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. Low unemployment figures have not had any effect on the polls so far. Why should they now? Can’t see it happening myself. People want this government gone.

  2. People don’t care if unemployment is low. They care that they, themselves, have jobs. If they don’t feel that their own job, or the jobs of those very close to them, will be jeopardised by a Labor win then it will have no impact.

    The task for the Coalition will be to make people fear for their own jobs, not for the general unemployment rate.

  3. CTEP
    [The task for the Coalition will be to make people fear for their own jobs, not for the general unemployment rate]

    Well then workchoices was a good start! 🙂

  4. December 8. Howard doesn’t care about recalling parliament.

    Any chance the UN Climate Change meeting in Bali will figure into the schedule?

  5. Pyne-O-Clean in big trouble. He’ll be nagging Howard for truck-loads of “pork” for his electorate, I bet. The big problem for Howard is how he is going to distribute the $17 billion in pork. Which electorates are worth trying to save and which aren’t. Any Liberal pollie who is offside with Howard could miss out.

    I bet there is a lot of “boot liching” going on at the moment. Poor old “Custardello” must be getting a headache trying to spread the legasse around without ripping their “superior economic managerment” legend to bits. Don’t you just love them to bits!

    {In further bad news for the Coalition, the polling conducted for The Advertiser newspaper is showing that seats the Government expected it would not have to determinedly defend could also be in danger, including Sturt held by Ageing Minister Christopher Pyne. Polling late last week showed ALP candidate Mia Handshin had cut Mr Pyne’s 6.8 per cent margin to just 2 per cent in the seat that runs from Adelaide’s CBD to the foothills.

    For the second time in less than a fortnight, Kevin Rudd campaigned in Sturt yesterday as the The Advertiser poll showed a two-party preferred split of 54 to 46 per cent to Labor for the state. }
    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22566221-11949,00.html

  6. Xenophon if elected will be the first federal politician whose name begins with “X”. This will be a great joy to trivia-night-question-compilers and index-makers.

  7. [Perhaps we should be putting ‘high flying’ Hockey on an AWA that he said he could double his income with. He now agrees that high flyers on AWAs can be worse of than being on a collective agreement.]

    Did he say how AWAs apply to “low altitude flyers”?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaLLP4sc_6Q

    Let me guess, they end up never becoming prime minister? 😛

  8. This is typical of the wonderful support that Howard is getting throughout the “Blogisphere”.

    {last i checked howard is doing what he’s entitled to do – call the election when he sees fit. just because you communists want to vote for Krudd and live in a hell hole of a country once the unions take over, doesnt mean howard has to do what you twits want }

    Unfortunately, he comes from Queensland. I think there are plenty more like him throughout the country. Howard must be pleased with the sound, reasoned, argument these people put forward as reason for re-electing the Howard Government.

  9. I think that study on the educational standard of Coalition supporters is well exampled in that quote in my post @ 113.

    Check the grammar. That is the full post, no capitals, no comer’s, no full-stop.

  10. I think the Coalition will be focussing their scare campaign on unemployment and not interest rates this time around. Already, Howard has been talking about wanting a “full employment” economy and the latest unemployment figures help his cause.

    The ads for them would probably be something like:

    “The last time Labor was in government, unemployment reached 11.3% (or 1 million Australians were unemployed). The Coalition government have created [insert number] jobs since they got in office. Don’t risk your job – Vote Liberal”

  11. Scorpio, of course the poster is technically right in saying Howard can call it whenever he wants to. If there was a good reason for parliament to be sitting then noone would have any reason to criticise him for not calling. However, you have to wonder whether the spirit of parliament is being abided by when you get comments like this:

    “I actually think it would be tactically good for us to go back, in any case.”
    Senator Barnaby Joyce

  12. [“I actually think it would be tactically good for us to go back, in any case.”
    Senator Barnaby Joyce]

    Here I was thinking parliament was meant to serve THE PEOPLE.

    I’m so old fashioned…

  13. CTEP, Minchen has publically supported reconvening Parliament too.

    Makes you wonder just what they have up their sleeve, doesn’t it.

    If it follows the trend of the last week of the previous sitting, it won’t do them any good at all.

  14. This young fellow who caused Senator Coonan and Howard some embarrassment a while back is at it again. Great work, kid.

    {THE 16-year-old school boy who cracked the Government’s $80 million porn filter in August, declaring it a waste of money, has done it again.

    This time he has posted a YouTube video handbook on his blog site instructing kids on how to hack around “all” the Federal Government’s filters.

    The video shows how to use sophisticated hacking tools to get into Windows program to delete the administrators’ password files and get around porn filters.

    Last night Senator Helen Coonan’s office was denying its filters had been compromised, claiming it was a problem with Microsoft password protocols not the filters. }
    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22565604-421,00.html

  15. If I was Mr Rudd and the PM recalled the parliament I wouldn’t show,I would let Ms Gillard run the parliamentry show while I campaigned in Benelong,Eden-Monaro,Lindsay,Parramatta,Sturt,Boothby,Moreton,Bonner,Ryan, and every other marginal every day that parliament is recalled.

  16. Downer to be treasurer under PM Costello? It seems he is thinking about it.

    This just went up on the BAC news website at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/10/11/2056787.htm?section=justin

    To me this one is quite funny, and must be a huge own goal if Downer is actually pushing it. I imagine that Labor will certainly play with it. When you consider the actual mechanics of a leadership switch to Costello, it must hurt the Liberals. Costello is no longer treasurer, so they have to get someone numerate to fill that roll. Meanwhile Costello must do a character makeover to come across as the strong but caring leader?
    Downer has a degree in politics and economics dating back to the 70s but would hardly inspire confidence. Imagine him explaining a Federal budget.

  17. The key phrase in Professor Flint’s attempt to rig forthcoming elections is here

    “In any event, the Society found a number of those enrolled were either unknown or had moved long ago.”

    So, the question is not whether these people exist, or whether they are citizens, or whether they should have a vote somewhere. It’s about whether these people have been good about telling the Government where they live.

    As a side point, like many of his ilk, Professor Flint ignores that people also move out of marginal electorates rather than into them.

    But the key point is that ballot rigging the way Professor Flint describes it is bloody hard work, involving many, many people. You have to identify people who are on the roll where you think you need the votes (which isnt, necessarily, where you actually need the votes). You then need someone to impersonate them at a ballot box (without the actual voter wandering into a booth somewhere else and double voting, which is remarkably easy to pick up with a scanner and a little data matching).

    And then, this person, critically, NEEDS TO STAY SILENT ABOUT ALL THIS FOREVER.

    No factional falling outs (hi Theo). No switches of parties (Peter Costello, I’m looking at you here). No attacks of concience leading to a religious life. No future careers as a journalist or novelist, reminiscing about the good old days of branch stacking and ballot rigging.

    Nope, Professor Flint, if you want to rig an election, you take a million bucks a day – or more – of taxpayer money and use it for party advertising.

    Or, if your opponents voting bloc tends to include renters who move house, you install tough bureaucratic requirements on registering and re-registering to vote after they move, in the hope they just dont bother, and therefore are denied the opportunity to vote.

    Thats the best way to commit ballot fraud and rig an election, Professor Flint.

  18. [This young fellow who caused Senator Coonan and Howard some embarrassment a while back is at it again. Great work, kid.]

    It’s politically easier for a government to pay $80 million for an internet filtering service that doesn’t work, rather than remind parents to monitor their children when they are on the internet.

    Politically you can only criticise the parenting skills of unemployed single mothers. Married couples who are employed can’t be criticised at all, in fact they need government hand outs to reward them for working.

  19. Rudd’s call for fixed term elections has merit and would win votes if tied to the issue of government corruption through advertising.

    Fixed term elections provide a practical solution to achieve balance between the right (debatable) of a Government to promote its policies and free and fair elections by imposing a moratorium period on such advertising prior to the elections. This is not possible if you don’t know when the election is going to be held. 3 months would seem reasonable for a period as it gives the Government a lengthy period in which to enact legislation and promote the changes.

    The only government advertising during this period would be that for emergency purposes and this could be handled by a statutory authority or by a bipartisan sign off.

    If I were Rudd and Howard once again delayed calling an election this weekend and called Parliament back I would send two House of Reps members to Canberra to propose such a piece of legislation and tell the rest of the Reps members to keep on campaigning (the Senators would have to return to stop them passing something dodgy through the Reps).

    How embarassing to Howard would an empty set of benches look at question time? How nervous would his marginal backbenchers be that whilst they were in Canberra there were Labor members in safe seats currently campaigning in theirs?

  20. I was at community meeting with Hockey and Bailey last night.

    Hockey said that “The Government would have somehting to say about [the Royal North Shore Hopsital] before the election is called.”

    I haven’t heard anything yet. Which makes me think that Parliament is coming back next week – probably to talk about Health.

    Interstingly, Hockey also said that [approximate quote] “Howard/Costello have provided 11 years of consistency. A change to Rudd would be a major change for in direction for Australia.” There was a spontaneous burst of applause from the audience at the idea of a major change.

    Even North Sydney wants change.

  21. I’d say there’s no chance of Howard calling the election before Sunday week – and then he may even wait another week.

    Coalition polls can not get any lower no matter what happens.
    Another sitting week may turn up something. All the while he’s using his private jet and denying Rudd the same privilege.
    All the while the govt ads are everywhere.
    South Pacific Forum – chance to lecture to the mob about Climate Change (joke) and grandstand without Rudd being able to upstage him.
    He will have the campaign last for the minimum time and December 8 is last option open to him. Labor coffers larger than his – short campaign. He may hold off until 33 days back from them. Public anger at the delay will dissipate within days of calling it – he knows that.

    He has absolutely nothing to lose by waiting as long as possible – and all the while there is hope that Labor may stumble (like on Monday) more than once.

    Honestly, what party supporter of either side, in the same circumstances, would advise doing any thing but wait as long as possible?

    But I do hope he calls it soon.

  22. I thought that an MHR was required to attend sittings unless he had a good reason for being absent. I have in the back of my mind an instance where a member was rebuked by the parliament for non attendance.. or is this a figment of my election crazed imagination?

  23. Parliament will be recalled next week. No risk.
    Abbott/Downer/Costello are already sharpening their pencils on the Capital Punishment issue.

  24. sondeo @ 121, even better would be if all Labor pollies boycotted Parliament altogether and carried on campaigning in their electorates and in the case of Shadow Cabinet members and Rudd, throughout the marginal and vulnerable Coalition electorates.

    Think of the media coverage that would get. It would throw Howard and C totally off track and message and make Parliament a non event, especially Question time. Who would watch Coalition members throw Dorothy after Dorothy at Ministers. lol

  25. Derek Corbett Says:

    {Sounds oddly familiar, really. Glen has not yet discovered the comma.}

    He may slip on over to Tim Dunlop’s site to give us a break every now and again.

    Andos the Great , sure do. lol

  26. I had wondered if Xenophon might go one day federal.

    Xenophon’s only a year and a half into an eight year upper house term, so he could have waited until the next federal election, or the one after that.

    Still, not a bad idea to cash on his popularity whilst it (presumably) remains high. Xenophon would cruise into the Senate if his he repeated anything close to the massive vote he clocked up at last year’s state election.

    Good news for Labor in my view. There’s now a very serious chance the Libs will be kept to just two Senate seats in SA. Early prediction: ALP 3 Lib 2 Xenophon 1.

  27. sondeo (121), that’s actually a very good idea, but why not take it further, and have no Labor member attend. Sure they’d get some flack along the lines of a contempt for democracy etc etc, but the counter to that is “what’s more democratic than an election that Howard refuses to call?”

    They could call it a boycott of parliament in protest at the contempt for democracy and the electorate shown by John Howard.

    Yes I know it won’t happen, but it’s interesting to imagine what the consequences would be if it did.

  28. [Kind of shows that Glen’s constant accusations of hubris may be a tad far-fetched this time around…]

    I wonder what Glen made of Downer’s hubris – naming himself as the next treasurer.

  29. I still think it would be an act of gross stupidity for Howard to recall parliament. I’m still betting it won’t sit again. Its just a free kick for the labor party, when everyone knows this parliament is well and truly past its use-by-date. It will fit in nicely with Rudd’s pledge to have a referendum on fixed 4 year terms. If parliament sits again, Howard will only succeed in wiping a little more off the coalitions 2PP. Question time really makes bugger all difference to the way people vote. All Howard can hope for is to start the campaign, get a bit of momentum and in the best case scenario make the election moderately close.

  30. Scorps

    The mental image of poor Dorothy flying around the chamber bouncing off lonely Coalition MPs er, made my day. Is there an alternative proposal …

  31. I’ll say it again, if Question Time in Parliament determined elections the polls wold show the election a lot closer than they do now. The government has an unfair advantage. Keating used to maul the opposition and we know what happeed to him. The average person does not understand or care about the workings of parliament, nor are they interested in seeing clowns shouting each other down. No electoral advantage at all to the government IMHO.

  32. MS @ 139,

    I completely agree with you. The potential benefit for JWH is so small and the potential costs are so great, it makes absolutely no sense for Parliament recalled. If (and this is a big if) JWH completely destroys Rudd in QT next week, how many people are going to take notice and change their vote because of that?

    However, if Parliament is recalled, people will ask why is it being recalled. It also gives time for Labor candidates in Coalition seats free and uninterrupted time to campaign against their incumbents, who are stuck in Canberra. I don’t see how anything that happens in Parliament next week can outweigh the combined weight of the above costs.

  33. I agree that it’s a bad idea for the government to reconvene Parliament. The Canberra bear pit will be feral and fractious, and the government’s hatchet men will hurl everything at Rudd and Labor. But what they don’t seem to get is that such scenes are a real turn-off in VoterLand – I can’t see how the government can get any benefit out of it at all, unless they can get some substantive mud to stick to Rudd (which seems unlikely after the year we’ve had). Maybe they can get Kevvie to eat a three-eyed fish on camera….

    Then there is the issue of taking all of those marginal seat holders off to Canberra for two weeks, while their ALP opponents continue to work the electorate. Seems dumb to me.

    But I think we’re all still stuck in the paradigm of JWH being this deadly politician. That may have been the case a few years ago (helped by a poor ALP), but there’s certainly been little evidence of it this year – he has been out-thought and out-manoevred by Rudd on a regular basis. It could well be that the high opinion held by the political class on Howard political skills was always overstated, and now that the old boy is up against as smooth an operator as Rudd, maybe we’re just now seeing that in fact the emperor has no clothes.

  34. If Howard wants any media mileage re an Election Announcement here in WA he won’t get it because this weekend Channel 7 will be holding their annual Telethon, and most notably, the Sunday Edition of Weekend Sunrise, as well as monday’s edition – will be coming out of Perth.

    I hope the WA ALP has convinced Rudd to record something for Telethon, and maybe he will use it to announce some sort of Federal Funding for the TVW Telethon Child Health Institute.

    That’ll really piss off Howard.

  35. Matthew Sykes, once the election is called everyone will forget about something as inconsequential as calling another week of sittings. The momentum of the campaign will overtake anything as trivial as that. Howard has nothing to lose by calling it (apart from the idea of Labor candidates continuing to campaign in marginals, which is only a minor consideration).

  36. the government ensured they finished up all the legislation they needed to last session.

    They would like pretty silly being in Parliament without any decent legislation to pass

  37. The other compelling reason for Howard to call an election this weekend or perhaps even later tomorrow is the newspoll coming out on Tuesday. If newspoll is bad for him, and parliament sits, the natives will just get even more restless. If its a positive result, surely that would be the ideal way to get an election campaign started.

  38. If Xenophon is elected, it will almost certainly be at the expense of Senator Hedley Grant Pearson Chapman, no 3 on the Liberal ticket. I’m surprised more attention hasn’t been given to Chapman’s career. First elected for Kingston in 1975, he has spent eight years in the Reps and 20 in the Senate, and in that time he has done absolutely nothing. He hardly ever speaks, has never even looked like being promoted, and treats Parliament as some sort of country club. Yet the SA Libs have just endorsed him for another six-year term, presumably because he comes from an old Adelaide establishment family, went to the right school and knows all the right chaps. Talk about hereditary peers – Senator John Hedley Chapman was his grandfather’s cousin, and I presume that Senator Rex Pearson was also a relative.

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