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”

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  1. The only way it could happen is if it was a smooth change over in both the leader and deputy leader positions. If there needs to be a party room vote, then that would ruin the government. I don’t think there can be a smooth transition because Howard has held everything together, as soon as he goes then the place will explode into factions and tribalism.

    Completely unrelated question: Has any Australian politician simultaneously been Prime Minister, and the longest serving member of the House of Reps?

  2. Crispy, that’s largely because the conservatives in the UK have been a shambles in opposition and still don’t offer an electable alternative.

  3. [And yet… and yet… the Blair/Brown example is compelling. Such a big jump in the polls, and it was instantaneous. ]

    But that was a smooth transition conducted well before the election.

    That is what should’ve happened last year, around the time the ALP went from Beazley to Rudd.

  4. Brown they knew was coming and unlike Costello he came. They knew Brown and Blair had, had differences (which is like Costello and Howard) but Brown had a preferred policy on Iraq; in fact he was expected to be much tougher on getting out of Iraq than he actually has been.

    Unlike us they have dead soldiers on the news of an evening, it was strange to be in the UK watching faces of dead soldiers on the news. I don’t think Australia would put up with too much of that. We still have a plastic war where ‘we are doing good’ and ‘no-one is dying’. Ask Glen.

    I don’t think Costello has this edge, except we know he wanted less spending not more. That is surely a negative, at a time when it seems ordinary Australians are unhappy with their dividend from the boom, a PM openly providing less bounty is unlikely to a big hit.

    I still think it is a concession article and all about post-election positioning. If Costello has 60% support then Turnbull needs a turn-around to create the new liberals from day one, rather than having a year of ‘old liberals’ under Costello first. Also if there is a spate of resignations the new leader might have a bit more say on who to bring into the team in the House.

  5. In early September, following the announcement of the ALP’s industrial relations policy, Labor primary support is up 3% to 49%, while L-NP support is 34.5% (down 6.5%).

    With preferences distributed as they were at the 2004 Federal election, the two-party preferred vote is ALP 60% (up 5.5%), L-NP 40% (down 5.5%). If the Federal election had been held last weekend the ALP would have won in a massive landslide, the latest ‘face-to-face’ Morgan Poll finds.

    Among the minor parties support for The Greens is 9% (up 2.5%), Family First 2% (up 0.5%), Australian Democrats 2% (up 1%), One Nation 0.5% (down 0.5%) and Other Parties and Independent Candidates 3% (unchanged).

    On the important question of who the electorate “think will win” the next Federal election, 60.5% (up 5.5%) think the ALP will win, 26.5% (down 5%) think the L-NP will win and 13% (down 0.5%) can’t say.

    Now, 47% (down 1.5%) of electors think Australia is heading in the “right direction”, 34.5% (up 1.5%) think Australia is heading in the “wrong direction” and 18.5% (unchanged) are undecided.

    Currently, 18.5% (up 1.5%) of all electors say Australia is “heading in the right direction” yet say they would vote for Labor if an election were held today. The Morgan Poll considers these electors to be “soft ALP voters” and believe they are the key to the Federal election.

  6. Has any Australian politician simultaneously been Prime Minister, and the longest serving member of the House of Reps?

    Ignoring the trivial cases of the Prime Ministers who were founding members of the House (which is all of them before Bruce):

    Robert Menzies between 31 July 1963 and his retirement (concurrently with Joseph Clark and John McEwen, all elected in 1934)

    John McEwen during his PMship (concurrently with Joseph Clark)

    Malcolm Fraser from 4 January 1982 to the end of his PMship (concurrently with William Snedden and James Killen, all elected in 1955).

    In addition Hughes, Page, and McMahon have been longest serving members after their term as PM ended.


  7. I wish Morgan would drop this ‘soft ALP voter’ crap. It really is some of the most ridiculous analysis from a pollster… and that’s saying something.

  8. “But that was a smooth transition conducted well before the election.”

    Indeed it was. It had also been signalled for months before. And yet there was still an immediate jump in the polls. Labour went from way behind (inept opposition or not), to way in front. There is some kind of psychological magic attached to changing leaders, (the honeymoon effect if you like) and it’s possible the Libs are getting panicked enough to want to try a bit of that magic.

    The question is really whether Howard believes in that magic. Adam Carr, above, is dismissive, and his confidence makes me happier because I want Howard to stay on and face the ballot gunfire. But I have a niggling feeling the born-to-rule guys in the Libs will want to try something, and if Howard is not overbalanced by personal hubris he may be talked into a graceful transition. We shall see.

  9. D’oh. Not happy about the 60-40 Morgan result. I really don’t want Howard to step down… I’ve been waiting too long to see him get smashed in an election. Stepping down isn’t nearly so satisfying. I’m hoping the next poll gives the libs a sniff of hope.

    Of course, you can bet that the pollsters are currently running surveys on the popularity of alternative leaders, such as Costello. Polls on the popularity of alternative leaders always hit the news in the lead up to a leadership spill. If these polls show Costello is still much less popular than Howard would the libs still have the guts to tap him on the shoulder?

  10. he may be talked into a graceful transition

    The window for a graceful transition closed at least three months ago if not earlier.

    Any transition now is going to be clumsy, as well as gifting the ALP the seat of Bennelong.

  11. I always like it how Morgan polls always have a stupid headline to go with them like: “Big Drop In L-NP Vote After ALP IR Announcement”

    Does anyone really believe any change in polling data arises from a single announcement?

  12. [Does anyone really believe any change in polling data arises from a single announcement?]

    No, but the attempt to relate any movement to a single factor is very, how should I put it, Shanahanian. 😛

  13. well well well. Sod the Canadian … Howard should call the shortest election period possible the second the photo in the silly shirt is taken.

  14. Would JWH step down after all the praise GWB has lavished on him during APEC. I can’t see it happening and from the ALP’s point of view hope that it doesn’t.
    I’m from SA. Are there any other posters out there that think that the water issue here will give the Govt. any chance of stopping what appears at the moment to be loss of anything from 3 to 6 seats.

  15. You sound like you’ve stopped your happy happy happy dance, Jasmine. I see you just waiting there, quietly, like Ma Kettle with her shotgun.

    Big day in Canberra on Monday. Especially if the AC Nielsen waddles back up to 58/42 again. The doorstops should be fun.

  16. Everyone should calm down… Morgan hasn’t taken into account mobile-only households! Plus factor in the Morgan bias, the slow burning Budget bounce and the 5% turnaround the instant the election is called and you get this result…

    5/95 ALP/Coalition TPP… Howard wins all the seats.

  17. I heard Downer this moring going on about Rudd being a show off by speaking Mandarin. If the best they can do is “Rudd is a smarty pants”, is it any wonder they get these sorts of figures.

  18. Not strictly on topic… but I thought it was interesting anyhow… extract from an interview with Prime Minister the Honourable Paul Keeting on 5 January 1996… does history repeat?

    Here it goes:

    Well it tells us we have got a good economy on our hands. We have had the biggest fall in unemployment in the last twelve months ever, we have got a strong job vacancy series, we have had a large fall in unemployment again in the last month or so, and we have got a good, strong, high employment, low inflation economy.

    But it won’t stay there with the Coalition. A lot of people think because Labor has given – through its Accord processes – a strong economy, strong employment, low inflation, this is part of the sort of way of life. It is not. If we were to go, it would go. It would go with us. So, you know, when people start saying, “oh we think it might be time for a change”. We say, “Time for a change to what – to lower employment growth, lower economic growth, and higher inflation? And a time for a change to who – John Howard, Tim Fischer, Alexander Downer, Peter Costello, Bronwyn Bishop?” I mean it doesn’t fill you full of confidence, does it?

    They have been in front in the polls – nominally in front in the polls – for, you know, the last seven or eight months. And this is where, I think, people have got to focus on the fact that were the Coalition to win the election, they would wake up on Monday morning with John Howard and Tim Fischer and Alexander Downer and Peter Costello and Bronwyn Bishop for the next three years, not the next three weeks, the next three years.

    And that all of the growth, and the high employment, and the low inflation, will go out the door in the conflict model that they will run. I mean so this is why it is important that the party leaders say where they actually stand so the public can get a guide to what sort of Government there will be. This is why I say there can be no honesty and credibility in politics without policies.

    And this is why Mr Howard has been incredible all year. He hasn’t shown his policies and now in the election campaign, well you know better than I do as journalists, you don’t get near him. I mean you get managed by some Press Secretary. I mean the Labor Party is always out there accounting, explaining, taking the questions. But they are not.

  19. [ACN due out Monday 10/09/07.]

    Hopefully it is a 62 / 38 rogue, causing half the Liberal front bench to seriously consider self harm.

    [I heard Downer this moring going on about Rudd being a show off by speaking Mandarin. If the best they can do is “Rudd is a smarty pants”, is it any wonder they get these sorts of figures.]

    What a wanker! We have a politician who can speak the native language of the leader of the most populace country on earth, and here is some moron saying that is a bad thing. No wonder nobody takes Downer seriously.

  20. Keating was right when he said that as soon as a government is elected it starts dying. He said he managed to turn 10 to 13 but couldn’t turn 13 to 16. Howard is up against time, and there isn’t anything he can do to stop that.

  21. Simon Howson: In your opinion, if Howard did not implement WorkChoices, Invade Iraq, and did more for climate change, would he be in the same, better or worse position then he is now?

  22. Yeah no happy dance, in fact I hope the last two or three polls before the election is called show a bit of a downturn (not a real downturn just a statisical blimp towards the lower side of the margin of error).

    Perhaps ACN on Monday is it. 55:45 would be nice. I don’t subscribe to the close parliament thingy, I want a landslide, I’d like the senate fixed up too if that is no bother for the Australian voters.

    And I’m sure I’m not the first but the return to the Government as long as it lasted seems to have been VERY soft voters. Perhaps the low polls instead of the high ones were the rogues.

    I’m not a statistician but surely now unless there is something major that plays for the Government, we seem to have a 1996 flatline type situation, and in line with that you have to think a primary vote between 47 – 50 for labor and tpp however it flows on top of that. With talk some 18 months ago about whether or not labor could win an election with a primary vote of less than 40 it would be hard to overstate how good this long year of polling numbers has been.

    I still think there is some chance of a ‘PossumSlide’.

    If Howard is on the nose then what the hell kinda logic says the formal campaign and him in our faces constantly for like 8 weeks is going to help? It is very counterintuitative and I think also feed by them looking at the wrong parts of the economy and still believing the man of steel rubbish; the the ‘this couldn’t possibly be as bad as 96 we love Howard and we hated Keating.’ Well sunshines Keating’s 96 wasn’t nearly as bad as Howard’s 2007, and I hope, and the numbers indicate it will get better rather than worse.

    As for Julie (Bishop) being beaten even I don’t dream of that happening, and assuming her re-election she is clearly best man for the job; you don’t run a law firm of boys without being 30x as good as them. Perhaps she’ll be Turnbull’s opposition spokesman on treasury matters.

    Anyhoo no happy dances, and yes the legs haven’t hatched, but the resurrection and win theories are lookinig sicker and sicker and sicker and a long slow campaign with night after night of Howard in our faces …. can’t see that being the answer to anything… Downer … pass … Costello maybe …

  23. This poll is bullcrap…i dont care who you talk to both major parties have a base on at minimum 37-8% support and the Nationals with at least 5 if not 6% support…

    Morgan has the Libs on just 34.5 and Nationals on 1.5%

    If you want to live in la la land then keep thinking this poll is accurate…it is as rogue as they come.

  24. opps I changed perspectives to confuse me and everyone but my point lost in that 2000 words of drivel is that if we assume Howard has had is day and is on the nose, a long slow campaign is BAD not GOOD for Howard.

    The only assumption that leads to expecting Howard to improve through the campaign is the theory that says people all love him and his economy and will remember magically when the writs are signed; or the hope Rudd will do something stupid. No more mandarin please we get the point stop in now Kevin.

  25. [Simon Howson: In your opinion, if Howard did not implement WorkChoices, Invade Iraq, and did more for climate change, would he be in the same, better or worse position then he is now?]

    If he did that the polls would all be line ball, and the campaign would determine who won.

    As the polls are I think the campaign will just determine how much the government loses by.

  26. Notice that a lib backbencher, Washer, is saying Howard should keep a lower profile and let his ministers take a bigger share of the limelight.

    Do that mean Howard is to be hidden during the campaign?

  27. Thanks Glen sweetie it is good to hear from you and I want hardline Liberals like you to talk down the polls and up the man of steel stuff. Not only is it looking increasingly hilarious, I don’t want voters voting green because they think Kevin has 2/3 of the HoR’s in the bag.

    And another rogue poll, perhaps some of the July / August ones meet your expectations of a poll, but essentially that would make this the start of the 9th month of rogue polling across all polling organisations wouldn’t it?

    And the governments own pollsters doing rogue polling as well; very sad.

    Wake up and smell coffee sweetie; Howard is significantly behind where Keating was and without his charm and wit, or talented team. How much difference did the election make for Pauly?

  28. Simon Howson: Thanks for that.
    My next contention is that if the Howard government actually came up with good policies and reform strategies, regardless of the length of time in government, they could still be expected to be voted back, especially with the booming economy 🙂

    It takes truly astounding incompetence to lose an election with the economy in its current state. Then again incompetence and the Howard government go hand in hand.

  29. Jasmine your demeaning attitude speaks alot about your hubris…

    The simple fact is if we were ahead by 60/40 even i would say its bullcrap no body can be ahead that far…you’re letting these results go to your heads but who can blame you you’ve been losers for so long now…

    If you honestly think a poll that has the Liberals primary vote on 34.5 and the Nationals on 1.5% is not rogue you need to wake up and smell the coffee lady!

  30. Glen,
    why so angry mate?
    I don’t see Roy Morgan posting in here – if you’re so upset about the polls, get angry at the pollsters, otherwise try to relax.
    Also, if this is a rogue poll, which of the recent polls has actually been accurate?

  31. [My next contention is that if the Howard government actually came up with good policies and reform strategies, regardless of the length of time in government, they could still be expected to be voted back, especially with the booming economy]

    Well, to an extent. The economy was already blazing in 1996. Keating’s was leading a better government then than during the dysfunctional days of 1990 – 1991 when Keating and Hawke were fueding, and the world economy was in recession.

    Labor has a habit of constructing the economy, then losing elections just when they should be capitalising on economy growth.

  32. [If you honestly think a poll that has the Liberals primary vote on 34.5 and the Nationals on 1.5% is not rogue you need to wake up and smell the coffee lady!]

    I think it is a abit too high, but I also thought last week’s Morgan was too low (ALP 54.5 2pp).

    I also think this week’s Newspoll was a bit too high. I think the true state of play is 56.5/43.5. The Liberal Primary is probably around 40.

    Still more than enough for a gigantic landslide.

  33. I think sweetie, I you were polling 60:40 I’d be doing the exact opposite of ‘this is rubbish’. I think a better idea would be to say ‘If this translates into a general election, democracy in Australia will be severely compromised.’ But you don’t have to take my advice. I like your whole comeback theory, it plays into our hands.

    It is not hubris honey it is just the the only thesis consistent with the polling is now not a labor victory it is now a landslide.

    And a landslide starting at 55% and moving towards the ‘impossible – ridiculous – rogue’ numbers we have been seeing at regular intervals all year.

    And on one count history is firmly on our side. Keating polled badly all year and delivered exactly that result in the election. Howard has polled badly all year and it is simple logic to recognise he may well deliver that result in an election. You calling 9 months of polling rogue doesn’t change that.

    Now Howard might deliver a better result than a landslide but I haven’t seen any credible theory for how this might happen, and attacking my attitude is not a credible theory for Howard’s resurrection. Janet today called on the PM to resign. I had assumed all along she was a robot programmed from the PM’s residence. You don’t need to look to me for bad signs … go talk to your warriors, they are laying down arms already.

    And if it is my honey that upset you I apologise.

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