Gippsland by-election post-mortem

This entry will shortly be expanded with a considered analysis of the result, the general thrust of which will be that the surprisingly large swing to the Nationals indeed sounds warning bells for the Rudd government, however keen Labor partisans might be to mark it down to local factors. Below is a localised breakdown of the two-party preferred result, grouped into the three municipalities covered by the electorate.

NAT ALP Swing to NAT
# % # % 2008 2007
Latrobe City 12,470 56.4 9,634 43.6 10.3 -2.7
Traralgon 7,025 61.3 4,442 38.7 11.0 -3.4
Morwell 2,073 45.9 2,444 54.1 8.4 -2.7
Churchill 836 44.0 1,063 56.0 8.5 -0.6
Rural 2,536 60.1 1,685 39.9 8.1 -1.7
Wellington Shire 12,554 67.7 5,987 32.3 5.3 -2.6
Sale 3,588 65.0 1,929 35.0 3.6 -3.8
Maffra 1,545 67.6 741 32.4 8.0 -3.7
Rural 7,411 69.1 3,317 30.9 5.4 -1.7
East Gippsland Shire 12,796 66.6 6,429 33.4 4.4 -0.8
Bairnsdale 4,230 66.0 2,175 34.0 2.3 0.6
Lakes Entrance 2,399 69.2 1,068 30.8 9.6 -1.3
Paynesville 1,125 67.6 539 32.4 5.8 -1
Orbost 1,042 69.1 467 30.9 2.3 -2.4
Rural 4,000 64.7 2,180 35.3 3.6 -1.4
TOTAL 71,630 63.2 41,920 36.8 6.6 -1.8

Episode one: Perspective. Labor has suffered a sobering 9.3 per cent slump on the primary vote and a two-party swing comparable to that of the September 1973 Parramatta by-election, which rebuffed the Whitlam government and brought Philip Ruddock to parliament. What’s more, Antony Green notes that Labor entered that campaign burdened by the Whitlam government’s proposed second airport at Galston. The Hawke government faced six by-elections in its truncated first term, picking up a 0.5 per cent swing in Richmond and suffering swings ranging from 1.2 per cent to 5.0 per cent in the other five. There are also state precedents such as Labor’s wins in Burwood and Benalla in the wake of the Kennett government’s defeat which suggest governments should be able to convert honeymoon opinion poll leads into votes at by-elections. As the above table demonstrates, most of the damage to Labor was done in the Latrobe Valley – hypotheses to follow shortly.

Episode two: Nationals versus Liberal. The by-election was the first time the Liberals contested the seat since 1987, so yardsticks for the Coalition parties’ relative performance are hard to come by. The best one available is the state upper house election in 2006, the only recent race involving the three parties competing separately without significant sitting member factors in play. In the equivalent booths, the Nationals and Liberals were evenly matched, with 25.4 per cent and 25.3 per cent respectively. The by-election by contrast has seen the Nationals almost double the Liberal vote, 40.4 per cent to 20.7 per cent. The combined Coalition vote is up a remarkable 12.2 per cent, giving merger opponents in the Victorian Nationals still more to work with. Labor scored 33.7 per cent for the 2006 state upper house, against 27.0 per cent at the by-election.

Episode three: West versus east. The corollary of Labor doing especially badly in the western part of the electorate is that they did less badly in the east, outside of localised outbreaks at Lakes Entrance (Chester’s home town) and Maffra. This is easy to explain: East Gippsland has a high concentration of older voters (21.0 per cent over 65 compared with a national 13.3 per cent), a sure predictor of low electoral volatility. By contrast, Latrobe’s age profile is almost perfectly consistent with the national average. It might nonetheless have been expected that discontent over the failure of the budget to increase the base level of the pension would have generated a backlash here, which may indeed have occurred to some degree.

Episode four: Climate change. In opposition, climate change worked for Labor as a symbol of Rudd’s modernity and Howard’s obsolescence. In government, it is becoming increasingly evident that Labor faces a stern political challenge in matching deeds to words against the backdrop of an eerily familiar oil shock. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Latrobe Valley, whose brown coal power stations provide Victoria with 85 per cent of its electricity. The 10 per cent swing here is a reminder that voters in low-income areas do not take kindly to bearing the sharp end of visionary government reform programs, as the Pauline Hanson phenomenon demonstrated last decade. Interestingly, the Liberals hit Labor hard on the issue in their television advertising, but the Nationals don’t seem to have mentioned it. It is likely the Liberals succeeded in driving Latrobe Valley voters away from Labor with this attack on Darren McCubbin, who had mused that local droughts might have been linked to coal-fired power, but that Darren Chester was as much the beneficiary as Rohan Fitzgerald.

Episode five: State factors. Talk of a sharp anti-Labor swing in the Latrobe Valley should sound a familiar note for election watchers. This is because the area proved the sting in the tail of Labor’s state election night triumph in November 2006, which was marred by the surprise loss of Morwell to the Nationals and Narracan (mostly in the neighbouring federal seat of McMillan, which significantly failed to swing at last November’s election) to the Liberals after respective swings of 7.0 per cent and 9.5 per cent. Local discontent over water issues was seen to be to blame: defeated Narracan MP Ian Maxfield complained that “the Liberal and National parties ran an incredibly effective scare campaign by claiming that we were sending sewage to Gippsland and taking fresh water into Melbourne”. Sure enough, the Liberals returned to the theme during the by-election campaign with television ads that prominently featured an image of John Brumby.

Episode six: Labor versus Labor. Another reason given for Labor’s poor state election performance in Morwell was dissent in the local party, leading many prominent members to quit in protest against an MP said by one to have surrounded himself with a “Left clique”. There was further talk of disunity ahead of the by-election, with 2007 Gippsland candidate Jane Rowe seen to have been elbowed aside in favour of Darren McCubbin. Given that neither appeared a match-winner in their own right, Labor would have done better to have stuck with Rowe who could at least have built upon her existing work in last year’s election campaign.

Episode seven: Night of the living Nationals. The big winners are unquestionably the state Nationals and especially their leader Peter Ryan, who holds the seat of Gippsland South and until recently employed Darren Chester as his chief-of-staff. So far on Ryan’s watch, the Nationals have held their own at the 2002 state election (while the Liberals lost 22 seats and 8.3 per cent of the primary vote), and defied predictions to retain party status in 2006 after winning two extra seats in the lower house (cancelling out losses caused by electoral reform in the upper house). Ryan was the only party leader at state or federal level who was anywhere to be seen in the parties’ television ads (UPDATE: Okay, not quite – there was one Kevin Rudd read-to-camera), where he presented a local face unencumbered by association with unpopular actions of current or recently deposed governments. The Liberals by contrast had Peter Costello campaigning in the electorate, which might not have been such a good idea.

Episode eight: Night of the dying Coalition merger. There was talk going into the by-election of the Nationals and Liberals running a joint candidate to push the Victorian parties down the same merger road being followed in Queensland. The result has surely vindicated the state party’s decision to follow its own course. There are now a number of reasons to suppose that what’s good for the Queensland goose might be less good for the Victorian gander. Firstly, the by-election result gives force to the idea that competing Nationals and Liberal candidates can maximise the total Coalition vote where there is compulsory preferential voting and thus little preference leakage – which is crucially the case at Victorian state level, but not in Queensland. Secondly, the near-parity of strength among the two Coalition parties in Queensland has rendered them unmarketable at state elections due to confusion as to who their candidate for premier is. As this doesn’t apply in Victoria, the Nationals can serve the broader Coalition cause by absorbing protest votes in rural and regional areas.

Episode nine: Local factors. Those of us watching at a safe distance were bemused by the focus on the parish pump issue of Traralgon’s post offices, but that town indeed swung savagely against Labor even by Latrobe Valley standards.

UPDATE: Reading back, I note that apart from one “oil shock” reference, I have spent little time here discussing the decisive issue of petrol prices – mostly because I can only offer statements of the obvious. It should also be noted that Peter McGauran might not have taken much of a personal vote into retirement, with complaints heard he was spending too much time in Melbourne. Meanwhile, Andrew Landeryou hears the Coalition ran an unsustainably expensive campaign, as suggested by the remarkable number of Nationals and Liberal television ads floating around.

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.

229 comments on “Gippsland by-election post-mortem”

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  1. I’m not surprised by this result. Given the demographic of this seat, you’d expect them to do a chicken little number. I wonder if there’s something in the water?

  2. It’s clearly a good result for the Nationals. Not only did they win handsomely, they out-polled the Liberals in nearly every booth, which is really the benchmark.

    I was involved with NP campaigns there in the late 80s after Traralgon was moved out of Gippsland into McMillan and it was a hard slog. The primary vote slipped to under 10% in Traralgon and barely reached 5% in Morwell.

    The Latrobe Valley is a success story for the Nats and they should ask themselves why to learn a few lessons. They are seen as local and independent.

    Peter Ryan should seriously rethink the coalition in opposition.

  3. Given the Rudd government has been in only 7 months so a mile too soon for anybody to judge it you can only put down any Rudd driven swing against Labor to the MSM. And maybe the intense campaign by the murdoch press in coordination with the Liberal party has been to try and avert a loss in Gippsland and others to come.

    The murdoch boys will no doubt try and keep up their act until the next election.

    You do have to feel pity though for Milne. He was pretty much a looser before the election and has become an even more shrill looser after. At least before the election he could imagine warm feelings of approval from Howard and the like for his sleazey pieces, but now? Getting jollies from Brenda and co would be like shaking hands with a sun dried squid – no satisfaction in that I bet.

    So now the only fight has to be one driven by hatred of Rudd, that man who breezed through Burke-gate, Scores and not knowing the detail of tax scales – and caused Howard to freak out.

    What will become of Milne if Rudd wins the next election?! He will have no use and be irrelevant even to the MSM.

    The dangers of not being a genuine skilled journalist.

    This result will of course be a warning to Rudd and co and may well keep his troops in line, that they cant assume they will win the next election.

  4. Kina, Milne best mate is the member for Higgins. These pieces he writes arent to boost Nelson, even Milne knows he is hopeless. He wants to stroke the ego of Costello to get him in the top job.
    He used to be on the drip so would occasionaly have a good story given to him by liberal party mates, now the libs are out of government he writes semi-fanciful rants. According to him labor and rudds high approval figures really mean everyone wants costello and will switch allegiance when he gets the leadership.

  5. A very good result for the Nats, due partly to a very strong and very well-known local candidate. Darren Chester has much more talent than Peter McGauran, and the electorate knew it. His profile as a former local TV reporter would have helped him too. They’re a bit isolated in Gippsland, and have a good appetite for local issues and news.

    If Labor couldn’t find a Labor Party member to contest this seat, they were behind the eight-ball for a start.

    The result illustrates the same thing that the last Victorian election did, that the Nats will do better by being a separate party, not bound by the Coalition, and catering specifically to rural electorates. Peter Ryan is a Gippsland local, and deserves a bit of credit for this result.

    If you look at the polls in states like NSW and Qld, and this Gippsland result, it shows that Australians are reacting the way they always have – they don’t like one side of politics to have all the power. I don’t think the rudd Government has much to worry about from this result, but it will give the Libs and Nats more confidence that poor Labor governments, and candidates, can be beaten.

  6. If I remember rightly this general area turned on state Labor last election. How one conservative electorate turning its back on a Labor government in a by-election when most opinion polls look good for Labor overall, is any real cause for concern beats me. The only message for me is that that area of this state is is anti – Labor and doesn’t need much reason to vote against them in large numbers, full stop.

  7. I agree with Gary. I wouldn’t read anything into this result for Kevin Rudd, more for John Brumby. Labor has lost its way in the Latrobe Valley, which should be its heartland. Local issues are to blame for that.

    The electorate voted for an independent National Party. The repercussions of this result will be to kill any suggestion that John Anderson’s report might recommend a merger between the Nats and the Libs.

    Why the Nats engaged Anderson to write that report escapes me, considering he was a large reason for the party’s decline.

    The message here is the Nats should stand alone.

  8. steve, no. I never for a second thought Labor would win the seat, but my predictive skills as far as the electorate go are not great.

    My major issue was with the suggestion that any problems the Government may have are just due to the media. A really silly argument.

  9. “The message here is the Nats should stand alone.”

    Someone phone Springboard and tell him that, he thinks he has produced a coup for Queensland in running the opposing line.

  10. LTEP, it seems to be a good result for the Nats, a continuing poor result for Labor by never having been close to winning this electorate ever. Another poor result already on display is Glen Milne’s article in the Sunday Mail which has more to do with another agenda than the Gippsland byelection.

  11. Kevin Rudd only has 2 years left as Prime Minister. I am looking forward to a Coalition Government in 2 years time.

  12. The Age has the “honeymoon officially over” headline. How many times has the honeymoon been officially over now?

  13. OTOH I don’t think you can say this was just media – 7% means a few people changed their minds about something. The fact that there was a swing in Kororoit as well indicates a shift. But conversely, I don’t think it means Rudd is gone either!! Remember the Ryan by-election and others before the 2004 election?

    I would love to know how much of this was local issues (in a poor rural electorate) and how much other things. It would not shock me if Iguana gate cost Labor votes, as I think it smacked of arrogance and abuse of power (not by Rudd) so early in this governments term. Rudd and Swan just need to stick to their message and not overreact to this, and I think they will be fine next time its the real thing.

  14. Talk about hyperbole by the oisoned dwarf in this article(no, not the column above).

    [PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd received a shock rebuff in the Gippsland by-election last night, with a big swing to the National Party.

    While the Nationals, who have held the eastern Victorian seat for 86 years, were expected to hold on, based on Mr Rudd’s national poll ascendancy they were not expected to gain a swing.

    See the results: Virtual Tally Room

    But with 60% of the vote counted there was a seven-per cent swing away from Mr Rudd’s ALP after only seven months in office.

    In the 141 by-elections held since Federation, the average anti-government swing has been only 4 per cent.

    The successful National’s candidate Darren Chester, 40, credited the success to his strong campaign based on local issues, refusing to draw any major implications for either Mr Rudd or Liberal Leader Brendan Nelson.

    Senior National’s noted the fact Mr Chester had “smashed” the Labor candidate in his hometown booth of Longford as “significant”.

    Labor needed a 5.9% swing to take the seat from the Nationals. The result was immediately characterised as a major boost to the embattled leadership of Mr Nelson who has campaigned hard in Gippsland.

    National’s leader Warren Truss last night described it as an absolutely “fantastic” result. “What the people of Gippsland have done tonight is to send a clear message to Kevin Rudd and his government that they have to govern for all Australia”.

    The by-election was caused by the resignation of former Agriculture Minister, Peter McGauran.

    The campaign became a microcosm of key national issues. Petrol prices, highlighted by Mr Nelson’s post Budget pledge to cut fuel excise by five cents a litre, were a major issue.

    Spirit manufacturers also ran a local “ute man” television advertising campaign against the government’s so-called “alco-pop tax”, pointing out that tradesmen who drink mixed spirit based cans had become collateral damage in what was more of a revenue grab than a health based attempt to stop teenage girls binge drinking.

    National seniors groups also letterboxed extensively during the campaign demanding all candidates take a position on whether there should be an immediate increase in the single pension.

    Only the Nationals, Chester and the Greens’ Dr Malcolm McKelvie committed to the rise.

    The letterbox campaign followed strong criticism by pension groups of the Government’s failure to grant such an increase in the May Budget.

    Job fears over climate change also played a role. With the government actively panning a carbon emissions trading scheme, there are four brown coal fired power stations in the L Trobe Valley which is part of the electorate.

    These power stations will be heavily penalised under such a scheme raising fears of plant closures and large scale lay offs.

    The key local issue was the expected closure of the Traralgon Post office. The fear campaign surrounding the Post Office, in the electorate’s biggest town, played against Labor as the incumbent government. ]

    http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,23939413-5006301,00.html

  15. Let me see, the government has been in 7 months, pretty much done what they promised so far. Nothing really done for anyone to change their mind about.

    So as I already said IF people swung against the government because of Rudd/Labor performance it would have to be on the basis of the negative image the MSM have been trying hard to portrait.

    Not whacky stuff unless you think people magically get their information on government activity and performance beamed straight into their heads without recourse to media. So keep the personal insults to yourself.

  16. I seem to recall LTEP spent most of the pre-election period moaning and groaning that Labor were going to lose despite the evidence.

  17. 20.70% swing to the Liberal Party in Gippsland, that means if the Liberal Party didn’t run a candidate, the National Party 2PP vote would have been nearly 20% higher.

  18. I don’t know too much about the local issues except as I have read in this blog. But on a national level is it possible that a lot of people did not want to cause “grievious harm” to the NP because of their few numbers in Parliament. Remember a lot of this area is NP heartland. Some people may have wanted to see an Opposition that was effective and therefore wanted to put new blood into the NP benches. Perversely the poor performance of the Opposition could have been actually a motivator to vote for them in this instance. Even though these days I am a Labor voter, I would certainly take this into account at such a by election.

    Connected with this if the NP member was a good candidate and the Labor man was suspect many people would make their assessment based on this. There is no government at stake so party leadership would not be an issue, and hence no question of who was going to be the PM. By elections are definately different.

    If your livelihood depended on the power station then you would consider not voting for the Labor candidate even if you were normally a Labor voter. It shows the difficult path that Labor has to tread re Climate Change. But it still has to be done.

    The Libs did not field a candidate last election and so their 20% was simply a split of the Conservative vote. Also FF did not field a candidate whereas I think at the 2007 election they did. Their votes would have gone either to Lib or NP.

    There is no basis I can see for any judgment on the Fed Gov’t re voting intention. The demographic of this electorate is individualistic and one would have to go against national opinion poll on opinion poll giving 2PP to Labor of close to 60% to make a call here. Also their candidate was below par and Labor did not put much into the campaign. Forget Milne – he’s off with fairies trying to create his own parallel universe where Costello is PM.

    Still, Labor cannot afford to take anything for granted with the electorate. They need to keep a level head and continue on doing what they said they would.

    .

  19. This is the first time Conservatives have got a swing to them since Swan and Cowan, im surprised i thought it would be closer, i guess Rudd is muffing up a bit as far as i can tell from all the way in Berlin.

    Still the Nats were always favourites to win, in Rudds landslide in 2007 the seat barely swung to Labor so that 5% base support is rock solid.

  20. Hey Glen, old buddy, did you find a carrier pidgeon to get your message out ๐Ÿ™‚

    Gippsland = non-event

    Labor never had a chance of winning it, especially in the current economic climate. People are pi$$ed off with petrol prices, interest rates, economic downturn, fears about carbon taxes and hot air about global warming. The Latrobe must be especially sensitive to the CO2 debate. On top of that Labor mounts an apparently ordinary candidate, it really is Machiavellian, Kev wants Emo Man to stay in charge forever. Once oil prices decline, and they will, we will see some return to sanity.

  21. Oh yeah, I forgot, and the other factor is the geriatrics who didnt get their pensions doubled the way the Tories were going to do it. PIGS Ar#E

  22. Why did Brenda get the result so wrong? Did he really believe that Labor would win? Of course not.

    Will he be questioned about his “dishonest spin”? Can we believe anything he says? Or does he make things up as he goes along?.

    The sad thing is it will happen all over again in Mayo and Higgins. Is this the Liberal strategy – rolling by elections with accompanying “cheap shot” retail politics. ๐Ÿ™

  23. Frank C @ 20, I notice in the article that Milne has demoted Emo Man from Doctor Nelson to plain old Mister at least twice in the article. Does that tell us something?

  24. When danger rears its ugly head,

    When some scary comes from under the bed,

    When the world faces disaster

    Under cannons, rays, and blasters,

    When something crazy goes awary,

    And threatens all, from man to fly,

    Emo Man will just sit there and cry,

    And threaten to kill himself.

    ๐Ÿ˜›

  25. “The former journalist (Darren Chester) says his first move will be to lobby his Coalition colleagues to support a $30 a week rise in the aged pension.”

    Oh so now its not a real policy. Just Chester policy. Stolen from The Greens.

  26. So Chester wants to spend an extra $2.9 billion a year on pensioners (thats just aged pensioners) and Truss wants to lower petrol excise by $7.2 billion.

    Thats the budget surplus cut in half. At least under Howard the pork was real.

    Could $10 billion in “spin” be an election winner? Sure looks like it.

  27. 8
    Antonio Says:
    A very good result for the Nats, due partly to a very strong and very well-known local candidate. Darren Chester has much more talent than Peter McGauran, and the electorate knew it.

    I am wondering how much of the swing was due to the Nats candidate not being McGauran, who frankly was a pompous dud.

    I agree with the view that this result holds little significance for either side federally. It will neither destroy Rudd, nor save Nelson.

    And Milne’s take on it is just hysterical partisan hyperbole…

    PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd received a shock rebuff in the Gippsland by-election last night,…

    A “shock rebuff”? Get your hand off it, Milne.

  28. ruawake No 34
    If the ALP had of gone in with a policy like that they would have been accused of economic vandalism and threatening the ‘Future Fund’.

  29. It was a bad result for the ALP. That is actually clear. The main reason I would suggest had to do with their candidate. Big swing in his own shire (Wellington) and an even bigger swing in La Trobe shire where the other mayor was up for pre-selection until the party bosses came in.

    The Government also need to a clear message on climate change policy. Even an unpopular policy can be defended, where as no policy means the other side can invent nightmares which they then attack you with.

  30. In hindsight Labor should have stuck with the previous candidate for Gippsland.
    She wouldn’t have won, but at least the swing against Labor wouldn’t have been as great! There’s a lot to be said for letting the local branches select the candidate, Robertson is another case in point!

  31. The great shame about this result is it vindicates Nelson’s & the MSM’s negative headline grabbing tactics on issues like petrol (unfixable in the short term).

    Its amazing the time the government has had to dedicate to defending themselves on this – time which is desperately needed to properly manage the country.

    The MSM & Nelson should be condemmed for their lack of regard for their own country.

  32. ruawake@34

    I didn’t think Truss’ position was what you are stating it as. I thought he said ‘he’d like to cut the excise by 20c’ but realises this is not economically responsible. What you’re stating is a misrepresentation of what he’s said.

    Of course it doesn’t avoid the fact that any cut to the excise is a stupid idea.

  33. “The MSM & Nelson should be condemmed for their lack of regard for their own country.”

    Yes Triffid, they have been very big on talking down the Australian economy this year compared with past years.

  34. LTEP

    Truss did say what you quoted, but he was perfectly happy for the 20c a litre to be percived as his policy.

    Same result.

  35. Antony, I think Labor will run in Mayo. Even if we have a conservative or two retire each month Labor will still have the same number of seats at the last election and it will give them good experience at sorting out their preselection processes for the next election.

  36. A by-election from hell for the ALP. All the negative factors which operate in a by-election were to the fore. No doubt petrol was the big issue. It’s soured voters around the world. British Labour finished fifth, behind the National Front, in a by-election last week. In the US, the Democrats are winning special elections in Republican strongholds like Mississippi.

    Yet Morgan and co have the intended vote for Rudd Labor at anything from 54 to 61 per cent.

  37. 47 Phil Robins – are you suggesting all of the opinion polls have got it wrong on the basis that the Nats have a great win in what is essentially a strong National Party seat, where people need very little excuse to vote against Labor? It shows to me how much the coalition were on the nose last election.

  38. From the News.com webiste, written by “staff writers”:

    The campaign became a microcosm of key national issues. Petrol prices, highlighted by Dr Nelson’s post-Budget pledge to cut fuel excise by 5c a litre, were a major issue.

    Pump pain was not the only national issue to have an impact on voters’ minds.

    Spirit manufacturers also ran a local “ute man” television advertising campaign against the Government’s so-called “alcopop tax”, pointing out that tradesmen who drink mixed spirit-based cans had become collateral damage in what was more of a revenue grab than a serious health-based attempt to stop teenage girls binge drinking.

    “Pointing out”… how nice of Ute Man to “point out” that the alco-pops tax normalisation was “a revenue grab”. We all knew that, didn’t we?

    As for the 5c a litre reduction scam… this is so silly I can’t believe supposedly serious and responsible newspaper outlets are pushing it as a mature policy.

    This is a classic case of heads being buried in sand. If X-million litres a day is sold at $1.60 with tax, then, if the price is dropped overnight to $1.55, how long will it take the oil companies to realise that by putting the price up by 5c they can still sell X-million litres a day, only making more profit? I would say about as long as it takes to get out the ladder, climb up the steps and change the sign outside the servo.

    The price of oil is going up and down so rapidly and frequently, with flow-ons taking seemingly random lengths of time to funnel through to the retail pump price, it’d be a doddle to disguise a price gouge of 5c in all the confusion. No-one could be able to prove anything. Hell, it’s hard enough now when price maintenance goes in under the ACCC’s very noses. Much more difficult to sustain a price hike case when everything’s in a state of flux. Yet Nelson persists with this absolute junk policy. So easy to say what he’d do when he’s two years away from even a remote chance of having to put this policy into action (and that’s if he’s still leader by then).

    But it can’t be denied people are angry. They don’t realise why they should make all the sacrifices on prices and the government does nothing about it. The answer is because the government does very little about explaining the reasons. Instead they rely on the Glenn Milnes (and his “elite economist” scare story) or Shanahan, who only raves on about “the politics” (while simultaneously condemning the 5c policy… ain’t it strange?). I can only surmise that the reason this kind of egregious humbuggery is going on is that the conservative side of politics doesn’t care what they do in the short term to wreck the economy and make Australia ungovernable in any serious way. As long as their precious Liberals are re-elected, nothing is of any concern to them.

    Blow the Budget? Why not? We can always put taxes up later. Ignore Climate Change? Capital idea, the Big End Of Town will always do well, no matter what happens. Restore an outright tax anomaly on liquor? Sure, the tradies will need a drink when all their work dries up as the economy tanks (because we emptied the national coffers to pay for cheap conjurers’ tricks and tried to make believe all we needed was the old days back again where petrol was $1.00 a litre… except pretty soon there won’t be enough petrol to go around. What’ll we do them?).

    Rudd sits, to some, looking smug. He believes in process. He believes that, eventually, when he wears them down, he’ll get a fair go from reasonably minded journalists who’ve made themselves laughing stocks by their constant referrals (for over 18 months now) that “the honeymoon’s over”.

    Rudd is wrong. The journos want blood. They really do desperately want the honeymoon to be over. They’ll write almost any smear, outrage or shameless lie to make their wish self-fulfilling. Milne’s Advertiser column (linked in a post above) was an exercise in virtually untrammeled vitriol, one of the nastiest diatribes, full of spite and infantile triumphalism, that I’ve even seen this nasty little dry-drunk excrete from his journalistic sphincter.

    Rudd, to my mind, needs to explain to the slow thinkers of Gippsland and the rest of this country that, whether they like it or not, what appears so simple on the front page of the Daily Telegraph, what words are so easy to utter by Brendan Nelson who has no reponsibility for anything (and can hardly keep his own back benchers in order, much less a whole nation), are not real. We can’t really just wish away Golbal Warming, or peak oil by writing a confected outrage piece and getting angry in the pub about it.

    I used to think Rudd was saving up his surprises for a later date, when the results of the commissions and the inquiries and the reports started cascading out of wherever they’re coming from. Then would be the time for action and reform. In the meanwhile, try to weather the storm.

    But instead, the boozers, thick-headed grey nomads who can’t afford to fill their tanks, deadbeat hayseed farmers raving on about local post offices, the ill-informed white trash who’ve bet the homes on permanent boom times (and lost the bet) and the generally wowserish bunch of idiots who make up the conservative voting class have, between them, taken over the asylum to the constant urgings of journalists and commentators who should bloody-well know better than to encourage this idiocy.

    Rudd needs to set it out plain and simple.

    You want 5c, 10c, 20c a litre off your petrol? Good. Then be prepared to lose your baby bonus, your pension increase, your homes, your jobs and your security.

    You want us to blow the Budget on fripperies? OK, so get ready for worse to come: dry rivers with locust plagues in new desert areas, no new public hospitals, your kids without computers in their schools, harsher social security rules, old roads full of potholes and all the rest that goes with a goverment that’s blown its wad on trying to please everybody, all the time.

    This message needs to be pounded into their ostrich-like heads till it hurts, and then maybe, just maybe, Rudd should stop for a while

    It always feels better when it stops, they say, even if just for a moment.

  39. I would have thought there would a swing in Gippsland of 2 – 3% to the Coalition so I was surprised by 7% or thereabouts. I don’t think seriously anybody thought that Labor could win it even though John Black tried but it can’t be seen as a good result for the ALP. Though it wouldn’t surprise me if people had voted against Peter McGauran – he always seemed like a bit of a tool.

    The big adavantage the libs will have in Mayo is that all of the touted candidates seem to be top drawer so they will have few excuses there.

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