Phoney war dispatches: what the papers say

Michael Bachelard of The Age reports the blue-ribbon Melbourne seats of Kooyong (9.8 per cent) and Goldstein (10.0 per cent) are in danger of falling “because John Howard has refused to move aside”. This is according to a “senior Liberal figure” who desribes the Prime Minister’s new position on the leadership as a “catastrophe” driven by “selfishness”, and believes “next Tuesday’s Newspoll should be a catalyst for a change”. Elsewhere in Victoria, Deakin (5.0 per cent), McMillan (5.0 per cent), Corangamite (5.3 per cent), La Trobe (5.8 per cent) and McEwen (6.4 per cent) are rated “almost certain to go”, while Dunkley (9.4 per cent) and
Flinders (11.1 per cent) are “also under pressure”.

Simon Benson of the Daily Telegraph reports that Labor polling in 10 New South Wales marginals pointed to swings of between 8 and 12 per cent, which was deemed so implausible it was redone – “only to return the same results”. The report also confirms no effort will be made to win seats from Labor, and says the Liberals have “started polling the blue-ribbon seat of North Sydney because of fears Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey could fall” (although similar noises could be heard during the 2004 campaign).

• Steve Lewis of The Australian reckons the Prime Minister’s announcement that he will hand over the reins to Peter Costello in an increasingly hypothetical next term of government amounts to him “sacrificing his own seat to save the Coalition”, since it will enable Maxine McKew to point to the certainty of a mid-term by-election. Significantly, the Prime Minister is now promising to serve a full term as member for Bennelong if the government is returned.

Michael McKenna of The Australian reports that Moreton MP Gary Hardgrave “appears to have misled federal parliament” over the AFP’s inquiries into the “phantom staffer” and “printgate” affairs. An AFP spokesman is quoted saying a formal interview was requested with Hardgrave, which appears at odds with his statement in parliament on August 7: “I have not even been required for an interview by the AFP in the five-and-a-half months since this matter began”.

• Focus group sessions conducted by the Sydney Morning Herald, as reported by Peter Hartcher and Annabel Crabb, provide many pages of grim reading for the government and its supporters.

• Malcolm Mackerras tells the Canberra Times that the Greens’ Senate candidate in the ACT, former MLA Kerrie Tucker, is a “50-50” chance to lead the party to an unprecedented Senate win at the expense of Liberal incumbent Gary Humphries.

• Venturing slightly off topic, Sean Parnell of The Australian reports from Queensland that “senior conservatives fear Anna Bligh will use a state electoral redistribution late next year as the trigger for an early election, consigning an ill-prepared Coalition to another three years in Opposition”.

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.

319 comments on “Phoney war dispatches: what the papers say”

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  1. Howard can make the same argument! If the parties figures were the same as his they wouldn’t be in the trouble they are [just a pleasant thrashing instead of a soft landslide]

    Morgan Poll in Bennelong 53 / 47
    Primaries 45.5 / 42.5
    Sample size 472
    35% say Howard should retire now
    54% say Howard should stay

    Galaxy must be pissed

  2. “…the poll also finds Bennelong electors would be less likely to vote Liberal if Peter Costello were leader. But more than one in three voters in his seat think Mr Howard should retire now.”

    No win situation for Howard and the Govt. If he goes it might be worse, if he stays they will still lose. Dark days await, will they call in the Sopranos to deal with Rudd?

  3. Matt Price’s latest piece:

    “DEAR me, this is going to be excruciating.

    Less than a week into the Coalition’s convoluted dual-PM regime, it’s clear the concept of John Howard sharing power with anybody (bar, possibly, Janette) doesn’t rest naturally with senior Liberals.

    Peter Costello ventured into the Sunday morning TV jungle yesterday and managed to emerge intact – no small thing given the Government’s peculiar travails.

    Costello, L2, plainly wants Howard’s job – even at this late stage when all that appears to be on offer is a footnote in the history texts and fatherhood of an electoral thumping.

    Rumours that last week’s crank coup against L1 might be reprised were comprehensively denounced by Joe Hockey as “complete rubbish, absolute rubbish”. Howard, too, ruled out any prospect of stepping down should this Tuesday’s Newspoll contain even more political arsenic than the last.

    But invited by the Nine Network’s Laurie Oakes to unequivocally rule out getting rid of his elderly sidekick, L2 reverted to gibberish. “The position today is the same as it was last week, the same as it was the year before,” Costello told Sunday. “We had the discussion about these matters last year; he asked me to be part of his team in this election. I will be.”

    Whether voters like it or not, they’re going to learn an awful lot about the rudimentary workings of Australian democracy over the next few months. With L1 on the nose and L2 gagging to take over, once comfortable certainties are changing before our eyes.

    It seems only last month that everyone in the land knew the Coalition was run by L1. Indeed, it’s only last week Howard turned his cabinet – and, quite possibly, his Government – into a quivering wreck by rejecting the suggestion that he quit.

    Now Costello can barely mention the PM’s name without reminding everyone L1 is supported by L2, ministers, backbenchers, candidates, department heads, party hacks, parliamentary clerks, bodyguards, Comcar drivers, the Kirribilli catering staff and the bloke who’s been cutting Howard’s hair for 30 years.

    These days poor old L1 can’t be relied upon to do anything by himself, especially the centrepiece campaign speech.

    “I will be putting forward ideas but the policy speech and the policies are, in fact, at the end of the day determined by the cabinet,” L2 told Oakes. “I will have a role as part of that cabinet team, as all cabinet ministers will.” Perhaps L1 will get a word in, too.

    Meanwhile Kevin Rudd, continuing his audacious but so far astonishingly successful strategy of running the country without bothering to wait for the election, declared the campaign officially open on the weekend.

    Resisting the urge to prorogue parliament, visit the Governor-General and issue formal writs, L3 travelled instead to western Sydney to declare Australia the greatest place on earth. If you think that’s true now, imagine life under Labor when rental and mortgage payments dive, the cost of petrol and groceries is slashed, education is free, the drought ends and people stop gambling.

    Rudd also launched Labor’s official campaign slogan – New Leadership. Spookily that’s expected to be the unofficial theme of tomorrow’s Liberal partyroom meeting if Newspoll goes to pot. “

  4. Kina 300: I think you missed the real story about Howard’s boast that his popularity was OK – it was only the Liberal Party’s that was the problem.

    It’s further evidence that Steven Kaye is busy working at Liberal H/Q. That phrase, “… 50% popularity is quite remarkable after eleven and a half years…” is vintage Kaye, often reiterated in these posts.

    When we combine that with the adjustments to the polling figures for Eden-Monaro … I ask you, can there be any doubt why he is now too busy to post here?

  5. More “Welfare Reforms” from Shrek targetting “Coastal Bludgers”

    [Font Size: Decrease Increase Print Page: Print Patricia Karvelas, Political correspondent | September 17, 2007
    A FRESH round of welfare reform will be unveiled by the Howard Government in an effort to break high levels of unemployment in coastal areas.

    As John Howard puts the promise of full employment at the centre of his re-election campaign, the Government is considering tightening welfare rules and forcing people to work for the dole earlier.

    The policy is part of the Government’s attempt to construct a policy vision focused on the future after senior ministers acknowledged it had been concentrating on past achievements.

    Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey said yesterday there were areas near beaches with “stubbornly high levels” of unemployment, and welfare rules had to be toughened to force people into jobs. “There’s the capacity for targeted initiatives in high unemployment areas,” Mr Hockey told The Australian.

    “There are pockets of unemployment. There is an unfortunate tendency for unemployment to be higher in warm coastal seats – it is still stubbornly high in southern areas of NSW, the south coast of NSW and around Wollongong.”

    Mr Hockey said he was appalled to find that in coastal areas, business owners were desperate to find workers while unemployment stood at staggeringly high levels.

    “I got very frustrated going to Lismore recently where small businesses were complaining they couldn’t get workers. And the unemployment rate is still reasonably high there,” he said.

    “I’m talking about where unemployment remains stubbornly high – I think there’s more that can be done there.” ],25197,22429738-601,00.html

  6. The ‘welfare-to-work’ reforms are already biting. My sister, 50, single mother, cannot find work in her qualified field (librarianship). She is now cleaning houses. It’s flexible, but minimum pay. It is structured so that she is entitled to no leave, super and scariest of all, no workers compensation cover.

    She is told by Centrelink that due to some kind of policy oversight, she has to work 52 weeks a year. Only if she is an employee is she ‘entitled’ to a few weeks off to be with her daughter the way other people have holidays. As ‘self-employed’ (a legal fiction) she has to maintain the necessary hours on a fortnightly basis the whole year, or revert to job-seeking status (ie reject rostered work and risk falling off the roster) or be breached.

  7. Looks like the Medicare Levy is under review. Seems someone in the Treasury has leaked the fact they have been asked to review the figures.

    This has been the worst tax around, its threshold hasn’t been increased in 10 years but the median wages has increased over 20K in that time.

    The interesting part is this:
    “It was unclear whether the Treasury review was being done with a view to changing the policy or to provide ammunition against Labor’s criticism of it.”,23636,22430219-31037,00.html

  8. Judging by the Bennelong poll breakdowns, some of the people who want Howard to “stay” do not inted to vote for him. I wonder if these are the same people who tell a pollster that “the country is heading in the right direction”, and mean they’re happy that Labor looks like winning the election.

    And if there’s been a 7% swing in Bennelong, and more than half the voters still want Howard to stay, what does that suggest agaout swings in other Sydney seats? Without the appeal of an incumbent Prime Minister, you would have to think that other seats nearby may swing more. There may be something in the suggestions that North Sydney isn’t entirely safe for Hockey. And while I’ve always felt that Turnbull had a better chance of retaining Wentworth that Howard did of retaining Beennelong, Turnbull must still be very worried.

    The other thing, which I’d be interested in getting people’s views on, is why is NSW swinging so much? The State Government isn’t very popular, and it’s howard’s home state. I can only think that housing affordibility is biting harder there than elsewhere. And perhaps child care – is it harder to get/afford a child care place in NSW than elsewhere? Or is health a bigger issue in NSW than elsewhere (except perhaps Qld)? Certainly the recent Eden Monaro poll was a hint that health is a bigger issue than most commentators think.

  9. I don’t think November 3rd will be the election date, for the simple reason it’s Melbourne Cup weekend. I don’t think elections are ever held on public holiday weekends. But perhaps the rodent is hoping that everyone will be too drunk to vote.

  10. he’ll be the first born and bred Queenslander to lead his own administration.

    Assuming that the latter qualification excludes Frank Forde, there is still the 40 day reign of Artie Fadden.

  11. Maybe the pollys will catch on soon. Labor voters are indicating their vote for labor but also trying to keep Howard in so we can kick him in the goolies. I expect a poll to soon show a TPP of 100% 0% with 100% satisfaction rating for Howard. =:)

    This sort of like holding a man down while someone kicks him. Sorry John but it is your medicine prescribed by the doctor, Dr Democracy.

  12. The next big poll is the Newspoll on Tuesday and it’s “Sydney to a brick” that the TPP for the ALP will have a 6 in front following this weeks debacle.

    Much as I would love to agree with this thesis, if it is the case that most people have already decided and parked their preferences, then there is no reason to think that they will be paying any more attention to Liberal woes than they have to any of Rudd’s ‘scandals’.

  13. The Irony of Costello is he has two big weapoans which would help to make him electable lets call them the two “T”

    Tim and Tanya.

    A question to Adam, while its been 30 years since St Kilda has voted Liberal.

    But how would the voters of St Kilda or the rest of Melbourne Ports react to a letter from a Tim Costello (former local mayor) saying my brother is a great bloke?

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