Idle Speculation: annihilation edition

With the scent of the government’s blood in the water, the nation’s newspapers have gone mad with opinion polling. For reasons unexplained, The Australian published Newspoll results last Tuesday (57-43), on Saturday (55-45) and today (60-40). The Fairfax papers yesterday conjured a front page story by adding together the last six months’ worth of ACNielsen polling. Like Newspoll’s quarterly aggregates, these produced state-by-state figures from believable samples. The thrust of the South Australian and Western Australian figures is supported by two sets of local polls: in the Sunday Mail, a survey of 601 South Australian voters had Labor leading 59-41, while in last Saturday’s West Australian, a Westpoll survey of 409 voters had the Coalition leading 51-49. Also:

• Jackie Kelly has announced she will not contest the election, depriving the Liberals of her considerable personal vote in the outer western Sydney seat of Lindsay. The redistribution has cut the Liberal margin in the seat from 5.3 per cent to 2.9 per cent. Penrith councillor Mark Davies has been named as Kelly’s most likely successor as Liberal candidate, and reportedly has her backing. Labor has again nominated the twice-unsuccessful David Bradbury, former Penrith mayor.

• The South Australian Liberal party has selected Mary Jo Fisher to fill Amanda Vanstone’s Senate vacancy, the term of which will expire in 2011. In what would appear to be another win for the state party’s ascendant Right faction, Fisher was chosen ahead of the moderate-backed Maria Kourtesis, who earlier contentiously failed to secure a winnable position on this year’s Senate ticket.

• Labor provoked another round of debate over the merits of celebrity candidates last week when it preselected ABC weatherman Mike Bailey to run against Joe Hockey in North Sydney. Also widely noted was the number of ABC personnel turning up as Labor candidates.

• Labor’s Sharon Grierson has effortlessly survived a preselection challenge in Newcastle. The ABC reports that a rank-and-file ballot delivered her more than 80 per cent of the vote over her challenger, Merewether West branch secretary David March.

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.

375 comments on “Idle Speculation: annihilation edition”

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  1. Michael Colnan has run for Berowra previously(either in 2004 or 2001).
    He hasn’t got a chance in hell of unseating Ruddock – my seat is safer than North Sydney and Warringah for the Liberals. At best, the ALP will get 40% of the 2PP vote.
    Parramatta: Julie Owens is said to be a good local member. I doubt the Liberals will waste too much money trying to win the seat, when they have to put their resources into saving Lindsay and Macquarie in Western Sydney(maybe Greenway and Macarthur too, if there is a landslide to Rudd).
    Yesterday’s Galaxy Poll: I’ll need to see this supposed swing back to Howard reflected in a few more polls, before I can definitively conclude Rudd’s honeymoon is over.

  2. Just curious about what the base of a union-less ALP is supposed to be.

    The Liberals have a base. Even the Nationals.

    Maybe you don’t need a base. Perhaps public sector employees, doctors’ wives, and the Bunyip aristocracy of the chatterers might do.

    But it might be nice to have a base that somehow is in touch with reality.

  3. Barry Jones’ line is that reform of the ALP becomes inevitable once the union movement’s share of the workforce falls below about 10-12%. He believes that the realisation is starting to grow that the union base is no longer viable for a mass party.

    If he’s right, it could be interesting times for a Rudd Government (and eight state and territory governments) trying to steer the ship of state whilst the Party undergoes the biggest set of reforms in its history.

  4. Charlie,

    I reckon that is the ideal time to reform the party. Rudd will have the power of being a victor behind him.

    To do it while in opposition would condemn the party to at least another term out of the hot seats.

  5. For all you southerners in the cold miserable parts of Australia where Aussie Fules is played and mullet haircuts are in fashion:

    Rugby = Rugby Union. You cannot say ‘Rugby’ and assume you’ve covered both codes.

    Rugby Union or just Union = Rugby Union
    Rugby League or just League = Rugby League

    To bring the topic back to politics, there is a massive demographic divide in the two sports that many beanie-wearing southerners are unaware of.

    Rugby (Union) is played at private schools.
    Rugby League is played at public schools.

    This is due to a hundred year old split where League decided to go professional and pay their players money. The rich clubs didn’t need money so stuck with Union. Union is much smaller than League.

    Labor and National Voters like League (kind of balances the vote out)
    Liberal Voters like Union (60-40?)

    Yes there’s a lot of crossover but in general that’s how it works. You can tell a Union ground from a League ground by the number of BMWs and Landcruisers parked around it.

  6. I notice that Galaxy Poll lists the two party preferred beneficiaries as “Coalition” and “Non coalition”. Says it all really.

  7. Just heard him say three months, which is defensible.

    He is positioning Howard so that every day that passes after early September without an election being called is seen as a low-grade desperation strategy, an affront to convention.

  8. Mary Jo Fisher was today confirmed as the Liberal Party’s replacement for Senator Amanda Vanstone. Maria Kourtesis had challenged her preselection defeat, claiming that misinformation had been spread about her before the vote. Before the challenge, the SA Govt had set aside today to ratify the Liberal selection in parliament. That will now happen tomorrow. Fisher is a ‘dry’ and Kourtesis a ‘wet’.

  9. BigBob, I agree. A Rudd Government is the best time to do it, but it will be a messy (albeit necessary) process whenever it happens.

  10. Edward StJohn (June 4th, 2007 at 10:08 pm),

    What is undemocratic about more than one million unionists having half the votes in the ALP and the 40,000 full members having the other half? Perhaps, the unionists should be given 90 per cent plus. Personally, I’d ditch the 50-50 rule and make it open elections with unionists counted as associate members with their votes counting as between one fifth and one tenth of the full members’ votes. In any case, it is the people as a whole that make the decision in the end.

    Mark says (June 4th, 2007 at 11:42 pm),

    We have discussed the ALP-DLP preference deals before on this site. Parties make agreements based on how they see their own best interests. The ALP gained DLP preferences too. Given the voting record in the Legislative Council, which when I last checked the figures had the Greens never voting with the ALP, the decision to give preferences to the DLP to avoid total dependence on the Greens was perfectly sensible. Indeed, the Greens have voted with the DLP more than they have with the ALP. (I believe there have been more recent votes in which the Greens have voted with Labor.)

    I have never met Peter Kavanagh, but everything I have read about him tells me he is a rational human being, not a “crazy”.

    We normally leave attacks on the SDA to Bill, but seeing that you have joined him, the DLP unions – SDA, FCU, ASCJ and FIA – were invited back into the ALP by Bob Hawke to provide a counterweight to the Left, a perfectly rational decision again. The SDA looks after its members as best it can given the non-militant nature of the retail workforce.

    Back to the topic: Galaxy is an aberration. The next poll, whether Newspoll, ACNielsen or Morgan – will not replicate it. But that won’t matter: The Australian will spin them into nothing just as it spun the Galaxy Poll into scripture in today’s editorial, from which I quote:

    “AS predicted, John Howard’s recent declaration of political annihilation may well have marked the nadir of Coalition pre-election fortunes. The emerging trend is that holding firm to caution and the middle ground is starting to pay dividends…
    If the latest Galaxy poll results, published nationwide yesterday, are to be believed, the Government is back to within striking distance on a two-party-preferred vote, with Labor’s lead dropping from 14 percentage points to six. The result confirms The Australian’s view that the last Newspoll, which saw Labor’s support jump to a record high against the Prime Minister, was artificially boosted by the blanket media coverage that weekend of the Opposition Leader’s support for his wife, Therese Rein, and her business dealings. The more accurate trend was shown in the two special Newspoll surveys taken since the May 9 budget, which showed the Coalition gaining slightly and Labor’s primary support starting to wain. If that trend continues, as shown by Galaxy, it means the Government has finally achieved electoral traction after the onset of voter infatuation with Mr Rudd. History shows Labor must now prepare itself for the reality that the Coalition’s fightback has begun.”
    (“Cautious electorate rediscovers Howard”, The Australian (editorial) June 05, 2007,20867,21849004-7583,00.html )

    The polls that show very high Labor votes are artificially boosted. Those that show only high Labor votes are real and evidence of the coalition’s coming victory. LOL and LOL again and RAOTFLOL again and again!

    Imagine the editorial if Labor wins: “Labor to be tested. The Australians people’s declining infatuation with Kevin Rudd needed another two weeks to give victory to the coalition. Now that Labor has snuck into office by gaining 22 seats instead of losing as the more accurate trend said it would, it will be under real pressure to reverse its IR laws, destroy the union movement and become a second Liberal Party. Otherwise it will face annihilation at the next election. The Australian people always vote Liberal. They thought Mr Rudd was a Liberal. If he does not deliver Liberal policies – and thankfully, the Senate will be there to steel his resolve – the public’s inevitable disappointment at not having a Liberal Government will undermine the economy and cause voters to seize the earliest opportunity to turn him out and turn to the coalition whose fightback needed only two more weeks to succeed. Mr Rudd should never forget that, had the election been two weeks later, he would have lost….”

  11. It’s interesting how The Australian puts down it’s own poll to lap up the finding of a competitiors poll they find more palatable.

  12. competitor’s. Gary, it’s not just interesting – it’s amazing; it’s hilarious; it’s a whole new paradigm. I’ve probably already said this, but in 40 years of political observation, I have never seen anything like the current campaign by The Australian.

  13. I agree Chris and they don’t let the facts get in the way of a good anti -Labor, anti – union story. I notice too that 3AW’s Neil Mitchell is promoting these stories.

  14. Chris

    I suggest you somehow acquire a copy of the west..erm ..worst.. Australian.

    The Oz is shocking

    The Worst is beyond belief.

  15. Chris, you are of course right and I should not have called the 1950s Groupers “crazies” – although I don’t think even you could defend Stan Keon’s hysterical McCarthyism. Most of the Groupers were solid Labor people who should not have been expelled, and they (you) are certainly welcome back to the Labor Party, where, as you say, they have helped greatly keeping the SL under control.

  16. The Australian’s editorial quoted above says: “The more accurate trend was shown in the two special Newspoll surveys taken since the May 9 budget, which showed the Coalition gaining slightly and Labor’s primary support starting to wain(sic).”

    Looks like the writer needs a refresher course in the basic education that his paper advocates.

  17. Good point Phil. It also backs up the notion that they are ready to accept any poll that shows a decline in Labor’s support and are only too happy to condemn any poll showing the opposite trend, even their own.

  18. Adam,

    Some time back, at a DLP re-union at which Frank Scully and I were invited to give the official speeches, I was called a communist by an ex-DLPer who had taken the extraordinarily inexplicable step of joining the Liberal Party. I have never accepted the equation that “The Left” = “progressive”, partly because of the tens of millions of human beings dead because of communism, partly because my own experience of “the Left” at LaTrobe showed it to be such a fraud and partly for other reasons, but I do not want to highjack this thread into a long discussion of political philosophy. I have found ordinary members of the both the DLP and the ALP to be decent and considerate people.


    I have looked at The West on my regular trips to WA. The Diamond Valley Leader has a wider outlook on the world than it.

  19. “… but in 40 years of political observation, I have never seen anything like the current campaign by The Australian.”

    Probably right, Chris. But the 75 campaign aimed at destabilising the Whitlam Govt would have run it pretty close. Perhaps I was more easily shocked then being younger, and having earlier (in the 60s) found The Oz a beacon of enlightened journalism in an era when the media in general was almost as dull, parochial, timid and unenquiring as it has become today.

    Such was my feeling that I never trusted Murdoch again, and watched in dismay as he embraced Thatcher, Reagan, then the Bushes. According to one insider, he is not an inherent Tory as Frank Packer was. He just found it simpler for his business interests always to be lined up with the powerful after an earlier unhappy experience in SA with The News and Max Stuart against Playford.

  20. hi chris do you know if the DLP will run candidates in vic in the lower house seat i know they did at the last election in Ballarat and McMillan

  21. Mark

    We normally leave attacks on the SDA to Bill, The SDA looks after its members as best it can given the non-militant nature of the retail workforce.

    Just ask any worker at Macdonald’s , HJ, Woolworths spotlight etc how best they do for them. Sorry Chris got to show my spots

  22. Don,

    You may be right. I wasn’t a reader of The Australian in 1975.


    I have no inside knowledge on the DLP’s intentions re contesting House of Reps seats. If I were advising them, I would say that they should contest any federal electorate within Peter Kavanagh’s Legislative Council Region in order not to deprive their supporters of an opportunity of voting for them. I think it was a mistake for the DLP to have decided no to contest certain state seats in 1976 as punishment for the Liberal reneging on their 1973 promise to introduce PR because DLP voters in them had no choice but to vote for someone else. Always give your supporters a chance to vote for you.


    You’re not sorry at all. Was it not the SDA that brought to light the bad treatment by Spotlight of its employees? Have you asked the workers of Macca’s, HJ and Woolworths if they are prepared to take industrial action or if they are prepared to stand against the current leadership? The SDA’s leaders are elected. If the members really were unhappy, they would vote for different leaders. It’s as simple as that, Bill.

    (Perhaps we could have a separate SDA thread, with two initial postings, and Bill and I could visit every now and again and add, “I agree with what I have already said.” This would save a lot of people scanning past potss that mention the SDA – wonderful union that it is – yet again. Bill, the SDA is not the only union with good people in it: Julius Roe is a good bloke too.)

  23. Chris i could never understand your ‘ love ‘ for the SDA but the past connection with the DLP by both makes sense now. If what someone said in a previous thread that the SDA has a homophobic tinge to it then im proud i have a problem with them

  24. Chris

    you mention your former DLP colleagues decision to join the Liberal Party as ‘inexplicable’. Do you concede that the DLP acted as the springboard for a great many educated and upwardly socially mobile Catholics to shed their former labor allegiances and start to vote liberal along similar lines to other people of a similar socio – economic level? The current federal government line up is a good case in point – catholic ministers in conservative governments are no longer a novelty but in the 50’s and 60’s there was usually only one – Sir John Cramer and Sir Neil O’Sullivan come to mind.

  25. blackburnpseph:

    Victorian Labor kicked all the catholic groupers out (more than half the membership from memory). Labor only has itself to blame for the loss of much of its catholic base, not the DLP.

  26. Blackburnpseph,

    I concede to some extent that the DLP acted as the springboard for upwardly socially mobile Catholics to shed their former Labor allegiances and start to vote Liberal along similar lines to other people of a similar socio-economic level, but that’s not the whole story. My rough study of the 1976 Victorian election, in which the DLP withdrew from contesting a number of seats to punish the duplicitous Liberals, suggests that DLP voters in Labor areas went back to the ALP, whereas those in Liberal areas went to the Liberal Party. I say ”inexplicable’ because the Liberals are so inimical to the interests of working people and anyone brought about in the social justice tradition of the Catholic Church would find their attitudes on IR, for example, most unChristian. Most actual DLP members, as opposed to voters, never joined another political party. They were just relieved that they had been “given permission” to rest after a lifetime of fighting. Of the five former DLP state presidents with whom I keep in touch, four are Labor people and one joined the Liberals, becoming disillusioned in the process.

    Mr Speaker,

    Those who got control of the ALP in 1955 did not actually kick all the Groupers (who were not all Catholics) out. It purported to expel only the main ones and the others “left” of their own accord, or more accurately, stayed in what was legally the ALP. It lost more than half the membership and two thirds of the branches and so severely damaged the Labor Party that, even if the Left got control again, it would not take such a foolish action again.

    I guess in time all historical events are washed away, and the Labor Party of 2007 is nothing like the Labor Party of 1955. Nor are the Catholics of 2007 the same as the Catholics of 1955, and there are plenty who vote Labor again at the state level and who will do so at the federal level come this year’s election. The Labor Party has also given up the “class struggle”. The voters are more interested in how fast their broadband is than how much is on their bread board.

  27. Or as Neville Wran once said (or something similar) – the common thread amongst the Australian working class is the desire to be middle class.

    Very few truer words said

  28. Hi Chris,
    No doubt you have seen the extraordinary story of Caqrdinal Pell threatening excommunication for any politician who supports embryonic cloning. I can’t help but wonder if Mannix would have done something similar. I have doubt that Gilroy, who we should thank for keeping the DLP largely south of the border would never have done such athing. I love the story (how true it is, I don’t know) that Whitlam considered Gilroy as GG rather than Kerr.

  29. Whitlam’s first choices for GG were Judith Wright and Ken Myer, but he chickened out and went for the conventional (also he was badly advised that Kerr was “one of ours”). I’ve never heard Gilroy suggested. He was 76 when Whitlam became PM, and there would have been serious complications having an Anglican Queen represented by a Catholic prelate.

    Whitlam’s real debt to Gilroy, was his authorisation of Bishop Carroll to issue his statement supporting Labor’s schools policy in 1972, which was crucial in winning seats in NSW.

  30. So now we have Galaxy with Labor’s primary vote on 44 percent last weekend and Morgan with Labor’s primary vote on 51 percent on the same weekend. Hmmm.

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