Phoney war dispatches: three long years edition

• The Courier-Mail talks of “a growing belief in Canberra” that the election will be called between tomorrow and Sunday – although there is of course “another school of thought” that parliament will resume on Monday for one more sitting.

• Writing in Monday’s subscriber-only Crikey email, Professor David Flint fired back after this site’s recent name-calling regarding his claims of mass-scale electoral fraud. This time he backed his argument by bringing up the big guns – a union election that happened in 1951:

Mention fraud as a possible factor in elections and you’re said to be in need of psychiatric assistance. Well, tell that to retired judge Frank McGrath, who as a young articled clerk provided crucial evidence of long denied but massive ballot rigging which freed the first of many unions from communist control … (journalist) Bob Bottom says that when the Queensland election was held on 2 December, 1989, there were 28,380 more electors than those on the then separate Federal roll the day before – enough to swing the election … Did this degree of fraud end with Shepherdson? After the last Federal election the H.S. Chapman Society did a spot sample in Parramatta. Curiously, they found it extremely difficult to obtain a copy of the electoral roll. Why? The government legislation requiring enhanced proof of identity on registration only passed the Senate by their agreement to an amendment to deny access to the roll ostensibly to commercial interests. Not wishing to be sent to a psychiatrist, I am led to the conclusion that it was only through an unintended drafting error that this exclusion extended to independent non aligned bodies such as the Society, as well as investigative journalists. In any event, the Society found a number of those enrolled were either unknown or had moved long ago. If these figures were extrapolated to the whole electorate, 5700 names should not have been on the roll. Paramatta, it may be noted, was won by only 1157 votes.

• Kevin Rudd has taken advantage of election date discontent to endorse the increasingly popular concept of fixed terms. However, he has tied this to a proposed extension of terms to four years, presumably secure in the knowledge that this would see it defeated at the required referendum. Rudd is proposing that the referendum not be held until a hypothetical election in 2010, although many are tipping an earlier double dissolution in the event of trouble from the Senate.

Patricia Karvelas of The Australian reports on a split in the Australian Democrats over Senate preferences. Party leader and Victorian Senator Lyn Allison is reportedly seeking a national deal with Labor in the hope that their preferences might get her ahead of the Greens, but this is meeting fierce resistance from branches in other states, where entirely different tactical considerations are in play.

• Some number-crunching from The Australian’s George Megalogenis which I don’t have time to read at this point, but you can take for granted that it’s good stuff.

• Liberal concerns about the south-west WA seat of Forrest were given another airing on Tuesday’s edition of The World Today. One Liberal quoted in the report went so far as to compare the party’s candidate Nola Marino to Nicole Cornes, Labor’s maligned candidate for Boothby. The threat to Marino comes not from Labor but from independent candidate Noel Brunning, television newsreader on WA’s regional Golden West Network.

PortlandBet is now taking bets on the Senate, specifically whether minor party candidates will get up in any given state.

Cath Hart and Samantha Maiden of The Australian outline the geographic distribution of Australia’s Sudanese population, which for all the recent hype is so small it doesn’t turn up on the Bureau of Statistics’ quick-view census tables. Sudanese account for 0.5 per cent of the population in the Brisbane seat of Moreton, which according to its Liberal member Gary Hardgrave is “exhausted” by the influx. Other important electorates in the Sudanese top 15 are Moreton’s neighbour Bonner and the Perth seat of Stirling, the remainder being mostly safe Labor seats in Melbourne and Sydney.

• Saturday’s Fairfax broadsheets brought us six month cumulative ACNielsen polling figures, featuring state-level samples big enough to take seriously.

• Ian McAllister from the Australian National University and Juliet Clark have published a self-explanatory monograph entitled Trends in Australian Political Opinion: Results from the Australian Election Study, 1987-2004. Consisting mostly of charts and tables drawn from Australian Election Study data, findings that caught the attention of the media included the growing number of swing voters and late deciders.

• More bedtime reading from the Parliamentary Library, which has published its socio-demographic electorate rankings from 2006 census figures.

• Robert Taylor of The West Australian reported on Tuesday that WA Premier Alan Carpenter might call an election in the wake of the federal poll, a full year ahead of schedule. This would take advantage of the Coalition’s present state of disarray, as well as the looming confirmation of one-vote one-value electoral boundaries that are likely to swell Labor’s parliamentary ranks. The West also brought us a Westpoll survey of state voting intention which had Labor leading 56.4-43.4, down slightly from 58.4-41.6 a month ago. This was from the same sample that gave federal Labor a lead of 53-47 in the poll published on Saturday.

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.

201 comments on “Phoney war dispatches: three long years edition”

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  1. Very interesting re: the odds for the Senate. It seems Portlandbet agree that the chances of the Greens getting a Senator (mostly assuming the Greens are the most likely party to break the 2-party stronghold) are best in Tassie (Brown, natch) followed by WA (wacky circumstances make it on obvious 2nd) and then Vic and NSW. In Vic, I really don’t see FF getting a repeat unless they get prefs from the ALP (unlikely but I wouldn’t rule it out) and the Dems are a lost hope (sorry, Lyn, it’s just how it is). In NSW, though, I figured FF do worse than in Vic (can someone more reputable please confirm/deny) and the Dems again will similarly have less chance. Is there anyone else in NSW running (or likely to run at this stage given that the election hasn’t been called) who has any chance? I’m ignoring the DLP, because again it’s got a chance but it’s probably too remote to really affect the odds.

    SA would have a better chance of electing FF, and possibly a Dem (although good luck without NSD running) and Qld will struggle with anything, but has a better chance of a Dem with Bartlett and maybe even Hanson (again, doubtful, but Qld is already doubtful enough).

    Interesting, though, that they think Tucker has no chance in the ACT. Fair enough, but does Nettle have that much of a better chance? Maybe…

  2. And more brilliant analysis from Michelle Grattan this morning on Howard’s new mantra that Rudd is “not man enough” to cop the blame for campaign gaffes:

    This could play two ways. Voters might reassess their opinion of Rudd and start to mark him down. Or they could take the view — as they have with other incidents: contact with Brian Burke, visit to a New York nightclub and, in another category, not recalling the tax scales — that this is irrelevant to the main game.

    Gee, it might either affect the polls… or it mightn’t.

    How much do they pay this woman for such insight?

  3. Bushfire Bill,

    I think the commentariat have been burnt to many times now, predicting hurt for Rudd and seeing little happen.

    I don’t think Howard’s ploy will succeed, after all, he and his govenrment are renowned for avoiding taking responsibility at all for anything negative. It may just have people thinking Rudd is a bit like that, but geez, you guys take the cake!

    On the other hand, Howard has been brilliant previously in turning his negatives into the opposition leaders.

  4. The ABS census tables on country of birth list only the top 30 countries from last census. When a later release of that one comes out, we can probably expect Sudan in the list.

  5. god i love flint

    this article fills me with disquiet

    how did he become a professor
    when was let out
    is his hair real
    and where does he get that bloody accent from?

    ps Bushfire -i would more willing read a blogger like yourself (even glen sometimes) than the current crop of “know all know nothings” in the MSM
    I think the MSM is at 6s and 7s trying to figure out whats is happening -this happens when you live in ivory towers

    and we do it for nothing 🙂

  6. Flint didn’t mention Alex Hawke, Towke and the extreme right of the liberal party for funny business on branch stacking, I thought this was a good recent example.

  7. I concur with the line of thought that the election will be called either today or Friday. If I am wrong I will gladly take some egg on my face but I think I am going to be OK!
    Any one else agree?

  8. Re: #4 Bushfire Bill – I wholeheartedly agree with the lack of insight that the majority of the press gallery are capable of. Megalagenis excluded of course. What exactlky have they said over the last year (maybe even the last 10).

    After this election, no matter the result, a thorough exploration of the press gallery should be conducted by … someone.

    Re Aussieguru #14 – I would have a bet on today or tomorrow for the call – Marie Bashir is in Canberra.

    That means we are only hours away from the end of the Howard era

  9. My bet is the election will be called on Saturday – surely JWH isn’t going to be silly enough to recall parliament for the sole purpose of attacking the Opposition (he can do that more effectively on the campaign trail…)

  10. Flint is part of a right wing ultra-conservative elite who will become utterly irrelevant (if he isn’t already) when his patriarch (JWHoward) is put to the sword from the people of the Bennelong Republic.
    In his post election meandering irrelevance he will find succor speaking to Parrot’s on right wing AM lunatic fringe radio – and in his spare time rip the heart out of his beloved liberal party by ensuring there are no moderates left that can appeal to the broader public.

  11. He’s beggin’ for a stint in the rat-house:

    “Mention fraud as a possible factor in elections and you’re said to be in need of psychiatric assistance.”

    “Not wishing to be sent to a psychiatrist, I am led to the conclusion…….”

    Flinters is a Ming man through and through; a monarchist to his spat straps. As an act of compassionate conservatism upon his committal, fellow institutionalists could dub him Lord Warden of the Union Rorts at a specially constituted ceremony with all the trimmings.
    He’d be so blissed out he probably wouldn’t require medicating and would be well positioned to continue his in-depth analyses for Crikey. David certainly adds much needed gravitas to the online magazine’s tolled wisdom.

  12. Anyone see the Financial Review today? I saw a headline that basically said that States are getting less money from the Federal government. I think the share they’re getting as a % is the lowest in over a decade. I didn’t have time to read it all, but would be interesting to read.

    How can Howard keep blaming the states for poor management when he is sitting on $17b surplus and the states are getting less funding, and at the same told to reduce state based taxes?

  13. Swing Lowe at #17:

    My bet is the election will be called on Saturday – surely JWH isn’t going to be silly enough to recall parliament for the sole purpose of attacking the Opposition (he can do that more effectively on the campaign trail…)

    Maybge, but it’s entirely possible that Howard has another agenda altogether in recalling Parliament.

    To wit: More Pork.

    Yesterday he went on record saying that anything undertaken outside the formal campaign was a government initiative, not a party one. He said further that any such pre-campaign initiative could be progressed right throughout the campaign period.

    From yesterday’s Herald:

    Asked if he was putting off the poll to give Mr Rudd more time to make mistakes, Mr Howard said he was not.

    “I am choosing to announce a number of government decisions,” Mr Howard told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

    “And bear in mind that before the election is called, any commitment I make is a government commitment and work can start on it straight away.

    “Therefore, if the government is returned that work continues and the work can go on through the election campaign.“

    We could be in for the Mother of all Pork Barrel sittings: steamroller legislation passed without analysis, shut-up-and-sign policies, the full standover wedge tactic. According to Howard anything passed next week can be fully and (he says) properly milked for all it’s worth right through the campaign.

    Common wisdom has had it that the phoney campaign has been extended because Howard is scared of the polls. Well, he may be, but he also knows Rudd is keeping his policy powder dry until the formal campaign, which gives Howard ample time to cover more of the bases he thinks Rudd might have in mind for the campaign: roads, health, tax cuts (a big possibility in my mind, as this would neatly justify the $6 million dollar expense of recalling the House), culture wars stuff (like today’s Aussie History announcement) cemented in legislation and so on… he’ll be trumping Rudd’s policies before Rudd even announces them… and Howard will have the full weight of the L_A_W (courtesy of next week’s session) to enable him to claim they’re definitely going to be carried out. and carried out they will be: right through the election campaign proper. No need to worry about any namby-pamby “caretaker” conventions.

    Q. How does Howard turn Rudd’s frustrating reluctance to announce policy before the campaign into an electoral plus?

    A. Announce as many as possible of his own policies (or rehashes of policies) in the meantime, secure in the belief that Rudd will stay silent.

    If Rudd wants to debate any of the take-it-or-leave-it legislation put to him next week he’ll be branded as not caring about the Australian people, too besotted by political manoeuvreing and gamesmanship to muck in and help those in need of assistance etc. etc.

    Batten down the hatches.

    Also gives the Libs another chance to release the Heiner papers. This time they might take it.

  14. Gusface #7

    “I think the MSM is at 6s and 7s trying to figure out whats is happening -this happens when you live in ivory towers”

    Gus I don’t think the building material is ivory. More like dried cow dung.

  15. The QC Rofe? at the centre of the Heiner papers came out in The Australian last week and said that Ackerman’s efforts were all nonsense and that he has been misquoted and, that Rudd’s would basically have no involvement at all in said affair. He is the guy that wrote the report. Really gave Ackerman a black eye over it.

  16. Bushfire – 23 Not a bad analysis of what the rodent is up to by not calling the election. Rudd would be really champing at the bit waiting to launch his policies in the campaign. The big risk of having the sitting next week is that Labor gets an opportunity to attack Howard and his ministers at question time. The delay in announcing has placed Howard at great risk on the interest rate front. The financial markets have priced in a rise, probably in November or December. If there is a big inflation figure from ABS on Oct 24, a rise is certain on 6 Nov. That would be the final nail.

  17. Bushfire Bill: I think more can be read in to Howard’s statement about anything he proposes now is the governments not his party. Someone recently pointed out that the government was trying to get legal advice about if government ads can still run through the campaign. So if we have Howard saying the following,

    “And bear in mind that before the election is called, any commitment I make is a government commitment and work can start on it straight away.”

    “Therefore, if the government is returned that work continues and the work can go on through the election campaign.”

    Doesn’t that ring of the fact they might even have a government advertising saying these are already under way during the election campaign, or if not there could very well be ads suggesting just before the campaign.

  18. I would’ve thought he was just saying that as he’s committed to them whilst still in government they are government commitments which will definately take place, rather than mere pledges of a political party during a campaign.

    Pretty sad that we need to search through his words so much to see what he could possibly be saying. The trust is absent.

  19. Yes Will, Virginia Trioli, to her credit gave this issue some air time this morning on Sydney ABC radio.

    It is a message that Labor need to emphasise at every opportunity, because when the Feds have a $17bn surplus, it is a potent message.

    Nothing much in the SMH about it. Instead they have Miranda Devine, complete with banner ad on the front page ‘LABOR SHOWS ITS TRUE COLORS’. And just in case you didn’t get the point, a picture of an evil dark skinned foriegner opposite Miranda’s angelic visage.

    And I subscribe to the rag!

  20. Bushfire Bill — I agree. I made a similar point a couple of days ago. It’s been a game of cat and mouse really. Rudd has released quite bit of policy throughout the year, but went a bit quiet a couple of weeks ago as he waited for the election to be called. In the meantime Howard has realised that he won’t win the election by just talking about the past and the economy, and wants to be seen to be “governing” and releasing policy outside of election mode. Of course, he should have done this much earlier because it’s impossible not view any announcement now in the context of the election.

    Overall I think the past couple of weeks have been relatively good for Howard. Rudd is no longer setting the agenda, which has pretty much done all year. So it wouldn’t surprise me for Howard to try and drag this out a week or two more… I think he’s making progress.

    If he does, will Rudd continue to sit on his hands? Rudd can’t afford to lose momentum now, which I think he is in danger of doing. On the other hand, he’s obviously got good reason for wanting to keep the rest of his big announcements until the campaign proper.

    The very fact that Rudd is trying to force Howard to call an election now suggests that Howard should not (from a tactical point of view). I always make the analogy with winning the toss in cricket — you should choose to bat or bowl according to what your opponent doesn’t want you to do.

  21. Will, yes, possible. It was one of the ladie journos on Insiders who made the comment about the ads continuing throughout the “caretaker” period (sorry, forgot her name… was it Lenore?).

    As far as I understand it the “caretaker” convention is not justiciable. It can’t be taken to a court and enforced.

    It’s up to the government to decide what’s subject to the “caretaker” convention and what’s not. No court in the land can naysay them if it comes down to an attempt by Labor to get an injunction.

    So, your scenario goes: the government lets contracts to run an “information” campaign throughout the cam[paign period and they’ll have to pay penalties if they don’t (so they’ll “reluctantly” continue with it)? Howard merely says he told us all he didn’t know when the election would be held and this “information” was too important to keep under wraps for purely political purposes?

  22. Re: “Some number-crunching from The Australian’s George Megalogenis which I don’t have time to read at this point, but you can take for granted that it’s good stuff.”

    He is saying that the coalition have better support from the lower educated , while Labor is the party of choice for uni type poindexters.

    Well that explains Julie Bishop’s education strategy.

  23. The Coalition still believe that Rudd, given enough pressure, will implode, but I don’t think so. Rudd has been carrying the ALP the whole year almost by himself, and against pretty much all the ministry on all the issues. He will make “gaffes”, but these are of much more consequence to the political industry than the voters.

    Compared to John Howard’s performance in 1995/6, when he constantly looked uncertain and flip/floppy under repeated onslaughts from Paul Keating, Rudd’s performance has been very good.

    In the end the campaign doesn’t really matter, voters make decisions and develop perceptions over a long period of time. The campaign can only reinforce existing perceptions, it’s far too late to try to develop new one’s.

    Rudd is not Beazley or Latham. He has had record approvals for a very long time, despite all the Coalition has thrown at him. Do they ever stop and ask themselves why?

  24. I would have thought the advantage for Howard in delaying is that the costings for some of these pre election promises won’t be tallied under campaign pork, which is important given the fiscal straightjacket re interest rates that both sides will be subject to. The Libs will be very keen to exploit Labors so called fiscal prolifigacy.

    Re calling the election I noticed shanaghan in the OZ this moring trying to cook up a parliamentary session focusing on the death penalty issue. Cleary his craven opportunistic little mouth is watering at the prospect. He quotes the Labor party as being on ‘alert’ for a recall by the PM designed to apply the wedge re this issue. You can see why, to the increasingly desperate tories, this issue is so attractive. The failure of the press to expose it for what it is really is shameful and Howard would obviously believe that News Limited will give him a free ride if he wished to wedge it a bit more. According to the terrorgraph yesterday labors policy re the death penalty was “aimed at saving the bali bombers’. Poor fella my country.

  25. The ads will stop when the campaign starts. They have already stated that they will observe the caretaker conventions in this respect, and the uproar it would create is not worth it. Howard will milk it for now, but won’t cross the line where the negative backlash exceeds the positive benefit.

  26. The other thing about Howard’s weasel words is that when it comes time to compare the spending of the 2 parties election spending, Howard will say the amounts are false since X amount was government announcements, not election announcements and when he wins that debate he will attack Labor for ‘spending up big’. I just hope the ALP is keeping tally of ‘pre-election spending’ from the Coalition.

  27. Ashley @ #38, says,

    “They have already stated that they will observe the caretaker conventions in this respect…”

    I simply point out that the definition of “caretaker convention” is entirely up to the Howard government. It is not justiciable in any court in the land.

    What they say goes.

    Sean #37, that’s a great point of yours. I can just hear Howard saying:

    “This $xxx billion was not a campaign promise. It was part of the ordinary business of government. We were elected to govern and that’s what we’ve been doing while Mr. Rudd whines and whinges.”

    While we’re all arguing about how embarrassing and counterproductive the delay must seem, Howard is distributing Claytons Pork, all the while claiming it’s just doing what he’s paid to do by the Australian people. He also keeps Rudd quiet on policy issues until he’s covered what he anticipates the full extent of possibilities, thereby trumping Rudd. A few more millions of dollars go directly into his mates’ bank accounts (via the ad campaign) while we all deride the “information” campaign as a waste of time (whose time? whose money?). Nuclear waste and enrichment industries are quietly set up (it doesn’t matter if we build actual reacotrs or not for the nuclear ancilliary industries to make money). Road contracts will be let. Farmers bailed out.

    It’s starting to seem like the Coalition – or at least some in the Coalition – don’t care whether they ‘re re-elected or not. Whatever happens, they’ll be set up for life with our money, laundered through pork projects, phoney (and useless) ad campaigns and all the rest of this “governing” stuff that they’re doing at the moment. It’s party time.

    If they win, well, that’s a nice bonus, but not absolutely necessary.

  28. Aristotle (36) – agree that Rudd and Labor have it under control.

    Howard may feel that he is back in the race right now with all his pork barrelling and Rudd keeping his powder dry, but I believe Labor will clearly win the campaign whenever it begins. They just have so much to work with this time.

  29. Bushfire Bill — very cynical! I still think Howard is going for a win. He’s a clever politician and I think he’s now learnt from the mistakes he’s made this year. I think it’s too late for him though…

  30. mr howard is too clever by half, and i think that a reasonable enough proportion of voters will see through him. all this will work against him. people know that if it looks, smells and tastes like pork, then pork is what it is. they won’t be concerned with technicalities about “ordinary work of government” vs political party election promises. they’ll accept the pork, and vote against him.

  31. Yeah, the idea that Howard is waiting for Rudd to stuff up more before he calls the election has merit cos the media really are scowering the universe for anything to throw at Rudd – the list is endless. There’s been no traction so far but I’m awaiting the next polls cos of all the mud thrown at Labor its the McClelland issue that disturbs me most. It plays to all Howards strengths and you better believe that its the only real thing Howards got in his arsenal at the moment and he knows it.
    Rudd will cream Howard in the campaign proper, though i expect News Limited journalists to be popping up with Gottya questions left right and centre. Howard has lost all the debates in previous elections and the weight of carrying around poll results that suggest that politically hes going to hell in a handbasket will increasingly weigh howard down. He’s already looking increasingly more dessicated. The old fella wouldn’t be getting much sleep and I suspect must often fantasise about being back in Oct last year when he could have exited to unprecedented fanfare.

  32. Re: Caretaker conventions

    It is up to the public service to enforce those conventions. So once the election is called they have to serve to masters – there isnt a senior public servant in the land who would allow government ads to continue running from their department during an election. It just simply isnt done. The Deparments would pull the funding even if the government wanted it to continue. As once the election is called, the government has no mandate to pull the Department secretaries into line – they are no longer the elected government, as parliament has been disolved.

    This is by way of saying – dont worry about government ads during the campaign, there won’t be any.

  33. Bushfire — I think his spending is purely aimed at getting himself re-elected. I just don’t think he’s given up on winning the election. Of course there’s money going to his mates, but he’s not in the process of throwing a going away party.

  34. Kina 25/26

    From The OZ today,25197,22566222-2702,00.html

    QUEENSLAND police are poised to lay charges over an alleged rape at the centre of the Shreddergate affair, further undermining attempts to ensnare Kevin Rudd in an alleged conspiracy to cover up a crime said to have been committed 19 years ago.

    Sydney QC David Rofe has named the federal Opposition Leader as one of several people who should face charges arising from the so-called Shreddergate affair. Mr Rofe has outlined the charges in a 3600-page report.

    Mr Rudd was chief of staff to premier Wayne Goss in 1990 when the Queensland cabinet decided to shred documents compiled by an inquiry headed by former magistrate Noel Heiner into the juvenile detention centre.

    Mr Rudd’s critics have seized on the case of the alleged rape victim to justify their attempts to resurrect Shreddergate – the subject of several past inquiries – in the lead-up to the federal election.

    However, Mr Harris [the lawyer acting for the alleged victim], told The Australian on Tuesday that he had seen no evidence indicating that documents relating to the case were shredded by the inquiry.

    Not to mention that it was cabinet who made the decision, not Rudd.

    Another dead end for the government and its supporters.

  35. Shreddergate is a dead cat of an issue that the extreme right have exhumed at various times of the last 17 years to throw at the Labor Party. The Rudd connection is laughable. Good old affable Barnaby Joyce seems to be the latest stooge in this shambolic exercise.

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