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 was not at all surprised by this result, given the ALP’s quite chaotic approach to the campaign (which seems to be a tradition in the Morwell/Traralgon area).
    The National Party used the obvious division in the ALP camp to devastating effect, most notably using a TV ad showing retired State member Keith Hamilton grumbling about McCubbin after the preselection.
    Whilst the coalition parties clearly spent a great deal of money on the campaign, it allowed the candidates to be highly visible whilst the limited ALP program tended to focus on the Kennett era. They also quickly picked up a few populist issues like the Traralgon PO and never lost momemtum, whilst the ALP seemed to make very few cogent public statements.
    I agree with some of the contributors on this thread who noted that the departed McGauran had a fairly patrician & dismissive manner – as a public affairs professional, Darren Chester is quite different and seems more at ease with the voters.

    The real issue that Gippsland must face is that it now possesses the most junior MP in the Parliament who also happens to be in opposition. This comes at a time when the Federal Government will have to make some fairly weighty post-Garnaut decisions. The brown coal industry appears to be increasingly likely to be one of the sacrificial climate change lambs, even though it still produces 85% of Victoria’s electricity. There are fairly simple base load alternatives such as gas, but they all cost more to produce electricity, and that will have to passed on to the customers, most particularly the State’s manufacturers who thrive on cheap power (by international standards).

    There are some projects in development that use brown coal as a feedstock (urea and synthetic diesel fuel are the current leaders), but they need to be carbon neutral. Both State & Federal Governments and industry are modestly supporting geosequestration research and trials, but the funding needs to be dramatically increased so that the commercial and environmental considerations are confirmed or denied as soon as possible.

    Gippsland does have alternative industries that are in growth phase including services, dairy/horticulture, tourism and aviation. The expansion of these sectors could all be further facilitated by Government support for structural change. Unfortunately, Gippsland has historically missed out on that type of large scale support as opposed to the Newcastles & Geelongs.

  2. Allan at #97,

    Interseting point, the ABC in Victoria also ran with the line that Rudd had lost Gippsland, not that the Nats had retained Gippsland

    My View: another opportunity for Nelson’s failure has past without eventuating

    Hard yards,folds, hard yards

  3. [Interseting point, the ABC in Victoria also ran with the line that Rudd had lost Gippsland, not that the Nats had retained Gippsland]

    I’m pretty sure all the National TV News Scripts are written in Sydney and are sent out to the other states tro be read by the local reader.

  4. ruawake @ 96 –

    The ACT Govt. brought in energy ratings about a decade ago.

    I wasn’t aware of that, but it seems to be the exception, rather than the norm.

    As I write this I can hear my neighbour’s reverse cycle a/c cycling on and off. It’ll be doing that all night, just as it did last night, and if it’s as cold as predicted, probably much of tomorrow too. That is because the house has no insulation beyond that provided by the wall cladding. And because it also has no eaves, it gets as hot as hades in summer.

    Now you could just about excuse the foolishness that allowed this when it was being built 12 years ago, but most days I drive past a new house being constructed nearby and it is being built in exactly the same way. I’m not talking about a small cheap hovel, the asking price is just under $600K!

    I don’t know what it now costs to insulate a house as its being built, but I’m guessing about a grand. It’ll probably cost the owners that much in extra heating/cooling in just the first year!

  5. The real issue that Gippsland must face is that it now possesses the most junior MP in the Parliament who also happens to be in opposition. This comes at a time when the Federal Government will have to make some fairly weighty post-Garnaut decisions.

    Maybe the ALP calculated that it is not in their best interest to win this seat. Having it in safe opposition hands maybe means they can more easily ignore the constituent’s concerns, as they don’t vote for the ALP anyway.

    Cynical, I know, but that is hard numbers realpolitik for you. All sides do it.

  6. I don’t know what it now costs to insulate a house as its being built, but I’m guessing about a grand.

    Bugger all, both as a % of the house cost, and the extra heating/cooling costs if they don’t insulate.

    I have good quality insulation, and at 10C outside and windy, it is a moderately comfortable 21C inside, without any extra heating. Also, the inside temp falls slower than the outside temp.

  7. Yes, ABC News in Sydney tonight was full of Rudd bashing, coupled with Iemma’s latest poll disaster! Be prepared for Shanahan and Milne tomorrow to be loudly proclaiming the end of the Rudd Government.

  8. Andrew Landeryou Says:
    June 29th, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    PS We humans are pretty clever. If petrol is going to be too expensive to use, we’ll use something else, we don’t need to be taxed or clubbed to death to get the message. The market does work.

    Yes Andrew very true. Why doesn’t Nelson want the market to do it’s job, why the, “lets ruin the budget with a reduction in excise to stop the market doing it’s job” nonsense”.

  9. Back to the byelection result – I noticed that the runout was 76% (and noting this includes pre-polls) which seems low even for a by-election. I had a look back and noted that Werriwa had an 85% turnout, Cunningham 89% Aston 92%, Ryan 88%, Isaacs 81% and Holt 94%. I’m not entirely sure what conclusions to draw from this except maybe ALP voters stayed away?

  10. “I’m not entirely sure what conclusions to draw from this except maybe ALP voters stayed away?”

    Maybe Nat voters stayed away and their vote was going to be even higher.

    Democracy means you have to accept the results and move on, no point making excuses for Labors poor showing at the polls.

    The good news for Labor is that it now sounds like Brenda is confident he will be the one leading the Coalition to the next federal election. Doesn’t get any better than that.

  11. Latest from the Poisoned one.

    [RUNNING down to last year’s election, Kevin Rudd used to like talking about the destinations of national politics and what he called the fork in the road confronting the Australian people. Now he finds himself standing at one.

    The implications of the shock result in the Gippsland by-election are clear. And if Rudd doesn’t yet see them, there are more than a few cabinet ministers who will now be prepared to point them out to their leader.

    In the view of those of his colleagues that count this as the moment that Rudd must make a critical choice, that could well determine whether he wins or loses the next election. If he fails, the seeds of his destruction will be seen to lie at the heart of his November 24, 2007 victory.

    The base for his victory last year was a host of false expectations – now laid bare by Gippsland – built up by Rudd to lead voters to believe he could bring down the cost of living, including, crucially, petrol and grocery prices.

    Having won on “retail” politics from Opposition, Rudd made the mistake of thinking he could do so again from government. The genius of Brendan Nelson’s uber-populist post-budget announcement that he would introduce a 5c a litre cut in the fuel excise was tactical, rather than strategic, as the pollsters like to say.

    While it will be a promise that will live to haunt him in government, from Opposition, Nelson drew Rudd into a battle he couldn’t win on petrol. Faced with the realities of office and the inflation-driven imperative to keep the budget surplus fat, all Rudd’s promises on petrol and the cost of living turned to dust. He couldn’t deliver. And, come Saturday the burghers of Gippsland were the first to catch on to this new political paradigm. ],25197,23942559-33435,00.html

  12. Holy $hit. The Dwarf has tied it all together, hasn’t he? “Glenn Milne’s Theory Of Everything”.

    “Kevin Rudd, this is the first day of your political death,” by G. Milne.

    From a “false expectation” that Rudd would bring prices down last year (in the fourth paragraph), Milne morphs this into a formal “promise” two paragraphs later. And the final word is one of Glenn’s favourites, “paradigm”. It’s all there. Brendan Nelson is now, apparently, confirmed as a political genius. He must be just trying to lull us into a false sense of security by deliberately under-achieving.

    This article is pure von Danikenism: take a “What if” question in one chapter and turn it into an established fact by the next. Repeat as necessary to set out your totally bogus case.

    A more egregious few hundred words of complete wishful thinking and illogical bootstrapping I have never seen. At least not since the last column from the Poisoned One.

  13. Just as a P.S.

    He even got “permission” into it, as in:

    “…whether voters more broadly see the by-election result as giving them formal permission to also admit to their private doubts about Rudd and begin shifting to the Coalition.”

    You wish, Glenn.

  14. Sorry for the triple posting, but I had a long nap yesterday afternoon and now at 2.30am can’t get to sleep. So I guess it’s me.

    Phillip Coorey gets it about right in his column. Same facts, completely different conclusions to The Dwarf:

    As both sides spun furiously yesterday, there was unanimous agreement that petrol and the cost of living in general were key issues. Rudd never actually promised to lower these costs but people are so angry that they believe he did and will not hear otherwise.

    Nelson is playing the same populist game as Rudd did before the election – all empathy and no solutions, save for his gimcrack five cents a litre petrol excise reduction.

    Against all this is the emissions trading scheme Labor is committed to starting in election-year 2010.

    The Government must wear some blame for the almost non-existent job it has done to really explain to people what is about to happen.”

    I think that’s a fair analysis, especially the last paragraph quoted.

  15. Yes Frank and BB – it is the first time I have seen the word genius connected with Nelson’s name. All parallel universe stuff. I always feel uneasy about his “poisoned letter” articles as I just hope nobody believes them in voter land.

    Keating named him well.

  16. “GIPPSLAND shows the PM can’t win by playing the populist, but must make good policy into good politics.”

    Funny that such a comment is applied to Rudd but Nelson gets away with his an unfunded and environmentally irresponsible promise of a reduction in petrol excise and is opposed to the tax on Bundy and coke.

  17. Apologies – the quote in 117 is from Milne in today’s Age newspaper. No wonder he’s referred to as the poisoned dwarf.

  18. Frank @ 112:

    Milne is increasingly living in fairyland.

    The new political paradigm is what propelled Kruddy to the Lodge, and will keep him there, Gippsland or no Gippsland.

    An isolated Nationals seat had the luxury of registering a protest vote against what exactly? Petrol prices that are beyond anyone’s control, and the price of Bundy?

    The idea that these issues could cost Labor the next election are just Milne’s wet dream – dare I say it, they will come to nothing.

  19. From the Poison Dwarf “The genius of Brendan Nelson’s uber-populist post-budget announcement that he would introduce a 5c a litre cut in the fuel excise was tactical, rather than strategic, as the pollsters like to say.”
    Could this be the ‘Budget Bounce” expected since May 2007.

  20. Let’s not over analyse this. The punters don’t like rising petrol prices. Byelections provide a guilt-free way of venting anger over this highly sensitive hip pocket issue. They were also a big factor in Ryan in 2001.

    When it comes to choosing a government, it will be a different story. While Rudd certainly empathised over petrol in last year’s campaign he didn’t actually promise to do much so there’s little of any substance the Libs can really hang on him on. Emo man will try, but in the end there’s not much he can offer as an alternative with any semblance of credibility.

    Petrol as an issue will fade as it has always done in the past when prices stabilise -or even fall, according to some analyses. That said, you can now just about guarantee that whatever emission scheme comes into play now will quarantine petrol – probably via an offsetting reduction in excise. Greens preferences will be critical as always and the ALP only need be a cent a litre less populist than the LibNats to finish in front…..

  21. This is just a side show

    I think pipingshrike has pretty much summed it up:

    Working on climate change:

    working on climate change:

    By 2010 the northern passage will be a well used sea lane:

    This election in the brown coal capital of Australia is totally totally irrelevant, by 2010 the climate change skeptics will be in panic mode leading the pack demanding action, Rudd will have developed a plan and the Liberals will still be in disarray ( party due to the swing to the nationals in this poll).

  22. With the caveat that the poll has not been declared yet.

    There seems to be 17,000 votes either not counted yet or a significant number of people did not bother to vote.

    As it stands Chester has 5,000 less TPP votes than McGauran acheived in 2007 and 2004. This may sort itself out, but if it ends up that less people voted for Chester is this really a “big win” or just a statistical blip?

    Does the 18.89% reduction in voter turnout tell us anything?

  23. Ruawake, it tells you they haven’t counted all the pre-polls and they haven’t counted any of the postals. Turnout will be above 85% by the end of the week, possibly around 90%. 15-20% of the turnout is made up of the various categories of declaration votes.

  24. It was just a throw away line at an election campaign, Rudd telling people -Howard does not care, he does not care that interest rate has been rising, he does not care that ordinary Australian are struggling, grocery and petrol are rising.

    It was not a policy and there was no promise, but because all the network news aired it, everyone thinks Rudd will lower petrol and grocery prices.

    Petrol and grocery prices has been rising since the dawn of time, it is not going to fall. Rudd can reduce excise on petrol by 40c (ie whole excise) that would help family, but would not be really good for the environment.

    So Rudd is stuck with a “promise” and “wrong perception” much like Howard was at the last election (ie interest rate will always be lower under a Liberal government) Howard also has little control on interest rate, did not promised to keep rate low, but after all the interest rate rises, the electorate through Howard had lied.

    Would the same happen to Rudd now?

  25. Thanks Anthony. 🙂

    Is it usual for turnout at by elections to be lower? Looks like it may be 5-10% lower in Gippsland?

  26. dovif 124
    Howard advertising and promotion was that the libs would keep interest rates at a record low. Since they went up about 8 times between the 2004 election and the 2007 elections, interest rates were not kept at record lows.

  27. dovif, I hear what you’re saying in a way but Howard DID promise to keep interest rates at record lows in several interviews and at least one ad (which did air for a short timeframe).

    He also uttered the words ‘who do you trust to keep interest rates low’. Of course, it’s true interest rates were still kept (comparably) low. The point is he should never have made the promise as he knew he could not control interest rates.

    One the other hand, Rudd never, as far as I remember, stated he’d do anything to reduce grocery or petrol prices. All he said was that he understood those prices were a concern and was willing to listen rather than ignore, as Howard did when he stated that ‘working families have never been better off’.

    It’s not surprising that the Opposition will try and spin that as a promise to reduce petrol prices and grocery prices… but it’s not really the truth at all. If Rudd had said ‘Who do you trust to reduce grocery prices’ that would’ve been an equally stupid thing to say as what Howard said.

  28. People underestimated Andrew Peacock’s short-term political skills, at the 1984 election he overperformed. But in the long-run the Liberals simply couldn’t win by nitpicking on individual Labor policies. Nelson is the new Peacock.

  29. Howard was arrogant and deserved to lose the last election.

    Rudd did not promised anything but implied he would do more to lower Petrol and groceries, if they increase exponentially like Petrol have been doing. It will be interested if the electorate blame him for a promise he did not make

  30. dovif,

    Rudd did exactly the same as Howard. Howard never explicitly said that interest rates will never go up, just as Rudd never promised anything about petrol. In both cases , however, the implication that costs wil not rise could not have been clearer. The get-out clause didn’t work for Howard so I see no reason why it would work for Rudd. I think the ‘we’ve done all we can’ declaration on petrol six months in wasn’t a great look after all Rudd’s talk, and that he could have at least pretended to investigate cutting excise or something similar.

  31. [Howard never explicitly said that interest rates will never go up]

    I beg to differ. There was election advertising that specifically said the Liberal plan was to ‘Keep Interest Rates Low’, and Howard had a similar banner on his podium at press conferences during the election. There’s no weaseling out of that one when after the election they go up 10 times in a row. Rudd went nowhere that kind of thing, but the MSM will try and pin it on him just the same.

  32. I think the ‘we’ve done all we can’ declaration on petrol six months in wasn’t a great look after all Rudd’s talk,

    I think that comment was in the context of the details of the recent budget, he was not saying there was nothing more ever that could be done. But, yes, he could have phrased it better.

    Rudd did exactly the same as Howard. Howard never explicitly said that interest rates will never go up, just as Rudd never promised anything about petrol

    It is true that Howard did not promise that interest rates would never go up. But Rudd did not make the same kind of promise as Howard. Howard said that interest rates “will always be lower under a Coalition government”, a claim roundly (and rightly) dismissed by economists across the board. Furthermore, a Coalition election ad explicitly stated that they would keep interest rates at record lows, an even more dishonest and idiotic promise. True, that ad that was only shown briefly and did not feature Howard himself, but it was shown. Rudd said that Labor would do what they could to keep petrol and food prices down. A very different kind of promise from Howard’s.

    If voters and the media want to read things into pollies’ campaign rhetoric that are not there, (or believe pollies when they make undeliverable promises), then they have only themselves to blame for feeling let down when they do not get what they thought they were promised. Though it is certainly true that, rightly or wrongly, the pollies may well wear a lot of the consequences of that inevitable disappointment.

  33. In my mind Howard and Rudd did exactly the same thing.

    Howard said words to the effect “interest rates will always be lower under a Liberal government”. This was obviously impossible to prove either way but the public thought he had breached an (implied) promise and punished him.

    Rudd said words to the effect “we will put downward pressure on grocery prices and petrol prices”. This is also not a promise. But it is not a good look when grocery prices and petrol prices have done nothing but go up since the election.

    I think that the Liberals will regurgitate Rudd’s language again and again and the electorate may also punish Rudd.

    It just goes to show that politicians (of both colours) will say anything to get elected.

  34. “Rudd went nowhere that kind of thing..”

    Dunno about that. He went in pretty hard during the debate, with plenty of “we’ll work hard to keep prices low, we’ll do everything we can” rhetoric. As I said, nowhere did either of them say the exact words “Interest rates/petrol will never go up”, but the implication was obviously there and the expectations were that this would be the case.

    That’s why I think that being seen to admit defeat on petrol so early on was politically a very silly thing for Rudd to do. Irrespective of the merits of the policy, it would have been politically sensible for him to at least look as if he was investigating cutting the excise.

  35. [As I said, nowhere did either of them say the exact words “Interest rates/petrol will never go up”]

    As I said, Liberal advertising clearly said that they would ‘Keep Interest Rates Low’, and they didn’t. We never saw Labor advertising saying they would ‘Keep Petrol Prices Low’ did we? End of story.

  36. Under the Howard Government, the Reserve Bank always had discipline and inflation always went down and not up under Howard. With Wayne Swan now Treasurer, the Reserve Bank has no discipline and they are pretty much free to run amok and raise rates at their own will. Wayne Swan should just resign for the good of the people. Even Malcolm Fraser was a better economic manager in my view. May we say God save the Queen, because nothing will save Wayne Swan.

  37. Dario at 137

    Dario, you appear to be looking for a “hair to split” where there isn’t one. Both Rudd and Howard said remarkably similar things.

    In any event, it does not matter what Rudd actually said. It matters what the electorate thinks he said. The electorate thinks he said he would lower grocery prices and petrol prices or at the very least keep them where they were in November 2007.

  38. I clearly remeber Rudd saying “there is no silver bullet”. He said this many times. I don’t recall Howard saying that about keeping interest rates at record lows. Howard actually apologised for saying that during the last election campaign. The difference between Rudd and Howard on this is like chalk and cheese and anyone trying to infer otherwise is spinning furiously.

  39. There is a big difference in saying you will “keep prices as low as possible” to saying “we will keep them at record lows”.

  40. Honest John, who has proven here not to be that honest, seems to be agreeing with his alter ego. Maybe you can debate yourself Honest?

  41. Seems I’ve dropped in on a stoush.

    Keeping downward pressure on grocery prices may mean that prices go down. But it is not a promise to make prices go down. It is only a promise to slow the rate of their rise. Anyone who believed otherwise is truly a fool.

    Those who say “the voters” believed Rudd would lower prices have no evidence for this at all, except spin from the likes of Milne and Shanahan who have their own agendas to run. If they had their fingers on the pulse fo the voters, these morons of the 4th estate wouldn’t have been saying “The honeymoon is over” so often and wrongly.

    Intererstingly the like of Milne and Shanahan state quite clearly that Rudd never promised to lower prices. They say, as some have asserted above, that “the voters” believe otherwise. Yet they have done nothing to correct this impression.

    I repeat: anyone who believed that somehow or other Rudd could lower grocery prices was a fool to let their wishful thinking interfere with rational thought.

  42. 135
    sniven Says:
    Howard said words to the effect “interest rates will always be lower under a Liberal government”.

    He said exactly that, not just words to that effect. Rudd made no such equivalent explicit promise about fuel or food prices. He simply said what every political aspirant has to say, that they will do what they can to minimise price rises.

    The electorate cannot have it both ways: They cannot want to live in a market based economy and enjoy all the goodies it delivers, but then run bleating to the government for protection when that same market system pushes prices up. You gotta take the good with the bad.

    I think that the Liberals will regurgitate Rudd’s language again and again and the electorate may also punish Rudd.

    I hope they do, but I’ll bet they don’t, because it will not support their case. All Labor has to do is just pull out the explicit promises made by Howard over interest rates to kill of that comparison.

  43. sniven I don’t recall Rudd ever saying he’d put downward pressure on grocery and petrol prices. He said he’s set up a petrol prices commissioner (which he’s done) and I recall him saying something or other about what he’d do with grocery prices but I distinctly remember both Rudd and Swan routinely stating that they would not promise prices would go down and that to do so would be irresponsible.

    I’d be happy for you to find a reference to him stating that he’d put downward pressure on prices though.

    In fact, the ‘promise’ to reduce petrol prices and grocery prices was a media invention. The media even admit that Rudd did not talk much about petrol or grocery prices during the campaign. This was summed up by Steve Lewis 3 days before the election in an interview:

    LEWIS: You made no mention, you made no mention of any measures to put, to address cost of living pressures on working families, and yet that’s been a common theme throughout the last 12 months or so. In particular there is no mention in your speech, in fact during most of your campaign, of grocery and petrol prices which you have promised to address if elected.

    RUDD: Many of you have been at press conferences where I have said – and said repeatedly – I do not pretend to have a silver bullet on any of these questions, I don’t. But I do have a fundamental difference with Mr Howard who looks down the barrel of a camera and says to working families they’ve never been better off. Let me tell you, that’s not my experience as I wander around Australia and talk to people.

    In fact, if you trawl through all transcripts from the election campaign and prior you will not find one statement from the Labor Party promising or suggesting they will lower or keep low the prices of either groceries or petrol, but instead:

    “We will establish a Petrol Price Commissioner and a national inquiry into grocery prices to make sure working families aren’t ripped off.”

    It’s completely different from a promise to ‘keep interest rates low’. Although it’s arguable interest rates were still low at the end of the Howard Government the fact is they issued a direct statement that they would control interest rates and keep them low.

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