Phoney war dispatches: endless wait edition

• The past fortnight has seen much talk emerge from the Coalition camp of encouraging internal polling in sensitive seats. Tony Barrass of The Australian today reports that a Crosby-Textor poll conducted a fortnight ago had the Liberals on track to retain their 10 seats in Western Australia while also gaining another of the remaining five, Cowan. On Saturday, The Australian reported a “jump in the party’s support in the crucial seat of Bass”. This was apparently putting Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull under pressure to approve Gunns’ proposed Tamar pulp mill, regardless of the damage this would cause to his own position in Wentworth. The “senior Liberal source” behind the story reckoned that Turnbull’s seat was “not in trouble”.

• And yet, on the other hand, we also have reports the Liberals have begged Jackie Kelly, Warren Entsch, Kay Elson, Geoff Prosser, Trish Draper and Barry Wakelin to abandon their plans to retire, to improve the party’s chances of retaining their seats of Lindsay, Leichhardt, Forde, Forrest, Makin and Grey. Remarkably, Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday that Liberal polling showed Grey, held by a margin of 13.8 per cent, would be lost unless Wakelin stayed on. It was further reported he had briefly agreed to do so before changing his mind again, with his nominated successor Rowan Ramsey urged to smooth the path by stepping aside.

• On the other side of the fence, Paige Taylor of The Australian talks of Labor polling which shows it set to double its margin in Brand, the outer southern Perth seat being vacated by former leader Kim Beazley.

• Labor MP Gavan O’Connor, who lost preselection in his seat of Corio to ACTU assistant secretary Richard Marles, raised eyebrows by declining to farewell parliament during last week’s presumed valedictory speech. Mark Davis of the Sydney Morning Herald speaks of “a frisson of anxiety in Kevin Rudd’s office” at the thought of O’Connor standing against Marles as an independent.

• A huge round of applause for Luke Miller and his revamped Cassandra Senate election calculator, which allows us to set quotas and input our own preference tickets. This means it can be used to play out any hypothetical scenario not only for both half and full Senate elections, but also for all mainland state upper houses.

• I abandoned the practice of fisking newspaper commentary on opinion polls early in the history of this site, because it seemed too much like shooting fish in a barrel. Give thanks that Possum Comitatus harbours no such qualms.

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.

382 comments on “Phoney war dispatches: endless wait edition”

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  1. The outcome of all the WA seats could be irrelavant come election night with Labor winning more than enough in the Eastern states to govern.

    Let’s hope so anyway.

  2. Bass. Of the Liberal Tas seats, Bass and Braddon, Bass is the one they have the most chance of keeping. Ferguson is a personable and hardworking member, although he is not an “everyman” type and can polarise voters with his right-Christian views. But northern Tasmania is now solidly labor, providing it’s the socially and economically conservative brand, and considering the national mood to Rudd at the moment it is hard to see Ferguson holding back the tide. He doesn’t have that much incumbency appeal.

    The pulp mill is a real problem for both parties, because it is not clear how the Bass electorate will respond. The voters are genuinely and many are quite passionately divided: it is no certainty that a Turnbull approval will help Ferguson. But what do Labor do? Come in behind or go the other way? I really don’t know what is the best political decision on the mill and I don’t think the parties do either. My bet is that Turnbull will not make a decision before the election; I’m sure that is what he would prefer.

  3. Shall we expect “leaked” internal ALP polling to tell another story in WA? I do like it when various entities release polls to try and discredit each other’s information (see Eden-Monaro several weeks ago, with several Coalition sources contradicting each other). The disinformation war continues…

  4. Since the ‘Liberal Team’ announcement leaked internal Liberal polling is contradicting Labor internal polling, public polling and other leaked Liberal internal polling.

    Am I a cynic?

  5. The WA polling doesn’t really surprise me. I’ve always thought the Coalition will hold all their seats in WA, and possibly pick up Cowan and/or Swan.

    Cowan’s become increasingly ‘aspirational’ and snobby. With all the new development in the area I expect it to become a quite safe Liberal seat eventually.

  6. Read carefully the Australian article on Stirling – it does not actually say they are ahead and it does not firmly predict that they will win.

    It is designed to leave and impression without saying anything specific.

  7. This is at odds with what Federal Labor politicians were telling Adam last week in Canberra, that they were confident of winning back Stirling and Hasluck. I don’t come from WA, I don’t pretend to know what’s going on over there.
    Isn’t Brand supposedly full of miners on AWAs? If Labor is increasing their margin in that seat, it doesn’t say much for the supposed popularity of Work Choices and AWAs in that sector of the economy.

  8. These claims don’t match up with any published polling, so the default stance should be one of scepticism. If the numbers seriously supported the assertions, they’d release them, together with the ones that suggested they were doing well in Eden-Monaro.

    Ergo, baloney.

  9. Labor Party leaks polling showing they’re in front!

    Liberal Party leaks polling showing they’re in front!

    Whatever happened to the days of a Party claiming to be the “underdog”???

    I think we ought stick to published opinion polls from here on in.

  10. Takes me back to the June 21 Crosby Textor polling (leaked yes, but at least we saw it). One CT’s points was that the expectation factor was hurting them – maybe that’s why we keep seeing leaks about holding on in the west.

    Hawkie apparently campaigning here at the moment, seems to be generating some interest in the media.

  11. I wish it was all over. My brain is hurting from trying to ‘keep a lid on it’. Each day I wait for something to happen that’ll hurt Kevin 07. And each day there is something that should make me more optimistic. I learnt very early on that if you plan for a good night you’ll have a disaster, so plan for the worst so you can’t be dissappointed. But, in this climate it just gets harder and harder to plan for the worst. Even my seat of Greenway is looking positive for ALP – unthinkable a few months ago!

  12. The article says the coalition leads Labor 51-49. This still represents a 3-4% statewide swing to Labor. Those people have to live somewhere!

  13. HH #7

    I was under the impression that Brand was more city folk than miners (impression…this is definately not fact).

    I certainly hope that Brand is increasing. It certainly says a lot that someone taking over from Beazley can increase his margin (granted, circumstances favor Gray now and didn’t favour Kim in 04). But then again, Gary would have had a fair bit of experience running a campaign or two…..

  14. #10 wild E westerner The Liberals have got to give there members something to hang onto. Especially the deniers. Labor wants to exert more pressure on the Liberals. So it is in everyone’s interest to leak something. Liberals can’t claim underdog because that is pointing out the obvious.

  15. #15 DLP Or 100 seats. He he, just keeping up the pressure.
    Why do you call yourself DLP? There was a rather rude nickname going around, when the party was at it’s height. And I can’t help but think of that every time I see you name.

  16. I had heard of “push-polling” to influence undecided voters, but it looks like now we have “push-reporting” trying to influnce undecided readers!

    Reminds me of Newspoll Sol’s recent comments. It looks like Sol is still “soft” in his support for Kevin Rudd. I looked up my sampling texts and I couldn’t find “soft” support defined anywhere. I suspect Kevin Rudd can pretty much kiss goodby Sol’s vote already.

  17. Doesn’t a 3-4% swing to Labor in WA mean not only will they NOT lose any seats, but they will actually gain a few? According to the pendulum, a 4.1% swing will see the Libs lose Hasluck and Stirling and make Swan and Cowan even safer, so I don’t understand the assertion that, if such a swing is achieved, that won’t happen. Clearly it will, unless something REALLY WEIRD is going on in WA. Or I’ve gone mad and am missing something big, which might be more likely 😉

  18. Take all “leaked” internal polling from both sides, with all the salt extracted at all the worlds de-salination plants, plus a little from the Dead Sea.

    All we can rely on is the published polling from the pollsters.

    Regarding WA; there is Westpoll, Newspoll quarterly breakdowns and Nielsen’s monthly state breakdowns.

    All these sources combined for the last three months suggest the votes are:

    L/NP 44 ALP 40 ~ TPP 50.5/49.5 = 4.9% swing to the ALP.

    All year the polling from the west shows there is a swing to the ALP of at least 4%.

  19. Last nights brownlow count was very ammusing with a government (tax payer funded add ) on every single commercial break. And what a variety from superannuation to workchoices.
    My favorite was the new workchoices add where the young lad working at the office talks about the fairness test and says if you lose your overtime pay they have to give you something back. Like 2 packs of biscuits and a cup of coffee? That seems fair to me. It would make a great gotcha call.

  20. Every day Howard delays the calling the election is another day that increases his record as Australia’s 2nd longest serving PM. He is shoring up his “legacy”. I think that this is a significant factor in his timing, afterall he main concern is himself. However I believe that history will look back on the Howard years as the “Wasted Years”. Wasted opportunities to tackle climate change, infrastructure development, alternate energy technology development, education & training, world standard internet broadband, building a better & fairer society. I just hope the the polls are reflected on election day.

  21. if you surveyed voters in almost any vaguely marginal electorate and asked which party they intended to vote for you would in most seats not get 50%+ of voters saying they would vote for either Labor or the Coalition, you would have to push non-respondents or ‘soft’ voters towards identifying the party they were leading towards. You could spin any any message you liked from marginal seat polling. Also many commentators have no idea which previous figure to compare current polls with, see how Labor 2PPs in the low 50s in Qld are sometimes reported as bad news for Rudd when they indicate record levels of Labor support.

  22. Don’t diss the WA punters – they can only form opinions based upon the available information and WA, like here in Qld, is a single newspaper (ultra right wing crap rag) territory. I can’t speak with experience about the WA TV news scene, but again, if it is like Qld, then it may well be dominated by Howard Huggers. Our own ABC here has had its news department stacked with Uglies – I think some of the stuff which has been going to air in the Qld ABC news bulletins since the management and editorial changes up here a couple of years ago would really drop the jaw of most sensible people in Sydney and Melb where there are deeper media pools.

  23. Howard keeps saying he’s still got more things to do for the Australian people before he calls the election, i think most of the Australian people feel he’s actually done far too much for them and just want the election to be called and get this phony campaign over with.

  24. SJP, (28) how right you are! And let’s not forget his blatant dishonesty: Tampa, GST, etc as well as his sinister racism with Geoffrey Blainey and their anit-Asian statements which stirred the likes of Pauline Hanson & One Nation! Let’s not forget his attacks on multiculturalism disguised as opposition to ‘political correctness’ as well as his refusal to say “Sorry” to the stolen generation!

    No this man is much worse than a hapless reactionary or scheming ideologue or neo-con. Our JWH is just a conniving and self-serving pragmatist who really stands for nothing but his own advancement, least of all a love for his country. Why would he play wedge politics at every opportunity, especially when Australians were so keen to express their identity as a young Republic rather than a sycophantic monarchy!

    Let’s rid ourselves of this divisive and evil little man once and for all. Let’s hope every Asian- Australian in Bennelong casts a vote for Labor and gives JWH the undignified exit from Australian politics he deserves! Now that would be justice.

    Enough’s enough!

  25. Correction: Howard has more government advertising to inflict on us before he calls the election. The TV stuff is laughable, the radio ads are even worse – they must really underestimate the intelligence of the average voter.

  26. Ok, let’s sane the whole debate up a bit: can anyone point me to any empirical evidence that Team Rodent is even in the game this time?

    All you’ve got is JHo’s track record of stolid, workmanlike comebacks against fairly tame or lame opposition, before his government was really on the nose – and before an elephant sized vote killer called Workchoices strolled in.

    Then youve got mandatory meeja story spinning on non-existent comebacks when the ALP 2PP drops from 60 to 56.

    Its their job, yes, but I mean… FFS.

    And then there’s yer standard issue punteriat caution, which is often expressed as wise-reserve-in-case-im-wrong arse coverage, but rarely has any persuasive – or even relevant data attached when trotted out.

    Me, I like the Mackerras approach. Balls on the line. Big deal if you werent wrong later – when you never actually laid a bet its like, so what?

    And thats why I predict Howard’s going down, just like the polls say. My reasoning is this: with base primary vote very solid over 9 months at 46-41 (and that figure is generous to the LNP) that Team rodent cant win the election.

    Just cant. Simple.

    None of these poll fluctuations have got them anywhere near an election winning position. And i see no evidence-based arguments to suggest they will over the next two, or in a campaign.

    But hey ….fill me in if you got some!

  27. Chris B @ 17

    It is probably not the most loved history of the party but it explains where my factional views lay.

    Whitlam clean us up very nicely in 1974 and in hindsight that was a good thing for the cause.

    These days I would call myself centralist/right and I actually think that democratic pluralism is not a bad place to be.

    As yopu can see by these threads it is not a view shared by the other contributors to this site.


  28. If I was Kevin Rudd, I’d be happy to let this pre-poll phase roll on as long as possible. Time is Rudd’s friend and Howard’s enemy. Every day that passes is another day he can use to get his messages across, another day to build public rapport with his ‘fresh new labor’ themes.

    Howard can try to get people to change their declared views, but it is getting very late in the piece to expect much of that to happen. He has to face the fact that he is probably not going to get his poll numbers to climb much, if at all. Too many people in too many places are sick of him; their negative views are firmly-held; and if asked to state their preference, their reflex is going to be say:’Not Howard’. And if not Howard, then who else? The beneficiary is Kevin Rudd.

    So if Howard can’t change the polls, the only hope he has is that people will not vote the way they say they are going to vote.

    This is his dilemma. If he goes now, the risk is that people will vote the way they say they are going to vote – the Liberal Party will face oblivion. On the other hand, the longer he lets the pre-poll build up run, the greater the risk he’s taking: he’s letting Rudd work on his support and diminshing the chance that they will desert him at the last moment.

    As well, by delaying, he risks alienating those voters who really want the poll to be called and for life to get back to normal, while making himself appear afraid of the people and out of his depth.

    Of course, the Liberals can use this time to try to attack Kevin Rudd, try to trash him. But this is dangerous territory for the Liberals. By assaulting Rudd, they give him a platform on which he can stand – steadfast, calm, courageous. If they are not careful the Liberals will only help Rudd build his credentials as a leader. This same logic worked to Howard’s advantage in the past and can just as easily work for Rudd now.

    Every day that passes is day that worsens Howard’s dilemma and helps rudd consolidate. Let there be at least another fortnight or so …

  29. Why would Howard want to convince Trish Draper to recontest Makin? From memory her negative personal vote nearly cost them the seat at the last election.

  30. For any Labor insiders, do you think there’s any truth to assertions that Labor members are sizing up offices, positioning themselves etc. for government?

    I find this doubtful at best. I’d say a lot of Labor members etc. will be more pessimistic than us. I’d say a lot of them will be doubting it up to the election day.

    Still, I suppose if this is the only thing the papers can find to run with it’s pretty sad for them…

  31. All the labor “insiders” I know are officially crapping their pants. Cautious pessimism and disbelief at ongoing poll news are the dominant motifs.

    Its actually a kind of illness. A semi-delusional state of incredulity in their party’s ability to win prevails.

    Suffice to say, I wouldnt describe them as over-confident, no.

  32. And i see no evidence-based arguments to suggest they will over the next two, or in a campaign.

    I’m with you.

    However, just cause it’s fun to play with, here is the worst result for the govt that sees them fall over the line that I can conjure from Antony’s pendulum that is based on something like current trends

    State/Swing to ALP/ALP 2PP
    NSW/6.7/54.8 but Libs hold Bennelong and Wentworth
    Vic/4.9/53.9 Libs scrape home in Deakin, McMillan, Corangamite
    WA/0.5/45.1 Libs gain Cowan with Edwards retiring
    Tas/2.6/56.8 Pork save Bass
    ACT/5.0/66.5 Or higher 🙂


    Would leave the libs with 75 seats to ALP 73 and governing with independent support (and a swag of seats with miniscule margins)

    Any swing higher than that anywhere in the country – and Qld, WA, Tas and NT in particular look optimistic for the govt there – and they are gone.

    Assuming the current ‘true’ voting intention is around 56/44, that’s nearly 4 points they have to claw back in just the right spots…

  33. I’m sure there are some boys – and I’m sure it is the boys – creaming their jocks in anticipation of a position in the new Government that gives them prestige, money and a Government car. But that happens at every election, regardless of the party or what the opinion poll are or aren’t saying.

    It’s the nature of the game (and the beast).

  34. This Labor man isn’t getting too carried away with the polls. I still think this’ll be a hard election for Rudd to win, and if he does get over the line, it won’t be with 50 seat majorities.
    I’ve learnt to never write the Rodent off! Howard is a cunning little bugger, I’m sure he’s got something dirty in the locker to try.

  35. “I put the same figures in just then and got Labor 75 vs Libs 73”

    Yes, but I specifically put in assumptions that Bennelong and Wentworth would be held against the swing.

    I don’t necessarily agree with those assumptions, but that would be an optimisitc case for the govt.

  36. Thanks Martin – interesting exercise!

    Implicit in your method, of course, is an acknowledgment that on most versions of 52 – ish ALP 2PP, it wins government.

    And yes, everything has to go right for JHo. On this front, I cant think of a worse alignment of minor parties for him in this: Greens up around 8-10%, the Dems having no right flank, ONP gone, and the most FF-friendly labor leader you could possibly conceive of in a month of Jump-for-Jesus sundays…

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