Phoney war dispatches

Another old thread title reactivated, for the want of a newer and better idea. It’s looking like the war won’t be phoney for long, with a growing sense that the Prime Minister will be forced to break the circuit next week by calling an election for late October. Keeping the faith is Christopher Pearson at The Australian, who still expects a “narrow Coalition victory”. This is based on the fact that Newspoll got it “horribly wrong” in 2004, when its final poll overstated the Labor vote by 1.4 per cent and understated the Coalition vote by 1.7 per cent.

Bass (Tas, Liberal 2.6%) and Lyons (Tas, Labor 3.7%): The Australian reports Shadow Environment Minister Peter Garrett has backtracked on suggestions the proposed West Tamar pulp mill would be subjected to an analysis of greenhouse gas emissions, under a party policy covering new projects producing more than 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. According to reporter Matthew Denholm, this “apparently” followed “the intervention of Kevin Rudd’s office and a backlash by timber groups and pro-logging Labor MPs”. On the other side of the fence, the Liberal candidate for Lyons, Ben Quin, does not appear of a mind to back down after his party threatened him with disciplinary action for publicly stating his opposition to the mill.

Moreton (Qld, Liberal 2.8%) and Bonner (Qld, Liberal 0.7%): Labor has promised to commit “up to” $300 million to begin construction of an underpass at the junction of Mains and Kessels roads in Macgregor in Brisbane’s south. The junction is located just inside Moreton and near the boundary of Bonner. The Courier-Mail records the following reaction from embattled Moreton MP Gary Hardgrave, who claims the resumption of businesses in the area will cost thousands of jobs: “I couldn’t believe my luck. I was always going to win the seat but this now ensures the swing is on”.

La Trobe (Vic, Liberal 5.8%): While Labor is wanting for low-hanging fruit in Victoria, Rick Wallace of The Australian reports this outer eastern Melbourne electorate has been upgraded to target seat status, although “well-placed Labor sources say Labor has made greater gains in Queensland”.

Ballarat (Vic, Labor 2.2%): Labor member Catherine King suffered a self-inflicted wound last weekend when Kevin Rudd’s office ordered the withdrawal of a television ad which attacked Liberal candidate Samantha McIntosh for having a $2.2 million property on the market.

Newcastle (NSW, Labor 8.7%): The Daily Telegraph reports “prominent Newcastle businessman and city councillor Aaron Buman” is considering standing as an independent.

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.

403 comments on “Phoney war dispatches”

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  1. Did anyone see Howard’s closing APEC interview today – he was quite clear that he will lead the coalition to the election.

    The man is not for changing! to paraphrase another rodent

    if he goes it will only be through a messy challenge – don’t see it myself – this is good – i want to see him go down on election night.

  2. Any constitutional changes must be approved by a double majority—a national majority of electors as well as a majority of electors in a majority of the states (at least four of the six). The double majority provision makes alterations to the Constitution difficult.

  3. ifonly,

    If the joint sitting is to pass the blocked bills, what is the half senate election after it for?


    The constitution dos not allow a joint sitting until after a double dissolution.

    The point of an election before a joint sitting is that the people get a say. If any government that could not have its way with the Senate could just use a joint sitting, that would undermine the democratic nature of the Australian Constitution. For those who believe in the government mandate idea, I point out that it is almost unheard of for a government to poll more than 50 per cent of the vote in its own right and it is therefore perfectly democratic that it have to negotiate the passage of its legislation with other parties so that the legislation does have majority support in the community.

  4. The double majority does make it difficult, but most failures have been meeting the simple 50%+ rule. No majority – no change.

  5. Centre (323)

    You are right in your estimate, I’m sure. Anyway, I’m sure John Howard wants to fight. He will relish it. It’s his thing. No-one else in the Liberal flock will want to fight in his place and they will not draft a sacrificial leader: why would they? They would certainly surrender Bennelong as well as their new conscript.

  6. Anyone who says that 55 – 45 won’t get you a win in a federal election is fooling themselves. Piers is grasping at straws.

  7. That’s true, Michael (349), but most had significant opposition. While the popular plebiscite is intuitively a good idea, in practice it means that it’s too easy to build a “No” case than it is to mount a “Yes” one, unless you can get all major interest groups to support it. Given that most Australians would know the US Constitution better than our own (if they know anything at all), it’s hard to get agreement in the broader community either. Add the fact that referenda are more often held mid-term, it seems a perfectly good opportunity to give the government a kick while not not risking a change of government.

    On assumes that the next referendum that we get to vote on will be to become a Republic. This will be the case no matter who wins the coming election. If Labor wins (and this seems highly likely), Rudd has already announced that the Republic is back on the agenda. But even if Howard gets that miracle and is re-elected, he won’t last long, and a more Republican-friendly Liberal leader such as Costello would take over. A move to a republic would be an easy piece of symbolism to break with the Howard past for subsequent Liberal PM.

  8. Jen, the basic reason Labor has no chance of winning a Senate majority is that only those Senators elected in 2001 will be up for re-election this time (with the exception of the two NT and two ACT Senators). Those elected from the states in 2004 – of which there were 19 Coalition, 14 Labor, 2 Greens and 1 Family First – will remain until the next election (with the technically possible exception of an election for the House of Reps only, but never mind that). So for Labor to get an actual majority at this election it will need to win 25 seats out of 40. You could possibly construct a fantasy scenario in which Labor wins both the ACT seats plus four seats in four of the six states. The former event has never happened; the only time either party won four seats in one state since the modern system began in 1990 was in Queensland in 2004, when the Coalition won the extra seat that gave it its current majority. So the overwhelming likelihood is that the Coalition will remain very strong in the Senate after the election, which would make it very tempting for Kevin Rudd to reset the clock by calling a double dissolution election – especially if the Coalition descends into infighting after losing government, as seems likely.

  9. [ Piers is grasping at straws. ]

    Yes, but the day after the election I’m sure he’ll be telling everyone that he knew Howard couldn’t win and if only they’d followed his advise.

  10. [If Labor wins (and this seems highly likely), Rudd has already announced that the Republic is back on the agenda. But even if Howard gets that miracle and is re-elected, he won’t last long, and a more Republican-friendly Liberal leader such as Costello would take over. ]

    Good point. I think all referenda that have past have had bipartisan support. The next Liberal leader will be pro-Republican, if not, then they will be consigning themselves to irrelevancy.

  11. Chris Curtis – I find the discussion you are leading fascinating and would like to discuss it further, but i think it will digress from the theme of the thread and the purpose of the site, so maybe there is a more appropriate venue.

    I think there is a lot we can do to get “a more perfect union”.

  12. Adam LOL. Could you explain to me why you get one point for missing in AFL? We up here don’t understand it! I mean if you go for goal and miss and kick it out on the full the defending team should kick it from the boundary, or if you don’t kick it out on the full you have a boundary throw in. Is that so difficult? Teams conceding the one point is a blight on the game IMHO.

    Anyway, this time a long term prediction:
    – Aex Hawke to be the next liberal leader to be seriously considered for PM (in about a decade that is).

  13. Personally, I’m against fixed terms. I think we should be able to get rid of governments at a moment’s notice: it’s the only restraint they face. Who can say that State Parliaments work better because they have fixed terms? All they have done is give Premiers a firmer hand. For mine, I think legislatures are weak enough already. I want more from my Parliaments, not less!

  14. [ Teams conceding the one point is a blight on the game IMHO. ]

    Blasphemy. Only a heathen northerner could bring up such an issue. Centre, you should ashamed of yourself.

  15. Albert Ross (340) Yes as a hooker myself (Kotara Bears U14s), he was my childhood hero

    Adam (342) How did I know you would cheapen it

  16. Hugo – I agree that most referenda have had strong YES and NO votes and in some ways this is the point. They have failed because there is opposition. If we want to have a constitution that can be changed easily, then we have to accept that governments will seek to amend the constitution OFTEN for political gain. It is not a weakness of a system that the constitution is hard to change. It is a strength.

    This may sound conservative (but it is in the best sense – ie to conserve) but a constitution that requires something less to be changed is useless.

  17. [Personally, I’m against fixed terms. I think we should be able to get rid of governments at a moment’s notice: it’s the only restraint they face.]

    To me fixed term means there is a fixed election date, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be an earlier election if the government of the day loses the confidence of the house.

    Obviously this is an issue simply because in our system the executive is part of the legislature. I’d be more than happy to remove the executive from there, but to be realistic we need to move one step at a time.

  18. Centre – why can you win rugby and league games by doing 3 different things?

    If they are about running and scoring tries – why are there so many opportunities to win in the wrong way. Johnny Wilkinson knows.

    Having a point adds majesty and mystery to our only national game.

    And why is WA always considered a southern state when Perth is further north than Sydney?

  19. Oakeshott, I honestly have no idea what a hooker is or does. Does he carry a hook? The only rugby game I have ever attended or seen in my life was the Springboks match at Olympic Park in 1971, which I was trying to stop, and where I was distracted from the finer points of the game (if that’s not an oxymoron) by being trodden on by a police horse.

  20. Hugo,

    The idea that Australia is over-governed is a common one, but a little research shows this is not the case. Every country of our size has at least three tiers of government – for an obvious reason.

    There are 30 countries in the world (when you include Greenland with Denmark, of which it is a dependency) of more than one million square kilometres – as small as one eighth of our size. Every one of them has at least three tiers of government.

    Russia is a federation of separate republics, which provide an intermediate tier of government between the national one and local ones. Canada is a confederation with provinces between the national government and local government. The USA is a federation with states between the national government and local government. Brazil has states between the national government and local government. China has provinces, then prefectures, between the national government and local government (which has both counties and villages). India has states between the national government and local government.

    There are 80 countries in the world with more than ten million people. Every one of these 80 countries has at least three tiers of government

    Germany has states between the national government and local government. France has regions and departments between the national government and local government. Italy has regions and provinces between the national government and local government. Switzerland has cantons between the national government and local government. Above the national governments of EU members is the European Parliament.

    The UK, which is often misleadingly quoted, has citizens who live under four levels of government (e.g., the European Parliament, the UK Parliament, the Greater London Assembly and their borough council) or even five levels of government (e.g., the European Parliament, the UK Parliament, the unelected regional assembly, the Bedfordshire County Council and the Bedford Borough Council).

    Even New Zealand, which is often quoted because it abolished its provinces, has regions between the national government and the local government.

    If you count politicians, you will not find Australia over-governed. There are more than 30,261 members of the European Parliament (for the UK), the UK Parliament, the Northern Ireland, Welsh, London and eight unelected English regional assemblies and the various county, district and borough councils. That is one politician for every 1,983 people. To put it another way, the UK has one politician for every 8 square kilometres.

    Victoria has 12 senators, 37 federal MPs, 88 state MLAs, 40 state MLCs and about 600 local councillors in 79 councils. (An hour of searching has not provided me with the exact number of the last.) That is a total of about 777 politicians, one for every 6,577 people or one for every 305 square kilometres. It puts the UK figures in perspective. The UK’s number of politicians per head is three and a half times Victoria’s; the UK’s number of politicians per square kilometre is 38 times Victoria’s.

    If the states were abolished, the intermediate tier would be created as an internal arrangement of the national government. The only difference would be that it would be unelected.

    In short, at least three tiers of government is the norm for any nation of any size. Four levels are not unusual. Five levels are not unheard of.

    For a further discussion of these issues, see:

    Canning federalism – the Liberals’ legacy?

    Cost-shifting, blame-shifting and profligacy

    The states are redundant


    That’s the problem with constitutional reform. We almost always end up agreeing to disagree. We just have to accept that if you can’t get the numbers you can’t win – no matter how good your idea is.

  21. Albert at 150

    “As a seat-by-seat analysis in the Financial Review on Friday demonstrated, Labor still has its work cut out mustering enough seats to win government.”

    I read it – its twaddle (it’s worse than twaddle, but the type of adjectives required to accurately describe it’s pure twaddlishness would probably send me into Williams moderation bin)

    It’s based on nothing more than the individual seat betting markets.

    You know, the type of drivel that passes off as analysis of the type: “the ALP isnt ahead in the individual seats by as much as they are in the polls (or the broader market)… therefore the polls are wrong and its really neck and neck”.

    Journos need to get a grip with these markets – they are usually thinner than Kate Moss on a laxative bender.

    To give an example, I whacked up my McPherson seat analysis late one afternoon and after a few thousand hits, by breakfast the next morning the price dropped from $12 to $8.Two days later it was down to $5.Now unless some anonymous blogger named Possum has a satellite in orbit beaming mind control rays out to mug punters the length of the country, these markets are so pathetically thin at this stage that they arent worth paying attention to as any indicator that has even a remote relationship with reality.

    Which, all said and done, makes it perfect quotable fodder for delusional characters like Mr Ackerman.

  22. Oakeshott (307)…

    Quite right – there are similarities between the weakness of the UAP and the Liberals – divided, isolated, ill-led and disconnected. And just a hop-step-and-jump to the next election. But where is Menzies’ incarnation? Is it Turnbull? Or is it Nelson himself? On second toughts, I think the UAP had brighter prospects than the Liberals.

  23. Michael P, you are right. I would have 5 point tries. 2 points for conversions with the rule that the tryscorer takes the kick (the idea here is that a try nearer to the posts may be more valuable). And your 1 point for a field goal, eligible to be taken by any player (necessary to break dead-locks). But that would be showing too much intelligence for NRL administrators. Take the finals McIntyre system, it is so mathematically flawed it’s a joke!

    BTW, The Swans should have made it two in a row last year instead of losing by one point. Hall missed everything, he had a shocker, Swans should have won easily.

  24. Possum’s comments on the thinness of some betting markets are quite accurate. But there is a bit of cash around on some.

    About 18 per cent of all the cash held by Sportingbet on individual seats is on a handful of seats in WA. There’s been a lot of cash coming in for Sharyn Jackson in Hasluck, while there’s also been a few multi-thousand dollar bets on both Tinley and Keenan in Stirling.

    Some markets are better than others, obviously. McPherson was always a dodgy one, as a few $10 bets could have moved the ALP in from $12 to $5.

    But move to a Bennelong or a Wentworth or a Stirling and you’re talking with a fair bit of cash that makes the market deeper and probably more reliable.

  25. Chris, insightful analysis. How many of these countries have 21 million or fewer people?


    I think the points for behinds are excellent and also a good way of estimating accuracy each game (can’t be done in R/RL). I agree with Leigh Matthews, though, it should be 3 points, which would make rushed behinds hurt more. Sometimes it is advantageous to take the rush and reset from the square as an easier way to get the ball back in the attacking half. 3 points would change this.

    I do think it is the king of ball games too. I am from the North, as well 🙂

    The politics must be dry for us to be talking AFL 🙂 🙂

  26. The betting market is a nice thing to look at but really can we pick seat results from it no.

    For the polls to be right there will be some savage swings, lets look back at 1996 Keating suffered a swing of 5% or so, yet in some Western Sydney seats the swing was around 10-15 %.

    In 1999 Kennett suffered a swing of around 3 % yet lost seats the liberals had never lost before, to go one step forward in 2001 Bracks primary vote was only slightly higher than Kennett’s in 1999 yet the state parliament went from a minority government to the biggest TPP in Victorian history.

    All the last 50 polls are showing is Howard is in for the biggest hiding ever, I know we have had some really biggest TPP wins by State ALP govts of late which may give some insight to how the Federal map will look.

  27. Centre – as an EAGLES fan (and swans member – due to location) NO! The Eagles were robbed in 2005 and should have won it but for all the illegal holding going on when leo barry “marked”.

    I spent the weekend travelling to watch the two games (eagles – swans) and missed out over 600 posts to this site. I am finding it hard to catch up.

    The NRL uses the old AFL system in the finals which is unfair to those teams which finish in 3rd and 4th.

    And why is the NRL the “N” RL, there is nothing national about them, the ACCC should investigate false advertising.

    BUT SWAMPY back to the thread – Howard himself says he will stick it out. See ABC news story

  28. If you abolish the states then we would probably have local and regional governments.

    The 5 mainland capitals would become city-regions with similar to now local government below (exept in Qld where the the council amalgamations would be undone (incl. the BCC)). These would have some of the powers currently held by the states such as running local Public Transport.

    Tasmania would become a region because it is a natural unit of government.

    The rest of Australia would be devided into around 10 regions.

  29. Generic oracle,

    I don’t follow your question. Every country with 21 million people or more has at least three tiers of government. Every country of Australia’s size or greater has at least three tiers of government.


    The idea of having regions instead of states and keeping local government is simply a variation on the idea of creating new states, which is constitutionally possible now. The difference with regions would be that they would be creatures of the national government, whereas the states have a constitutional status independent of the federal government.


    You can sometimes debate these ideas at onlineopinion, but there is a two-posts-per-day limit on each thread.


    Can you name he seats that the Liberals had never lost before that they lost in the 1999 election, not in the subsequent by-elections? I don’t think there were any that had existed for any length of time. Steve Bracks’s second victory was in 2002, not 2001.

  30. Labor has extended its lead over the Coalition according to the latest Herald/Nielsen poll to be published in The Sydney Morning Herald tomorrow.

    Labor’s two-party preferred vote rose two points to 57 per cent. The Coalition fell 2 points to 43 per cent.

  31. Would Mr Howard go and see the GG tonight / tomorrow to stave off a leadership challenge?

    he could call an oct 20 with writs to be issued on Friday which would still allow Mr Harper to address parliament

    one would doubt a leadership challenge would happen if the election had been called.

  32. Nielsen has been leaked to channel 9.

    ALP 57% – +2%
    Coalition – 43% – -2%

    Ciao. Sienara. Auf Wiedersehn. Goodbye.

    Election is imminent. If the PM doesn’t call it he will be challenged.

  33. Just watching Howard and Co on the news. Looks like he is not going voluntarily and no one has the balls to make him go. They’ve all decided to go down together with the ship.

  34. With the AC Nielsen poll out, it means that each of the 4 main pollsters have registered an ALP 2PP of 57%+ in their last poll…

    I have to question why the Coalition would call the election now – surely there has got to be some movement back from these figures (it’s almost suicidal calling the election now…)

  35. Re 384,

    “Whats AFL?”

    If you have to ask, then I don’t need to tell you 😉

    Seriously, though, does anyone know what code of football and/or which team Rudd supports?

    We know JH follows rugby and cricket, Costello is Essensdon’s #1 ticket holder, former PM Keating was notionally (don’t know how serious) a Collingwood supporter.

    Can anyone answer this piece of trivia about Rudd? Thanks much 🙂

  36. Report on channel 7 news (Melbourne) claims the gap in tomorrow’s Nielsen is 14 points with Labor up 4. Given the last Nielsen was (I think) 55-45 2pp, I suspect that they are referring to primaries as being up 4.

  37. Yeppers 57-43. It’s not really rogue polling anymore. It’s last months interest rate rise biting the liberals on the arse. Time to face the music now for the rodent. Howard says he’s not standing down and if the liberals want someone else to lead they will have to challenge.


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