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. Scorpio #239, I adore Keating, as do many other latte sippers like me who read the letters page of the SMH every day in the vain hope that he’ll make an appearance, but people just did not like him. They appreciated his wit and his intelligence, but I think it will only be his true believers and the historians who look kindly upon him. He did all the hard work in the 80s but his prime ministership will always be remembered for its hardships, even if the worst of them were over by 1993. I’m a staunch Labor voter but I still remember my mum having to work three jobs – including one as a full-time school teacher – to pay our mortgage.

    That said, it has come as an enormous surprise to me that Keating is finally being defended. The strange thing is that Hawke never has been. Only politically aware people of my generation remember him fondly as we were too young to vote, but the majority of the Australian voting population is not of my generation. Hawke’s record was fantastic, as far as I remember. Roll out old Silver, I say.

  2. And another thing.

    A couple of threads back, some people commented on the way the Chaser took the piss out of Kevin, the first time this had happened

    I had dinner with my parents the other night, parents who are 60-70 years aof age, and all they could talk about was the way kevin Rein seemed to suck up to cameras.

    “licking his lips all the time” said my mum

    “made sluping noises as he liked his lips” said my step-farther

    There is something here, but whether it comes to to the fore before the election is another thing

  3. [I know he does well in parliament where he can work himself up into a lather with sledging and put downs and his scripted data, it is good, but he does look slow outside that place.]

    He has had nothing interesting to say! He talks a bit about “social inclusion” which ironically is straight out of the Mark Latham 1998 playbook. He talks about poker machines and taxes being bad, but is there anyone who thinks these things are good, or desirable for their own sake? Outside of parliament he is a policy simpleton who doesn’t have an agenda of his own, this is probably what stops him from challenging Howard, he doesn’t know what he would do if he won.

  4. Agree Jen. I don’t think he has enough time.

    But people would at least look at Costello and listen to what he has to say. It always happens for a new leader.

    This is why the ALP are baiting the PM about an election date. They want it called now. Fair enough too, you can’t blame them.

  5. 239 Scorpio Says: September 16th, 2007 at 9:56 pm

    I believe that Keating was the victim of a long, concerted effort by both the Murdoch Press and kerry Packer to undermine and demonise him, and it worked.

    I’m voting for the ALP this election, so don’t get me wrong…

    But I also remember the damage that Keating did in the 1993 election. Ever since then, and because of that election, no opposition will ever take a fully costed policy to the polls. That is why, in 1996, Howard managed to get in without any real policy at all, and look at the damage that has been done.

    Keating did great good. Personally, I think the Mabo legislation was his greatest piece of policy. But his negative compaigning against Hewson had nothing to do with the media, and everything to do with scare campaigns.

    The differences between Costello and Keating are not as great as you think.

  6. [The differences between Costello and Keating are not as great as you think.]

    Keating had the guts to take down a leader who had lost popularity. That’s a very important difference.

  7. Pi,

    Thanks for the reminder about Costello’s cowardly attack on Senator Sherry. It reminds me what a smug, pathetic, arrogant pr*ck he is. And he considers himself a good Christian: he’s nothing more than a two-faced, over-hyped, self-obsessed hypocrite.

  8. Pi at #255

    {The differences between Costello and Keating are not as great as you think.}

    I think you need to elaborate a little more here for me Pi.
    If you are comparing their parliamentary performance, Costello definately comes up short.

    If you compare their Treasury performance, Costello comes up short. He never had to reconstruct a shattered economy like Keating, he never introduced any othe substantial reforms except the GST.

    He has never articulated and forward vision for Australia and tried to impliment it like Keating, and I could go on;

    Please explain.

  9. # 258 Fagin Says:

    Thanks for the reminder about Costello’s cowardly attack on Senator Sherry. It reminds me what a smug, pathetic, arrogant pr*ck he is. And he considers himself a good Christian: he’s nothing more than a two-faced, over-hyped, self-obsessed hypocrite.

    There was damage done on both sides in that little exchange. The conservatives were no more or less guilty than the ALP.

  10. I’m rusted on ALP.. I like Keating.. but when he made his “True Believers” victory speech, it turned me off. I am a True Believer, & I knew that the 93 victory was a scare campaign against a tax Keating himself had championed in the “tax summit”of ?86/87? I thought then that he was riding for a fall next election.. but I still think that he was a man of vision at least equal to Whitlam’s. The nation should be grateful to him for MABO, and for the prosperity that Costelloe has so squandered.

  11. 259 Just Me

    Scorpio gave us the link at 220.

    Tell you what, I’m gonna go buy the Bully tomorrow. I haven’t perused it for ages but they are gearing up for the election. Their website looks great but hasn’t got much in depth as yet, but I think it will prove very valuable. (I particularly like the Bull motif – lotsa bullshit’s gonna be flying around over the next eight weeks.)

  12. Re the ALP phone messages. There was a story on Stateline on Fri night (SA), about a pre recorded phone message from Maxine McKew targeting Boothby voters. They interviewed an irate Boothby voter saying “What’s she doing calling me here?” I agree, I think these recorded messages are a big turnoff.

  13. Scorpio, Keating was also responsible for oppositions never taking a policy to the poll anymore. He did great stuff (and howard gave us gun-control. His best policy), but the damage Keating did is evidenced by the person who replaced him. He’s the reason why we have howard instead of hewson. And that, I’ll always remember in concert with the good things he did.

  14. The ALP are getting a positive reception for it’s Health Care Policy by the Australian Health Care Alliance.

    {The ALP’s recent announcement about health reform aimed at reducing the blame game, removing the inefficiencies between different levels of government, and focusing the system on prevention and health promotion is a very positive step towards ensuring Australians will have access to safe, affordable, equitable, health services into the future.

    All health professionals are working hard to deliver the best possible care with the resources available to them. But the complex nature and inefficient structure of the “system” is working against them. The ALP’s recent announcements are the first sign, in this election campaign, that someone in Canberra has the vision to take a positive first step towards a better, more equitable and more efficient, health system. },25197,22414747-23289,00.html

  15. And the Liberals come up with something like this;

    {THE internet will kill your children, or something.

    At least, that is the message of the Federal Government ads plastered on the side of every second tram trundling down Swanston Street.

    The Government’s approach to internet safety has all the hyperbole and sensationalism of tabloid current affairs programs. This is not surprising. Scare campaigns about the dangers of chatting or stumbling upon nudity usually have little to do with children, and all to do with raising fear in parents. Parents vote.

    NetAlert, the initiative that provides those free internet filters that were broken within 30 minutes by a year 10 student, will do little to stop children finding pornography online if they want to. And the mandatory internet filtering that the Government has announced will be expensive and mostly unworkable.}

  16. Costello a good debater hah. I agree with simon. You take him out of “cowards castle” and you will see how good a debater he is! I remember Simon Crean taking him to the cleaners in a debate when he was shadow treasurer. Rudd would tear him to shreads.

    Three debates, yep I’m in favour. It doesn’t even have to be legislated, it should be conventional.

  17. A superbly written article by Rob Hirst. Those of us old enough, of course, always knew that there was more to Midnight Oil than Peter Garrett. The story was very harsh on Turnbull, but you can’t deny that it was based on personal experience!

    I’d still rate Turnbull’s chances of holding his seat much better than Howard’s, based on the demographics of the electorates. And Turnbull might as well started being groomed for the leadership, because I reckon the only way Costello will get it is if the coalition scrapes over the line in the election, but Howard loses his seat. This scenario has a surreal feel, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. It’s probably what stops Costello resigning and joining a merchant bank right now.

    I think Costello has done a terrific job as Treasurer, and I think anyone who shared a bedroom all through school with Tim Costello must have retained some moral fibre. I’m sure that, like Keating, he has a vision and a vaudeville switch ready to go, but he’s been too scared to turn it on, and now it’s too late.

  18. I think that Rudd should agree to debate the both of them at the one time.

    Howard and Costello would be facing away from each other and Rudd would have his back to both of them.

    IMHO, Rudd would wipe the floor with both of them. There is nothing of substance for the Libs to debate on except Unions Boo.

  19. Maybe Howard and Costello should debate each other, with the winner going on to face rudd. Sort of like a preliminary final.

    I’d like to see Howard and Costello asking each other what their policies were.

  20. Rob Hirst turns a mean phrase or three. The Oils always were a genuinely collective band, with talent aplenty to go around, and Hirst’s drumming is a major part of their sound.

  21. I’ve heard it said by at least one local ALP apparatchik in Wentworth that the Greens will poll very well, certainly above their result in ’04.
    Plenty of local ‘fundraising activity’ in the ALP branches, concentrated in October, leading to the conclusion the ‘Insiders’ think it will be November – the ‘call to arms’ to Labor Branch members has been more insistent of late, with street stalls this weekend in a number of places across the electorate and fundraisers all over the place – nothing like Malcolm’s $55,000 a head fundraising dinners.
    Malcolm may have angered gays by promising same sex marriage, but voting against the ‘Kirby’ law in the House of Reps, which would have given Kirby’s partner a pension – won’t play well in Kings Cross with the gay lawyers, where Labor has a 63% booth, according to the Poll Bludger breakdown of booth numbers on Crikey.

    One election when I was doorknocking in Vaucluse ( silly me) Bob Carr was described as ‘a communist’ – I thought it very funny at the time. But it’s not just in Point Piper, Double Bay and Vaucluse that Malcolm is strong – don’t forget the nouveau riche hanging around the coffee shops with the likes of Lachie and Jamie, who have now become the ‘natural inhabitants’ of places like Clovelly and Bronte, which last election were marginally Labor ( see the booth stats).

    If the swing is really of the magnitude indicated in the polls, even Turnbull’s millions might not save him. ( But Lucy’s influence in the East could well get him home, as she may convince disaffected ‘small l libs’ and ‘doctor’s wives’ to come back to Malcolm – only if they are still bitter about King’s demise would Newhouse have a realistic chance I think, as George is no superstar – looks just like another suburban solicitor, despite his higher profile from Solon case. and has a hard core of people who really don’t like him in Waverley, despite or perhaps because he is the Mayor – nearly lost his ward seat in the last Council elections, so he’s no great ‘vote winner’ – he’ll sensibly handover the Mayoralty to another Labor Councillor this month).
    But to return to election date speculation:

    How can the Coalition take the risk of another interest rate rise in November? – Reserve Bank Board meets about 5th Nov., doesn’t it? The Lib source saying 3/11 sounds just about right if PM calls election next weekend, leaving about a six or seven week campaign.

  22. I’d like to see Howard and Costello asking each other what their policies were.

    Damm you Antonio. You made me spill my cocoa reading that post.

    That deserves a LOL

  23. Costello was a founding member of HR Nicholls society [the slave traders association] so I wouldn’t put too much hope in his brother – one is what the other isn’t. Costello was also a big supporter of WorkChoices from the sart. He has also been a senior member for 11 years in what is a hard-right wing controlled cabinet and party.

  24. Here’s a good article in the Age.

    {The government had a torturous past week during which the prime minister sent a message to his detractors that he wouldn’t budge from the leadership until after the next election.

    He believes the leadership issue has been put to rest but there is still speculation that another bad opinion poll could force members of his cabinet to finally tell him that it is time to go.

    Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd is sick of waiting for the poll and decided to go with a faux campaign launch on Saturday, where he made it clear that leadership would be front and centre of the Labor campaign.}

    If Tuesday’s Newspoll is bad and Howard isn’t pushed, then I think Rudd and Co will give Howard and Costello hell in Parliament this week.

    I think Rudd will continue on with a program of wrongfooting the Government with policy outlines but not complete policies and try to deprive the Government of any political momemntum and oxygen.

    It’s worked well for him so far and it’s now apparent to the media and the population at large that Rudd is calling the shots and the Government is in disarray and badly trying to play catchup.

  25. Rob Hirst didn’t just smack pigskin for the Oils; he was also one of their songwriters, writing both music and lyrics.

    Re Turnbull as a serious prospect for future PM…

    I know Malcolm has intelligence and great ambition, but after seeing him completely fluff that answer in question time last week (you had to see it to believe how bad it was) I cannot for the life of me see how he will ever become leader of the Libs, let alone PM.

    Then again, many years ago I thought the same of John Howard.

  26. And Rob Hirst is still playing drums and singing in various combos, and is always worth checking out when he’s performing.

    He gives drummers a good name.

  27. Scorpio: go find your own porn links LOL
    Waiting expectantly for the next Newspoll: this could be a real defining moment in the career of the Rodent.

  28. [Waiting expectantly for the next Newspoll: this could be a real defining moment in the career of the Rodent.]

    Surely they are stuck with him now irrespective of how bad the polls are. (Which is why I think Howard started up this “Team” strategy, it makes him untouchable).

    How can they say they are a team one week, then kick Howard out of the team the next?

  29. I caught one of the business workchoices TV adverts over the weekend. It was truly, hilariously bad. A bunch of grotesquely stereotyped union “bosses” muscling their way into a small business. I would seriously question whether anyone’s vote would be positively influenced by this…

  30. Scorpio: go find your own porn links

    Yeah, coz there’s so few of em around, ya gotta protect your supply. Right?


    And true, Hirst and all the member of Oils wrote for the band. Didn’t mean to imply he was ‘just’ a drummer. Wouldn’t do that, I started out on drums myself.

  31. Howard Hater , the problem is if you are anything like me, you are sitting on the edge of the seat before every poll.

    You are right though, this Newspoll will be very important in how this whole saga plays out from here on.

    Howard may very well get pushed, media coverage is not going to let up now, the Herald Sun has the latest on the leadership issue posted at 3.40 pm and they are still coming. They smell blood.

    Personally, I want Howard to tough it out and get smashed.

  32. Seems like there are a few muso’s and music fans on here at the moment.

    I’m a broken down old muso myself and well remenber performing at a festival with them and I think, Redgum, many years ago.

  33. Sounds like me searching for Morgan results on my Mobile Phone.
    It also takes a long while to scroll to the bottom of a pollbludger page using a Mobile.

  34. I can’t believe where Glen Milne gets his inspiration from to write such ridiculous nonsense. What a waste of ink.

    {THE attempt by John Howard to suddenly embrace Peter Costello in a bizarre duumvirate is a concession of fundamental personal and political weakness.

    And it will most likely fail.

    If it does fail, Howard’s legacy to the Liberal Party will be the sacrifice of a generation of future leaders. }

    {He was co-opted to appear with Whitlam under the campaign slogan “The Whitlam-Hayden Plan”, designed – unconvincingly – to shore up the embattled leader’s economic credentials. As a strategy, it crashed and burned.

    A few years later, with Hayden’s own leadership under threat, the party tried to buttress his flagging fortunes by making him a part of an expanded “quadumvirate” – placing him alongside Bob Hawke, Neville Wran and Lionel Bowen. },22049,22424852-5001031,00.html
    Milne is trying to make comparisions to previous Labor pairings which have absolutely no relation to the present and articles like this just make Milne look even more irrevelent than he has recently.

  35. The beauty of the ‘team rodent’ or ‘coward’ strategy is that it will keep leadership alive as an issue all the way to the election. The team strategy is barely a couple of days old and already, today, there were leadership spill rumours afoot, but Howard has proven that the only way he will go out is in a box.

    The conspiracy theory being aired here tonight that it was all a plot to get rid of Costello as a challenger for leader of the opposition once the libs have lost the election is a bit far fetched. Despite being devious enough they just aren’t that clever.

  36. This is from Glenn Milne’s article in tomorrow’s Australian:

    “In pollster talk, support for Rudd and Labor is soft, something the Government keeps whispering is coming through in its research.”

    If Rudd’s support is soft, why have the last 60 polls shown the same landslide size lead?

  37. I don’t know why you have a problem with that part of that article, Scorpio. The parallels are perfectly valid.

    In Whatever It Takes, Richo made the exact same point. That is, it’s a sign of weak leadership when a political leader has to surround himself with a ‘team’. Hayden in 1980 and Peacock in 1990 were cited as examples.

    And it’s difficult to see the 2007 approach succeeding where previous attempts at the strategy have failed. Especially since in Costello, you have a man appears determined to use his new found exposure to boost himself, and not his leader.

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