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”

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  1. Lord D @ 47,

    In one of those polls online about the tax plans [there was a poll on almost every news website ;-)], the break down in my elecotorate of Werriwa had 4 different answers. Voting Labor no change, Voting Liberal no change, More likely to vote Labor, More likely to vote Liberal. The More likely to vote Labor was 8% ahead of the More likely to vote Liberal which tells me at least in my neighborhood that Rudd’s plan turned on more of the Liberal voters rather than the other way around.

  2. The comments by the journo’s on Insiders about blog sites indicates a high probability that many of them are lurkers or contributor’s to this site. If Andrew Bolt’s looks at the Andrew Landeryou blog there is a good chance that he also looks here as well. OK, who here is Bolty, Farr or Fran??

  3. 48 Steve,

    From the same blogger, earlier on this week 😉 [thanks for this site, I will bookmark this and read regularly]

    “Thursday, October 18, 2007
    Bush Backs Rudd?

    “New Leadership” Refreshes Democracies

    Kevin Rudd promises “new leadership”. John Howard doesn’t like the sound of that. Hell, why would he? The only thing new about Howard is the glowing fake tan and his recent trip to the botox clinic.

    We don’t need new leadership, says Howard, we need the “right leadership”.

    But, interestingly, US President Bush is in the Kevin Rudd camp on the need for democratic nations to regularly refresh their leadership. This from only a few days ago :

    “…it’s time for new blood…there’s nothing better for a democracy than to renew itself by elections and new leadership.”

    It’ll be interesting to see if anyone in the Labor Party dares to quote President Bush as a way of endorsing Rudd’s “new leadership” mantra.”

  4. Costello is a bad campaigner, but notice he has moved from SILENCE a few months ago into the lime light recently.

    Obviously it has to do with his agreement with Howard that he will be handed over the Prime Ministership after the election!

  5. re insiders

    the ponces talking about blogs,are the same ones who said the blogocracy was irrelevant and had no role to play

    sheep one and all

    ps Zedder glen would fit the bill for all three!

  6. Costello was awful on the insiders. The more I see of the guy the more he alarms me. The reaction when Barry pinned him on the inaccuracies of the union scare campaign was the usual smirking intimidation and bluster. Somebody has surely told him that this stuff might go down well with the press gallery but the punters hate it. He’s probably concentrating so hard on eliminating the smirk that he forgets all the other obnoxious stuff. A true electoral disaster area for the libs.

  7. I’d love to see a Captain Smirk vs Swan debate: I think Swanny would surprise a lot of pundits and wipe the floor with Smirky.

  8. I think the commentary on Costello here has been pretty accurate. Here’s a man with many obvious abilities and advantages, yet has a hideously unlikeable persona. But the strange thing is that he can be likeable. He just refuses to do it often.

  9. Not sure if anyone else has already mentioned this, but apparently the worm will not appear during the debate – only afterwards in replays.

    That’s what I heard last night anyway.

  10. Don’t know HH. Swan seems afflicted with the mantra driven lines being pushed by the Labor party. I noticed on the insiders they’re now calling it ‘bumper sticker’ politics. They need to be careful or the libs could get some traction – They need to show a bit of passion and actually directly counter some of the crap being put out by the libs.

  11. Actually I thought, Barry Cassidy ran rings around Costello on the tax cuts package despite Costello’s overwhelming confidence on that issue. However, on all the other issues I think he performed well.

  12. Re Mr Costello on insiders
    I agree he didn’t seem to be very comfortable ….. He seemed out of
    sorts… Barrie Cassidy is not a difficult interviewer
    maybe He won’t stay in politics if the libs lose

  13. Another 32 Crownies and I’m sure I am Glen Milne.

    And if I washed it down with a side of beef I am Piers Wankerman.

    I’m starting to have an identity crisis and it’s time for a BEX and a lie down.

  14. And for anyone interested in alternative viewing tonight try this:


    The Greens People’s Forum will be broadcast direct from the Parliament House Theatrette from 6.45 pm Eastern Standard Time this Sunday the 21st of October.

    Greens Leader Bob Brown will give a short presentation of Greens’ policies and then respond to questions from a panel of journalists, the audience and via the internet.

    Unlike Mr Howard’s debate, everyone is welcome to attend the Greens’ public forum. Bookings can be made by calling Senator Brown’s office on (02) 6277 3170 or by sending an email to forum07bookings@hotmail.com – Please include your name and a contact phone number.

    Your Questions
    You can submit questions for the Greens at http://www.greensblog.org in The People’s Forum thread ( http://greensblog.org/2007/10/19/the-peoples-forum-come-along-or-ask-questions-online/ ).

    Broadcast streams will be available from 6.45 pm Eastern Standard Time at http://www.greenaction.org.au

  15. Many of the voters interviewed in the queensland marginals on Ch 9’s Sunday program today seemed to be echoing two main points:

    – Howard’s time is up (and don’t want Costello as PM)
    – workchoices is bad

    IMO, to win this election Labor has got to do two simple things

    1. Put out some good policies on health, education and the environment (and the sooner the better… though no doubt they are very wary of being trumped by the government after releasing a policy)

    2. Plenty of ads to reinforce the message about workchoices, and that the PM is yesterday’s man

    That’s it. It’s a very simple argument that the electorate already believes. Labor simply has to reinforce it.

    Once again, I’m really surprised we haven’t seen much ALP/union advertising yet.

  16. Dunno who will “win” the debate tonight, but one thing will be blindingly obvious – a politician in the twilight of his career, the other in his prime.

  17. sean Says:
    October 21st, 2007 at 11:28 am

    Don’t know HH. Swan seems afflicted with the mantra driven lines being pushed by the Labor party. I noticed on the insiders they’re now calling it ‘bumper sticker’ politics. They need to be careful or the libs could get some traction – They need to show a bit of passion and actually directly counter some of the crap being put out by the libs.

    I agree. Rudd’s slogans have been effective, but he now needs to back them up. I’m sure he’s got the policies there to do so, but will he be willing to put them out there before the government puts out theirs? It’s a pretty fine balancing act. If he goes first he might be trumped. But I think he should take the risk and be seen to lead with the ALP strengths. He needs to put the “bumper sticker” and “me too” and “no policy detail” accusations to bed before the libs have a field day. If his policies are good then the government won’t be able to trump them without saying “me too”, which would look really bad in areas of health and education where there is so much scope to do things differently.

  18. Just saw a union anti WC ad a few minutes ago on Ch 7. This one was a lady from Coffs Harbour telling how she was dudded because she lost overtime and penalty rates in exchange for an extra 2c an hour. The date was shown (2006) but the government could easily counter this by talking about the disadvantage test that now applies.

  19. [ I’d love to see a Captain Smirk vs Swan debate ]

    They probably will debate but hardly anyone will watch it. Does anyone remember the last debate of the Treasurer and his Shadow in previous elections? Maybe Rudd should insist on debating Costello as Costello is the Emperor in waiting. Costello is a very good performer in Parliament but he is terrible in one on one interviews. I don’t understand why the Libs haven’t given him a make over for his interview style. The way he talks over the top of interviewers and ignores awkward questions is never a good look.

  20. Costello on Insiders was truly woeful. It’s completely apparent he can’t control the smirk, like Dr. Strangelove couldn’t control his arm.

    As soon as Cassidy tossed him a couple of curly ones he went the biffo. Started leaning forward menacingly, smirking, barging in over the interviewer and (my pet hate) that “talking to the kindergarten kids” tone he puts on as if his audience consists solely of 5 year olds. He actually started arguing with Cassidy, like they were in some pub. A few beers mixed in and it looked like it might have gotten violent. Complete intimidation and a complete vindication of that 75% of voters who would rather eat a sh*t sandwich than have Costello awarded the Prim Ministership on a plate.

    The man is a buffoon, and a bully. Like all bullies he has no guts, only bluster and bluff. He didn’t have the guts to stand up for himself in 1995 against Howard (who was, at the time, a nobody, Costello’s junior in the party hierarchy), and has not had the bottle to go for anything not handed to him as if of right ever since.

    This includes the economy, which was fixed up by Labor – Hawke and Keating, with full co-operation of the union movement which Costello so despises – and which has since boomed. Costello was handed the Australian economy as a going concern and has since attempted to take all the credit for its success.

    There is a distinction between being a tough guy with a loud voice who can get all his urgers, mates, a tame Speaker and the rest of the hangers on in Parliament plus in the MSM to laugh uproariously at his schoolbioy humour, calling him a genius, Parliament’s most “brilliant” performer and so on, and a serious, mature leader who does not threaten and who does not bully, ruling by common assent rather than fear mixed with sycophancy.

    Costello’s fuse is short. This is what the interview on Insiders showed this morning. Two minutes into the interview and he was menacing Cassidy, curling his lip into the hated smirk and generally behaving as if the the world owed him a living… which is convenient, because he does believe it and doesn’t it show?

    Costello may be a reasonably proficient 2IC, trusted not to drop the ball, but as foreman material he is sadly lacking in courage, self-confidence, ability to think for himself and most importantly to think for others. In the case of Peter Costello no truer (and more appropriately named) principle applies than the “Peter Principle”. He has risen to his level of competence. Any further and his incompetence will show to the point of embarrassment. Even Howard knows this, and keeping Cotello out of the leadership is one of the few things Howard has done that I agree with wholeheartedly.

    The next thing for the voters to do is to drive a stake through the heart of Costello’s ambitions once and for all by voting the buggers out of office come November 24. Given today’s performance if I was Labor I would dust off the “A Vote For Howard is a Vote For Costello” banners and fly them high, and proudly. It’s not only true this time, it’s vital that the message be shouted loud and often from the rooftops.

  21. Just saw a union anti WC ad a few minutes ago on Ch 7

    Huzzah! They’re back.

    Frankly it doesn’t matter what the government say on the issue. They can’t win on it. The very fact that they had to introduce a fairness test is an admission they were wrong, and there’s a strong suspicion that things still aren’t right.

  22. Sean @ 62: “Somebody has surely told him that this stuff might go down well with the press gallery but the punters hate it.”

    I think you’re onto something crucial here, Sean. The press gallery goes into raptures when Costello goes into “witty” attack mode in Parliament. They see it as a great positive. But to outsiders, he just looks like a schoolyard bully. Nasty, aggressive, snide, cruel and not funny at all. Same when he’s talking about economics: supercilious and arrogant, and frankly, droningly dull.

    Now that he’s trying to win over the electorate, rather than the press gallery, he needs to convey a very different Peter Costello, but I just don’t think he’s capable of it. He’s not good at presenting himself as other than he is. The more the public sees of him, now through the prism of a potential PM, the less it’s going to work for the Coalition.

    Which is nice. 😉

  23. ummm folks now we’re into confessions i’m blonde, i’m beautiful, i’m Janet Albrechsen and i think this forum is a communistic socialist waste of space!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. ruawake Says:
    October 21st, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    I’ve seen the Coff’s Harbour union ad twice this morning. “Howard used to be my hero…” Good stuff.

    I haven’t seen the ad, but the “I used to vote for Howard” line is particularly telling. There are a lot of people who voted Howard in the past who are no longer so enthralled with him. Ads like that will reinforce existing perceptions and really hit the mark.

  25. From


    linked to by steve@48:

    Howard shouldn’t be on the ropes going into the Great Debate tonight, but he clearly is. Wife Janette will spend most of Sunday reminding him that she isn’t ready to move out of Kirribilli yet, so he can’t f**k it up.

    Expect to see Howard sweating a bit. Hopefully someone has reminded him that This Is It. His last days, if he doesn’t pull off a miracle. Will the pressure be too much? Rudd will probably look and act like he has been slowly drip-fed, all day, a carefully balanced mix of valium and ecstasy.


    Oh, and I am Laura Tingle’s lapdog. Woof woof, pant pant, hooooooooowwwwll!

  26. I thought Costello’s perfomance this morning was reasonable this morning…if he was acting as the attack dog, but as a future Prime Minister it was atrocious.
    The panels reponse to the hole was telling – how does anyone keep up with him when he goes into that much detail? And the reason he has to go into that much detail is that his credibility is on the wane – it’s all boy-who-cried-wolf stuff coming back to bite.
    Can anyone refute or back up what he was saying about the alleged ALP hole?

    The Queensland electorate stuff was interesting – particularly Brough’s electorate – despite the government being really on the nose, they’re going to vote for it because of Brough. I think it’s great that he can have that effect, but the (and I’m going to try and be careful here) lack of what that means to those people in the big picture I found really quite curious.
    Maybe it’s just my bias, but I observed a sense of guilt in some of those who were nominating their vote to be Liberal, while there was definitely more emotion behind those who were voting Labour – little evidence of the soft Labour vote.

  27. Re the commercials – never fear, the blitz will occur in the last 2 weeks of the campaign and should have the punters nicely primed with horror images of serfchoices when they walk into the ballet box.

    Bushfire Bill – that was a brilliant summation of Costello.

  28. I also saw Costello on Insiders, and I kept waiting for Barry C to say – err Peter you realise we’re not in parliament now? His line of “Oops he’s done it again” was quite possibly the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard spoken in an interview. He spoke as if it was Question Time.

    Good thing though – he let the ALP know what the next line of attack will be – “a $600 hole”

  29. I agree that Labor needs to get going with its ads and some more policy, but I think their game plan is to hold off on most of the ads until the last week of the campaign when we will be bombarded by both sides.

  30. Costello has opened a big can of worms, will he release ALL the tax thresholds now?

    What are the real costs of his tax cuts? I smell a Costello Black Hole 😉

  31. Ha Rudd is going to get sucker punched in this debate his copy of the Liberal Tax Policy shows people earning 37000 paying 600 dollars a year more in tax LOL what a blunder by Labor Howard will get stuck into Rudd for his failed policy tonight and Rudd will look like a fool.

  32. Good one Bushfire.

    Costello had no answer to taking money from families who may be struggling to provide their children with modern technology and therefore fall behind through no fault of their own AND GIVING IT TO THE RICH.

    Barry Cassidy was outstanding. Costello’s lower lip was quivering. He would make the weakest PM in Australia’s history. LOL.

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