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. Kina 292 – I agree. This bloke is a nerd who became a lawyer under the old system (no degree) but, by sheer persistence and a dominating wife, stayed long enought to get the top job. I never was a career public servant, but in the past I’ve worked near the top of the food chain in Canberra – the public service is there to make the government look good no matter how incompetent the ministers may be. That’s why there is no reason Swan would be a worse Treasurer than Costello. Costello’s latest antics show how he heavily relies on Treasury but still stuffs it up.

  2. I remember closely following the recent French election. I was hoping PS candidate Ségolène Royal would win. Poll after poll had Sarkozy leading against her, usually 53/54 – 47/48. I didn’t want to believe these, and kept thinking… things will change.. the polls were wrong at their last election etc.

    Then with two weeks to go, a raft of polls came out most of them were around 53-47 mark — but *one* had it at 51-49. I used that to think: “yes she’s got a chance, she can win, she’s almost there… ”

    The rest is now history – the sum of polling was right – Sarkozy won 53 to 47. I can see the H*ward huggers doing the same here. Latching on to one poll (and one poll where they still aren’t leading, like I did) and using that to say they will win.

    I’ll feel for them on Sunday the 25th.

  3. In today’s NY Times, Thomas Friedman tells us that the greenest thing we can do is not change light bulbs, but political leaders, and then goes on to describe how New York got political action to change the cab fleet to hybrids.

    The question for us now is how is Rudd going to push this message? It’s really a very big sleeper, and has been partly eclipsed by all this feeding frenzy over tax cuts, but it’s really the pointy end of one the major differences between the two parties. (IR being the other, of course).

    Howard is easily painted as old world, since as recently as last year he was slamming Gore, and trying to call an Inconvenient Truth nothing more than a scare campaign. The world changed, and Howard was dragged rather reluctantly and belatedly to the view that climate change is a serious issue. (A million Andrew Bolts lined up end to end will not alter the fact that the vast majority of scientific, peer reviewed literature confirms this theory).

    So, when all the petty tax fiddles are played out, (mine’s bigger than yours, nah de nah nah) we get down to what really counts, and Rudd will have to hammer this one home tonight.

  4. How do people remember feeling during the campaign in 1996? Did people think the ALP had a chance at any stage?

  5. Costello is a poor performer outside of Parliament where he is allowed to rant and smear and avoid logically reasoned exchanges in debate.

    Swann could start talking economics and the yellow smirk would think he was talking Greek. Costello’s hatred of Howard is only surpassed by his hatred of Swann which, I suspect comes from the fact Swann understand’s the Treasurer’s job better than he.

    The chief economist of McQuarie bank a few weeks ago told the British Australian Chamber of Commerce that the Howard government had “wasted” ever dollar of the surpluses on pork barreling and special interest groups.

    Just how much in surplus have we had in 11 years? What a shame all those hundreds of billions didn’t get spent on infrastrucure, health, hospitals, R&D, education – all the areas in fact Howard has reduced spending. How much more growth could we now have if that money wasn’t wasted on trying to buy elections.

  6. Adam – if the bloggers (which you sort of are, but leads me to ask why you’re arent fully… I’d read it! 😉 ) had a dollar for everytime we got stuff right first…

    Well, we could probably buy The Oz of Mr Murdoch.

    If we had a dollar for everytime we were plagiarised in the the press, we could by News Ltd!

    And then sack the perpetrators! :mrgreen:

  7. 1996 – I went on holidays in Tasmania. It was the only federal election that I did not vote in. I thought Keating was gone for all money. 1993 was the only election since then that I ever voted ALP (usually minor parties/independents).

  8. chrispydog Says:
    In today’s NY Times, Thomas Friedman tells us that the greenest thing we can do is not change light bulbs, but political leaders

    That’s a great line. The ALP could run a very witty and hard-hitting ad campaign based on that theme.

    Pssst… Kevin are you listening?

  9. LTEP – 1996 – I just kept on hoping that something would happen. I was in my union poll sweep and won because I said Labor would lose, everyone else said they would win.

    I remember the day – in Perth – with daylight saving and everything over by 4.30 Perth time.

  10. Graeme at 276

    The bigger issue – aside from the class politics of the editors who frame such terms as ‘union thug’ ‘union boss’ – is Labor’s failure to stand up for anything in the past decade. It’s now way too late to mount a case for any kind of collective value today: and that’s why Labor’s vulnerable to a scare campaign.

    Nailed it in one. This is a party that doesnt believe in anything only the perks of patronage and office. Labcest by another name.

  11. opposition’s never stand for anything. Look at Howard in 96:

    ‘I’m a harmless small ball…nothing will change except political correctness…I love medicare’

  12. I’m considering voting ALP for the first time since 1993. Not because I like them but because I want to spank the Libs (I’m in a safe Liberal seat). There is only one alternative – The Greens – their candidate is up the One Nation end of the party (yes, there is more cross over than you might imagine).

  13. Though I’m sure Glen will believe it along with the stories he hears about Santa Claus voting Liberal.

    Sadly, this is actually true. Santa did vote for the {{{dark side}}} in 1996, however, he was still p*ssed as a newt from doing the previous year’s delivery run. IMHO, the AEC should breathalyze everyone before they give them voting slips!

    But no matter because all the elves and deer vote Labor to forestall any ideas Fatso may have of forcing them onto AWAs!

  14. When Howard made has aboriginal reconciliation revelation I can bet his grandmother locked the doors. She knew she could be next.

  15. I think on the child care policy Labor in McPherson might just have shortened in the betting. The population explosion here with young children is unbelievable.

    The parents are like rabbits gone feral. Might be the one who got lose from Howard’s rabbit farm and looks like they just might think the grass is greener on Rudd’s farm.

  16. I am not doing it in the interests of the ALP – I agree with Labor’s policy of ignoring the whole question as a furphy and a distraction from real issues (like who will be the lucky first community to host an Aussie Chernobyl). I am doing it in the interests of truth, which I personally happen to think is important. This “70%” figure is deliberate lie, which the media have been too lazy or cowed or whatever to ping the Libs for.

  17. McPherson should come through for the Libs. There are some povos by the beach, but up the valleys it pretty rich. I would have thought child care would have more traction in Fadden.

  18. Just got an email from a nice girl on the Ivory Coast with $9 million USD asking for help to transfer the money. Might put her on to LNP HQ , they might buy it.

  19. Who cares about the 70% union front bench. The Liberal Party front bench is 100% Liberal Party which is far probably about as representative of the general population as the unions are. People are not just occupations believe it or not, they have families, different life experiences, different ideologies etc.

    It’s not as if these people are just robots, they are real people and have different thoughts etc. Just look at conscience votes on RU486 and see the diversity of opinion within both parties. These people may have once been unionists but they’re politicians now. A 100% politician front bench.

  20. Had a very nice chat with Debbie Blumel today labour can. for fairfax up against Alex Somalay. Very nice lady,articulate,caring and commited to helping.Ruawake you would be pleased to know her background is healthcare and is very supportive of people with disabilites. Compare her with Alex Somalay who dosent care about anyone except his lib mates and you have to hope the people of faifax will deliver a almighty swing to labour. Big ask I know against a 12% lead but you can only hope.
    PS.If i was alex i might be worried about who i get photographed with and put on the front page of the local rag.

  21. Agreed, Lefty, also the timing of the “Childcare winner” is perfect. Ruddster wiil claim a good deal of pre-debate media limelight at El Rodente’s expense on tonight’s telly.

    When Tin-Tin weaves in into the debate narrative tonight, this vote-winner will achieve the perfect lauch.

  22. Adam @ 324
    Not to mention the fact that the Libs can’t work out why the unions are supposed to be this huge threat. According to Hockey, unions are ‘irrelevant’ and threatening at the same time.

  23. Let’s get back to the topic of this thread. The message? Howard is not a good debater, Rudd will cream him. I’m looking forward to questions from ABCs Chris Uhlmann, he does a good line of piercing questions, Howard might spit the dummy as he did on ACA after being nailed by Tracy.

  24. Re political party membership
    very few people join political parties now… it appears the liberal party
    now does not have a diversity of opinion… very few people would
    share the views of David Clarke or Alex Hawke who control the party
    machine in NSW… there is now no place for an Ian Mcphee, or a Neville Bonner or a John Dowd, or a Fred Chaney or even a Malcolm Fraser in
    the Liberals today

  25. Ive been disappointed that the ALP has failed to raise the obvious counter that 70% of the Coalition frontbench are complete knobjockeys.

    I mean, seriously: Abbott, Costello, Downer, Pyne. The list goes on – and even gets more dismal with deeply cringeworthy figures like Nelson, and Andrews (pffft!!).

    Ok, so Ill watch the debate now. This childcare tilt makes it interesting.

  26. Hopefully, Rudd will have downloaded a copy of the Rattus Crew’s bingo card before the debate. Then in this opening statement, go through every line on the card and just before speaking the last.

    “Ok, so that those tragics in the audience with these (holding up the card) can relax and actually pay attention to the substance of what is said here tonight, (Blah Blah last line).”

    Would not lose him any votes i’m sure, and would be good for a little light relief.

  27. Possum,

    Actually, I’ve changed my mind….

    ….I’m SPARTICUS!!!!


    I liked your comments on the recent upswing in LNP primaries, but it didn’t address one important thing

    Three polls showed an increase in LNP at the same time. This could only be explained by one of three things:

    1) each poll is wrong and it is just sheer co-incidence that the three pollsters had a bum poll at the same time; or
    2) each pollster has a flawed technique and, in anticipating the narrowing, and have produced results to confirm it; or
    3) “the narrowing” actually happened.

    Now, I seem to recall Newspoll will be out soon.

    My tip is that, in line with 3) above, it will show labor at 53-47

  28. Mr Squiggle

    ‘The Narrowing’ if it did occur would be a narrowing trend over time, not one snapshot of polls (all taken at the same time).

    This isn’t to say the Liberal vote did not improve. But my prediction is it will be back to the usual 54-55/45-56 range tomorrow. Reason? The recent polls were taken at a point where only the Liberal tax policy was out….of course more people than usual said they would vote Liberal. The real indication will be the polls now both policies are out.

  29. I hope we see a decent amout of debate about Environmental issues tonight.

    All Coalition voters who have any concern about climate change need to come to the reaslisation that we’re not going to get any leadership or appropriate action from a Prime Minister who wears his climate change scepticism as a badge of honour.

    No matter what he says in campaign mode, he doesn’t believe climate change is an issue, so you’d be naive to think that he’ll do anything of any great value.

    We need some real debate on this issue before the election concludes – what about one of the commercial station stepping up to the plate & organising an environmental debate on TV.

  30. I maintain that unlike past debates tonight’s one actually matters.

    If Howard somehow manages to come out looking superior that will be a serious blow to the ALP, and will reinforce the current momentum shift.

    With the Kevin07 campaign the ALP have put a lot of emphasis on their leader. Lets hope he doesn’t let the team down.

  31. Union workchoice ads are back, have seen 2 in the last 30 mins,

    One from ACTU and one from unions NSW.

    Mr Howard should have retired as a winner when he had the chance.

  32. [ Mr Squiggle,

    You are a revolting slave? ]
    And one who was in the end defeated and either butchered in battle or crucified.

  33. It will take a few polls to get a picture of course, to see if there has been a real shift and how much. I don’t doubt that the LNP vote should increase, it was just interesting to see the Labor primary seem safe, one way or another.

    We are just looking at one inch of the elephant at the moment, or is a cow.

  34. Mal Brough needs a bit of practise:


    “At best we’re seeing me-tooism, at worst we’re seeing just commentary, not policy, no costings, and that is no way to run an over $1 trillion economy.” [said Brough]

    Labor’s campaign media unit, however, did issue an eight-page policy document outlining the proposed changes to the childcare system, including costings.

  35. My prediction for Newspoll.
    Between 53-57 –
    I guess 54.5/45.5

    35,000 people were silly enough to be bought off by Howard’s smoke and mirrors future non-core tax cuts. 🙂 Another 35,000 got cold feet when Howard called the election and jumped back to the LNP.

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