Movement at the station: episode two

An uneasy calm has apparently settled over the Liberal leadership issue – at least until next week’s Newspoll which, as Adam Carr sagely observes, is just as likely to start the ball rolling all over again. An election announcement in the interim would seem to be the only escape, but the Prime Minister has ruled this out. Comments thread denizens are invited to keep the discussion ticking over on this all-new thread.

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.

438 comments on “Movement at the station: episode two”

  1. Rupert,

    356 and 370 are both under your name. In your first post, you imply that public servants should not get a vote because the Constitution says that they cannot be MPs. In your second post you state that others who receive money from the government do not hold offices of profit under the crown (which is true), but I still don’t see the connection between the idea that public servants should be banned from voting (presumably because the government pays them money) and that others who receive government money should not be banned from voting. The constitutional provision against the holders of office of profit under the crown being able to vote is to preserve the independence of parliament from the executive government which could put paid public servants into parliament to do its bidding. Allowing public servants to vote does no such thing.

  2. Gippslander: I dunno. I suspect that if asked to name 3 things, we’d get stuff like “building prosperity” and other guff that was clearly a non-answer. (You know, stuff that would make him sound like Rudd *cheapshot*)
    All this focus on the leadership is all well and good, and makes for nice fireworks (hell, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intensely amused by it all) but it’d be nice to get some sense of planned policies. And I mean more than just throwing random bits of money at marginals.

  3. CC: I assume you meant “The constitutional provision against the holders of office of profit under the crown being able to *be elected*” rather than “to vote”, but your point is well made.

  4. This promise to retire is a crock.

    I can see what Howard gets out of it: Another few precious months in Kirribili, plus being entitled to use the moniker “undefeated”, should he survive the election.

    The problem is that I can’t see anything at all in it for the punters.

    I mean, what do we get out of it? The Great John Winston for some indeterminate part of the next term, followed by the Chicken Man?

    Now that’s real attractive.

    It’s not like he’s suggesting that he needs to stay to do get some great and beneficial bit of policy up and running or to fix some pressing national problem.

    He’s suggested that he has “things to do”, but as someone points out above, he has to say that and keep-up the pretence doesn’t he?

    He can’t or won’t nominate what those things might be.

    After 11 long years, I reckon he has no plans, apart from saying and doing anything it takes to try and hang onto the job.

  5. “Captain! Captain! The workers are revolting!!” Cried Ms Lanyard, nervously.
    “Yes, I know, and they smell too, but I just liked their tats!! Ho Ho ho!” He wailed as his flicked his overly long fringe.
    “No, I mean they didn’t understand how we want them to work!!”

    “Well, just tell them that we’re all about fairness. Why? Because Admiral Crosby and Lord Textor says that it is a word which connects. So why should we connect? Well, put simply a working family wants the security of a fair go and decency, oh and dignity and their right to work and feel like they are getting a fair go in a decent way”

    “Yes, Yes, I know, I already told them that and they are mostly heaving over the side”

    “hmm” Captain Rudd mused, “I thought those Sui Mai hors douvres were a bit doubtful myself, too!”

  6. Rupret,

    I am a housedad looking after two wonderful children until they get to school age.

    You are quite right, at the moment I am technically unemployed. But I do have a little online business which is thriving at the moment, and also a Phd in environmental economics, I have a book due to launch in two days on Cimate Change and Economic Development published by Palgrave MacMillan.

    But apart from that I vote Labor and really do not have a clue what is going on. 😉

    I’m generally just a lurker, thanks to all the regulars who I really enjoy reading.

  7. Anthony Baxter #404
    One of the first thing a barrister learns is “never ask a question if you don’t KNOW the answer”. If some fool of a witness is talking drivel, let him go on. it only helps your case

  8. Leadership fireworks ain’t over yet. Costello forces are still briefing the media and predicting a big backlash after more likely bad polling from morgan and newspoll. The huge concession tonight from Howard is obviously a high stakes gamble to hang on to leadership at all costs.

  9. I downloaded Howard’s 7:30 report performance and watched it closely. Howard’s eyes are very red, as is his skin despite all the makeup. However, both me and my girlfriend are sure that at around the 7 minute mark, Howard is on the verge of crying. His top lip starts twitching and his voice changes slightly. At some points in the interview he is slurring his words slightly too.

  10. ‘im like adam ,if howard wins there is no way he will hand over the leadership,
    he has form in not carrying through on promises about giving up the pm job
    he will believe that only he can win it for the lib’s and costello will agree

  11. It didn’t seem possible that this sky could be more dark, nor more ominous, but then again, Captain Hamster had witnessed nightfall before. It was as though the wind had temporarily died down and the crew had mostly gone below.

    “Cap’n, it will be a long day tomorrow, we are awaiting a newpole and we are hoping that this one will be good! Why don’t you retire for the night, sir?” Offered Bony, feebly.

    “RETIRE????? RETIRE???!!!” Thundered Hamster, his eyebrows quivering, dropping tiny crystals of salt on his face.
    “Retire, I will never retire. I’m up for a fight. Never backed away from a fight. I’ll fight them in the beaches, I’ll fight them in the streets, in the fields and in the factories but I will NEVER surrender!!” With a steely resolve, his set his eyes ahead and wondered if he should ask bony to give his bum a little scratch before going to bed.

  12. Re Facin #415: This is part of an email I sent to an overseas friend re the betting market

    “My basic mistake has been to treat the bookies as a pari-mutuel (totalisator we call it in Australia.) What is happening is that they underestimated the ALP appeal from the start, and have been playing catch up ever since. When the slow trend to ALP becomes a step function, as it did yesterday, they have to wildly reduce The ALP price, to well below what their current holdings would justify just to stem the inflow to Lab, and encourage some interest in the Coalition. This makes talk of “leading indicators” problematic to say the least.
    Frankly, in the current market the Coalition are unbackable at any price, except for arbitrage, and even then, why bother?. This explains why Centre bet closed the market yesterday.
    I Guess there is a point at which the market says it is not worth backing huge outsiders.. Buy a lottery ticket instead.”

  13. Max @ 367

    Blair said he regretted his announcement in the last few months when Brown started to press for him to name the date, he did not go of his own choosing and was forced to promise Labour Conference last year it would be his last. Howard was asked very recently what he thought of Blair’s action and Howard said (as I recall) that he would never do that. (I think it was on the 7.30 report, I wish I could find it).

  14. “Leadership fireworks ain’t over yet. Costello forces are still briefing the media and predicting a big backlash after more likely bad polling from morgan and newspoll. ”

    Strange days indeed. Basically a fair slab of the front bench want the PM to shove off – but the PM digs in. The overall numbers do not make for a decisive challenge possible – so the PM hangs on.

    It seems like a bummer of a choice for costello. If the polls are really bad over the next week then he could muster the numbers to push Howard out. So basically, provided he is completely screwed, the job is his.

  15. It appears that the universal endorsement for Howard’s continued leadership is not quite what it is portrayed as.

    {The Australian understands that backbenchers agitating for a change of leadership include South Australians Trish Draper and Andrew Southcott.

    They have warned colleagues that without a change at the top they will lose their seats in an electoral annihilation.

    Another backbencher said that while a lot of MPs were worried and would like change, most would now be too afraid to raise it in the meeting.

    “Howard seems determined to stay put, even if he takes the entire Liberal Party down with him,” he said. }
    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22403916-11949,00.html

    I would like to see a wide range of “off the record” type comments on the issue published. I think they would be very enlightening.

    Would also like to see more marginal seat holders give their opinion of their electoral chances.

  16. Yes, Red Wombat and others. Howard did use weasel words, even hedged at the end of three years bit. Though Tony Jones and ABC News chose to go in on the ‘would definitely’ theme. No nuance or shade admitted into any of Julia line, either.

  17. Howard said something like “People say I’m scared of losing” on the 7:30 report. I can’t get it out of my head.

    I reckon Howard “sounded out” stepping down for Costello and was told to piss off

  18. I’m going to retire to bed safe in the knowledge that Howard came close to tears on the telly tonight and that his bum was scratched by Bony. Ah, the joy.

  19. This episode is really bizarre. It shows what can happen when you mess up the succession plans. I think Howard has managed to pull something out of his hat alright – but it’s more of a bunny than a rabbit, and its name is little john.

  20. Ifonly

    In reply to your commenst at #265.

    You description of the nature of the Future Fund (FF) is at odds with my understanding of it as is you analysis of Labor’s funding of the broadband proposal. In fact your criticism seems to come right out of the Governments playbook.

    The FF is money and shares (Telstra) put aside to develop an income stream to cover an expected unfunded liability that is expected to extend well pass 2020. This does not mean that cash is put aside and sits in the vault of the RBA

    The cash component will be invested in a number of income producing vehicles including shares (both in Australia and overseas). The income from shares is obtained two ways. Firstly, via dividends and secondly, by share trading.

    To this effect the Government has appointed an overseas manager of the fund to carry out such transactions and for which is pays a very large fee.

    Labor’s broadband proposal is that the FF will invest in a income generation vehicle by purchasing shares in that vehicle thereby leaving the FF holding shares in two companies directly (Telstra and the broadband company)(remember that it will hold shares iin many companies indirectly via its cash investments). This vehicle will generate funds in the form of dividends and when appropriate profits via the sale of such an asset just as it will generate funds via Telstra share holding.

    You may argue that there is a risk to such a plan however there is a risk to everything and I would argue that there is most likely no additional risk in a broadband company in Australia then there is in the investment of any of the investments made by the FF manager.

    In affect there is no difference at all between what the FF is doing now under the Current Government and what will happen under Labor’s purposal except that under Labor’s plan funds will be used to provide valuable infrastructure for the Australian economy.

  21. 423, tobe….very perceptive….this whole thing is surreal….i too heard that howard would resign today….maybe costello did turn them all down…he has seemed sublimely detached from this fiasco…

  22. Tim (#412) Having missed the 7.30 Report tonight I’ve just downloaded it too. What an appalling performance by Howard. Almost entirely off-message (with one notable attempt to emphasise the ‘team’). He also appeared to me to be close to tears a couple of times – particularly when he got into the irrational pleading about how he should/might/will be given the opportunity to continue as the second-longest serving PM. And how he wouldn’t like to leave the position. Several references to all the things he wants to implement, but not one example could he give.

    My overwhelming impression was that he was reverting to the scared little boy whose favourite toy is about to be taken away. That reminded me of some of my closer encounters with the man in his early years as PM. I always had the feeling that he was doing his best to act as PM. I think Hyacinth combs his hair, gives him a clean hanky and sends him off to work each day with the words “now remember, John, you’re the Prime Minister.

    Fortunately for Howard, I suspect that not too many swinging voters were watching. But the Party was. It must have made them really worried.

  23. Overseas for work, but good to see the Howard death-throes continuing whenever I get the news. Cleaerly, the self-destruct button has been pressed.

    resign “well into the next term” …bahaha!

    From what, the post of opposition leader?

    Gotta win Bennelong for that, pal.

  24. Piping Strike @ 418

    Ah yes, I remember Blair saying that. What I meant though, and upon reflection this is more speculative then I first thought, when did Blair actually ‘regret’ his decision to promise a handover? I imagine he only started to regret it when Brown started calling on him to name the handover date.

    See, the difference here is that Blair probably had a good chance of winning his election without a handover promise – albeit with a slimmer majority perhaps. Howard obviously thinks (correctly) that he has no such chance, and is banking on the ‘team’ and ‘tomorrow’ factor to get him through. Thus, I think the positions aren’t comparable. If he wins, I don’t think he will regret his announcement at any point or time, simply because this move is now the only realistic chance he has of winning. That and the move will be forever known as ‘pure genius’ – such is the re-writing of history!

    There’s also the fact that Blair effectively had a three or four year window in which he could resign as leader. Howard will really only have two (assuming he gives the new leader a year) given the life of the parliament is much smaller here. The media would leave the issue alone for the first year, so the issue wouldn’t paralyse the government as it did to Blair’s in the UK. I would also tentatively predict Howard would get out of the way before the next US president was sworn in…

    The arguments from others that Howard will stay on to ‘topple Menzies’ are based on cynicism. It will not happen, end of story, and I think deep down everybody knows this.

    All this, of course, is based on the increasingly remote chance this new tactic actually works. But hey, one does like to speculate.

  25. The Liberal party have to think if changing to Costello would make a difference and what are the odds it could backfire [as everything else has this year!] and lead to a bigger loss.

    It is not a simple equation. Howard lovers might desert, Costello haters might desert, the fear of changing govt dissapears [since every choice represents change], the image of a stable capable govt goes as it becomes a new look ‘untried’ team. There is the assumption that Costello would campaign effectively but I doubt that he has the goods to do that well. A 7% swing could become a 14% swing.

    It is a gamble, double or nothing. Betting on the possibility of reducing the damage a little at the the cost of an even greater loss.

    Their first plan should be to limit losses and then think about winning.

    Now that round one of the challenge has failed and caused some damage it is obvious any further challenges may have to be bloody with uncertain results. Who knows how Howard would react?

    It is too late to change and too dangerous to change as the effect is uncertain.

    Costello must know now that he will never be PM and even if the Govt won he is not likely to win the leadership when Howard left. You can be sure that Howard and his supporters would put forward some other candidate [Turnbull] for leader on his retirement. Costello may as well retire.

  26. [Shamaham describing Costello as Howard’s Rabbit.]

    Yes, in the Daryl Cullinan / Shane Warne sense of the term – Howard knocks Costello over whenever he wants.

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