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. Call the election please Says:

    September 12th, 2007 at 12:50 pm
    “I assume Peter Costello’s press conference is going to be a yawn-inducing “I’m behind John” conference. I’m crossing my fingers it’s him announcing his retirement from politics.”

    Yes, it was yawn inducing. No, he didn’t announce a retirement. Like Howard, he will go down with the ship.

  2. Is it me or isn’t there an exact parallel with Howard’s Cabinet and that glorious scene in the Life of Brian when the ‘Judean Peoples Front’ suicide ( final words: “That showed em”) in front of Brian?. See 5.15-5.49 in this youtube to refresh your memory: http://youtube.com/watch?v=ie37MJGjPgc
    At the end Brian sighs “You silly sods”

  3. i think newspoll will improve from 59/41, such a massive lead cant be sustained. I’m sure the conversative commentators will paint this as the great JWH comeback…

  4. “Julie Says:
    September 12th, 2007 at 12:45 pm
    Poll numbers in addition to the BetFair numbers (1.40/3.35) posted earlier:
    1. Sportsbet – still closed
    2. Portland Bet – 1.33/3.15
    3. Sports Acumen (ACT) – 1.39/2.95
    4. Canbet (UK) – 1.38/3.00
    5. Sportingbet Oz (NT) – 1.35/3.05
    6. Centrebet – still closed
    7. IAS bet.com – 1.38/3.00”

    Very comprehensvie work, Julie. Is your surname Waterhouse?

  5. What can they do? Howard can’t get a message out to the voters about the future when all everyone is talking about is his future. They are heading to defeat and only their belief in their invincibility is sustaining them.

  6. I would suggest that the “leaked internal polling” re Eden-Monaro was conducted at last nights Probus Cub meeting in Tumut and Monday nights Chamber of Commerce meeting in Queanbeyan.

  7. Heffernan was right when he said he was not speaking in Manchurian (love this Rudd the Manchurian Candidate joke) or Mandarin, but spoke in bush speak and said it was complete bullshit.

    All of you who were insisting Howard would be gone by now look rather silly indeed.

  8. I don’t think I’ll be able to stomach it if John Howard wins this election. Who knows… he might give his speach on election night as “This is a victory for the true believers”.

  9. From Portland Bet

    “John Howard’s resolve to stay on and contest the upcoming election has not been viewed favourably by punters. Wave after wave of bets for Labor have continued the trend of the last week, where money for the Coalition dried up.

    So many seats have been hit in punter’s raids, we can not list them at this time. Avalanche, bloodbath, call it what you will – we can barely dial the prices in quick enough!!”

  10. The decision by the US Fed to cut interest rates, in anticipation of a possible US recession, will probably be seen as a sliver of light under the door into the Rodent’s self-made dungeon of the soul.

    If he thinks the puse strings can be loosened, watch him spend that surplus like there’s no tomorrow…Solar panels for all, free bags of lollies for anyone who thinks they might be worse off under WorkChoices (sic) and on and on. We will never have seen pork barrelling like it before.

  11. At Sportingbet the Coalition is 3.00 to take Eden-Monaro and 5.00 to take Bendigo, plenty of value there for Mark Textor to back his judgement.

    Thems mighty long odds.

  12. The Liberal Party had the chance to save their skins, or at least minimise the loss, but as predicted, they were wimps once again! Are they that scared of Emperor Howard? Pathetic! These cowards deserve the thrashing coming their way in 2 or 3 months.

  13. I think it only right that Howard drives the bus up to the election.

    Lib voters want to see their man pull victory out of the jaws on more time as the myth of his political genius persists.

    Labor votes want to see him stay as it would be no where nears as cathartic to vote out Costello.

  14. There was a swing to Labor in the state seat of Monaro last N.S.W election. I recall Steve Whan the local MP being interviewed on the ABC that night, referring to the ALP winning areas like Cooma for the first time ever.
    The hacks at the ABC should stop believing all the shit emanating from the Howard dirt unit, otherwise known as Crosby/Textor.

  15. Oh I don’t know… I’d be happy enough for John Howard to leave now and never be seen again. Australia needs to move on from this man.

  16. [The Liberal Party had the chance to save their skins, or at least minimise the loss, but as predicted, they were wimps once again! ]

    I’m not so sure. I think Howard is the best person to minimise the loss, provided he campaigns to minimise the loss, and not win. I think Costello would’ve had no chance to minimise the loss.

  17. Gosh, Howard must really have some good dirt on his ministers to keep them so submissive. Even so, I don’t think is quite over just yet.

    Despite it all, it seems that some are spinning the final outcome as evidence of Howard being a strong, courageous, and resilient leader. Yeah, right. Another way of putting it is this man is absolutely addicted to power. He will destroy anything and anyone who stands between him and his vice-like grip on the Prime Ministership, including the country’s best interests. This has got to be one of the darkest periods in this country’s history.

    On another note, I too don’t expect Newspoll to show a further deterioration in the government’s vote, but if it shows a result any higher than 57-43, then the panic in the government will shift to a whole new level, and who knows what might happen then. The Liberals have always been much more vicious and self-destructive than Labor when the smell of political death is in the air.

  18. Just ckecking the betting as posted by Aristo, and answering a question by a previous poster, yes, the market does favour the incumbancy (read – is chicken of the incumbancy). Could you imagine what the betting would be like if the polls were reversed?

    What about costello, his weakness has no bounds. He would have a better chance challenging for the lead role in Swan Lake! LOL

    As for his best mate Howard, he couldn’t give a stuff about the party or the country. It’s all about Howard himself. So when is the best time for him to bow out? December 1 when it makes his history as PM exactly 11.75 months. Nothing else matters to him.

  19. Kilgore: Smell that? You smell that?
    Lance: What?
    Kilgore: Burning Rodent, son. Nothing in the world smells like that.
    [kneels]
    Kilgore: I love the smell of Burning Rodent in the morning. You know, one time we had the hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ neocon body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like… victory. Someday this war’s gonna end…
    [Kilgore unhappily walks off]

  20. The Libs will now go into this election paralysed with unresolved leadership issues, no plan for the future and the odium of yesterday’s policy disasters (such as Workchoices) dragging them down.

    A massive Labor landslide is now more-or-less inevitable, with the size of the swing likley to set a new National record.

    Oh happy day. Thank you, John Howard.

  21. “i will stay as long as Jeanette wants me to..”
    She does seem rather attached to the harbour front real-estate doesn’t she? Perhaps we could calculate the accumulated value of ten years residence at Kirribili and deduct it from Howard’s retiring super payout. It would save us all a fortune.

    Cabinet’s weakness in avoiding this issue does not surprise me in the least. The kiss-up/kick-down mindset of most of them does not leave much space for courage. The only one that I saw speak with any conviction over the last few days was Mal Brough, and in his marginal seat, I dare say his fate is already sealed anyway.

  22. They would have got a honeymoon period with Costello in the top job, at least for a few weeks.
    Who knows? Costello might actually have given Rudd a run for his money.
    Labor will be thrilled with the outcome: Rudd is going to wallop the rodent.
    Evan: mate, bring on the landslide and get the alcohol flowing!

  23. Crosby/Textor calling Eden-Monaro for the government, together with a possible Bendigo.

    Neil Brown and John Hewson predicting a narrow Howard win. Maybe it is still up in the air. After all Howard has the election campaign to throw everything including the kitchen sink at Rudd.

    Howard is right about the leadership, Costello doesn’t have enough mongrel in him. This is not a problem for JWH.

  24. I’ve been wondering if part of the problem for the Libs is that for the over-whelming bulk of curent members, Howard is the only leader they have ever known. This may well be why the backbench has been so quiet over the last week (Tuckey aside). They will have to kill Daddy to move on from here, and I just can’t see it happening, especially when there’s no clear vote-winning alternative on offer.

    I think it was Adam who made the point that while Howard has managed to attract a number of good “local” candidates (Kelly, Vaile, Farmer etc), they are duds when it comes to the hard yards of politics. They’ve really got no idea what’s going on at the moment. Labor may be full of unionists, but at least a career in the union movement does prepare someone for the slings and arraows of politics.

    Annabel Crabbe wrote an hilarious column this morning, which basically stated that at least Labor knows how to knife people efficiently. I particularly liked her her “giggling schoolgirls poking at a snake” analogy.
    http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/art-of-the-leadership-spill/2007/09/11/1189276720479.html

  25. [What about costello, his weakness has no bounds. He would have a better chance challenging for the lead role in Swan Lake! LOL]

    Costello knows if he challenges and wins it wouldn’t be by much. This would just demonstrate division, which would reduce his chances of winning from 10% to about 1%. Yet it is just very funny that this gutless guy who gets a bit tipsy with journalists talking about how he is going to smoke Howard out never had the guts to do it. Rudd and Gillard had the ability to do the dirty work on Beazley because they felt they had a better chance. They showed leadership, Costello has a history of being rolled.

  26. If the coalition do another backflip of monumental proportions and get rid of workchoices, the electorate should not be fooled, as they will claim a mandate to implement their true IR policies. As Howard has said himself, the people have known him long enough to know what he stands for.

  27. Momentum is a big thing in politics. All candidates want to be portrayed as the underdog, in this election it will be impossible for Rudd to do this.

    Howard standing firm followed by a 1 or 2% swing to the coalition could be the start of the momentum thing. If there is that swing back then you would expect each of the polsters to show it creating headlines like

    Howard improves on announcement to fight next election
    Coalition up but still a long way to go
    Poll confirms move back to coalition
    Coalition fights back, on {insert something} policy announcement
    etc

  28. The bits of the Costello announcement I saw seemed particularly graceless, I thought. I can’t say I’m surprised. The man has been completely de-balled from 10+ years of playing loyal deputy.

    I pity whoever it is that has to tell Janette she has to move, post-election. They’ll have to drag her out of Kirribilli by force.

  29. Tip had his chance. He could of moved 6 months ago, if he lost go to the back bench and start rumbling from there, i.e. like Keating did. Why is it that the PM and Treasurer start off as good mates and then become bitter enemies (Hawke/Keating, Howard/Costello)? Is it the PM taking credit for all the Treasurer ideas or what?

  30. [All candidates want to be portrayed as the underdog, in this election it will be impossible for Rudd to do this.]

    True, and with Howard still leading the Libs I don’t think Labor are going to win by some huge margin. If they win it will be by about 12 – 18 seats, which is a nice turn around from being behind by 16. But I don’t think they will get 100+ with Howard still leader, and with the expectation Labor is going to win.

    I don’t think voters will want to hand such a land slide win to Labor.

  31. SH

    “I think Howard is the best person to minimise the loss, provided he campaigns to minimise the loss, and not win.”

    That’s the big question. Howard has played hard for the win this year – it has not worked.

    From here, the go for the win strategy would be an uber-negative one. From this point it has a slim chance and runs the risk of record labor 2pp. The firewall strategy would be a mix of negtives and a positive set of forward looking annoucements.

  32. ifonly raises some good points, and it is likely that the power brokers in the Liberal Party are probably thinking the same way.

    Who knows, some people might be impressed by Howard’s toughness or feel sorry for him, and we might see a small swing back.

    But the events of the last day or so are possibly also going to leave a lingering aftertaste which will become harder and harder to eradicate as the election day approaches.

    The whole idea that Howard and his team are the safe option in troubled times has surely now been seriously dented. Whereas Rudd is singlehandedly charming the pants off the Chinese leader, Howard is talking in belligerent and threatening terms to his parliamentary colleagues in front of a somewhat bewildered Canadian PM. This is an image which could well have an almost subliminal impact on the minds of the electorate in creating the idea that it is now the Libs, rather than Labor, who are volatile and risky.

    Not a good look.

  33. ifonly, you only want to be seen as the underdog when it is a close contest. If you are seen as an underdog with no chance then voters are mor likely to put you out of your misery than elect you.

  34. Has it been announced that Costello will take over the leadership at some point if Howard does win??? And if so, shouldn’t the pollsters bracket Howard/Costello when asking the question of preferred PM???

  35. [That’s the big question. Howard has played hard for the win this year – it has not worked.]

    I guess we will start to see what he is actually thinking based on which electorates he visits when the campaign proper starts. 😛

    I just think deep down Howard will eventually come to a realisation that he needs to keep the result close so the Liberals aren’t automatically out for 2 or 3 terms.

    According to the Fairfax press Nick Minchin, usually a supporter of Howard, was one in the cabinet that thought Howard should go. Being a leader of the Right, Minchin, more so than Howard, is probably thinking about the best interests of the Liberals, and not just Howard’s position in the history of Australian P.M.s

  36. [Has it been announced that Costello will take over the leadership at some point if Howard does win??? And if so, shouldn’t the pollsters bracket Howard/Costello when asking the question of preferred PM???]

    If I were the Liberals this is what I would do. I would force Howard to announce “If I win the election, I will retire within the first year of the new government.” If he doesn’t do that, this leadership speculation will be on going.

  37. Will, have Howard and Costello ever been close? It seems to me that it was initially a relationship of convenience (I’ll take leader, you take deputy, then I promise I’ll let you have a go later).

  38. Simon #16

    Although Costello is not favoured for the leadership role, if he took over there would be a new dynamic. A chance to re-badge and renew. One of the problems is that noone is listening to Howard any more. They know that when he talk you get lies and dissembling. Inventing a new look younger lib team with plans for the future would give them a boost, and might be enough to stem the tide. Incumbency, and voters’ natural conservatism plus fear of the new would be enough to get them across the line.

    But they’re like that drowning egyptian guy, they’re in de-Nile.

  39. There’s not much evidence of an “underdog effect” in Australian politics. The landslide wins by Fraser, Bjelke-Petersen, Hawke, Wran, Kennett, Beattie, Bracks, Rann were not mitigated by any sympathy for the losing party. Rather there is more of a “bandwaggon effect.” I think if the punters really want to slaughter the Libs this time, they will do so, without and concern that Rudd will have too many seats.

  40. This is Christian Kerr in Crikey:

    “The issue has been handled abysmally by Cabinet members. Cabinet members who used to like to talk of ticker tests. It’s also been handled abysmally by the Prime Minister. Why did he ask for soundings if he had no intention of acting on them?”

    Exactly. Bizarre.

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