Michelle Grattan’s leak of the week

Grattan says:

JOHN Howard now appears seriously under threat in his seat of Bennelong, according to Liberal sources. As the Government is hit by more bad polls, the Prime Minister’s electorate, where Labor’s Maxine McKew is challenging, is considered by Liberals to be in greater danger than Malcolm Turnbull’s Wentworth.

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.

467 comments on “Michelle Grattan’s leak of the week”

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  1. I have no doubt that he’s not popular but it’s still difficult to believe that they would throw out a sitting PM. Still strange things do happen. In some ways it might be good for the Libs because they would then have no choice but to turn their backs on the Howard era and philosophy and rebuild from the ground up.

  2. Everything I read tells me that the longer Howard leaves the election the deeper in trouble he will get. The Adelaide Advertiser started talking about baseball bats.

    “STRUGGLING families are ready to take a baseball bat to John Howard over rising interest rates and believe the Coalition has “lost touch” with the public.”

    If Labor do win they have some serious talent to come through, better than Rudd.

  3. Somehow I think that the good citizens of Bennelong realise that they could be going to the polls twice in as many months. If John Howard loses the election how long do you expect it will be before he resigns is lower house seat? I think they may realise that Johns time is up and they should vote once and for all to make sure John vacates the lodge.

    — Question —

    Will the AEC be using electronic voting kiosks and if so what security is there to avoid a repeat of events in Victoria where the results of the electronic votings machines where analyised prior to the close of the poll

    “After analysing the number of voting centre results entered last night for 1st prefs (District and Region) and 2CP we have realised that everyone could be waiting around all night for what would be dribs and drabs that we do not anticipate would make an impact on the result. Because of this we have decided that we will not be entering these small results on election night. These will be entered on Sunday during the day.
    Many apologies for those people who I have misinformed this afternoon, as I said this is a late change. We do not anticipate large numbers of votes from these centres. I will keep in touch with progress reports.

    Regards – Glenda”

  4. “Yeah wayne swan, tony burke, shorten, combet, nicola roxon”

    Glen is a closet lefty, he knows more Shadow Ministers than the Cabinet Ministers I could name.

  5. Glen,
    Swan vs Costello on the economy. Swan (totally inexperienced), Costello (eleven years as treasurer during the biggest economic boom in Australias history), Who would be better economic manager? ALP (Swan) 39% – Coalition (Costello) just a paltry 36% – now that’s talent

  6. Michelle is not one to chase a cheap headline – she’s from the old school – “Subs, I misplaced a comma in par five …” so what she reports is pretty much pure gold.

    I now firmly believe that John Howard will make his excuses after APEC and leave the building. He is gone for all money.

  7. Ironically, I think Howard’s difficulties in Bennelong might be making it difficult for him to quit politics or step down as leader. It’s a seat the Libs must win, and Howard is the coalition’s best chance of winning it. If Howard did announce he was standing aside for a new leader, and not re-contesting Bennelong, Maxine would romp it in against an unknown Lib candidate.

    The voters of Bennelongg know they’re probably facing a by-election if the re-elect Howard, irrespective of whether the coalition as a whole wins the election.

  8. If the Coalition win this election just barely, scraping in with a 1 or 2 seat margin it’ll be an interesting by-election when John Howard eventually resigns.

  9. If Rudd wins a decent sized majority, we’ll see some fresh new talent in the Labor ranks: Combet, Bill Shorten, Mark Dreyfuss, Peter Tinley, Mike Kelly, Maxine Mckew, Gary Gray etc.
    All the mutterings I’ve heard from folks I know in Bennelong are that Howard is seriously on the nose.
    I wonder why on earth there wasn’t a move to find a safer seat for the Rodent, like Mitchell for instance.

  10. [If John Howard loses the election how long do you expect it will be before he resigns is lower house seat? ]

    If Rudd wins, he will do what Hawke did, resign just before parliament sits for the first time in 2008.

    I still don’t think he will lose, there are probably 5 or 6% undecided, when the crunch comes they will probably side with Howard, which will let him flop over the line. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins by less than 500 votes.

    As Megalongenis said on Insight, the next member for Bennelong will be Maxine McKew, whether that means at the general election, or at a by-election.

  11. ABC weather report: “The sun, the earth and the moon … will be in perfect alignment …” Just so.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  12. I remember watching that “Labor in Power” doco many years ago, and an interview with Bob Collins regarding the Keating/Hawke power battle within the ALP. Bob Collins was saying that in politics sometimes you can just smell the “stench of death” in the air. Seems to be pretty well describing the current situation for Howard. Even the realistic libs know it.

  13. Matthew Sykes Says:
    August 28th, 2007 at 8:58 am

    I remember watching that “Labor in Power” doco many years ago, and an interview with Bob Collins regarding the Keating/Hawke power battle within the ALP. Bob Collins was saying that in politics sometimes you can just smell the “stench of death” in the air.

    That was the toilets, they were blocked. I walked into Keating in one on the afternoon of his failed 1st bid. He said “up to my neck in shit and up to my ankles in piss”.

  14. “I wonder why on earth there wasn’t a move to find a safer seat for the Rodent, like Mitchell for instance.”

    Yeah, it’s a mystery. Thing is, Howard could have justified the switch by saying that the boundaries of Bennelong have changed so much since the seat was created that it’s the same seat in name only.

    Berowra was another option – though it’s held by Ruddock. But Mitchell went begging, given that it was held by Alan ‘dead wood’ Cadman (who was tossed out anyway).

  15. I think there’s actually a pretty clear reason why John Howard hasn’t moved seats; it would as good as guarantee Labor would win. John Howard may well end up losing Bennelong, but he sure as heck has a better chance of winning it than any other candidate the Libs could find.

  16. I see your point Matthew. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but here’s the way I see it… To me, it’s a trade-off: is the price of one seat in parliament really worth having your PM bogged down campaigning in his own electorate? Bennelong is an albatross around Howard’s neck. As Antony Green says, PMs don’t usually lose their seats because PMs are usually given rock-solid safe seats. That way they can raise their national profile, and have more time to devote to doing the job of PM. It’s much the same for Opposition Leaders (look at the way Beazley switched seats when Swan became dangerous).

    I know every seat counts. And I completely agree that Howard represents the best chance for the Libs in Bennelong. But if the Coalition is left with a one-seat majority because Howard holds Bennelong by the skin of his teeth, then what next? Does he have to hold his seat for the entire duration of his fifth term?

  17. The reason why Howard stayed in Bennelong not clear. My simple view would be that he underestimated the potentual to loose the seat. In exactly the same way as he has underestimated the risks the coalition faced in this election.

    I think he started to believe his own press releases. I wonder what he believes now?

  18. I said this myself in early August after comparing all phone polls in July with all ph polls in June. Morgan F2F was down significantly in July vs June, but is back up in August, though I expect another Morgan F2F for August on Friday. So far in August, 3 polls have had significant movement to Labor (Morgan ph, Morgan F2F and Galaxy), one has had significant movement to Coalition (ACN) and one has been unchanged (Newspoll).

  19. I have lived in Bennelong since 1990 and have watched the numbers at each and every election. The demographics have been running against Howard for years. He does not win on primaries. Bennelong was one of the few electorates to vote for the republic in 1999. He could have lost in 2004 if Wilkie had not stood for the Greens and/or a better independent Liberal had stood and/or the ALP had funded a campaign based on believing they could win. With Rudd as Federal leader and McKew as the local candidate this seat will fall to the ALP at the election. It was always possible, now it will become a reality. It’s his own fault for believing his own propaganda.

    I was an ALP member years ago but have just begun giving up a few hours on Saturday to help out. I am amazed at the positive vibe and support for Maxine. She is out and about at every local event and winning votes left, right and centre. Pun intended.

    For Glen, Steven Kaye and the other Howard Huggers, I will keep an open mind on the overall result, but believe me when I tell you your man will not be in the next parliament.

    The interesting point will be when the Lib strategists (now there’s an oxymoron !) accept that Bennelong is lost and run dead to put more resources into saving Joe Hockey over in North Sydney.

  20. Fantastic insight into the electorate – thanks BR. Do you live in a more Liberal leaning area, or an ALP-leaning area, or neither? Or are these observations gained from various parts of the electorate?

    The concept of the Libs accepting Bennelong as lost is astonishing one, though. Just think if this thought really took hold inside the Liberal Party. It means they’re giving up on having their leader at the next election. If that’s the case, they may as well tap him on the shoulder now.

    I don’t think things are quite that bad yet, but geez, they’ve got to be close. Maybe they have accepted it, but they can’t do anything so close to APEC as it would be a bad look for Australia. After that, who knows? There is a precedent for changing leaders right before an election and winning (the ALP in 1983) but there hasn’t to my knowledge been a precent for changing Prime Ministers right before an election!

    We do live in interesting times.

  21. Glen Says:wayne swan, tony burke, shorten, combet, nicola roxon…

    Strange how you point out Combet Glen, when you say that Hawkes experience as a union leader is what made the difference between a successful PM even after only being opposition leader for about a month. You know… with your constant failed narrative about the supposed lack of experience of the ALP team.

    You’re not very consistent in your argument there mate…

  22. Yes Scotty, astonishing! With good luck and a fair wind …


    How is Bailey going in the electorate? What’s the feeling?

  23. I really hope Maxine wins the seat. My parents live in Beecroft which is now part of Bennelong & you would call them traditional liberal voters. My father has never forgiven John Howard for going to Iraq but did not vote labour in 2004 because of Mark Latham. This year he is absolutely thrilled to be able to vote for Maxine.They were dissapointed to miss her when she doorknocked their street. Wow a campaigner who actually doorknocks!

    Meanwhile she is literally everywhere. I ran into her at my parents local shopping centre and I was so impressed. Intelligent, articulate, personable and also very attractive. She is doing a great job. I actually told her I wished she would stand in my seat( Berowra) and she said she couldn’t because Phillip Ruddock upsets her too much but John Howard doesn’t!

  24. 4 Glen said:

    Yeah wayne swan, tony burke, shorten, combet, nicola roxon hahahahah you gotta be joking lol!

    What talent!

    Glen, you know, I thought the very same thing in 1996; how could people elect a government that would contain such incompetent lightweights like Downer, Tuckey, Vanstone, Fischer, McLachlan etc.?

    And you know what? I was wrong. I was wrong because, like you are today, I was too close to the action and assumed all the swinging voters would think the way I do.

    Just like then, most of the swinging voters today don’t give a rats about the shadow ministers when deciding their vote. So long as they’re not reading about them stuffing up on the front pages of the papers they assume they are competent (irrespective of what you and I think).

    So you can squeal as loud as you like about your perceived incompetence of Labor shadows (just as I can snigger about Lord Downer and thick as two bricks Mark Vaile) and it won’t make one bit of difference.

    Enough swinging voters have already made up their mind that Howard is going and nothing he does or says will save him, just like Keating in 1996.

    Enjoy the inevitable slide to defeat.

  25. To the goose making fun of Labor’s front bench, have you had a decent look at Howard’s lot recently? What an ugly bunch – the god-bothering foot-in-mouth merchant Kevin Andrews, the mincing master of the hissy fit Alex Downer, the lost extra from 80s glam soapie Helen Coonan, the Professor Dolores Umbridge mistress of discipline Julie Bishop, the Thunderbird without strings Brendan Nelson, the unreconstructed ’50s Catholic punisher Tony Abbott. Yep, they’re an inspiring bunch.

  26. The Libs secret weapon in this election will be their recent electoral bill, which closes voter registration the day the poll is announced and the writs are issued. This is one of the more sinister pieces of legislation in recent history, and is designed to disenfrancise the least well organised and stable people in the community (renters, students, unemployed), most of whom would probably be non Coalition voters.

    Based on previous elections, we will see up to 300,000 people disenfrancised, and this could well have a critical impact in many marginal seats. With every piece of election bumf that Maxine hands out in Bennalong, she should also be handing out voter registration forms.

  27. McLachlan, Tuckey they are all deadbeats but Downer and Vanestone proved to be good assets…

    But Wayne Swan if this guy has to lip read his press stops with his advisors how are we going to trust this fool to run the economy better than Costello?

  28. Glenn – Mr Costello doesn’t run the economy. Nor will Mr. Swan. Neo-Classical economics won the day about 20 years ago. No-one runs the economy.

  29. The Weather Bulletin:

    There is a lingering low pressure system over the seat of North Sydney, and with a little luck, the high pressure system – to the left of screen – over central Australia will push it into the Tasman by mid to late November.

    Clear sky is predicted for the political landscape of Australia over the next 10 years.

    Look out for those pointy isobars, Mr Hockey.

  30. Jas’ gem: IMHHO so far this election (although Howard, Bolt and Glen are doing their best to change things) isn’t abouot Rudd at all; and if isn’t about Rudd then it is pretty stupid and desperate to pretend it is about the shadow ministry.

    It is all about Howard and each of the Rudd smears, and the subseqent fall in support for Howard makes more sense if analysed from the point of view of what it says about Howard and the Government he leads. After all he is the PM it makes sense that people that look very little at government look mostly at him. It is also a natural by-product of seemingly complete shift to presidential style elections.

    And I don’t think Labor should underestimate the importance of this story. The Liberals are being led into a Presidential style election without a leader that is sure to be there. And they admit it. Last time they tried this and the attack was on Costello. That admittedly appears to have backfired or at best failed to gain traction.

    But at every level a degree of uncertainty about who will lead the country should even further disadvantage a government heading for a solid defeat. Perhaps though this factor is already built into the polling.

  31. If Labor wins by 55-45, they will win seats that they never held before, and probably wind up with 100 total seats on an 8% swing that is bigger in marginals and Coalition safes. According to Possum, the really big swings are happening in NSW and Qld; if that’s true, North Sydney and Berowra are definite possibles.

    Recent polls are suggesting that Labor’s lead is increasing beyond 55-45; in that case it’s looking like my favourite contest: a no-contest. In that case, it’ll be a total bloodbath, and a Labor re-alignment for at least the next decade.

  32. Hi Scotty. These are observations from around the electorate, based on 17 years of work, family, shopping, soccer and other social activities. Politics is just one of my side interests. I live in North Ryde, which is a mix of old Italian families, new Asian families and plenty of Anglos like me. The only real blue ribbon areas are along the Parramatta River like Putney & Tennyson, as well as East Ryde and the pricier streets in Epping and Carlingford. The rest is a real mix. Check out the electorate ratings on George Megla-whatever’s site.

    Being a bit of an MS Excel nerd, I did some pivot tables on booth-by-booth voting. Conclusion ? Not much variation across the electorate. Plenty of doctor’s wives in the more affluent parts, nicely balanced by working class independent contractors elsewhere. Well that’s my theory.

    My other theory, and this I believe holds true nationally, is that Rudd and the current economic, social and political climate represent a Perfect Storm for Howard. Everthing is going wrong for him, everything is going right for Rudd. En masse, the floating voters have switched to Rudd as well as a fair few moderate Liberals. I really believe it will be a landslide, IMHO. Just like Blair in the UK 1997 election. The parallels are all there.

    (Boll: The question is how much money has been placed by people with local knowledge like me ? I wouldn’t even put a tenner on Howard as an outside chance. Money down the drain. He’s gone.)

    Groupthink is the only explanation for the Libs putting in resources to save Howard. Rationally, they should be trying to shore-up other electorates and not preserve their past.

  33. Glen: Downer and Vanstone are absolute jokes.

    Vanstone was incompetent as Immigration Minister. You only need to look at Rau, Alvarez and co. not to mention the scathing report and revamp of the Immigration Department. She also wasted hundreds of thousands trying to learn Chinese and failing, and now she is wasting hundreds of thousands more trying to learn Italian. She was a complete waste of space. With Ruddock, Vanstone and Andrews, as the Larry, Moe and Curly of the Immigration Minister’s portfolio, this entire area has been abysmally handled and can only be marked F.

    Downer is the worst ever foreign minister. He has achieved nothing in his time and has only served to antagonise countries worldwide. The most memorable was when Downer went overseas to try and get a few Australian hostages returned. Failed miserably, and then went to watch the Ashes, one day later.

    That’s not even mentioned AWB, a case where he was either criminally culpable or grossly negligent. Under any doctrine of ministerial responsibility he should have been sacked.

  34. For a number of months, I think around the end of last year and the start of this year I advocated the PM going to an early as sensibly possible election, I can’t remember the exact date.

    My completely wrong theory was that the PM would have a little bit of pick up in the first and second quarters and would move to call an election before the June quarter figures caused an interest rate rise. Well the pick up was there, but wasn’t really picked up until too late and was too weak, and the economic indicators fooled some people into believing there wouldn’t be an interest rate rise at all (although the perfect economic managers Howard and Costello obviously knew there would be).

    Assuming we now sail to a 55:45 defeat of the Howard Govt; I’m looking at the graphs and wondering if the RB would have raised interest rates DURING an election campaign. Might have been a good idea for the PM to listen to me!!!!! But anyway just looking at mumbles graph and assuming the labor recovery isn’t all noise, and feeling the interest rate rise in my mortgage … I can’t help but be happy … to misquote Mr Cohen, first we take bennelong then we take the lodge (or vice versa I don’t really care which).

  35. I’m a Berowra resident. My seat was one of the few electorates in 2004 to register a decent swing against Howard(3 or 4% 2PP).
    I’ve no doubt Ruddock will comfortably retain the seat again, but it’s possible his margin could go below 10%.

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