Phoney war dispatches: last Question Time edition

It could well be the last Question Time edition …

Dennis Shanahan of The Australian reports that the Prime Minister is “considering calling the election within three weeks”. A return of parliament on October 15 is not ruled out, but is rated “unlikely”.

• The Australian has published Newspoll’s quarterly cumulative polling, broken down into state-by-state and marginal versus non-marginal seats.

• Antony Green’s federal election guide should be in business at the ABC Elections page from around 9am. A new feature will be the election calculator showcased by Antony on Tuesday’s edition of Lateline.

• The ALP hierarchy appears to have pulled the rug from under its candidate for Cowper, John Fitzroy, by reopening nominations for the seat. This decision reflects Labor’s increasing confidence it can overhaul Nationals MP Luke Hartsuyker’s 6.6 per cent margin. It is expected the nomination will now go to “local training consultant” Paul Sekfy, who ran in 1993, 1996 and 1998 without cutting the margin below 4.1 per cent. Fitzroy was preselected unopposed in June and, according to The Australian’s Imre Salusinszky, recently quit his job with the local area health service to conduct his campaign.

Eden-Monaro has been the focus of much attention this week. Both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader campaigned in Queanbeyan on Wednesday, where Kevin Rudd proved unable to tell a reporter much about current income tax scales. On the same day, it emerged that Liberal member Gary Nairn’s chief-of-staff Dr Peter Phelps had told Mike Kelly, decorated Iraq war veteran and Labor candidate, that his attitude to his service was that of a Nazi concentration camp guard.

Andrew Fraser of The Australian reports that the parliament’s two non-retiring independents, Kennedy MP Bob Katter and New England MP Tony Windsor, “spelt out their terms in the event of a hung parliament”. Windsor says he will back whichever party wins the most seats or, in the event of a tie, the most votes. Katter will “support the party that promises to mandate 10 per cent ethanol in petrol”. One suspects there will be more than one such party, if that’s what it comes to.

• At the end of what has been a surprisingly good week for the government, the Daily Telegraph has gone in hard against Labor on successive days, running its politics coverage under the banners “Rudd’s bungle” and “Rudd’s meltdown”.

• I’m starting to get those pesky “bandwidth about to be exceeded” emails, so readers of a generous persuasion might like to make use of the the PayPal button on the sidebar. I conservatively estimate it will cost $200 to keep the site going until the end of the month, with further bills to follow towards the end of each month until the election is held. UPDATE: I’ve received more than enough donations to cover any bandwidth requirements for this month (many thanks to all). Anyone who still wants to donate is of course more than welcome to do so, but I should not deceive anyone into thinking that it won’t be going into my pocket.

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.

206 comments on “Phoney war dispatches: last Question Time edition”

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  1. No seriously CTEP this is bullcrap and i wont stand for it…

    The ALP can get away with murder ‘Rudd tax gaff’ and then turn that into a negative for the Government claiming without any proof that a fictional ‘dirt unit’ leaked the story…now im sorry but i know how much many of you hate Howard but its not something he would do he’s got a bit more integrity than some former Labor politicians…

    Who i might ad insinuated that Alexander Downer’s father Sir Alex was a coward and a appeaser when he served 4 years in a POW camp…this is low politics from Labor…i know many hate the Libs but the facts dont add up and Rudd knew it and he tried to exploit this for all its worth.

  2. Lets hope for a fair media then.

    If they let Rudd and the Govt get their messages out their without the media adding their Govt PR to the mix then Labor can increase.

    A two seat victory would be wonderful but a 30 seat victory justice.

  3. From Antony Green’s national summary page re: poll narrowing:

    “Perhaps the polls will start to narrow once electors are forced to focus on their options. Evidence that narrowing occurs is mixed based on past elections. The worry for the government is that calling the election may have no impact, and in fact the electorate has already made up its collective mind.”

    Great site by the way Antony.

  4. Its a new day Glen – give it up. The media are onto the next story cycle.

    Newspoll cumulative figures are much more interesting.

    I know we have a long way to go.

    I think Rudd will campaign well but my hope is people made up their minds months and months ago. But they may get scared of change. Labor just have to hold their ground.

    Thanks again to William I made a contribution by paypal this morning.

  5. No matter the relevance of the debate, it was very poor parliamentary tactics by the Govt. yesterday.

    Costello moved the motion and got to speak, Rudd amended the motion and got the speak, then Gillard seconded the motion and also got to speak.

    Howard finally got his chance, then Rudd got to speak again.

    3 speeches to 2. Poor tactics. 😉

  6. Oldtimer: At last count, 77% of those polled had already made up their minds who they’re going to vote for. That wasn’t all that long ago and that figure has jumped from approx. 50% earlier this year.

  7. I don’t think the polls will change much during the campaign itself.

    Keep in mind that Labor and the unions have been doing very little TV advertising lately. Once the campaign starts they’ll ramp it up. The union ads earlier in the year were *very* effective and helped push the labor vote up to its peak in May.

  8. Howard’s “integrity” is sadly eclipsed by his ambition. He wasn’t acting with integrity over Tampa, or when he undermined the leadership of Andrew Peacock in the 80s. Ask Costello about Howard’s integrity.

    And furthermore, Glen, the dirt unit (as if anyone doesn’t know) exists. Here in SA, my own brother tried to grease his way into the Libs camp by wanting to work for it.

  9. @ 129 DLP Says:

    John, so what type of bias would you like to see at the ABC?

    Truth over spin.
    The greater good over narrow sectional interests.
    Policy over vaudeville.
    Investigative journalism over press-release journalism.
    Test cricket.

    What do you fear? We are leading in the poles.
    The overall trend for Labor is still strong.

    I’m quietly confident, not fearful. But there is still hope for the coalition.

    If media bias is such a concern to this forum why isn’t it putting a dint in voters intentions to put Labor in Government?

    It is putting a dint in voters’ intentions. They seem likely to put Labor in government regardless. But if the ABC had been fearlessly speaking truth to power there would be somewhat less support for the coalition. Perhaps the difference would be trivial, but who can say?

  10. CTEP #139. Has there been a swing in your sentiments towards Labor? I seem to recall that you thought the Howard regime would be returned by a 7 seat its a 5 seat majority. Thats a massive 28.57% swing to Labor!!! LOL I feel better now, another indicator showing a swing to Labor!!

  11. Glen says,


    Glen, this statement only proves Rudd was in the perfect position to “piss all over the Libs” .

    Oh, and for evidence of the alleged Libeal dirt unit go to the MSN poll which is 20,000 to 10,000 that it exists. Obviously, the “Dirt unit” is working overtime to get the negative up to 10,000.

  12. “Let them have the low hanging fruit and be pre prepared to lose a few more than that, but keep the core strong.”

    Yep, the government seems to be focusing all their efforts on their core constituency. These people are predominantly heads of companies and *some* small business folk, senior citizens, and the rednecks.

    So what have we had over the past year? It’s very predictable actually. For a start, there has been constant union-bashing and economic scare campaigns to sure up the vote from business (although the enormous red tape involved with WorkChoices and the fairness test has probably created some tension within this group), a one-off bonus payment to spend on whatever they like for the oldies (just to make sure they maintain a warm and fuzzy feeling that Howard is looking after them), and plenty of xenophobic stuff (such as Haneef, Muslims, citizenship test) for the rednecks.

    Apart from trying to do something on the climate change front (presumably because their core constituency also has some concerns in this area), Howard has done nothing much to woo other voters. No real vision. No attempt to capture the hearts and minds of younger generations. Howard has played a defensive strategy all year. It is as though he concluded early on that there was a good chance the government would fall, so he desperately moved into damage control mode to try to prevent an annihilation, and has pretty much stayed there since.

    Now, I’m not saying that Howard will definitely lose this election (although I REALLY hope for the sake of our country that he does), but I think that he has hardly been the great fighter that the media touts him to be. He has clung onto his job because of fear of losing power and probably even some fear of change. But he has played a LOSING political strategy all year, basically trying to plug holes in an otherwise sinking ship.

    He should have spent the past year trying to do his best to be a good PM rather than panicking and running almost exclusively on damage control mode. He has either played the politics badly in terms of trying to win back lost votes or he gave up trying to win a long time ago. Either way, it doesn’t really augur well for the often-touted comeback during an election campaign. If I were a rusted on Lib supporter, I wouldn’t be very impressed at all.

  13. BTW, I’ve received more than enough donations to cover any bandwidth requirements for this month (many thanks to all). Anyone who still wants to donate is of course more than welcome to do so, but I should not deceive anyone into thinking that it won’t be going into my pocket.

  14. Both sides have dirt units at arms length, it’s naive to expect otherwise and silly to expect anybody to “prove” the origin of a smear. It’s called Politics, girls and boys.

    The clearest thing I noted from watching QT yesterday is that neither side has a monopoly on spoiled brat tantrums and bullying behaviour. Though it must be said that having a barely cohert and easily rattled speaker doesn’t help.

  15. I played around with the quarterly newspoll numbers and Antony’s election calculator. If you feed the state by state numbers in and look at the pendulum (you have to do Vic a little by hand because of the 11% swing there), you get 44 seats changing hands to the ALP. 44. Assuming uniform statewide swings, this includes Howard, Costello, Turnbull, Danna Vale, Mal Brough, Christopher Pyne and Kevin Andrews. Madness. The opposition leader ballot would be Downer vs Nelson.

    Tell us again how the electorate is warming to the Liberals, Shananahan.

    As far as the “narrowing” thing – remember that in addition to the ALP &c spending money on ads once the election is called, the Liberals will have to start paying for their own ads, rather than ripping it off the taxpayer.

  16. 166 William Bowe Says: September 21st, 2007 at 2:22 pm
    BTW, I’ve received more than enough donations to cover any bandwidth requirements for this month (many thanks to all). Anyone who still wants to donate is of course more than welcome to do so, but I should not deceive anyone into thinking that it won’t be going into my pocket.

    Buy a few cold ones to help with the tedium of moderating the out of order rants and raves…

  17. # 135 anthony baxter Says:
    September 21st, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    Surely you jest… That would require actually working for a living.

    Far better to spruik opinion, dressed up as press-releases from Rupert Murdoch, than to actually find out whether something is actually true or not.

  18. Andrew A, of course both parties indulge in smear attempts. But there is little doubt that the federal government have taken it to a whole new level over the past few years. It is disgusting.

    Go take a look at Possum’s Smear-O-Meter

    It lists the various types of smears that the government (or their accomplices) have tried to produce on Rudd, and earlier, Latham. Labor are nowhere near the government in terms of the sheer quantity or intensity of such smear attempts.

    The current government have been playing a very classic US Republicans strategy of trying to appeal to the moral outrage of what they believe is a very conservative electorate. But this is not the US. We are not as conservative or religious as they are. And Australians are fairer minded, especially when it is obvious that there is no real factual basis for the smear, as we have seen time and time again this year.

  19. @ 166 William Bowe Says:

    BTW, I’ve received more than enough donations to cover any bandwidth requirements for this month (many thanks to all). Anyone who still wants to donate is of course more than welcome to do so, but I should not deceive anyone into thinking that it won’t be going into my pocket.

    And, presumably, out of your pocket again to cover the larger bandwidth bill next month.

  20. Was anyone else surprised today at how truly weak Matt Price’s piece in the Australian was? He whacks Labor for the “rot” they pulled but ignores the fact that Laurie Oakes brought the heart story to Rudd and that what Rudd said on sunrise ages ago was completely different to what was peddled to Oakes. Of all the staff at the Australian, only George Megalogenis retains ANY integrity!

  21. I’m still tipping the Coalition returned with a roughly 5 seat majority.
    CTEP 139

    Brave call in the current circumstances. It is beginning to look more and more like a landslide.

  22. It has to be noted that a smear campaign worked very well against Latham, effectively calling into question his fitness to be PM. The Libs just had better quality material to smear with – the battered taxi driver for a start – and even the weaker stuff resonated with uneasy feelings voters had about Latham. The bad language/headkicker image was not a plus in the end.

    So it’s hardly surprising the government has been trying again. It’s just that nothing they have come up with is particular heart-stopping (boomtish), and none of it resonates with how people already feel about Rudd. What is surprising is they are still trying, after so many counter-productive charges.

    Todays feigned hysteria over Labor’s ‘failure to prove’ there’s a dirt unit is very amusing. What do they want? Photos of the bunker under Ruddock’s office? All you need for a dirt unit is a couple of ‘advisors’ given the job to do some digging. And then the will to spread any gobbits about. So, note to Alex Mitchell at Crikey: there’s a dirt unit, and thanks to yesterday in parliament everyone has that in their head as we roll into the campaign. Everything negative the government says will be framed by that from now on. If it wasn’t already. It’s not rocket science.

  23. Amusing post on Possum’s site 🙂 I’ve been trying to find a cartoon from a few months ago. Howard explaining the fine art of mud slinging, by the end of the strip he’s covered head to toe and a bemused Rudd is looking an with a few streaks of dirt on him. I think it was about the time he lost a few ministers…

    And, presumably, out of your pocket again to cover the larger bandwidth bill next month.

    As I said before, use it for the lager bill.

  24. 174
    Just Me Says:
    September 21st, 2007 at 2:45 pm
    Of all the staff at the Australian, only George Megalogenis retains ANY integrity!

    And Mike Steketee.

    And Phillip Adams :):)

  25. Election won’t be called before Tuesday at the earliest. Report on Sky News that the Government is announcing some additional relief measures for drought affected farmers and that it needs to be “discussed” at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday next week before it can be “officially put on the table” so to speak.

  26. If the reports of Tony Windsor’s intentions are accurate, then they effectively snooker Bob Katter (almost certainly inadvertently).

    If one side gets 75 seats and the other 73, then Tony Windsor’s stated position would have him back the side with 75 seats, giving it government and leaving Bob Katter _functus officio_.

    If each side gets 74 seats, then Tony Windsor’s stated position would have him back whichever side got more votes. That would leave Bob Katter with, for practical purposes, two choices: back the same side as Tony Windsor, or force us back to another election. He’ll have to choose the first.

  27. 179
    ruawake Says:
    September 21st, 2007 at 3:12 pm
    The Murray-Darling “Plan” wasn’t discussed by Cabinet, why would this need to be?

    I have no idea, just quoting what David Spiers said in his live report. I am as clueless as you are on this issue ruawake.


    [‘Earlier today, Mr Howard said he had more things to do for the Australian people before announcing a date.

    “I’ll be watching the match on television between Manly and the Cowboys and between the Storm and the Eels,” he told reporters.’]

    Thanks for watching the Rugby JWH, sounds like something you are doing on behalf of the Australian people.

  29. With our new Bananas in Pjamas leadership team. B1, Howard, simply says, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” B2, Costello says yes and it is all over.

  30. thanks for the info William, ive paid in my dibs so now i can lurk with a clear concience, GLEN–the heart smear itself is only minor, though apparently the Bolt blog is going gangers over Rudd’s health not being up to the rigors of being PM, the ethics of it is that some grubby person has been rifling through Rudd’s medical files, would you like someone going through your medical files and informing your prospective boss of anything in there? thats whats happened, your medical files and information is one of your most personal possessions, hence the DR.- patient confidentuality clause, i’m sure most members of parliament would have something in their medical files they wouldnt like being aired to the general populace, lucky for Rudd his was just an operation.

  31. Howard was on ABC Brisbane radio this morning. Tipping Manly to beat Townsville Cowboys and Melbourne to beat Parramatta.

    He can’t take a trick 😉

  32. The Murray-Darling “Plan” wasn’t discussed by Cabinet, why would this need to be?

    Maybe there’s been a change of heart and they’re practising good governance now?

  33. “Buy a few cold ones to help with the tedium of moderating the out of order rants and raves…”… “It’s called Politics, girls and boys.”

    Nice to see our superiors have turned up to talk down to us. In another world it would be called arrogance.

  34. Yo ho ho,

    All this was pointed out to Glen yesterday. He knows that his faked indignation is based on a falsehood.

    I think Glen works on the principle of “why let the facts get in the way of a good smear.

  35. Being from Townsville, I’m backing the Cowboys, and more so since JWH is backing Manly. Here’s for another NRL GF that doesn’t have a Sydney team in it.

  36. Will I’d say that point was chosen because it’s after the election is likely to be held. I think December 15 would be stretching John Howard’s promise of an election ‘well before Christmas’ even for him.

  37. Re ACCC inquiry. “It had previously been due to report by October 15” Last thing the Govt. wants is a reminder of petrol prices during an election campaign.

    Clearing the bad news decks.

  38. Well looking at Possums figures it seems Labor doesn’t have to spend too much time in the marginals and can attack a few of the Govt’s safe seats.

  39. Slightly on topic …..:)

    Listened to HG (of Roy & HG fame) on Adelaide Radio 891 this morning

    HG insisted he was standing outside Downer’s Mayo office undertaking a poll of the locals re Downer’s move to be premier of SA.

    HG’s conclusion “The locals wished him well and gave him a kick up the date”.

    I personally believe that this research bears as much credibility as the Ch9 phone poll.

  40. My kina, you do take offence easily. “Oh noes! Smear campaign!” is just silly: what do you expect?

    I’ll withdraw my verballing of William in finding moderation tedious, though I still maintain he’s entitled to a few cold ones.

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