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. Alright, I get it now.

    Here is what I think has happened.

    Costello has been working in the background sounding out ministers about changing leadership and tapping Howard on the shoulder tellng him that he has lost support. This involves the gutless move of asking Howard to step down rather than actually go to the caucus, all this needs to be kept quiet though.

    Malcolm Turnbull (who has leadership aspirations) gets wind of this and thinks to himself:
    a) Howard, small chance of winning, hates Costello, another year or two and Turnbull is a chance to get leadership.
    b) Costello, small chance of winning, but if he does goodbye leadership ambitions.

    Best result for Turnbull, Howard.

    Turnbull leaks information about the party room moves to the media, Howard digs in and Costello predictably gets wobbly knees. Even if Costello does challenge the damage to the party would ensure a Costello loss.

    Only trouble with this theory is that Turnbull only holds a small margin in Wentworth and is a chance to lose his seat. But I suppose it is going to be a struggle for him either way and even if he does lose his ambitions and money can get him a blue ribbon liberal seat after the defeat because no doubt there will be a few ministers in safe seats who will retire after an election defeat not wanting to spend their final years in opposition. By-election a few months after the election and Malcolm is back.

  2. Sorry Julie, you won’t get a live feed of the liberal party meeting straight from parliament.

    There will be a joint party debrief to journos later in the morning. Sure to be interesting as to the spin on what Howard told the troops.

    As for the agriculturally minded, a ewe is a ewe is a ewe – neutered or not!

  3. According to Radio National, Liberal Party private polling shows them doing much better than the published polls, leading in marginal seats & poised to win Bendigo off Labor. Any foundation to this?
    Maybe someone from Bendigo could tell us if the Labor member there is in serious electoral trouble?

  4. “””TREASURER Peter Costello had made it clear he supported the current Liberal team for the federal election, Health Minister Tony Abbott said today.

    And the senior cabinet members who met last week to consider the leadership question have put aside any doubts and anxieties they may have had about Prime Minister John Howard, he said.

    “Peter has made it absolutely crystal clear that he supports the team,” Mr Abbott told Channel 9.”””

    Interesting that – Downer said something similar last night on the 7.30 Report. The only person who’s not saying that Costello supports Howard is… Costello.

  5. “554
    Howard Hater Says:
    September 12th, 2007 at 8:23 am
    According to Radio National, Liberal Party private polling shows them doing much better than the published polls, leading in marginal seats & poised to win Bendigo off Labor. Any foundation to this?
    Maybe someone from Bendigo could tell us if the Labor member there is in serious electoral trouble?”

    All parties “leak” information to say they are doing better than the polls are suggesting.If they were doing better we would not be having this leadership spat at the present.The Coalition is in deep trouble and they know it.They are going to say and do anything to stop the rout !

  6. I know the seat of Bendigo well and used to live in it. I have mentioned a few times on this blog that it’s worth keeping an eye on. Water is a huge issue there, and Malcolm Turnbull has visited the electorate a few times to bag the Victorian Government. It’s always been pretty marginal, and has a tradition of going against the national trend. The Libs can win it with a one per cent swing.

    The sitting Labor member, Steve Gibbons, is nothing to write home about. But the Libs have had trouble finding candidates there and there’s not a great sense of election campaigning in the seat yet. The Bendigo Advertiser did a poll which showed Labor would hold the seat. I think they’re planning another poll soon.

    I would think the Libs will be putting out the word that their private polling is better than the public polling, to gee up the troops. However, the Crosby Textor report suggests the opposite. I never believe leaks of “private polling” unless documentary evidence is provided, as in the case of C/T.

  7. “According to Radio National, Liberal Party private polling shows them doing much better than the published polls, leading in marginal seats & poised to win Bendigo off Labor. Any foundation to this?”

    … hence why they’re running around like headless chooks?

    It appears to be a blatant attempt to settle everybody down, but I think it’s a bit late for that.

  8. Wasn’t there a poll conducted fairly recently in Bendigo that showed Labor up 6% (or something like that)?

    It was one of the earlier postings on this site.

  9. Speaking of stories on RN Breakfast it was good to hear that campaign to eradicate feral aninals on Macq. Is.

    That this is happening is down to Turnbull’s credit as previous Federal ministers fiddled around whilst Tasmania cried poor.

    NZ doesn’t seem to have these problems having had great success with their programs – especially on the Campbell and Auckland Is.

  10. Didn’t Downer let it slip in an interview that internal polling was WORSE than the polls? I am sure he did.

    I don’t think it credible that there be a consistent 57/43 and have marginals in govts favour. Why would Rudd moving some campaigning into the safer Liberal seats?

  11. Downer did let it ‘slip’ but that was to scare the voters.

    Even in huge swings, there can be seats that go against the flow, so even if there is a inch of truth about Bendigo then Labor will be needing to do something about it.

  12. With the polls pointing to doom for the liberal party an early challenge will at least put Peter Costello on the list of past PMs. It is best for teh liberal party to try and present a new face. With the APEC conference out of the way and John Howard’s last “meet the big boys” a sought of farewell gathering. It could be the right time for a change at the top. It would certainly put a stay on the pressure for the liberal party to go to the poll sooner rather then later. Time will tell. Question if Costello becomes PM will he be one of the shortest term of office PMs?

  13. I don’t think Downer needed to scare the voters anymore than they are [liberal voters], he was being truthful on that account as it was a single a ‘slip’within a longer interview and not particularly highlighted by him. He was using the major polls and the fact that their polls were worse as the reason for reviewing the quetion of leadership.

    Now if their polls are worse I can only imagine it is worse in the sense of Possum’s analysis – that is there is a major swing in their safer seats.

  14. Changing to Costello is a very large risk as it could just as easily lead to a larger haemorage of votes. With Howard there ‘might’ be a landslide or maybe not. However with Costello their is some chance of a complete obliteration or maybe recovery.

    If you are set to lose then it is silly to gamble your life for the sake of a smaller loss.

  15. John Howard is suffering from Mugabe Syndrome.

    I find it extraordinary how some leaders are able to browbeat those around them into keeping them in power even when the situation is utterly hopeless.
    The ageing Robert Mugabe is destroying his country. He has completely wrecked the economy. He has made hundreds of thousands homeless. He clearly should not be running Zimbambwe and yet the military and police back him fully even though it’s not in their own best interests.
    John Howard has not done that but he is clearly now unelectable.
    He has been able to intimidate Alexander Downer, Malcolm Turnbull, Peter Costello and all the others who can see that it is in the best interests of the Liberal party to change leaders.
    It’s understandable why Peter Costello didn’t want a bloody messy leadership struggle. That would have made it very difficult for him to win.
    He needed to be put in the job with John Howard’s clear blessing.
    John Howard would then have spoken glowingly about what a great PM Peter would be.
    It wouldn’t have helped Peter for John to have immediately moved gloweringly to the backbench. The only way it should have been done is in a peaceful way.
    That’s not going to happen.
    If John Howard does indeed sit for two weeks then there will be a couple more opinion polls.
    If those polls show even worse damage for John Howard and the Coalition’s chances then the leadership issue will inevitably come up again, one last time.
    Of course there’s always the chance that some voters will start feeling sorry for the old underdog John Howard and give him a sympathy vote.
    On the other hand there will be a number of voters disgusted at the chaos in the party. They will also know that John Howard won’t stay the full term and there could be a messy leadership fight in a year if the Coalition is re-elected.
    The Kevin Rudd team will look positively stable and Kevin Rudd look like the safe alternative.
    A number of soft Liberal voters who voted for John Howard last time may well switch to the Rudd team to allow the Liberal party to sort itself out.
    I really can’t see how the polls could move to the Coalition after all this.
    It’s quite likely either with John Howard as leader or Peter Costello that the final result will be no better than 55% ALP and 45% Coalition.
    It really doesn’t matter now after all this appalling publicity whether or not there is a change of leadership.
    Malcolm Turnbull, who is most unlikely now to be leader prior to the election, may now lose his seat.
    His body language in the House said it all. He looked totally fed up and deflated. He was probably wondering “Just what have I got myself into? I should have stayed out of politics”.
    Peter Costello looked really grumpy too. Funny that Tony Abbott had to tell the media that Peter supported John Howard! Right.
    No, the fat lady has not sung yet.

  16. Kina at 572
    maybe internal polls are worse in the sense of forecasting a double digit swing in safe Liberal seats in places like Mayo held by Downer, A.

    The other argument made above about the Liberal panic being incompatible with positive internal polling doesn’t quite work. Most of their parliamentarians don’t have access to these details but they would be drip fed. If you were PM would you trust your partyroom (or Cabinet) to keep the internal polling or anything else secret (read Kelly and Shanahan’s columns today)?

    There is also a good chance that the Liberals do have more favourable polls in marginal seats (consistent with the Newspoll quarterly breakdown analysed by Possum) but what they might not be leaking is that these polls come from a few weeks ago before things turned really bad (or that they cover regional areas like Bendigo where, I guess, that the interest rate hike hasn’t bitten as deeply)

  17. WIN news in Canberra ran an “ALP internal poll” last night which purported to show Mike Kelly taking the party up seven points in Eden-Monaro, wiping out Gary Nairn.

  18. Latest odds on Wentworth:
    Liberal: 1.55
    LABOR: 2.20(Labor firms from $7)

    Maybe that’s why Moneybags Malcolm was looking so grumpy yesterday.

  19. I bet it was a big letdown, nothing happened, nobody got up to criticise Howard, Costello stayed silent, everyone professed their loyalty to the Rodent: ho hum!

  20. What will be interesting is to know who abstained or didn’t speak on the leeadership question and also whether there was a motion. It wouldn’t have been in Peter Costello’s interests to call for a vote. KI bet there were a few sullen faces in the room. We’ll have to listen out for post-meeting leaks.

  21. When even Tony Abbott’s very best spin on what has gone on aligns with our own Adam’s reading of the tea leaves things were very messy indeed last week and yesterday. Hopefully there is no sympathy vote now, attacking Howard strongly on policy might look like kicking someone on the ground 🙁

  22. Howard Hater [579]:

    I bet it was a big letdown, nothing happened, nobody got up to criticise Howard, Costello stayed silent, everyone professed their loyalty to the Rodent: ho hum!

    I hope so. Because that would be the best possible result for Labor; having Howard still leader but politically dead man walking with Costello still sniping behind the scenes.

  23. From the article linked to in 578

    As Liberal MPs met, Labor called quorums in both houses of parliament, forcing Liberal MPs and senators to temporarily leave the party room to make up the numbers.

    It seems that Labor have been listening to James Carvilles rule that whenever your opponent is sinking, find every opportunity to throw them an anchor.

  24. The morning show on Channel 7 with Koche seemed to be trying to support Howard this morning. God, how sick that would be, the devil getting sympathy votes!

  25. Labor called quorums in both Houses of Parliament. Now that’s being cheeky, but in reality the pollies are there to govern, not to play internal party politics.

  26. Here in west I have just listened AM, Hewson,Steve Lewis and Michelle Gratton,Gratton was the only one who sounded like she lived on this planet. Fran Kelly behaves more and more like the spruiker guy from The Chasers,she is desperate to sell Howard no matter what.

  27. Snow,

    It was a nice touch. ALP still kepping a lot profile but just chipping away at moral at every oppourtunity. Well played so far.

    I image they already have clear plans for dealing with Costello should he get to be PM. I’m undecided as to what is the best Lib firewall strategy.

    The absolute worst scenario would be a switch to Costello and find that he does not have work rate to campain well and is comprehensively beaten in the election campain.


    Can only assume Johnny will be in control of what music is playing on the wireless, Abbott will be watching that nobody spikes the Tang. Turnbull will be chatting up girls with lines like “yeah, I’m all about trees babe, wanna go for a ride in my Ferrari? and Costello will be pissed on the veranda, bitching to his mates about how it woulda been better if they’d had it over at his place.

  29. Fran is a very professional journalist and she is just trying to offset the overwhelmingly anti-Howard tone of the commentariat a bit. The media hunt in a pack as we know and at the moment they have become a lynch-mob. This is why we have a public broadcaster, by the way. Good work Fran.

  30. I have Paliament on right now. Julie Bishop is speaking on something or other. There isn’t anyone behind her in the chairs where the front bench usually sits. Therefore, while the meeting is over and some members are in the chambers, not all of them are. If anything substantive is to come out of the meetings, they aren’t immediately announcing it if Bishop is speaking. Now, the members are filtering back into the chambers. If anything eventuates, I will let you know. Live Parliament feed on Sky News Active for those who have it.

  31. I would be satisfied if Fran Kelly would just tell it like it is and leave the offseting out of it.When Hewson and Lewis are part of the discussion no offseting is required in my opinion,just more professional journalisim.

  32. What a load of cowards they are. Annabel Crabb in the SMH was right – the libs are like a bunch of 7-year olds poking a tiger snake and then running away. None of the current mob resemble Keating in any way, including now in the chutzpah department.

    How this scenario helps the Liberal Party or is in it’s best interests is beyond me.

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