Phoney war dispatches: final edition

• There doesn’t appear to be anyone left who expects parliament to sit next week. Dennis Shanahan and Matthew Franklin of The Australian report that the Prime Minister is “set to call a November 24 election tomorrow”. On the other hand, Maria Hawthorne of The Advertiser reckons the trigger might yet be pulled today, and that the date could yet be December 1, while Michelle Grattan and Ben Doherty of The Age think December 1 unlikely and are instead leaving open November 17. Canberra reader John Ryan fancies he can hear “the continuous humming of shredders” from government offices in Barton.

• A summary of the state of play in The Australian contains the surprising assessment that Labor is only an “outside chance” of winning the crucial Darwin-based seat of Solomon, in the view of “party strategists”. The report also points to a mere status quo result in Victoria, and takes a bullish view of the Liberals’ prospects in Western Australia. “Based on published opinion polls”, Coalition sources are said to be “optimistic” about retaining Stirling and Hasluck, and hopeful of gaining Cowan and Swan. There is little reason this should be so, as those polls almost uniformly show a swing to Labor in WA that would win them all four. The one striking exception has been the only electorate-level poll to have emerged, a Westpoll survey from June that had the Liberals narrowly ahead in Stirling, Hasluck and Cowan. This was a considerably worse result for Labor than those that have emerged from Westpoll’s monthly statewide surveys of federal voting intention during the last six months. On the other side of the ledger, the report tells us the Coalition is “expected” to divert resources from a number of seats in the other mainland states which are regarded as lost causes, including Lindsay and Dobell in New South Wales, Bonner in Queensland and Kingston, Makin and Wakefield in South Australia. In Tasmania, Labor is said only to be no more than “confident” of recovering Bass and Braddon.

• Laura Tingle notes some patterns in the Prime Minister’s recent movements in yesterday’s Financial Review:

In the past three months, Howard’s been seen in the vicinity of his barely held South Australian electorates only when he announced (at the state Liberal Party conference, not in the electorates) a $100 million road project. He hasn’t turned up in Ross Vasta’s seat of Bonner since April … the Prime Minister has been a little more active in seats held with margins between 1 and 3 per cent – notably the Tasmanian seats of Braddon and Bass.

• Here’s a thought. At the state election last March, Nick Xenophon stunned everybody when he did well enough to win a seat not only for himself, but also for his No Pokies running mate. Who’s to say he can’t do it again? The vote recorded for Xenophon’s ticket at the state election was 20.5 per cent. Those who say he can’t possibly do that well again might be right – but on the other hand, they might not be. If not, Xenophon will score his quota with 6.2 per cent to spare. That surplus will then go to his second candidate, henceforth to be called Xenophon 2, who would very likely emerge ahead of the Greens (6.4 per cent in 2004) after preferences. If the Greens put Xenophon ahead of the major parties on preferences, as they did at the state election, this should push Xenophon 2 into double figures. This scenario leaves at best 75 per cent of the vote left over for the major parties, and most likely a fair bit less. Unless one of the two major parties gets 43 per cent from that share, the third candidate of the weaker of the two major parties will be eliminated and Xenophon 2 will be elected on their preferences. Another possibility, noted by Penelope Debelle in The Age, is that Xenophon 2 won’t do quite well enough to overhaul the Greens, but could feed them enough preferences to put them in contention for the sixth seat.

John Wiseman of The Australian points to another possible side-effect of Xenophon’s nomination: that he might “have an impact on House of Representatives marginals should he choose to endorse or support candidates as he did for some at last year’s state election”. Xenophon had a direct bearing on the other big surprise of the state election, Kris Hanna’s success in retaining his seat of Mitchell as an independent after quitting first the ALP and then the Greens. Hanna had closely associated himself with Xenophon, pooling campaign resources in Mitchell and appearing at a press conference with him when he announced he was leaving the Greens.

• Tamar Valley vigneron and anti-pulp mill campaigner Peter Whish-Wilson says he has decided against running as an independent in Bass. Matthew Denholm of The Australian reports that Labor polling has the Greens candidate at 18 per cent, but that the mill is not considered a “vote changer” as far as the major parties are concerned.

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.

452 comments on “Phoney war dispatches: final edition”

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  1. The Australian article says:

    “Labor’s best-case scenarios leave ALP gains at about 12 seats.”

    Which gets me thinking… yeah that’d be around where me 5 or so seat majority would put it.

    Then they say:

    “With 17 the magic number, that leaves Labor under Kevin Rudd needing as few as four and as many as 10 seats in his home state — the equivalent of a 9 per cent swing.”

    Seriously, where are they getting this 17 seats rubbish from?

    Why are they not factoring in the chance of a minority government with the help of independents? A minority government may only require 14 seats, which would only require 2 seats.

    How do they get “as many as 10 seats” when their minimum is 4 seats. Doesn’t 4 + 10 = 14 and not 17?

    It’s pure garbage. Also, why are we to believe that their internal polling is more accurate than all the other polls. Is there a track record that makes us believe this?

    Honestly, it just seemed that that article was making things up as it went along, feeding off the few scraps thrown to them by ‘insiders’ (which were most likely trying to spin it the best way for the Liberal Party, and to create the impression that things will be close from the Labor Party). The rest just seemed like hope from the journalists.

  2. Thanks ruawake.

    So are they assuming Quick will keep Franklin? Or is Franklin included as 1 of the 4 seats they are willing to allow Labor to win? It would still not change the number of seats needed to form minority government, I assume Quick would agree to vote with Labor on supply.

    Does this mean they expect Labor to really only win 3 seats? Given that both sides are suggesting wins in the 3 SA seats this means that they are not tipping Labor to pick up one additional seat elsewhere in the country. How generous guys… so the polls are saying 55% and they expect the results are so skewed that they’re concentrated in 4 seats?

  3. CTEP, @ 1 you said:

    “Which gets me thinking … yeah that’d be around where me 5 or so seat majority would put it”.

    That gets me thinking … what marginal seats do you reckon the Coalition will hold and also which Labor marginals will the Coalition win?

  4. Call the election, Quick retired from Franklin and kicked up a stink about the candidate that replaced him.

    Labor only needs a 14 seat gain technically speaking to Govern, but it wont be that close.

    I am glad The Australian [who reads it anyway] has stood on the plank next to the Coalition with this analysis because their credibility as political tea leaf readers should go over the side with the Coalition arrogance.

    They they will not beleive they have lost until they wake up on Sunday morning and ask their respective partners “Did we really lose and was I looking for my CV ?” The only close to reality comment about the state of play was regarding Victoria and Solomon- 17 seats, try 20 plus fool.

    The voter may yet put JWH in for a fifth time, fair enough, thats democracy. But the incredulous self beleif and disdain for the electorate and their current views evident in 11 months of polling being dismissed as ‘having a bit of a laugh’ at the Coalition’s expense is just one of many reasons why this Government should be shown the door.


    Anyone who wants to see the back of JWH as PM MUST get out there and work for a win, the beer tastes so much nicer and goes down so much smoother on election night when you have worked for it yourself. I assume I am preaching to the choir here- off to practice what I preach- Have a good weekend people.

  5. Sounds like the Coalition trying to boost morale among its backbenchers, and the ALP playing down expectations among potential voters.

  6. My tip:

    The primary vote of the majors will be high enough to split the senate 3Lib/3ALP in most states


    The primary vote of the majors will be low enough to possibly cause a few 2ALP/2LIB/2other results in some states – especially SA and TAS (and maybe Greens in ACT).

    (So nothing in between)

    Either way, this election is going to rock!

  7. From the Australian article:

    Party strategists say the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, which each have two seats, will produce status quo results, with an outside chance of a Labor gain in NT.

    Yeah, riiiiiiiight. They are deluding themselves about the NT seat. It is more than an outside chance. Hale is coming across well in local media, has not generated any adverse reports, and all things considered I’d say he has a modest but real lead.

  8. I thought the 17 was because an independent was retiring and the coalition was likely to win that seat?

    If it ends up at 74 to 74 north Queenlsand is going to get a whole lot of spending.

  9. “JOHN Howard is set to call a November 24 election tomorrow, riding on the momentum of his dramatic Aboriginal reconciliation turnaround, and his record on economic management and national security.”

    What a load of BOLLOCKS! Riding what momentum? Dramatic turnaround. 5 minutes before an election he discovers these people called aboriginals and Dennis thinks it’s going to help him romp into office?

    Give me a break, it’s pathetic journalism.

  10. South Australians please forgive, I’m sure this has been done to death in your State – Nick Xenephon’s name appears to have the Greek roots xénos (stranger, guest, alien, foreign, strange) and phōnē, (sound, voice). Certainly his ‘stunts’ are out of the ordinary, and his anti-pokies ‘passion’ not mainstream, so he would appear well named. Now, what would we call the major parties’ “unreasonable fear or hatred of Nick”?

  11. Make your day!( apologies Clint Eastwood) Read Annabelle Crabbe’s article below
    ‘Captain Wacky at the helm spreading toothpaste on his pizza’
    …some gems ‘Will the Prime Minister stay on in Bennelong? Will Janette tape a few prawn heads under the desk drawers of the prime ministerial den in Kirribilli on her way out?’
    …’Every week, it seems, there’s a new idea, bearing no critical relevance to its predecessor. It’s a bit like watching a three-year-old building a pizza – “ham AND cheese AND Smarties AND apple AND toothpaste AND olives AND …”‘
    …’There is more than a touch of the Captain Wackies about our own Prime Minister at the moment.’

  12. The capacity to draw freely from The Dept. of The Bleedin’ Obvious is apparently the first casualty when one endeavours to flog Rodential Life Insurance.

    The trouble with Shill Shanahan is that he remains consistently devoid of the “stenographic-smarts” that equips even cadet journalists with the ability to discern Core Momentum, from Non-Core Momentum.

    Stratospheric opiniating is perhaps best left till a thorough grounding in Newtonian Politics has been mastered. Rocket Science it ain’t, nevertheless, our Dennis displays all the zeal and loyalty required of a Latter Day Political Lysenko.

    Ah, the slings and arrows one must endure when one is the Life Support System for a Rat.

  13. In 2004 when the electorate thought Howard untruthful, he came out with ‘who do you trust?’ – ‘What balls!’ was initially the general response, but he managed to define the election around this, and turn things to his favour within this framework.

    In 2007, the counterintuitive framing seems even more audacious (and if I was a real conspiracy theorist, I might even think that Andrews had been laying the ground for the shock tactics). Will the same tricks work this time around? It seems to me that as opposed to 2004, when he had his own issues sewn up and was trying to play on opposition turf, he is much more shaky this time around in his own half. That makes his tactics even more questionable, and there is a real possibility he could go backwards here.

    But then he was making no ground fighting on workchoices, the interest rates argument will be like a missing limb after the Reserve Bank meeting in November. Could security be used? Might seem a bit cynical, GWB is on the nose, and when a government is in decline (I’m thinking Spain and Blair specifically) that card doesn’t seem to work.

    Sorry for the editorialising, just procrastinating here…

  14. AM@19
    Shamahananananhaha & co might be giving JHo an easy ride, but my guess is he’s spending plenty of time in the ‘naughty corner’ at Kirribilli.

    Laughter is the best remedy

  15. The media is so bias, is this a payback for the $2billion in advertisining spent by the PM, or are they scared that their revenue from advertising wil go down if johnny loses election?

  16. The fact remains that if Labor is behind in Solomon and losing rather than winning seats in WA, it is extremely unlikely that there’ll be a change of government. Certainly polling for individual seats in SA show a smaller swing than the national polls indicate.

  17. The fact remains that if Labor is behind in Solomon and losing rather than winning seats in WA, it is extremely unlikely that there’ll be a change of government.

    Of course. However, the veracity of this claim in this rather vague article is the issue.

    I guess it prevents complacency, but it reeks of disingenuity.

  18. It is ok possible that the ALP is getting 10% swings in seats with 5% margins and 3% swings in seats with 5% margins – but this would be the weirdest election ever if the ALP got over 52% of the vote and did not win office.

    To match the national polls, if the marginals stay with the government, then the swing has to be much greater elsewhere, so the ALP would be picking up a lot of second rung electorates.

  19. ‘losing rather than winning seats in WA’ OH PLEASE William lists all the evidence for this claim that Glen has been making all year, even at the time the Croctetdy Stills Nash and Textnaught stuff had them in deep trouble in Stirling & Hasluck, above. It is pretty weak evidence. You have been listening to Glen way too much.

  20. Good morning

    How many times does this have to be explained?

    There are 150 seats. 150/2 = 75.

    Labor has 60 seats. 60 + 16 = 76. 76 = 75 + 1. QED.

    I failed Year 10 maths. If I can do this sum, why can’t highly paid News Ltd journalists?

    Calare is completely irrelevant to this calculation.
    Quick is not contesting Franklin and it will be retained by Labor.

    If Windsor and Katter, as reported, have said they will support a Labor government, then Labor only needs 14 gains.

    60 + 14 + 2 = 76.

    If the independent Priestley wins Calare, as seems possible, and he goes along with Windsor and Katter (and given his history that seems likely), then the figure falls to 13.

  21. The only thing about Howard that has changed since his frothing at the mouth at the reconcilitation conference in 1997 is that he can no longer execute a comb-over. Huge numbers of people -some of whom never even visit this site- can see right through his two-minutes-to-midnight conversions on indigenous and environmental issues. The electorate has become increasingly cynical about the amount of Govt advertsing aiming to convince us that the coalition has spent the last 11 years doing anything but protecting its own *rse. We all know what Howard stands for: re-election.

  22. Seeing this photo
    reminded me of this passage from Pamela Williams’s The Victory:
    “Howard felr he had to do something to end the year with a positive image – something to satisy the jackals of the press. He called Michael L’Estrage and together they worked on a document setting out the Coalition’s core commitments. They took the bare bones of Downer’s ‘The Things That Matter’ manifesto and added some Howard-style padding: family tax, justice for the retired, assurances on health care and small business. They put it in a blue cover and called it ‘The Australia I Believe In.’ But for all the impact it had on the media, they might as well not have bothered.”

    Some things don’t change.

  23. Hilarious quote from one of the newspaper blogs:

    “Its time. I would vote for Saddam before I’d vote for Howard. At least he was telling the truth when he said he had no WMD”

  24. Malcolm Mackerras reports his projected Senate chamber in this mornings Adelaide Independent Weekly.
    He projects 33 ALP, 6 Greens, 35 Coalition, 1 FFP, 1 X.
    Although he doesn’t provide a state breakdown, I guess he assumes the Greens will retain the existing seats in Tas and NSW, and pick up a couple elsewhere at the expense of the Coalition.
    This means the left would control the Senate and Mr X will be sidelined. Nick won’t like this. It won’t be worth leaving a position of power and his son behind to travel “in the back of the bus” to Canberra.

    He won’t be able to do anything for SA if the cross bench is not mixed. He would be better advised to exchange remnant preferences with FFP and and have either X2 or FFP take the sixth seat.

    I don’t rate the Greens’ chances as high as Malcolm. The facts are that the polls have shown them in free fall decline all year, with mainstream parties and new conservative minors adopting the real green agenda, dominated at the moment by the climate change debate. I think only Bob Brown will retain his seat (especially with a green backlash against the pulp mill) with a net decline of one Green in the Chamber.

  25. They didn’t even have time to get a proper graphic design for the front cover of their latest manifesto, did they? Just got one of the kids to whip up something in MS Word I guess.

    On the other hand, maybe it wasn’t an issue of time – maybe it’s cos they’re out of money.

    Maybe it’s a little of each…

    You can always tell when the Liberals are paying for something out of their own pocket.

  26. The beauty or not, of party research being quoted, is that it can’t be disputed. Poor interpretations of public data by members of the press, can easily be shown up for what it is. But secret internal polling well what can you say?

    One question that is never answered when secret internal polling shows a different result to the published data, is why? Why would it be different?
    What special techniques are they using to find out secret information that professional research agencies are unable to unearth?

    Yes, I know they are only interested in marginal seats. But the only reputable polling we have had of a marginal seat, are the polls by Galaxy in Bennelong, which both showed Maxine Mckew with 53 -54 % of the TPP. Morgan also polled twice with smaller samples than Galaxy, but similar results.

    Other than that, there are a range of newspaper polls, Westpoll in a couple of WA seats, the quarterly data from Newspoll and Morgan’s longtitudinal data on Eden-Monaro.

    But the only real individual seat data, that has been conducted by a reputable agency is Galaxy in Bennelong. That’s it. Anything else runs from tenuous to pure conjecture.

  27. “Mr Howard today tells us in his document that ‘we’re all on a roll’.

    Unfortunately, if he calls the election this weekend, there will be a lot of Australians who aren’t.

    This will be the disenfranchised who he hopes by depriving them their rightful vote, his bacon may well be saved.

  28. I have to add that while it’s certainly not uncommon to hear the humming of shredders in Barton, last night it was particularly noticeable. I think every APS SES officer was ordered to “clean up” before the caretaker conventions kick in.

    I just hope that they recycle the waste paper! The election is imminent.

  29. This campaign…when it gets under way….we can be assured will be a minefield. JHo & his cohorts are known to fight low and dirty, using weapons and words that will shock and awe us.

    The Murkers (MurdochPackers) are of course in his thrall to the tune of $2bill + PBL offloading 75% courtesy of Coonan, why would’nt they love him, my guess is they know the full extent of the impending carnage, but they cannot resist the urge to wring out whatever $$$$’s they can, so why would their meeja call for an election?

    My biggest concern is the 350,000 (not sure if that is the correct no.)
    of unenrolled Australians, cos when he pulls the trigger, which we all know is imminent, JHo changed the laws and the Electoral Rolls close just 24 hours later.

    What happens if the dissolution is on a Saturday?

  30. Sully @ 15 Now, what would we call the major parties’ “unreasonable fear or hatred of Nick”?

    How about “Xenephonibia”?

  31. Maybe they are going to have another week in Canberra and call the election next week?

    They are going on about certainty for the future in retaining them as the Government, but all we ever get from them is uncertainty.

  32. My biggest concern is the 350,000 (not sure if that is the correct no.)
    of unenrolled Australians, cos when he pulls the trigger, which we all know is imminent, JHo changed the laws and the Electoral Rolls close just 24 hours later.

    What happens if the dissolution is on a Saturday?

    People who are not enrolled have until 8pm on the day the writ is issued to complete an enrolment and have it received by the AEC.

    People who are enrolled have 3 working days after the issue of the writ to re-enrol.

    The writ will almost certainly be issued on Monday because it has to be signed by the Governor-General (House of Reps & Territory Senate) and all the State governors (Senate).

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