both ALP and Lib votes fell, especially the ALP. This now describes a new a trend in the area for a falling ALP vote – remembering that the eastern suburbs have had a chequered history for the ALP, with Coogee changing hands every 10 years or so until 1974. Since then its been an ALP seat, but in this years state election there was a 5% swing against the ALP. This may simply confirm the swing, but in the context of the ALP challenging Turnbull means that it may have a limited effect. Certainly the local ALP thought it would just win the seat without too much trouble, but this result means it may fall to the Libs – not what they would expect in the run up to the Federal election.

  39. The motion that the house passed on the afternoon of 11/11/75 was directive. It was that the House had no confidence in Malcolm Fraser and called upon the GG to appoint a government led by the Member of Werriwa (I remember because I was listening to the disgrace on 2BL). Speaker Scholes left the chair to deliver the motion to Kerr, who refused to see him – so much for those who legitimise the dismissal and contend that the constitution works.

    The situation of Barton is specifically covered by S64 of the constitution

    What I have always wondered is if the House had continued to sit with a deputy in the chair? No doubt under S5, the dissolution would have been valid but woulg Kerr and his cur have used the armed forces to close the place down?
    (this post should get the juices flowing)

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