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”

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  1. There is a real risk for Howard even talking about the future. I think it is another one of those issues/talking points that is owned by Labor, and especially Rudd. When Howard talks about the future, just like when he talks about climate change or WorkChoices, he reminds people why they shouldn’t vote for him, in this case, simply because nobody believes that he is part of the future.

    But it is a brilliant double bind. People are demanding vision. They want longer term plans and yet these are things that Howard cannot offer.

    In the end, ALL that Howard can offer is FEAR. It is his trademark. It is all that he has ever campaigned on and the only thing that people now expect him to campaign on.

    And yet, I suspect that the majority of people are completely sick of being scared all the time and are instead looking for hope, especially after having their financial futures (and/or that of their children/grandchildren) threatened by the government’s WorkChoices.

    What a great Catch-22…

  2. 191,

    “… sympathy for Howard’s plight …. ”

    Labor won’t have any sympathy for him. Libs won’t have any sympathy for him either unless they are died in the wool libs. He only looks out for himself and someone like that who brings bad karma into the universe will reap what he sows. He is starting to reap it already and he hasn’t even called the election yet 😉

  3. julie, i am so tempted to start counting the chickens, but, but, but….oh what the hell…one minister, two, three ministers, four, a prime minister and a senate majority…and still counting…five ministers, six…the anticipation is half the pleasure, they say….

  4. As Jeff Kennett apparently said somewhere today, Costello just didn’t have the numbers. No point challenging if you won’t win a challenge – it just destabilises the party further, and destroys any semblance of a leadership “team”.

    There’s certainly an argument that Costello should have had the courage to “do a Keating” early and made a challenge, then retired to the backbench and awaited the moment for a second, more successful challenge. But this close to an election, a challenge would need to be won first time.

    Hawke was not in as deep shit as Howard when Labor dumped him, despite him having won a string of elections. And Hayden was dumped when he had a genuine chance of beating Fraser. Labor just wanted to make sure it made the best of a winning opportunity. I remain very surprised that the Libs have not done this. I would doubt that Costello is less popular now than Keating was as Treasurer. No-one likes the bloke in charge of tax and debt. But it’s easy to transform when you have the whole range of government activities to preside over, and I’m sure Costello would be capable of producing some sort of coherent plan to the electorate. God knows he’s had enough time to draw it up.

    The Chaser should be fun tonight…

  5. Downer stated last night on 7.30 report “yes, costello was involved in meetings during the week”.

    Costello says today “John Howard asked for his Cabinet colleagues to be canvassed and for their views to be reported to him, which happened.” he said.

    The meetings didn’t involve me and I didn’t know they were taking place.”

    Howard states yesterday “He also moved to head off continued talk of an 11th-hour leadership change, begging colleagues to stick by him as leader or risk losing the election.”

    Howard states today “he had authorised senior ministers to discuss his possible replacement before the election.” (

    Gee, what a portrait of a political party. Hope K O’B interviews Howard and asks who is wrong here??


  6. And on Howard’s plan for the future…why, he can promise anything he wants! He’s got plenty of money, and so what if interest rates might rise again? If he loses, it’s Rudd’s problem. If he wins, he can then retire after a year and make it Costello’s problem (or Turnbull’s, or Abbott’s).

    Expect promises of big tax cuts, or better still, loads of one-off handouts, like he gave senior citizens in the budget. What about $1000 for each university student as some sort of allowance? When you’re eating lentils and drinking cask wine, how could you resist? How about a few thousand bucks for every mother, rather than long-term improvements to child care? Another increase in the first home buyer’s payment (even if it will push house prices up further)? Get the Crazy Warehouse Guy to authorise the ads.

    And I noticed today that Peter McGauran said the government wwould consider further assistance to the pork industry! (true) Start oinking now, everybody.

  7. Actually it wouldn’t surprise me if Rudd PM threw Howard a bone after a year or two (maybe to London or something so he can watch the cricket regularly). I think Rudd sees a bit in that “Third Way” of politics and he’ll probably see advantage in seeing to be including the other side in things. Don’t forget, Beattie ended up forgiving Joh, and Rudd probably isn’t as a good a hater as some in the ALP.

    However, in the event of a big loss, it’s more than possible that Howard will turn into a bitter old man. The scenarios for his post-PM persona are fascinating, as it is for most former PMs. We don’t really have a role for them (UK has the House of Lords, for example, and Americans have their Presidential Libraries to build – clearly the best children’s library in all of Texas in W’s case), and our surviving PMs have had mixed success in the role. Gough has enough of a mythic (and martyr) status to ensure his place, but Fraser had to work hard to rehabilitate himself through humanitarian work. Hawke was frankly embarrassing for the first few years, but by now has just about reclaimed his place in history, while Keating did what should be done, which was to basically keep out of sight for about 5 years, and then popping up occasionally and throw a few bombs.

    But what will Howard do? No doubt he’ll write his memoirs, but I wonder what sort of public image he’ll have in years to come?

  8. According to the TV news Howard says he won’t stay for a full term but will stay long enough to complete his agenda, what ever that means. So voters in Bennelong are going to be confused about whether he is staying or not. So now he’s got an “agenda” that God or someone has told him that he has to fulfill for the sake of all us mere mortals.

  9. This election feels like my last pregnancy :
    overdue and you start to believe it is never going to happen despite all the evidence to the contrary. Then when the labour starts it completely catches you unawares even though it is the only thing that has been on your mind for the previous 9 months.
    And the analogy goes on…. despite all the pain, new life etc etc….

  10. #120 Rupert, neither the odds nor the polling have been moving backwards and forwards as you claim. Nor have they been volatile as the PM recently suggested. The money has been all one way and the polls have been telling us the same thing all year.

  11. #
    alpal Says:
    September 12th, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    … Private polling in Latrobe over the past two months has the ALP 2pp at a consistent 56/57.

    That’s a swing of around 12%, which is obviously huge, and even greater than the current national swing as indicated by the polls of around 10%. Who says the ALp couldn’t gain ground in Victoria?

  12. Anthony Llewellyn, Kevin Rudd would do well to stay right out of this. He may make a few noises about stability and divided parties and inability to govern oneself etc but it would be crazy to actually offer advice as to who should be the current PM!
    I don’t believe for one minute that Janet Albrechtsen was urged to write that article by John Howard. Too fanciful. She believed as do other conservative commentators that the Coalition cannot win with John Howard still there. They’ve all been done in. They were probably led to believe by the Costello forces that he would be installed.
    I also don’t believe that John Howard initiated the enquiries about his leadership. John Howard is a consummate liar after all.
    Next someone will say he leaked to Sky TV!
    The latest betting odds say it all.
    So John Howard is not staying his full term. Then why vote for him?
    Who are conservatives actually voting for?
    Another good reason to go with the conservative Kevin Rudd.
    Also a good reason to vote for a local member who intends staying around to represent her constituents.

  13. I think the Labor supporters need to take a cold shower be happy that you are ahead by so much but dont let it get to your heads just yet…dont forget if you think its all over now and the ALP does win it wont be as sweet if you wait until election day to call it…anyway you would still be naive to call the election now but 95% of you have done so already…

  14. [I think the Labor supporters need to take a cold shower be happy that you are ahead by so much but dont let it get to your heads just yet…dont forget if you think its all over now and the ALP does win it wont be as sweet if you wait until election day to call it…anyway you would still be naive to call the election now but 95% of you have done so already…]

    I won’t be calling it until after Antony Green calls it.

    Glen, if you watched any parliament coverage today you’ve got to admit it looks and sounds like a government that is on the way out.

  15. Glen and Rupert, I challenge you to lay a thousand dollar bet each on the Coalition to win the election. You may win over two thousand dollars each and you could buy a very good bottle of Grange for that. But then, you may lose your money…

  16. Turning bitter and playing the man now Rupert? That’s very sad. you really must know you’re heading for a pasting at the polls.

    BTW Rupert I’m gainfully and happily self-employed. Yes that’s right, a small business owner that votes Labor and detests Workchoices.

  17. For the record I bet on Labor when the odds favoured the Coalition. I got very good odds. I also got very good odds on the seat of Richmond just after betting opened on this seat.

  18. Besides… what’s wrong with being a public sector employee or unemployed? The unemployed have just as much of a right to an opinion as anyone else. Their opinions are just as valid as anyone elses too.

    Typical of the arrogance shown by Liberal Party supporters. What, the only valid opinions are of people employed in the private sector? I suppose when the polls are this bad you have to blame it on someone don’t you? Must make it easier on yourselves to blame the unemployed and public sector employees.

  19. Rupert, I was unaware that we had unemployed people these days. Don’t we have full employment? I’m sure John Howard said that was his policy. Goodness me, he must have been lying.

  20. Question time today and the same tired questions from backbenchers to ministers.

    “Will the minister tell us how good the government is and are there any alternative policies”

    Same ruling on questions not being answered by the government

    “There is no point of order”

    Sums up the goverments attitude. We are gods, the opposition is stupid and we answer to no one.

    I will sleep better knowing I will get a chance to vote Howard out, but I still worry about the massive buying power he has with the surplus he has the keys too. Regardless of the polls, the Australian people are easily bought and Howard has a lot of money to throw at them. I won’t believe that he’s gone until election night and he’s standing at the sheraton wentworth conceding. I think everyone is getting carried away.

  21. Glen – welcome back! I was worried the events of the last few days had finally broken you. Good to see that you are as resilient as our PM.

    I’m interested hear how you saw the whole leadership non-contest. You’d have to admit it’s not a good look for a government heading into an election. The only winner out of this whole fiasco is Rudd, who hasn’t had to do a thing. Why do you think the government is starting to implode?

    I think you’re right to caution us Labor voters against getting carried away. The election itself is still some weeks off, quite possibly at late as December, and anything could happen (out of left field I mean) to change the dynamic. But it’s really getting hard to see what that could be. The eight months of shocking polling looks to something of a self-fulfilling prophesy, and as the government falls apart (or at least flails around), the prospect of an electoral wipe out becomes ever more vivid.

    I must say, this has been the most compelling election for years!

  22. Sideline Eye Said:

    [I always thought of John Howard as a 1958 Morris Minor type of man.]

    Nah, cross between a Trabant, a WW2 Italian tank and an Edsel. Trabbie engine with smoke and mirrors, 8 reverse gears in a shining piece of crap with an 11 year waiting list…

    (before you can bury it)

  23. Each Poll that comes must now be a day of high fear for the Howard Cabinet.

    John Howard’s WorkChoices is failed old thinking and belongs to late 18th Century England as does he. AND since the countries with the highest standard of living in the world also have the highest rate of union membership we have to wonder why Howard was/is so maniacal about WorkChoices. Something to do with his hatred of anyone not rich, powerful, big business owner or maybe because big business own his soul? Or a misbegotten elitist ideology?

    WorkChoices policy outmoded: leading economist
    Professor Richard Freeman of Harvard University
    “WorkChoices is a law that is based on thinking from 20-odd years ago that has proven not to be valid.”

  24. Richard Jones Says:
    September 12th, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    “I also don’t believe that John Howard initiated the enquiries about his leadership. John Howard is a consummate liar after all.”

    I agree, Richard. I think these meetings went on behind his back, while he was busy with APEC. The story today, is to try to limit the damage of Ministers working behind the scenes to get rid of the leader. So Howard says he sanctioned it.

  25. Oh dear, Gary HArdgrave may be in more strife.

    [A FEDERAL Liberal MP who attacked the integrity of the Australian Federal Police may face an inquiry into whether he abused parliamentary privilege.

    Gary Hardgrave was cleared yesterday of rorting his electoral allowances, but attacked the police investigation into him and suggested it was politically motivated.

    Mr Hardgrave claimed that Sharon Cowden, the officer in charge of the investigation, had engaged in a conspiracy against him with Queensland Government ministers.

    He said Agent Cowden was a Labor Party member and estranged wife of incoming Deputy Premier Paul Lucas.

    Labor today called on Prime Minister John Howard to pull his backbencher into line for his attack on the AFP. ],21598,22407046-5005361,00.html

  26. Yes Kina (226), I agree re WorkChoices – it’s the single biggest issue in the campaign. What the Right don’t understand is that people HATE WCs. They don’t really understand it, but they know there’s nothing in it for them. WCs was the catalyst for the government’s current malaise, the issue that turned the marginals against it – don’t forget, Labor was mostly in front all of 2006 too. Six months later, Labor turned to Rudd, and suddenly the last reason not to vote ALP – an unelectable leader – was gone. From there, the planets have lined up against the government, and every issue that’s running out there is playing the Labor’s strengths. Throw in the fact that Howard has stayed on too long, and it’s not such a mystery why the polls are as they are.

    The thing is with WorkChoices, this issue still has some way to go, even if Labor win the election. Will they block Labor’s changes in the Senate? (Will they be able to?). And how will they cope with the issue in future elections? Labor will be able to run a pretty good scare campaign in the next few. The problem for the Libs is that they basically believe in principles underpinning WCs, and suddenly these ideas will have been publically, and emphatically, repudiated. Some tough times ahead for the Right, both electorally and philosophically.

  27. Howard spending like there’s no tomorrow will completely destroy his economic credentials, and voters will be completely cynical. There are only two things that can possibly save him now:

    1. A huge terrorist attack; this might not necessarily work as people may blame Howard for the Iraq business.

    2. Rudd completely blowing it, by announcing a major policy that is obviously dumb, and thus calls into question his very competence.

  28. Howard: ” What matters is that the party has decided they want me to stay “.

    I think what they really decided is that they didn’t want a brawl and took the line of least resistance.

  29. Aristotle & Richard Jones, Whether or not he instigated the enquiries & meetings, either way it looks bad. Either the majority of his parliamentary party wanted him to go away and he said ‘no way’, or they are such a bunch of self deluded wimps and deceivers, why would you want this lot anyway. The feedback on local ABC radio (Melbourne) today has been overwhelmingly, the latter. BTW, Kerry O’Brien is giving him a pasting on 7.30. He’s just unbelievable, putting out this stuff about how they’re competitive in Eden-Monaro, and other marginals. It appears he really does think we’re all dumb or he’s believing his own lies. I think the latter.

  30. Most of the ALP tragics on this site would be the underemployed in various spheres of government, and the unemployed.
    Rupert 210

    Desperate and pathetic smear tactics.

  31. Two immediate reflections on watching Howard being interviewed by O’Brien. One, his advisors read and they’ve picked up on the Bracks/Beattie quitting before time thing. And two, by Christ he looks old. He’s aged a decade since Sunday afternoon.

  32. If Howard says he ‘has a lot of things he wants to do’, then what are they?

    a) Scrap Medicare (or only make it for the old)
    b) WorkChoices II
    c) A poll tax

    If he didn’t take the advantage of the last 2 yrs with a Senate majority, then we could be in for a rocky ride.

    Only after they’re entrenched will he retire.

  33. Goodness me… Bennelong might not need a by-election if Howard (and his government) are returned as he might sit out his term after handing over the leadership!

  34. James J [242]: “John Howard has just said ono the 7.30 Report that he will likely retire in his next term.”

    Why would anyone believe this, or anything else he says for that matter?

  35. Howard was absolutely terrible on the 7.30 Report.
    Won’t stay the full term.At the election we will be voting for Costello as PM.These guys have lost it!

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