Movement at the station

I have just awoken to a barrage of “Turnbull and Downer deny calling for PM to quit” headlines, capped by Andrew Bolt‘s sensational assertion that Peter Costello will be Prime Minister tomorrow. No time to absorb any of this, but a new thread is clearly in order.

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.

647 comments on “Movement at the station”

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  1. This is insanity, John Howard is the Coalition’s best hope for victory. Peter Costello would be a liability for the Coalition as PM, while Turnbull has potential to become a good PM one day, just not now.

    Might I make an prediction, the election will be late around December 8th and the Coalition will win a narrow but workable majority, although very likely winning only 48-49% of the two party vote. The Labor party would after such a result descend into factional chaos.

  2. I want to get some slogans into the mix so I will post them near the top. Maybe someone will offer me a job.

    “Three years ago Labor felt that Rudd would make a worse prime minister than Latham, we agree….don’t risk it vote liberal”

  3. I’ll make an opposing big call and say that Howard will not leave office until he is voted out at the election. Howard is not going to resign, and none of the conspirators in the Liberal Party have the courage to confront him with a party-room vote, partly because they don’t have a candidate who is either willing to challenge or could do any better against Rudd. Costello is a lazy and gutless person, and he doesn’t want to be the leader who loses.

  4. He’s not going anywhere.

    Looks like he’s set to stare down the challenge.

    Sky News have been hung out to dry by these Lib sources. Used and abused. I think they’ll be back pedalling within a few hours. They’re already hammering the distinction between these ministers asking Howard to step aside and privately wishing he would.

  5. This is great! The longer he leaves it the greater the in fighting. The more they look like a rabble. The longer Howard leaves it the bigger the mess! The ABC news radio and TV have been full of it. It doesn’t matter what they do its going to be slaughter at the polls.

  6. Dario,
    “As Hewson said, the only he’ll go out is in a box”

    Maybe a ballot box?

    It looks like Tristan Jones has figured in about 10% off the polls. Would that be GST?

  7. I would see this kerfuffle as an admission that the government doesn’t believe it can win and are looking for scenarios that would limit the loss of seats. It may be insanity but more likely blind panic and just illustrates that the public opinion polling must be pretty well reflected in the governments own research.

  8. Drop by @10, this is exactly what it is.

    You do not do this if you believe your party can win. I believe Downer and Turnbull now look to try and limit the damage and believe that getting rid of Howard is the first step. Howard is still suggesting he can win, but the front bench are starting to doubt whether he can.

    It is falling into place now. The CT analysis from Possum put us on the path and the rest of the news is pushing us down it.

  9. Howard now strongly denying that he will go, vowing that he has ‘never run from a fight before and I don’t intend to do so now’

    I just don’t know. He looks finished. Very unconvincing all day yesterday, and he and Abbot looked like they were talking to the backbenchers with their media appearances, trying to stave off a revolt.

    Unless it is some half-baked strategy to make him look strong and resilient and a fighter.

    Who is running the deadpool?

  10. I would be highly surprised if Howard quits for at least the following reasons:
    1) He is unquestionably the best chance the Libs have of holding onto government. None of the potential aspirants could resist an even greater blow-out than what we’re currently looking at.
    2) He is also the best hope of holding Bennelong – and if the Libs can’t hold Bennelong then they have no chance of holding the line
    3) If he were to leave now he would be accused of ‘cutting and running’, which we all know he’s opposed to – whether at home or in Iraq
    4) If he did leave now he’d carry all the blame if there was an election loss and get none of the credit if there was an election win.
    5) He isn’t the type of person to be told when to go – he’ll decide that for himself on his own terms when he’s ready – and fair enough, he’s earned it.
    All of that seems to add up (in my book at least) to Howard leading the party into the election.
    The only real question is – will he follow in Bruce’s footsteps?

  11. Tristan,

    Surely such optimism is over-exuberant, given the state of the polls AND the betting markets. Before dismissing betting odds, remember that in 2004, the odds ALWAYS favoured Howard over Latham, regardless of the polls. This time, it is vastly different: The punters are heavily behind the ALP. In fact, at sportingbet, 75% of all money wagered is on the ALP. So expect to see a Rudd government very shortly

  12. There is much being made of the “Costello won’t challenge line”. I’m pretty sure this is what Malcolm Fraser said right up to the moment he challenged Snedden. No one worries about that anymore or even then because the leadership issue had to be settled.

    The mechanics are quite simple.

    At the next Party Room meeting Tuckey gets up and moves the leadership vacant or a no confidence motion in the leadersship.
    Howard is deposed.
    Costello and Bishop are elected as the new team.

    The disarray is on the Howard supporters side. They will reluctantly fall in with the plan to stop all the speculation.

  13. The article I read has a link to a quote from Sky News. How come Sky News knows? rumours are largely industinguishable from news these days; whose loose lips are sinking this ship? Because this rumour needs to go away, and fast, or we’ll be heading into election week with commentators saying “the only thing left to wonder about is the size of the ALP majority”. And that’s assuming that Costello doesn’t try to pull the rug out from under Howard.

    …which would be phemonally dumb. Even if you can’t win, you need to talk like you’re not beaten. this is just an admission of defeat. this is like Day 1 of a grand plan to re-invigorate the Liberals in time for the 2009/10 election.

  14. also, can anyone tell me the times of this meeting that the Growler refers to? because, by my watch it’s 12:45 in Canberra now. So this will all come to a head…




  15. Whoever said “a week is long time in politics” will need to rephrase. In the current environment, a week resembles an aeon.

    I said last week during APEC that we might see Howard getting in his car after the close of the conference and driving quickly to the GGs before his colleagues could get the knives out. It’s beginning to look like he wasn’t fast enough.

    It’s time for the popcorn and choc top ice cream. The entertainment has begun. Take your seats please.

  16. I reckon the polling for next week’s Newspoll should be underway pretty soon. Any predictions? I’ll plunge in with a 62-38 2pp split.

    Oh, and pass the popcorn please.

  17. David Speers from Sky News got the direct leak.

    I was wondering, though, how do the Labor party respond to this? What questions do they ask in Question Time? Do they focus on policy or badger Howard on calling an election? Or do they ask Downer or Turnbull whether they support Howard continuing on as PM?

  18. David Speers (skynews) was interviewed on ABC 720 in Perth this morning. He cites indepentent credible sources as saying Downer and Turnbull, seperately went to the PM to say they no longer believed he was there best chance to win. According to David’s sources they did NOT ask the PM to step down, and did not threaten a spill. Saying they thought he was doing so badly he needed to go was enough.

    But David’s main point was, particularly if they don’t have an alternative candidate they are agreed on, after the PM’s 7.30 report last night it was clear the PM wasn’t resigning for ‘health’ or ‘family’ reasons to go ahead and leak this stuff is critical. But for the deliberate leak this stuff would have started dying away today.

    So they seem to be looking for a bloodbath, who does that help?

  19. As much as I’m enjoying the attention being on Liberal infighting, I think the media outlets are pushing most (or all) of this speculation. The media should get back to what the pollies are going to do for this county, not who’s staying, going, ahead in the polls etc.

  20. This is amazing stuff. The government is basically dead on its feet. Who would have pictured this a year ago. Change leaders if they want to but it wont stave off the 5 reasons why this government will end:

    1. WorkChoices
    2. A competent Opposition leader
    3. WorkChoices
    4. WorkChoices
    5. WorkChoices

  21. Just a quick update on the betting markets:

    Herbert has “fallen” to Labor on Portlandbet!!! That gives Labor 76 “seats” – the first time they’ve gotten a majority of seats on Portlandbet.

    The other interesting thing to note is that whilst there has been the predictable flow to Labor in most seats over the last couple of days, there has been a move BACK to Dana Vale in Hughes ($1.40 to $1.32). No idea what’s going on there…

  22. swing lowe: they don’t. they just release policies with as straight a face as they can and let the Liberals pull themselves apart at 6PM every night. From what I can tell, the deal is sealed, but I was figuring that the ALP polling figure is soft andf will sink a little. What was the previous 2pp high for an incoming ALP government? Because, maybe we’re looking at a record.

  23. Perfect opportunity for Rudd to remain balanced and focused for a united Australia. The statesman in time of need…

    Precarious times I would suggest.

  24. Mike_f,

    The previous highest 2pp for an incoming ALP federal government was 53.2% in 1983. If Labor gets anywhere close to its current polling figures at the upcoming election, they’ll get the record for sure.

  25. Its been said before but this is Stanley Melbourne Bruce all over again. It lokks like the majority of the Australian people have decided that there is one component of the Australian Settlement that will not be jettisoned.

  26. As much as I’m enjoying the attention being on Liberal infighting, I think the media outlets are pushing most (or all) of this speculation. The media should get back to what the pollies are going to do for this county, not who’s staying, going, ahead in the polls etc.


  27. Possum,

    How does he avoid the issue in Question Time? What does Labor do there? Do they comment on the leadership tensions (particularly after Beattie resigned yesterday)? Or do they ask questions about the damage poker machines has on families?

  28. Swing Lowe: What are the odds for Herbert? Herbert in the last 30 years has become a Eden-Monaro for QLD? I can’t access betting sites at work.

  29. Swing – Rudd has to be careful that he doesnt look like a smart arsed prat.If he goes for the throat of Howard over leadership in QT, it wont necessarily be a good look in puntersville, especially as a 10 second grab on the news.

    Gecko, I’d imagine that Howard serves at, and only at the pleasure of his party room… but I’m not the person to answer that question with any authority whatsoever.

  30. nath (34) – I see only two scenarios now:

    1. A repeat of 1929, as you said, included in a record ALP 2PP or
    2. A new Lib leader before the election, with uncertain effects on the electorate. It all depends on what the Libs decide to do this week. And it has to be this week.

    This is by far those most incendiary political day of the year so far. If nothing happens at the end of it, there will be an even worse variation of #1 above.

    I can’t see anything else happening from here, including any supposed Liberal miracle comeback with Howard still leading.

  31. Will,

    Herbert is currently $1.80 for Labor, $1.87 for Coalition.

    Expect Page to go next – it’s at Coalition $1.75/Labor $1.93 – down from $1.70/$2.00 last night

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