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. I live in Higgins, and my mother was polled yesterday afternoon. There were many questions on what she thought of Peter Costello, our local member, and also questions on the Labor candidate, who I’m not at all familiar with. It looks as if this might have been an internal party poll for Higgins, which would mean that one of the parties sees Higgins as a chance for Labor. It was conducted Wed arvo, not Wed night, when you’d expect regular pollsters to conduct their polls.

  2. WT @ 46

    “… dont worry about government ads during the campaign, there won’t be any.”

    Wanna bet? At the risk of maligning the public service, Howard would have found a loophole – or rat hole – somewhere in order to defy convention.

  3. Am currently holidaying in Forrest (the black bream are biting in the Blackwood River) and the rolling green paddocks and stretches of bushland are blighted by big glossy billboards with the Liberal logo and Nola Marino’s photo. Nicole Cornes she aint, at least to look at.

  4. The education gap is not the big one. The big gap is ethnicity. It’s the largest and most visible political divide in Australia but completely ignored by the media.

    The latest charts reinforce this. Electoral divisions with non-English-speaking-migrants making up over 20% of the population are solidly Labor: only three are Liberal, and these marginal.

    If more than 5% of the population can’t speak English, again, solidly Labor.

  5. Howard and co are obsessed with Rudd, 90% of Howard’s interview with Laws yesterday was Howard ranting on about Rudd and so it was with the other senior ministers, actually i ended up laughing out loud with ch2 last night, they played Howard and then Costello and then Downer one after the other — all ranting about Rudd, it really was a comedy routine and if i saw the funny side of it i think a lot of others would have seen it the same way,while their obsessing over Rudd their little minds cant be thinking up new policies and they’re wasting valuable time.

  6. Sean (45) – agree that McClelland’s stuff-up plays to Howard’s strengths. That’s why I think he thoroughly deserved the bagging he got from Rudd.

    Fortunately it shouldn’t make any difference to the ultimate outcome of the election, but it did distract Rudd for more than a day just as he was having some success focussing the minds of the media on the cost to the public purse of Howard’s delaying tactics.

  7. Has anyone given thought, that John Howard might actually be gripped by fear as to what will happen at the election. And that he believed the propaganda that he was a brilliant politician, when he in fact is not. He just got lucky in a couple of elections when things ran his way. So he can’t summon up enough courage to call the election.

  8. Actually Michael it’s not ethnicity as such, although the bulk of non-Anglo migrants probably do vote Labor. It’s ethnicity as a marker for cosmopolitanism. Anglo people who like living in multicultural areas are also much more likely to vote Labor, regardless of their economic status. It’s the growing cosmopolitanism of urban Australia that’s tipping it towards Labor and away from the boring old monoculturalist Libs. That’s why Howard as a cricket-loving monarchist Anglo archetype is dragging them down, and even dragging himself down in Bennelong.

  9. Moving on, this time about compulsory Australian History lessons for all yr 9 and 10 students.

    Students have about 40 weeks at year at school (taking in to account holidays and public holidays). So the number hours a week will be around 2hrs a week. That’s a full time subject.

    Now going on personal experience from about 18 yrs ago, I had 7 subjects + Core Phys Ed. Of those 7 subjects, English, Maths, Science and a Social Science (History/Geography/a current affair style subject) were mandatory. Also, since I was in the school band, my school made Music a compulsory subject for me. This left only 2 electives. Adding another compulsory subject gives, removes choices for students getting ready for senior school and ultimately a career.

    I’m not against teaching Australian History, but it’s adding further burden on students and staff and removes choice.

    One can’t force someone to learn something they don’t want to. If anything it would turn someone against the whole idea of staying in school.

    Finally, I know in primary school we did heaps of Australian History.

  10. Re #46 and several previous comments, particularly from Bushfire Bill – for those interested the caretaker conventions are spelt out here (.pdf download 187kb) in a circular from the Dept of the Prime Minister & Cabinet.

    The most important thing to note about them is that Bushfire is right – they are merely conventions and have no legal effect.

    The second most important thing to realise is that the Government itself is the arbiter in any interpretation or application of the conventions. While bureaucrats will look to PM&C for leadership or advice – for example on ‘pulling’ TV campaigns – if the Government itself decides to direct continued advertising, they are still legally the Government and are legally (if not morally) entitled to direct departments to do what they want.

    The real question is whether the outcry which would ensue from tearing up the caretaker conventions would be worth the gain to be had from continued advertising. It may perhaps be worth it if the message was important enough politically. What if Parliament next week passes laws for massive tax cuts to come into effect on 1 December, or to introduce the death penalty for terrorist offences? Either of those may be worth the gamble of advertising during the campaign.

    Howard has shown before that he will stop at nothing. He is not just a rodent, but now a badly cornered rodent. Watch out!

  11. I’m looking foward to seeing the ALP ads when the election campaign starts. I hope they’ve got some good ones lined up — they are spoilt for choice when it comes to angles to attack Howard from. I think the “Howard is yesterday’s man” angle could be particularly fruitful.

    I thought the getup.org ad was very good, but pretty useless if only played once or twice…

    Anyone got a good idea for an ALP ad?

  12. To all those who think that the ‘conventions’ will make a lick of difference you are wrong.

    This current batch of servants (esp at SES level) are handpicked from Pakistan (i.e. DEWR. Get it? Pakistan trains terrorists, DEWR trains govt headkickers) and will do WHATEVER the government wants.

    If Howard wants these adds running through the campaign they will be running.

  13. The government ads haven’t made a bit of difference to the polls over the last five months. Why should they have any more effect (other than a negative one) during the campaign?

  14. Re election timing:

    If Howard does announce the election this weekend, the electoral act provides for a 33-58 day campaign. Thus, the election could be any Sat from 17 Nov to 8 Dec inclusive. As the govt needs to make up a lot of ground, it is logical for Howard to go for a long campaign. I agree with those who say that Howard can have govt ads running during the campaign if he wants to.

  15. What is it with the Libs/NAts with these hospital management committees?

    Are they really serious about giving us 750 new quangos?

    Who is going to be on these committees? How are they going to be selected? Will they be chosen by central government with membership being handed out to party hacks?

    How will they find enough competent people to be on these committees bearing in mind that’s one committee per 30 000 people.

    Will the committee members be remunerated, what about their liabilities as committee members.

    Who will monitor their behaviour – if they are appointed by the Feds will they be subject to an ICAC or similar?

    Why is the meeja not putting such questions to the MAd Monk and Howard/Custard?

  16. Yo ho ho — I’m sure Howard could legally get away with running ads if he wanted to. But the point I was making is that he won’t do it because it *looks* really bad, for little benefit. There comes a point where the negatives outweigh the positives, and I’m sure the bad press he would get would produce sufficient negatives. He may be sneaky, but he doesn’t want to *look* sneaky.

  17. Ashley

    I’ll be pretty p’d off if Labor havent been working up a response to the economy/interest rate crap they’re going to be bombarded with by the Libs. A mention of the 22% rates under howard in the early 80s is an absolute must as well as the fact that the once in a lifetime resources boom has essentially been squandered. Labor need to take the fight up to the Libs on the economy rather than passively cower as they did under beazley. Also something on Iraq, awb, and liberal infighting. Other than that: Workchoices, workchoices, workchoices.

  18. WorkChoices and trust should be the issues for Labor. Can we trust a party that refused to listen when they were warned their IR policies would hurt working Australians? Can we trust them to not go even further, given Senator Minchin’s comments? Can we trust the claims made by the Prime Minister given his claims on interest rates at the last election?

    Otherwise, a focus on the future under new leadership and it being time to take the next step, forward together.

  19. Yes, I can’t see the conventions counting for anything with these bunch of mongrels. Apologies to all the dog lovers out there.

    Also, if you think that there’ll be an ‘outcry’, think again. Only those who wouldn’t vote for Howard in a pink fit will be outraged, the rest couldn’t care less.
    As for the media – don’t make me laugh. As far as most of them are concerned, they’ll all but ignore anything negative for Dear Leader while confecting outrage at the most minor non-gaffe by Rudd.

    So a muffled whimper would be an apt description of what will happen when these ads continue.

  20. “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”

    One could ask the then-National Party Government why they used a different electoral roll to the Commonwealth? I recall that the Goss Government changed the law to make the Commonwealth roll the one to use in state elections, possibly at the recommendation of E.A.R.C. (NB the different numbers of voters might not be an indication of something nefarious, but might have been an indication that the AEC and the Qld SEO were at different stages in the cycle of maintaining the roll.)

    Given that the ALP scored about 50% of the primary vote in the 1989 state election, I think they would have won had the Commonwealth roll been used. There were only a few seats in which the winning margin was very tiny (from memory, Whitsunday and Isis may have been very close).

    An anecdote – my dad tried to enrol in Brisbane for Qld state elections in about 1986 and had huge trouble with the Qld SEO – they claimed his residential address didn’t exist – but they were looking at an address on the wrong street!

  21. SOUTH Australian independent MP Nick Xenophon is quitting the Upper House to run for the Senate at the coming federal election.

    Mr Xenophon made the announcement today.

    The lawyer, who entered state politics in 1997 on a slogan of ridding the state of poker machines, has become one of the most high-profile MPs in South Australia’s history.

  22. Adam, I think, given time, there might be quite a cultural divide between the ever-growing ranks of the “cosmopolitans” and the “suburbanites”, and this might be the political line too.

  23. Sean — I reckon the Libs will shut up about interest rates this time around, because it will just remind people of broken promises. Instead they’ll talk about low unemployment and a strong economy. Labor on the other hand might talk about interest rates and broken promises.

    I agree that workchoices is going to be the major target. I hope they get some really biting ads on that one.

    Speaking of workchoices, I always wonder why they haven’t put any ads out attacking the fairness test. Labor and the unions seem to only attack workchoices in general. No one ever points out that the “fairness test” does not apply when you are starting a new job. Isn’t it the case that new employees can be paid less than existing employees on this basis? (Please correct me if I’m wrong on that). If so, why not find a few cases where new employees are getting shafted compared to existing employees and shove them in an ad?

  24. Ta, Canberra Boy

    Yes, a badly cornered rodent. Approach with caution, is fully armed with taxpayers’ hard-earned. APB all units: It is essential to capture legacy and to dispose of same in a safe and discreet manner, using necessary protective clothing at all times. Wear gloves and gas masks. Possible bio hazard. Be aware and alarmed.

  25. [SOUTH Australian independent MP Nick Xenophon is quitting the Upper House to run for the Senate at the coming federal election.

    Mr Xenophon made the announcement today.

    The lawyer, who entered state politics in 1997 on a slogan of ridding the state of poker machines, has become one of the most high-profile MPs in South Australia’s history.]

    I was thinking yesterday that if Rudd wins, and calls a double dissolution in 2008 or 2009 that Xenophon would then probably run for the senate. I am quite surprised that he has decided to run now, but if I was at Labor HQ I would be trying to get a preference deal. Xenephon has a chance of getting a quota by himself. He is hugely popular here as a kind of anti-politician politician (as oxymoronic as that sounds), but he is also constructive who has done deals with both the majors in the upper house.

  26. Darn (69)

    Not really. I do work in canberra and let’s say that there is a definite ‘feeling’ at my workplace today that it will happen very shortly.

  27. Xenophon’s announcement warrants a new thread. SA will return two Labor and two Liberal senators plus Xenophon. Who will then fill the last spot – Labor, Liberal, Greens, Family First? Fascinating.

  28. Xenophon is clearly getting a bit big-headed. He will find it much harder to have influence in Canberra than in little old Adelaide.

  29. The problem with running an ad campaign too soon and too long is that it becomes dull, boring and ignored – aka the workchoices nonsense.

    The electorate will have a short term memory during the election and much that has gone before will be forgotten. All they will remember maybe is the relative positions:

    WorkChoices – bad
    Hospitals and Health – Labor
    Climate Change – still Labor over the Govt
    Broadband – Labor
    Howard – too old too long, the past
    Howard – on the ropes
    Howard – negative
    Rudd – positive

  30. [Xenophon’s announcement warrants a new thread. SA will return two Labor and two Liberal senators plus Xenophon. Who will then fill the last spot – Labor, Liberal, Greens, Family First? Fascinating.]

    I think Xenophon could cost the Liberals a seat. At the 2006 state election there was a 19% swing to Xenophon’s No Pokies party, and a 14% swing away from the Liberals. There was also a 5% swing away from the Democrats.

    Labor gained a 3% swing, which would’ve been bigger if it wasn’t for Xenophon.

    Xenophon could be the biggest beneficiery of a swing against the Liberals, which every poll says is on the cards.

  31. I think Xenophon will eat into both Labor and Libs. I’d put $5 on two seats each for the Liberals and Labor, one for Xenophon, and one for FF/Greens depending on who gets Labor’s preferences.

  32. Completely off topic:

    “I’m afraid that the _Soviet Union_ and China are not ever going to do anything that’s going to hurt them that badly but we need to ratchet those up if at all possible.”

    –U.S. Presidential candidate Fred Thompson, October 03, 2007

    Please U.S. don’t do this to us again! 😐

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

    Another dead end for the government and its supporters.

    There are a number of inconsistencies in the story as told, and Chris curtis did a good examination of them in a recent thread.

    1. As highlighted above, there is no good evidence that the rape incident was canvassed by the enquiry.

    2. The original mistake with the enquiry was made by the National government, not the Labor govt, so while there may well have been an error of judgement by the new Labor cabinet, political blame (rather than any strictly legal blame) is certainly shared.

    3. Also as pointed out above there is no good evidence that Rudd was directly involved in the incident other than “he must have known” about the shredding.

    4. The subtext is that the documents were shredded to cover up the nmanagment of the centre, when it was the manager of the centre that wanted to get the documents.

  34. [With Xenophon in the mix, it’ll be 3 Labor, 2 Libs and 1 Xenophon.]

    How does he ensure he appears above the line? Will his state party infrastructure be enough for that. Or are the standards for being considered a Federal party higher?

  35. [3. Also as pointed out above there is no good evidence that Rudd was directly involved in the incident other than “he must have known” about the shredding.]

    It’s not his decision to make anyway. He wasn’t a member of cabinet. Nor is he a lawyer, so he wasn’t in a position to give a legal opinion.

    How this whole issue has anything to do with him I have no idea.

  36. 75
    Sacha Says:

    In the 1989 QLD election the margin for Whitsunday was 14 votes.

    There were that many people claiming to be one of the seven voters that got Lorraine Bird over the line, that it wasn’t funny after a while.

  37. Kim Beazley backs Labor for landslide election win, from the ABC:

    http://abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/10/11/2056781.htm?section=justin

    “I have to say this. If John Howard were to win this election from where the polls have been over the last 18 months he will be breaking new ground,” he said.

    “You’d have to say the election will see the Labor Party polling somewhere around 53 to 55 per cent, on the polling that you’ve seen so far. And if that is the case the Government’s gone.”

    I’m glad to see that someone knows what’s going on.

  38. That just makes the economy seem safer and stable – nothing to worry about except rates and lower wages [workchoices].

    Plus it would be quite easily tied to the China/global economy which many are starting to realise. People already know that the economy is strong and unemployment low – so the impact is not going to be as strong.

    It will be interesting how Labor approach these issues.

  39. {1. As highlighted above, there is no good evidence that the rape incident was canvassed by the enquiry.}

    Martin B, Heiner himself said last week that his enquiry never touched on the alleged “rape incident”.

    {Questioned about the rape at a 2004 hearing into Shreddergate by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Mr Heiner said the first he had heard of it was five years after his inquiry, when he read about it in a newspaper report. “Had I been told about it, I would have done something,” he said in reference to the alleged rape. }
    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22539329-11949,00.html

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