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. Jen i am voting Green as well. The Labor party has backflipped again on awa’s and as Tony Jones rightly pointed out tonight on Lateline regarding the phase out of AWA’s over four years what if there is a change of government again, therefore workers still awas will have to cop it and what if employers put lots of workers on awas before the new ir changes under labor-
    You may a system of industrial relations in this country with workers on awas, some under labors new changes and some on awards what kind of system is this? So much for me believing that the Labor stood for an efficient workplace system…
    Julia’s answer oh they will have to answer to Mrs Bennett… what next…
    Tony you are totally correct the shadow ministers are hopeless and gutless… they cannot stand for their convictions… and here was me thinking that Julia had some pluck.
    Read Mark Lathams’ book Tony and just see the kind of idoits the Labor side has! All in it for themselves and for TA ( travel allowances) not forgetting the other side is far worse of course.

  2. When people are unhappy with a government, its for many reasons.
    People have a s–t list that they tick off for every government. The list has been ticked, WorkChoices was just a very heavy last straw.
    Labor just needed to do some woodcutting at the top, and the people would embrace them. Enter (not so) Saint Kevin, exit the bomber.
    Its not so much the “its time” factor, but the voters very long patience with a government that, in its last term disregarded parliamentary democratic process and popular will, has run out. Time to go Howard, the people will happily pay for your pension (not subject to welfare to work).

  3. [I think the opposition to Howard is gathering strength and there is a real risk to Howard that the swing will snowball and the libs get crucified. Here’s hoping.]

    So do you think that means he will go in early, rather than late November?

    I wonder if it gets to a point where he just tried to avoid a landslide, which could cost the Liberals 2 terms straight up. 😛

  4. Yawn.

    Let me see if Labor win this election you can bet IR will be an issue that Liberals would be required to state a position at the next election. Any hint of bringing back anything like WorkChoices will see them lose. Labor could at the same time then present further amendments that wont seem such a big step.

    Rudd is going as far as he can for the present. He can take further changes to the next election when he would be in a much stronger position [if they win this election].

    I guess Rudd is a student of long term strategy.

  5. [The Labor party has backflipped again on awa’s and as Tony Jones rightly pointed out tonight on Lateline regarding the phase out of AWA’s over four years what if there is a change of government again, therefore workers still awas will have to cop it and what if employers put lots of workers on awas before the new ir changes under labor-]

    Well, as soon as Labor is elected and pass their laws then there can’t be any NEW AWAs. If the Liberals every want to bring them back they will have to campaign during an election to do just that, I can’t see them getting re-elected if that is their policy.

    Either they win this election and they stay, probably forever, or if they lose they will be gone, never to return.

  6. Actually I think in some ways this new policy change is quite clever. Employers will be afraid to sack anyone on AWAs as they’ll have to replace them with non-AWA employees and it gives Labor an issue for the following election or maybe even a trigger for a Double Dissolution. If the Libs don’t let the policy thru the Senate then Rudd can say he has bent over backwards for the business community and they’re being totally unreasonable and it’s time to take it to a DD and get rid of AWAs all together.

  7. Yes, we all watch the same interview and we see it differently, because we are all hopelessly biased, so there’s no point in arguing about it, is there? This is not supposed to be a political argument forum anyway. William has let it go to the dogs recently. Woof woof.

    Full marks for the Colossus of Nodes. Expect to see it in a Conroy speech soon.

    No-one has explained to me what a hedge fund is yet.

  8. Paul K we are talking hypotheticals here but if Rudd does win his majority wont be large and so to risk a DD election against Turnbull could be risky…also what if he lost?

  9. Perhaps so Paul K, good thought, but when has the Liberal Party gone to an election and told us the truth about their intentions.. the last election they never told us about their IR changes.

  10. Australia needs a new Calwell biography. Unfortunately we won’t get one while his daughter Mary Elizabeth is around, since she is hoarding his papers and won’t let anyone use them for fear they might write something nasty about him.

  11. [Perhaps so Paul K, good thought, but when has the Liberal Party gone to an election and told us the truth about their intentions.. the last election they never told us about their IR changes.]

    Howard did mention he wanted to “reform” (read “deregulate”) industrial relations during the 2004 campaign.

    Plus, other than introducing a consumption tax, deregulation I.R. has been one of Howard’s pet projects since 1974.

  12. Get out of it, here is the Labor party spelling out in detail what they will do and yes Howard may ideologically be a believer in industrial relations market system but did he spell it out before the last election no, did he provide it in a detailed framework no and here we have the labor party having to cow towel to the murdoch press and the who else before an election… and another thing labor will hang on to awas’ because it is political convenient thing to do… just so to get control of the senate.. fair dinkum what of workers on them do we care about them.. and their conditions or have we forgotten them Paul K.

  13. It was obvious to me that Howard just wanted anti-union legislation, that’s where things had been heading since the first workplace relations act in 1996.

  14. ” just so to get control of the senate”

    Marky Marky,

    I think you are confused about what a democracy is. You seem to want it all your own way and damn what the rest of the country thinks. Are you sure you wouldn’t be happier in the workers paradise of North Korea?

    I think under the circumstances Rudd is doing the best he can. He will have a fight on his hands getting rid of AWAs and it therefore makes sense to phase them out and put yourself in the position of strength if you have to go to a Double Dissolution though I think he’d prefer not the have to go that way. Politics in a democracy is about compromise. People who won’t compromise are called Dictators. He is trying to find a middle ground.

  15. TofK, I agree with everything you say.

    But we live in a political environment where fear is palpable, fear of foreigners, fear of change, fear of losing economic security, fear of job loss, fear of terrorism.

    And it is this fear that is the life blood the conservative parasites have been drawing and feeding on since 1996 to get re-elected.

    It is a fear that they have been carefully nuturing and creating.

    The average voter is not like the denizens of this site. By the very act of being on here, with varying degrees of anonimity, we show ourselves to be beyond the power of illogical and manufactured fear. But that’s us, not them.

    While it is all very well for us to rail against injustices, perfidity,arrogance and corruption, to attempt to push on them our own vision of social Utopia will only add to their fear and send them back into the busom of their unknown tomentors. They are fearful because thet are timid, and radical change is frightening.

    Far better, now the public has shown a preparedness to accept the Rudd Labor brand, to sell that brand in a soothing, non threatening way, proposing moderate, gradual and patently necessary policies which do not amount to social upheaval, but which differentiate Labor in a flattering way fron the Consevatives.

    Once power is gained, and time effort and education is invested in allaying public fear of change and the unknown, more exciting policies can be suggested and implemented if acceptable.

    To force through idealogy a la Workchoices would be a disaster, as Howard has discovered to his cost. To even suggest such idealogically driven programs at this pre election period is suicidal from the political perspective.

    Tempered moderation is exactly the course which I see Rudd to be steering at this time.

    But getting back to your comments about freedom of expression, let us hope that there will be a time in the not too distant future where freedom of thought and generosity of spirit will once again be indicators of Australian society, after eleven and a half weary years of spiritual and intellectual drought.

    On proof reading this,God I sound like an elitist prat when I get on my high horse. Oh well, can’t change that.

  16. I was going to point out that it was Adlai Stephenson (Eisenhower’s Democratic opponent at both the 1952 & 1956 presidential elections) who said:

    “I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends… that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them.” (source: wikiquotes)

    But Simon has trumped me with a much older citation.

  17. I’m interested in a technical definition of hedge fund too. Not sure it will help poor Howie in Bennelong, but never mind.

    My clients run forex and metals hedges, so that they have fixed or at least more certain prices / income against movements in the forex or metals markets. Is a hedge fund just a pool of money that takes the other side of the hedges for profit?

    It was a not so good gold hedge that killed Sons of Gwalia wasn’t it? Well that is what I heard perhaps it was wrong.

  18. Just on the original topic of this particular blog stream, in spite of Michelle Grattan’s article the odds on Maxine winning the seat of Bennelong have lengthened on Centrebet and Sportingbet. The Liberals playing games perhaps?

  19. Fran Bailey is virtually criticising part of the Liberal Party’s own support base.

    [The Federal Government is stepping up its assault on the policy, accusing Labor leader Kevin Rudd of turning his back on small business in favour of the unions.

    Tourism Minister Fran Bailey says Mr Rudd has walked away from small business.

    “He is only interested in appeasing the very big end of town and trade unions,” she said.

    “He does not care, nor does he understand, the mechanics of being a small business-person in this country.”

    Meanwhile unionists like the Electrical Trade Union’s Dean Mighell are unhappy about restrictions to their right of entry to the workplace.

    “I say to Rudd, have the courage just to battle hard against it, don’t do this,” he said.

    However Ms Gillard says the policy was never meant to please everyone and Labor has struck a balance between flexibility and fairness.

    “We are not in the business of giving any one stakeholder 100 per cent of what they want,” she said.]


  20. And Shrek runs with this hoary old Chestnut.

    [The Howard Government was quick to seize on the backgrounds of the Rudd front bench yesterday, with Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey arguing that almost 70 per cent of the Opposition Leader’s frontbenchers were former union officials.

    “What that means is that under a Rudd Labor government, three out of four Labor ministers will have previously worked as a paid trade union official,” Mr Hockey said. “It’s something like twice the number of union officials that Whitlam had in 1972.

    “It is by far the most union- dominated (Labor front bench), plus Bill Shorten and Greg Combet are coming in as well.”

    John Howard said the Opposition Leader would go through a “charade” in the hard sell of his policy by suggesting that Labor has really stood up to the unions.

    “No doubt some union bosses will feign outrage. But the fact remains that unions have 70 per cent control of the Labor front bench and the big union bosses, including Greg Combet, Bill Shorten, Richard Marles, Mark Butler and Don Farrell, are all coming into the parliament to increase that control,” he said. ]


  21. Collective bargaining is back for the work site and unfair dismissal protections return – giving basic protections to workers under all economic conditions. Union activity curtailed.

    Seems fine to me. The core of the AWA rip up promise is in the above.

  22. If only Downer’s seat will go the same way. He has been an absolutely useless FM. I think it would be fitting for Homeward to lose his seat. Saver 100’s of thousand dollars in holding a bye-election and make the hand over that much quicker… to whoever will be come leader of the Federal Liberal Party. Somehow I do not think it will be a Victorian. sadly I am denied a vote that will count. 🙁

  23. Neil Says:
    August 28th, 2007 at 11:19 pm

    I’ve just seen Tony Jones interview Julia Gillard on Lateline. Jones tore her apart. In particular she floundered when responding to 3 questions:

    I saw this too (in between watching the athletics and the moon) but I thought she did well and appeared very much in control. Jones’ style is to probe and try to catch out his guest, but she wasn’t allowing herself to be caught out.

    Personally, I’m sold on Rudd, although the jury is still out on Julia, but I think she’s getting there and is definitely on the right track. She pushed the line well about the ALP trying to strike a balance between business and the workers.

    I agree, her answers on Peter Garrett weren’t 100% convincing, but Jones was trying to bait her and she wouldn’t take it.

  24. Falvio,
    Your not an elitist, or an idealist utopian, but a democratic realist. After 11 years, my true opinions of this neocon government are best left unsaid, for the changes to many aspects of our society which I cherished, and hope to again, have been swept away. Not least measured and informed debate.
    Fear is the mantra of this tired government. But, gladly, it is beggining to look irrational. I mean, now their saying that Labor will bring back the “dreaded” unfair dismissal laws. Now protection from unfair dismissal, and an element of job (and therefore income) security is apparently feared by voters. Have they just stopped listening, or are all their campaign managers Americans fighting an election in a very different country.

  25. 103
    Adam Says:
    August 28th, 2007 at 12:08 am
    Can someone tell me in one sentence and words of one syllable what a hedge fund is?

    Adam, a hedge fund is a managed fund of money that is moved around into different markets (mining companies, gold, currencies, real-estate, investment banking, retail outlets, etc etc) by money managers trying to maximize the profit over short periods of time. It is never designed with the view of cashing in on dividends (a managed return), but to buy an asset (whatever the asset is, share/gold/currency) and sell that asset at a higher price.

  26. Predictably, the major newspapers aren’t happy about Rudd’s IR policy.
    So what? Unless the ALP had decided to retain Work Choices in its current form intact, business and newspaper editors would have found something to whinge about.

  27. A forex hedge is something a Queenslander leans against while drinking beer..

    Well actually a hedge fund is what Pi says it is. And obviously the best way to raise the value of an asset quickly, for re-sale, is to cut costs. Hence the abandonment of long-term strategies, selling off of infrastructure, cutting staff etc.

    In theory, a hedge fund works because its managers can pick an undervalued asset. Obviously, there’s potential fo quick profit, but also potential for quick loss. Hedge funds struggle in a falling market.

  28. Historically “hedge funds” were just private investment funds that clients pooled their money into for the purposes of making capital gains.Because of their private company nature, they exist outside of the usual financial disclosure and accountability laws that things like mutual funds have to abide by.They arent new either – they’ve been around since the 1950’s.

    The “hedge” comes from hedging a bet.Money can be made in any market that is moving, whether it moves up or whether it moves down.By using short selling, hedge funds bet on the market moving in a certain direction but protect themselves from large losses if they bet wrong.So if they bet on a drop in a market (or a drop in certain stocks in the market) and that market dropped – they made a lot of capital gains.If the market however moved up instead, their losses would be very minimal.The trade off is in the hedge:having a hedge reduces the size of your potential gains, but minimises the level of the potential losses.

    They just dont use their clients money though, they use their clients money as collateral for debt, and then use that debt (leverage) to invest in this way, which boosts returns to much higher levels.Also, it’s not about the market moving up or down in absolute terms, it’s about picking parts of the market that move up or down at a greater level than the rest of the market (relative movement).Short selling and leverage is how they used to work (and a few still do) – now, theres a full spectrum of tools available from derivatives, options, futures, swaps and on and on.

    How they work today is a lot more complicated, and the phrase “hedge fund” is no longer an accurate description.It’s more to do with arbitraging risk within and between markets than any old fashioned leveraged shorting.

    Basically a hedge fund was about big potential wins with little potential losses.Today its about bigger potential wins with bigger potential losses by betting on the notion that they have better risk and value calculations than the market as a whole.

    Next week – how knowing about ‘porting alpha’ can make you sound like a complete knob at your next cocktail party 😉

    Obligatory on topic part:If Howard is running a firewall strategy (focusing on protecting a certain number of seats and sacrificing a large number of others), can anyone tell me the last time that strategy worked?

    If the Libs are leaking stuff about 40 marginals, you cant run a 40 marginal seat firewall – I wonder which one’s they’re planning to sacrifice?

  29. I will not be the least surprised if a serious “terrorist” incident occurs before, during or after the APEC conference. God knows the media have been thumping on about the threats.

    Also of concern is the planned reaction by the State to protests (emptying hundreds of jail cells, with NSW Oppostion calls for public stadiums to be made available to house the mass arrested etc). This should remind everyone that with these new “anti-terror” laws we are now living in a virtual police state. Whether demonstrators really do cause any violence the State certainly is planning on it happening. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

    Nothing will save Howard now so I’m quite sure in symapthetic intelligence circles the Spanish option must surely be on the table.

  30. Graeme

    Thanks for the article. It was an interesting read. I realised that i had read Milne’s artile when you made mention of it but much preferred yours. I wasn’t around then so was fascinated to find out the parallels between the characters involved. For some reason my sparse political history had them pegged otherwise.


  31. So the hedge in hedge fund is a bit more general than the hedge in a hedge book. Did Mr Gary Gray put the Labor marginal hedge fund in place, and over the last 11 years there has been more fund than hedge.

    Wasn’t Howie upset when his 5 minute uninterrupted sermon on IR was brought back to some sense of reality. Credit to the ABC, the looming defeat seems to be waking the dead!!!!!!

  32. Graeme at 341 (sigh, things move fast around here now)

    The comparison between Doc Evatt and Mark Latham has often been made. What Kim Beazley and Arthur Calwell have in common are long tenures as Opposition leader despite electoral failure.

    Isn’t that a little unfair on Calwell? He was leader for less time than either Evatt or Beazley (in total), and he came closest to electoral victory than any other ALP leader between 1949 and 1972. At most he stayed for one election too many

    It’s probably electorally irrelevant but there’s also the coincidence that the two Liberal leaders in 1969 and 2007 are the two most centralist leaders the Liberals have ever had.

  33. Howard Hater Says:
    August 29th, 2007 at 8:18 am

    Predictably, the major newspapers aren’t happy about Rudd’s IR policy.
    So what? Unless the ALP had decided to retain Work Choices in its current form intact, business and newspaper editors would have found something to whinge about.

    If Rudd had left it untouched, the papers would’ve complained about that.

    Employer unions are unhappy, employee unions are unhappy …so Rudd must’ve got it about right.

  34. Adam, several people posted definitions of hedge funds: I was first, but mine was the least useful because (unlike everybody else) I adhered to your bizarre restriction to words of one syllable.

    I found the Wikipedia article informative. According to what it says there, in addition to the other information people have already posted here, they are private rather than public companies and (under US law, and possibly also that of other countries) are subject to less strict regulatory regimes but are restricted in what sort of investors they can accept (roughly, private individuals, other than employees of the hedge fund, have to have a high net worth, so the average punter is ineligible).

  35. 352
    Frank Calabrese Says:
    August 28th, 2007 at 10:44 pm
    [I’d be surprised if McKew isn’t in a union. Does the MEAA apply to the ABC, or is it the CPSU?]

    Think both are covered at Aunty- plus there is the ABC Staff Association to boot. But I think Journos are covered by the MEAA while the CPSU cover other staff like announcers, techs etc.

    The ABC Staff Union was one of the original merger partners in the amalgamation which produced the original PSU (now part of the CPSU).

  36. 361
    Tony Says:
    August 28th, 2007 at 10:59 pm
    In my post no. 356, it should read the 18-21 age groups.

    Though it would be fun if eight-year-olds could vote…”we will decide who eats fairy bread, and the circumstances in which they eat it”

    I see no reason for a minimum age limit. I think the test should be whether you know what voting is and how to do it. Given that, if you want to vote, I don’t think you should be prevented on the grounds of age. A lot of people below the age of 18 would vote for silly reasons, but so do a lot of people aged 18 or over. The reasons I vote the way I do now were clear in my head well before I was 18.

  37. 371
    Adam Says:
    August 28th, 2007 at 11:19 pm
    Simon, I’m shocked to learn that Gough stole that line.

    Tony, if Calwell was a racist, so were the entire population of Australia racists. That may well be so, but it does take some of the sting out of the charge. People have to be judged by the standards of their time. Did Pericles have a national broadband plan? Did Cromwell support same-sex marriage? Did Lenin have solar panels on his dacha?

    I am confident that not everybody in Australia, even at the time, agreed with Calwell on these issues, for example when he said that he was proud of the colour of his skin and that any man should say the same. I think of my own parents, for example.

    On the other hand, although I think that being proud of the colour of your skin is silly, I don’t think it’s racist.

    But going back to the first hand, whether it’s fair to describe Calwell personally as a racist or not, the White Australia Policy was incontestably a racist policy, and was seen and rejected as such by many people in Australia while Calwell still supported it.

  38. Does anyone know the mood in the NSW Hunter seat of Paterson. I have connections with this electorate and lived there at the time of the 1996 election. It’s often mentioned lately as in danger for the Libs and I hear that Labor candidate Jim Arneman has a lot of popularity. Can anyone on the ground enlighten me as to the mood?

  39. JD a lot of modern people perpetuate the lie that the WAP was “always” seen as racist – overlooking the inconvenient fact that it retained overwhelming public support until the 1950s.

  40. There has been much ado about the possibility of a double dissolution (DD) of the Federal Parliament well before the general election due in 2010. The general argument has been that assuming that the ALP wins the upcoming election the Conservative Parties will indulge in a policy of rejecting legislation put forward by the new Labor Government with the sole aim of disrupting Labor’s agenda.

    This of cause assumes that the Conservatives maintain control of the Senate, which I would guess, at this stage, to be the most likely outcome.

    Assuming that the Non-Labor Parties adopt this policy (and why would they not – they have not hesitated to do so in the past) I think that there may be another option that the Labor Party may adopt in place of a DD.

    Some may consider that the Labor Party may have a different approach depending on the size of the win. Some may argue that if the win is small (say less than 5 seats) the Labor Party may not have the confidence to do anything but try and survive and will just try and hold out till the next general election remembering that regardless of who controls the Senate they do not have the power to amend any budgetary bills. If the win is big, in line with the current opinion polls, the Labor Party will have a high degree of confidence and will be more inclined to put at risk those gains it may make in a landslide victory this year in order to get its legislative programme through the Senate via a combined sitting of the Parliament.

    Both options are risky in that if the “just hold on policy” is adopted it is unlikely to result in the Labor Party being as popular in 2010 as it is today – a Government that does nothing for three years (regardless of why) is unlikely to find favour with the voters. If the DD option is adopted then it is quite possible that those “safe Conservative seats that Possum is talking about will not fall to the ALP a second time.

    The question that must be asked is why put at risk seats in the House of Reps (HoR) to try and get seats in the Senate. The more logical thing to do is to put at risk seats in the Senate to improve ones position in the Senate via a Half Senate election.

    This would give Labor the option of going to the voters very early and hopefully maintaining the majority of any support evident at a General Election.

    If things go badly nothing is really lost but there is always the hope that things will improve and even if Labor is unable to gain absolute control of the Senate it may get control via the support of the Greens.

    It is also worth remembering that if this half senate option is put into play the Conservatives have more to loose than the Labor party because they will have more seats up for grabs and (the simple threat of a half senate election may be enough to make jittery Conservative Senators more co-operative in passing the Governments programme).

    In conclusion I would suggest that a half Senate election is a better bet as a first option and of cause it still leave the option of a DD in the back pocket if it is subsequently considered necessary.

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