On your marks

Michelle Grattan:

PRIME Minister John Howard is under pressure to call the federal election quickly, after the release of boom economic growth figures that threaten to push interest rates higher by November. Despite another horrendous opinion poll this week showing a potential election wipe-out, Mr Howard yesterday appeared to hint he would go to the polls sooner rather than later. Political pressure on him to do so has been intensified by the latest GDP figures, which show the Australian economy has been growing at its fastest annual pace for three years … With an increased prospect of an interest rate rise in November, many in the Government – which has staked its re-election hopes on its ability to sell its economic credentials – will be wanting the election before the inflation figures come out on October 24, or at least before the Reserve Bank board meeting to be held in early November. That would mean a polling day of October 20 or 27. An October 20 poll would have to be called in about 10 days.

Dennis Atkins:

THE Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee was in Cairns yesterday conducting its inquiry into the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Democratic Plebiscites) Bill 2007. This dry piece of parliamentary advice masks an intensely political exercise and explains why John Howard will not call an election the moment his APEC fiesta shuts down next Sunday. The legislation is the stunt law that Howard pulled out of his box of tricks to drive a wedge between Labor leader Kevin Rudd and his fraternal Queensland Premier Peter Beattie … The committee reports on Friday and the Senate will debate the law next Tuesday, when it’s expected to be passed, in time for plebiscites on Beattie’s amalgamations likely on October 20.

Gerard McManus:

THERE was speculation last night that Prime Minister John Howard could delay calling the federal election until November or even as late as early December. Yesterday, Mr Howard gave his strongest hint yet that the election date would not be held in October after declaring that the federal takeover of the Devonport Mersey Hospital would not occur until November 1. Mr Howard said the Tasmanian Labor Government had agreed to the terms of the handover of the hospital in the state’s north and that the documents would be signed between the two governments on that date. Senior Liberal insiders said it would be wrong to assume too much from the announcement, but said a later election was now a genuine possibility. “Nobody knows the date except the Prime Minister, but you would have to think a later election is now a good chance,” a senior government figure said.

Bryan Palmer:

A Canberra insider told me today with absolute certainty that the election would be announced on 13 September. I was told that Howard does not believe he can cut through the political disengagement that has grown up with the last 8 months of pseudo-campaigning. Howard needs a circuit-breaker. In whispered tones, it was also suggested that Howard would rather go to the polls now than face a leadership challenge from Costello, Abbott or Downer – apparently an almost certainty if the Coalition’s poor showing in the opinion polls continues for much longer. According to my source, there would be a longish seven week campaign designed to test Kevin Rudd in the reality of campaign politics (and hopefully expose some Rudd flaws and gaffes). The election would be on 3 November 2007. Living in Canberra, I often hear these (so called) insider rumours. Rarely do they prove true.


Tips and rumours: The election date will be Nov 3. This is based upon the bookings made with Australia Post for mass mailots by the coalition – including in Bennelong. The Coalition recently cancelled their November mailouts and have maintained October ones.

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.

505 comments on “On your marks”

Comments Page 1 of 11
1 2 11
  1. For the sake of my 21st, I desperately hope the election is not on the 27th. I think I can even stomach one more week of the Howard Government to avoid that particular clash.

    Gladly, the only really convincing piece of intelligence from all of that is the mass mail-out bookings. It tallys with the cancellation of TV ad slots for September and replacement with late October bookings. I, for one, don’t buy this “only the PM knows when the election is called” – of course he keeps his senior people in the loop.

  2. A person The Crazy News Guy knows, who works for the Liberal Party here in Perth, says the election “will be called soon” and hinted it would be some time next week, soon “after APEC”.

    But ofcourse, “nobody knows the date except the Prime Minister”. And I wonder does he even know?

    Good to see the betting market heating up too.
    Very exciting stuff.

  3. I have it on good authority that the election was actually held last weekend. The only people who knew about it and voted were John Howard and his staff. It was a landslide win for the government, which now controls not two but three houses of parliament.

  4. To me, the Crikey tidbit is probably the best indicator of when the election will be held. You need some sort of evidence that plans are underway, and this is good evidence. It seems the government wants to avoid the next potential rate rise, which is likely to seriously hurt them late in the campaign, as has been said before.

    I do agree, however, that it might be called ASAP by Howard to avoid losing the leadership of his party. I suspect he wants to go down with his ship.

    So Nov 3 it is, right before the Cup, when I expect the fallout from the EI situation will be at it’s highest, as the nation’s focus switches to horse racing. I expect that this will not reflect well on the government if the current feeling persists that the government could have prevented it.

  5. I don’t think he knows himself. 6 months ago you would have been sure that it wouldn’t be announced until after APEC and would be before January.

    Now there are additional factors that he takes into account.

    I don’t think a challenge is on, what would be the point….you become a person who was given a shot and failed, better to let the people vent their anger and then come in as a new broom.

    The reserve bank is a-political but is aware that any decision can impact the electoral process. If there is any doubt, I think it will hold off even though not acting is an act in itself. This would be in part because an act would become the centre of the debate, no change would be periferal to the process. This may give the government a line like “look, strong economic growth and no rate rise”.

    A long campaign must suit the coalition, the unions have spent money that could have been used in the campaign telling us about work choices for the past 12 months. The longer the campaign the bigger the bank role required.

    If it hadn’t been for equine flu I would have thought mid November, after the Cup and before people disengage in the last weeks of school etc however you wouldn’t want to go to an election with a nation wanting to lash out because they missed a horse race (regardless of who is to blame).

    So in keeping his powder dry, he is probably leaning towards Nov 3 but still has a week of APEC to decide. Cancelling mailouts means is that the entrails make early november more likely, it is prudent for both parties to not have mailouts booked for later.

  6. I think Bryan Palmer’s comment above is right on about the date the election is actually called (13th). Remember, too, the Daily Telegraph article yesterday where the Senate Leader clued in all parties that they were working LONG and LATE next week as it was highly likely they would only sit that first week. That also meshes with Charlie’s comment @1 about keeing senior people in the loop. It will be on before next weekend.

  7. I think Oct 20th, CPI figures are announced on Oct 24th and are likely to move discussion back to interest rates, does the Govt. want this in the middle of a campaign?

    If they are making up ground on other issues this will put them backwards, Labor will replay all the “who do you trust” cards. It also preserves the independance of the RBA who would be criticised by both sides no matter what decision they reach on the 6th of Nov.

  8. Oh to be a fly on the wall when Rudd meets Bush today. No TV/video footage of this allowed, apparently on the directive of Bush’s office in consultation with Howard’s people – no surprise there!

  9. Is Howard the Election Coward? Looks like he is delaying the inevitable: the public’s judgement of his WorstChoices. If he delays much longer, he can rightfully be considered the IR Coward!

  10. I don’t think it will make much difference. I’m sick of this phony campaign, and the thought of more ads and more spin just leaves me cold. Perhaps other australians feel the same. It’s politics overload.

  11. Whatever has happened with booking of mailouts, or whatever, I just can’t see Howard calling it on with the most recent Newspoll at 59-41. Maybe his internal polling is better, but I can’t see it being better than say 55-45.

    Also, it is terribly difficult to make the opposition leader the focus of the formal campaign, when it’s yourself the people are sick of. Keating managed it in 1993, but failed dismally in 1996 against a cannier opposition leader.

    Voters may focus more during the campaign, and I don’t think anyone seriously expects the ultimate election numbers to be at ~57-43 2PP, but if voters retain the perception that Rudd is basically competent (which he is) then the coalition is stuffed. For that reason, a long formal campaign, which from Howard’s perspective may expose the alleged Rudd glass jaw, is likely. It certainly worked for Howard in 2004, and Latham was clearly rattled by the end of that campaign. Against this, Rudd is both harder working and more unflappable than Latham…

    Unless international financial markets are very stable between now and November, and the August rate rise shows no impact upon the burgeoning inflation figures, there will be no formal RBA rate rise this year.

    As to that, if the coalition has genuine hopes of winning this election, they will need to put together a credible argument justifying their management of the economy, including the need for rate rises. The coalition are simply not going to win if the ALP is seen as more competent at managing the economy.

    I still think the actual election will be later rather than sooner. My pick for the date is 1 December.

  12. Didn’t the electoral commissioner seek an assurance from the government that the election would not be October 20 as a precondition to agreeing to the Queensland plebiscites on that date? I am sure I read this somewhere. Would that not rule that date out?

  13. Well, we’ll soon find out – next thursday ain’t far away. I’m just about over the speculation entirely now. Just about every commentator in the country has a theory, most of which have some kind of logic. Howard may well be telling the truth when he says he doesn’t know. I can see the logic of the Senate tying up loose ends in order to be “ready” for the election to be called, but i don’t see that as evidence that it will be called.

  14. ruawake #6: The more I think about it, the more I believe it will be Oct 20. They will lose credit if the economist start speculating on an interest hike. I don’t know where i saw it, but one of the big banks said the inflation rate for the last few months were 0.5% and 0.6% respectively, this is well above the 0.9% quarter that resulted in the last rise. This, coupled with higher than expected economic growth, will only add fuel to the fire. Don’t forget the upcoming holiday spending spree, which will all be on credit, will probably weigh in to the decision too. Even in the news today it looks like the US Fed Reserve might step away from the idea of cutting rates, because they think the subprime crisis isn’t affecting the rest of the economy. If there is no drop in the US rate, there will be more room for our rates to move upwards.

    Mind you, if the government do go for a later election they might just use the excuse “Labor’s election promises are the cause of this rate rise”, lord knows they have never accepted responsibility for any of the rises, only for drops.

  15. I guess we’ll be put out of our misery soon enough – the election will be called between late next week (the oft-mentioned 13/9) and the end of October (for a 8 Dec poll). For what it’s worth, I’m picking 27 Oct or 3 Nov for election day. At any rate we are entering the end-game period now, and not a moment too soon.

  16. All of the above (and previous womblings on the subject) merely confirm what I’ve suspected all along: we will know when the election is going to be held shortly after the GG is advised, not before.

  17. Two matters slightly off topic, but following on from a discussion yesterday and on many other days – I notice that “The Australian” has stopped accepting comments responding to Dennis Shanahan’s crazy opinion piece in yesterday’s edition – last comment was posted at 3:50pm yesterday arvo……I’m at a loss to explain why they would do that, the article certainly stimulated a great deal of interest (mainly in the bizarre logic employed by Shanahan).
    Still on the Australian, I saw their U.S correspondent, Geoff Elliot interviewwd on the Today show this morning and I must say that i have never seens such an embarrasingly gushing performance from someone claiming to be a serious journalist – Elliot seemed proud to tell the audience that after thanking Mr Bush for the extraordinary privelege of flying on Air Force One, the President said “you know why you’re here? Because we trust you.” Elliot honestly seemed to think that was a reflection of his own personal integrity – word of advice Geoff – he didn’t mean that he trusts you personally, he meant that he trusts News Limited! When someone with that much power tells a journo that they trust them, that journo should quit ASAP.
    Am i alone on that?

  18. the article certainly stimulated a great deal of interest (mainly in the bizarre logic employed by Shanahan).

    Yebbut almost all the comments (59 to 2 when I looked) were l saying the same thing, ie fundamentally: “Shanahan you are a dopey f…w.. and shouldn’t you see the doctor and get a script to up the medication.”

  19. A clear indication of Crikey’s “Insider” status is its capacity to provide us with the “mail” on mail-outs. These guys are totally wired. A cyber-tolled treasure of southern hemispheric blogdom.

  20. Albert,
    I was being a bit glib there,
    it did stimulate interest and you pretty much summed up the sentiment – hmmmm wonder why they stopped posting them eh?
    Ahhh The Oz; unfair, unbalanced and never afraid to censor.
    Perhaps thay have some sophisticated software that cuts off negative comments after 50 or so – who knows, but they gotta be embarrassed right…..nah what am i thinking, these guys are shameless.

  21. From the Age website

    Bush backs embattled PM
    MICHELLE GRATTAN AND DANIEL FLITTON | George Bush glowingly embraces the embattled John Howard.

    What electoral poison this is for Howard, certainly in Melbourne, where the eastern suburbs middle class masses (a) all read the Age, (b) have never much liked Howard, even if they have voted for him in the past, and (c) all really really despise George Bush – I have this on good authority from my mother, a representative sample of one. If I was the member for Deakin, La Trobe or Dunkley, and possibly even Kooyong or Goldstein, I wouldn’t like this one bit.

  22. Other than Glen, Nostrodamus and Steven Kaye, it’s hard to find anyone with a good word to say about President Shrub, especially in APEC dominated Sydney. According to today’s SMH: the Labor Party is secretly delighted with all the coverage of Howard cosying up to Bush.

  23. November 3 sounds around right, I have been betting on a date in Late October/Early November for months. Means if the election is called on September 13, that would mean a six week campgain.

    Howard is hoping the Coalition can get a tiny majority, while winning only say 48-49% of the two party vote.

  24. I am still betting on a December 8 election, my feeling is that if Howard goes before the November RBA meeting and the melbourne cup then the press will only be talking about the potential negative effects of those things.

    e.g. if the election is in late october the press will be saying that Howard is going to the polls before a rate rise in November, so Howard will get the blame for a rate rise that may not happen.

    I don’t think the december RBA meeting will be of a big concern for Howard because I don’t think that they will have any new inflation figures in front of them.

    Looking back at past election dates though there have been a few december elections while Howard has been in parliament, I wonder if he has ever made a comment that he thought that they were too close to christmas.

  25. Although I don’t believe there will be a challenge, for reasons I outlined earlier, I will nonetheless comment that anyone who wishes to challenge to get their names in the record book will surely want to beat Fadden’s effort of 40 days. So if Dec 8th is the last realistic day for polling that means such a challenge needs to be brought on to allow a ballot before 29 October 🙂

    I still think later rather than earlier, with Howard hoping for no rate rise but planning to try to turn it to his advantage if it happens.

    Does the party organization actually have inside information from Howard about the election over and above a discussion of the possibilities anyway?

  26. Howard Hater Says: September 6th, 2007 at 10:21 am

    Other than Glen, Nostrodamus and Steven Kaye, it’s hard to find anyone with a good word to say about President Shrub, especially in APEC dominated Sydney.

    Bush looks quite the statesman when standing next to Howard.

  27. I’m sticking with my original October 37 call 🙂

    But seriously, the RBA isn’t going to raise rates in the last month of the campaign, no matter what anyone says, no matter what the data, and Howard and Rudd know it too.

    So there’s no special “rate-avoidance” logic to Nov 3, for mine. I think that date looks good more because its before Melbourne Cup, and further away than October, while still being soonish.

    I think Howard will be more worried about the CPI figures, which will come out regardless. Which again, puts us at Oct 20, or later in November.

    Bloody hell, who knows. Punters still not keen on Nov 3 though, so if it looks good to you, pick up a few spondoolies before the odds drop.

  28. Left E: Problem with Nov 3 is that it’s in the weekend just before Melb Cup. While it’s not a long weekend, many Victorians take the Monday off to make it one and go on a holiday. It results in a higher pre-poll/absentee vote. I know people down here in Victoria won’t like it, but maybe the rest of Australia won’t care.

  29. It seems likely that John Howard would want to head off a leadership challenge. He probably actually believes his own hype about being the only one who has the capability of winning.

    He should remember the old adage “never get high on your own supply”.

    Bob Brown has the freedom to call George Bush a dunderhead but Kevin Rudd can’t.
    Most Australians think he is a dunderhead and most Australians also, in a poll, think he is the worst president America has ever had.
    I too have strong American connections. My three granddaughters all have American passports ( as well as Australian and English). Yes they do get around. So you can totally reject Bush and all the stupidity he stands for and still love America.

    A 52 day campaign does seem very long. I am beginning to think that October 27th is now more likely.

    I find it extremely interesting how insultingly John Howard has treated President Hu Jintao compared to his outrageous fawning over President Bush.
    President Hu, who is arguably far more important to Australia’s long term interests than the lame duck Bush, has been treated as a second class citizen by John Howard.
    President Hu has made a point of getting out there into country Australia, without a cavalcade of cars and snipers, and meeting ordinary Australians in a very courteous, even understated, way.
    I’m not exactly a sinophile as I hosted the Dalai Lama’s exhibition in Sydney, spoke at a Falun Gong Chinese New Year dinner (and was told off by the Chinese consul) and sang Christmas carols in Chinese (phonetically)with the Taiwainese. I wouldn’t even be allowed into China.
    Nevertheless, one has to admire the way President Hu is conducting himself. It is a vivid contrast to the stumblebum President Bush.

    Last point, I wonder if the knives will be out before Thursday?
    There will be a party meeting, what, on Tuesday 10am?
    That will be the most dangerous moment for John Howard.

    Will he be made to walk the plank?

  30. On election timing there i really is not much left on the legislative plate if the HoR and Senate get through all of this business by Thursday next week.
    Programs available here:

    That means Howard could call election on Thursday or Friday next week.

    Otherwise following week of Parliament will look pretty empty… (although it might improve the level of debate 🙂 )

  31. I’d guess the coalition is not particularly happy about going to the polls without any inroads into the ALP’s lead. But I think they have no choice. Once APEC is out of the way Howard will face daily “why don’t you call the election question” and will struggle to make any headway.

    They also need a long campain in the hope they can wear Rudd down. So, I’m guessing a Nov 3 election called sometime late next week.

    You’d have to call this a technical win to the ALP as:
    1) they have forced the election by Howard running out of choices rather than gaining any particular advantage.
    2) a long campain means the govt ads will be shut off early (will the “climate clever” campain see the light of day)
    3) it more likely Rudd will make Howard look tired rather than the other way round – My guess is that Rudd will campain well.

  32. If there is a rabbit left in the hat, it’s most likely a legislative one – not saying that it’s there, but if so, the October sitting weeks are still there for the taking – Howard could find a wedge issues, legislate on it and go straight to the campaign after the october sittings – calling it on 29 October for a 1 december poll.
    This is highly speculative, but hey, who knows right? Wouldn’t surprise me, he’s a very cunnning fellow.

  33. Seriously, I don’t think the Liberals have the option of ousting Mr. Howard… even if they had the balls. It would be the worst possible look. Let’s not kid ourselves, like Mr. Tuckey, with the Hayden/Hawke analogy. This would not be received anything like 1983. If they ousted Howard at this point – it would be rightly interpreted as a government which had disintegrated. One of their only remaining arguments for re-election is ‘we are a good, stable, unifed government’. That would be gone, blown out of the water. It would be an immediate concession of defeat. They would not receive one dollar more in election donations. They would not get the benefit of one reporters sycophancy. The Liberals coulda, woulda, shoulda knifed Howard in April/May. They are stuck with him now. Live by the Howard…

  34. Charlie,

    A very good friend of mine had his 21st on the night of the 1993 election. As we were mostly Labor supporters it made the night extra memorable.
    I agree it would make it a real bummer if the result went the other way.

  35. Jen (30) I agree. Let’s get this thing over with. And by the way, isn’t it about time the Feds caught up with the states and had fixed terms? It’s ludicrous that one man -the PM- has the power to decided the election date. There are huge economic and social implications surrounding the decision -and our system leaves it in the hands of one person with obviously vested political interests. Can anyone mount a cogent argument for keeping this power in the PM’s hands?

  36. Optimist,

    Howard may well try for an October wedge issue. But the electrate is pretty switch onto such tactics these days. All the wedges this year have been of limited effect and have collectively presented overwhelming evidence of the “tricky” PM label.

    I think Howard tactics so far this year have seen the coaltion go backwards. If he had adopted a steady as it goes approach and focused on forward looking policy I suspect he’d be a few points better off and within striking distance.

    If he continues to delay and look for more wedges the 59/41 newspoll result may turn up on election day. Surely they must switch to damage control at some point.

  37. I think October 27- to be announced on September 13-16.

    November 3 looks too opportunistic and cynical (lest JH be accused of that) in light of the expected rate rise on November 6.

    Therefore, a lengthy six week campaign.

    October 27 is also closer to the amalgamations vote on October 20.

  38. it would be rightly interpreted as a government which had disintegrated.

    Yes, that’s what I think.

    And if Howard was tapped on the shoulder would he go? Doesn’t sound like Howard.

    Or would he force a ballot? What would the numbers be, would they be clear?

    What if Costello challenged but Howard was narrowly reelected? How would that look?

    It’s too messy to contemplate.

  39. Albert F,
    I generally agree with you there. I just think he’s running out of options and if I expect anything, it’s that he’ll try what he knows best. Still, we’ll soon find out.

  40. One minor issue of timing I haven’t heard mentioned – the final of the Rugby World Cup is slotted for October 20th (French time). Howard, a Wallabies-jersey wearing nut, could hope to capture some national spirit in the (perhaps unlikely) event that Australia make it to the final and/or win, by going for Oct 27th (ticker-tape parade to occur on Friday the 26th?)

  41. I have to say that this quote from the article at http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22372046-29277,00.html gave me a bit of a laugh:

    In regard to a cancelled round of gold between Mr Downer and Condie Rice we get this from Lord D:

    “”It’s a pity, but the risk of protesters rushing out and assaulting her on the golf course is something that the police worry about so we’ll spare them the concern,” he added. ”

    How thoughtful Alex…

    Anyhow as to the speculation… I doubt an election will be called next weekend. Late November at the earliest.

  42. Well I’m going overseas for a whole month from next Wednesday, Sep 12 until Oct 12 so I’ve been concerned for some months that it would happen while I was overseas. At least I now know that won’t happen. There’s still a very remote possibility of an Oct 13 election the day after I get back, meaning that if there’s some major delay with my flight or something I may still miss it (I’ll know by 5 pm next Monday if it’ll be that day). November 4 is my birthday so a Nov 3 election could be a wonderful birthday present if Howard loses, but I could have a miserable birthday if he gets back in. A December 8 election would be annoying for me as I’m going to the Homebake music festival that day.
    In the event of a Nov 3 election win for Rudd and an interest rate rise a few days later I can just imagine the new opposition leader Sharman Stone trilling “See Labor’s already making interest rates go up!” 😉

Comments are closed.

Comments Page 1 of 11
1 2 11