Yakety yak

Prior to the leaders debate at the 2004 election, I went to the trouble of unearthing poll results on the previous debates going back to 1984. The Hawke versus Peacock debate of that year was the first, as it was previously a well established item of conventional wisdom that debates had little to offer an incumbent. However, Bob Hawke could hardly refuse in 1984 as Labor had run television ads during the 1983 campaign mocking Malcolm Fraser for his refusal to play ball. The record since makes clear that Fraser’s reticence had been well founded, as incumbents have only managed two wins from nine starts. In fewer than half of the nine cases did the winner of a debate go on to win the election.

1984, November 26: Peacock 50, Hawke 37 (Spectrum poll).

1987: Once bitten, Bob Hawke chickens out, leaving John Howard’s supposed debating shortcomings unexposed for another decade.

1990, February 25: Hawke 46, Peacock 36 (Newspoll).

1993, February 14: Hewson 45, Keating 31 (Newspoll).

1993, March 7: Keating 44, Hewson 38 (Newspoll).

1996, February 11: Howard 50, Keating 36 (Newspoll).

1996, February 25: Howard 54, Keating 36 (Newspoll).

1998, September 13: No poll located, but reports of the worm suggest Beazley narrowly defeated Howard.

2001, October 14: Beazley 55, Howard 35 (Newspoll).

2004, September 13: Two-thirds of Nine’s studio audience gave it to Latham over Howard.

It should be noted that Channel Nine clearly botched the job of assembling an audience of undecided voters at the 2004 debate, as the behaviour of the worm made clear. Particular notice was taken of a green-haired young gentleman in the audience who looked like nobody’s idea of a person who was considering a vote for Howard. Nonetheless, the overwhelming weight of published opinion, including my own, was that Latham had indeed put in the more confident performance.

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.

400 comments on “Yakety yak”

  1. I didn’t remember that they released a poll of audience members.. that explains why Howard wants audience to be an even-split partisan affair. No dismal poll headline for Monday.

  2. Megan, I believe each side gets 200 tickets for the hall. Then channel nine will have a feed and its own audience elsewhere.

  3. The only time I’ve really seen him going off the cuff was during that last day in parliament. He seemed pretty good – handled what was thrown and was biting in return. But then there’ll probably be no passion today – more of safe old Kev. I can’t imagine he’d be worse that Howard.

  4. I am surprised that Howard wants a 90 minute debate. He really only has a couple of issues to attack Rudd on.

    On the other hand Rudd has lots to attack Howard on.

    So the longer the debate, the longer Howard has to be seen as having no “plan”.

    Costello on insiders this morning may provide some hints, I am sure he would have been in on the strategy meetings – his ego will not let him keep anything new a secret. 😉

  5. Labor should post their own “bingo” card.

    Union Bosses
    Full employment
    Economic Miracle
    Labor States
    Wall to wall Labor.
    Mr Speaker 🙂

  6. the Liberal bingo thing seems desperate to me, anything to distract from the real proceedings, has anyone noticed Milne has seemed a bit more balanced { for him anyway} in his last couple of articles? i’ll be watching ch9, i like the worm, Howard has made the mistake of making this debate far too stage managed.

  7. When howard talks about preparing for the debate I have a mental picture of the training montage from the Rocky films.

    I can see him at the end of the debate:

    ‘Jaaaaneeeetttteee! Jaaaaaneeetttteeee!’

  8. Will the Equine Flu come up.

    It is a good example of the failure of the libs consultation process, lack of planning and inability to handle a crisis, also the hundred of millions in compo may affect the budget.

    “THOUSANDS of horse industry workers will be included in a planned class action suing the Federal Government for hundreds of millions of dollars in losses because of the horse flu outbreak”


  9. I have long thought that the most apt line regarding Mr Howad’s intent is “…look like the innocent flower,But be the serpent under’t.” (1.5.75)

  10. Brilliant article from Julia in her hometown paper, the Age:


    It’s a pity others elsewhere in the country may not get to read it if they only read the paper version.

    Absurdly, according to the Liberal Party anyone who isn’t in government can’t be in government because they lack the experience of being in government. In other words, whatever you do, don’t change the government!

    If the rest of the world lived by these rules then no one would ever sing on stage who hadn’t already sung on stage, no one would ever join a board of directors who hadn’t already been a director and no one would ever play in the AFL who hadn’t already played AFL football.

    It’s a recipe for stagnation rather than striving for a better future.

  11. Nice Fargo. And I know it doesn’t really fit, but I’d like to cast Downer as one of the weird sisters. Or should it be Crosby, Textor and Loughnane? Or maybe the Australian people who are having an ongoing joke with them.

  12. What a lucky little Rodent he is!
    In a poorly guarded “trade secret”, El Rodente is being primed by no less than Hyacinth Herself for tonight’s now nationally televised debate between Himself and The Ruddster.
    Hyacinth has long relished her role as confidante, coach, enabler, handler and general ratsbody, although Hyacinth does not cook and cannot remember the last occasion on which she actually washed bottles. It was definitely well before the last time she broke bread with Tanya and Peter at Kirribilli Castle.

    Mercifully, “Mr. Speaker” regrets that he will not be attending this evening’s eagerly waited exchange of national perceptions.

  13. I really like the idea of the Bingo card. I hope it gets wide publicity.
    It serves, in neon lights, to remind us of how out of touch the Libs are. This is like school children secretly drawing pictures of their teacher and giggling. All the while the public are desperately wanting policy substance for now and the world’s shaky future.
    The voters will indeed mark their cards on this childish diversion.
    They’ll be shaking their heads and thinking – grow up!

    This has been a really good start to the day for Labor.

  14. Indeed I vote for Shakespearean themes and underlying context in the debate:

    Something is rotten in the state of Denmark…[Rudd’s opener]

    The lady doth protest too much…[Janette facing Kirribilli eviction]

    All the world’s a stage, [for taxpayer funded advertising]
    And all the men and women merely players; [roosters today, featherdusters tomorrow]
    They have their exits and their entrances, [Howard exiting…]
    And one man in his time plays many parts, [Triple bypass, Core, Non core promises]
    His acts being seven ages. [ Senility, the final age]

    Then must you speak
    Of one that lov’d not wisely but too well [Howard’s love of Workchoices]

    O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
    It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock [“Green” unionists]

  15. I can see it now, PM to retire before the election, wife Janette to stand for Bennelong, defeat Maxine Mckew and take her rightfull place as PM

  16. Oh look Costello found a “hole” (and a fairly contrived one at that) in the ALP tax plan. How surprising.

    He really is a sad creature.

  17. In tonight’s debate I’m sure Rudd will challenge Howard to one or more debates.

    I suggest Rudd demand a debate solely on Nuclear power for Australia.

    To avoid the debate would expose Howard as being unwilling to discuss what he intends to inflict on the nation if re-elected. To accept, would bring the issue on to centre stage (where it certainly should be).

  18. I see the Sunday Terror is rehashing their story re Gillard’s partner. Obviously noone noticed last week. If at first you don’t succeed ….

  19. Costello’s attitude is weird. He’s acting like the Libs have either already won or already lost the election – like he has no real point being in the interview at all. And boy oh boy does he loathe Howard.

  20. Just watched Costello on Insiders – he was pathetic. Cassidy gave him quite a hard time but Costello was very unconvincing. He looked rattled and not the image of a confident government about to win an election.

  21. Alex – the senior ministers are all giving the impression of a government confident they are going to lose the election. Very sullen and petulant.

  22. Costello’s attitude makes me wonder if he is supremely irritated at Howard at the moment – is Howard about to come out with a multi-billion dollar healthcare program? Is Costello seeing a renewal of the Howard-as-a-drunken-sailor spending anything and everything in order to get re-elected? And surely he must know that he will never by PM even if the Libs win? That might explain his turd-infected attitude this morning.

  23. Well I’m sure the debate will be interesting, and I’ll definitely be looking to see how John Howard performs.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I was more than slightly concerned when I read that that the man running our country has ‘moments’ where he doesn’t know where he is. On Saturday at the Granny Smith festival, when the noise level rose and there were interjections from the crowd during his speech, he suddenly thought he was in Parliament and called out “Mr Speaker”.

  24. Good morning

    Meaningless newspaper polls: Age readers like Rudd’s tax plan
    Age readers won’t win the election for Labor, but they might win the Melbourne marginals

    In the story about Shane Guley being (quite rightly) dropped as a candidate, Glenn Milne writes “The claims have been backed by an ad blitz pointing out that 70 per cent of Opposition frontbenchers have union backgrounds.”

    No Glenn, the ad blitz alleges that 70 per cent of Opposition frontbenchers have union backgrounds. You’re supposed to check whether such claims are true before repeating them. In this case the the claim is not true.

  25. i’m just watching Costello, gawd i’ve never seen such a bad performance from any minister and he still has the smirk, the thought of this man leading the country is horrendous!

  26. I hope Rudd ups the ethanol. Those top end Queensland seats would be very handy. Barnaby didn’t seem confident of a government win.

  27. Abbot and Costello have no idea what it costs to run a hospital let alone a health system.

    They initally costed the Mersey takeover at $45 million a year, now budget papers reveal the cost to run Mersey will be $64 million a year.

    The underestimation of Mersey costs by 40% explains the current state of Australia’s health system, if the libs cannot get the costings right on one hospital which they hold up as their shining new way forward in hospitals and health how can they be expected to get the funding right for health and hospitals in Australia.


  28. Gary Bruce, yes. I’d be surprised if Rudd doesn’t do something with ethanol. It looks like a subject the Liberal Party doesn’t want to touch so Rudd should be able to get in first and convincingly. It could also emphasise how little power the National Party have as a Coalition partner.

  29. Labor’s tax plan is even with the Coalition’s among Sky News voters; this is more revealing than the Age poll, as Sky News polls have a very pro-Coalition bias. Looks like Rudd’s tax plan has succeeded well in the community; this could explain why Costello was looking so grim if he has access to internal polling that shows Labor’s lead increasing.

  30. So Tip says he will live in his house in Melbourne if he becomes Prime Minister.

    Hey, he’s done a lot of work in the garden and my guess he works on his demeanor there.

    I’m sure it is fully fertilised…..

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