Yesterday’s papers: week two

Here’s two subscriber-only pieces I wrote for Crikey last week. The first is from Friday, and is showing its age only insofar as Centrebet is now offering $3.50 on a Liberal win.

For all that’s been said about the lessons of Northern Territory Labor’s near-defeat a fortnight ago, expectations that Alan Carpenter’s government will be comfortably returned in Western Australia are dying hard.

Saturday’s Newspoll showed 61 per cent of respondents expecting a Labor win, compared with 21 per cent for the Liberals. However, the poll put Labor’s two-party lead at just 51-49, and it was echoed by a 50-50 Westpoll result published the same day in The West Australian. This doesn’t seem to have impressed betting agency Centrebet, which has not revised its starting price of $4.25 for a Liberal win.

With just over a fortnight to go, Labor is taking to such perceptions with an axe. The process began on Wednesday when Alan Carpenter told television reporters his party faced a “knife-edge political situation”, and said he “always believed that we could lose”.

It was ratcheted up a notch yesterday morning when the ABC was told Labor had abandoned its most marginal seat of Kingsley to direct resources where it still had a chance. “Concern” was also expressed over Ocean Reef, Swan Hills, Riverton and Jandakot. The latter was particularly interesting, as just two weeks ago the party was trumpeting a 56-44 lead fuelled by gratitude over the Mandurah railway and Fiona Stanley Hospital projects.

Then came the real bombshell, courtesy of Geof Parry on the Channel Seven news: leaked polling across the five seats showed a swing to the Liberals of 7 per cent, which if consistent would give them 32 seats out of 59 along with another three for the Nationals. This was accompanied by findings that 57 per cent of respondents still expected Labor to win, while only 25 per cent thought the Liberals “ready to govern.

Later in the evening, a Labor candidate using a pseudonym wrote on my blog that the party’s strategy group was “cr-pping itself” over the data, which was “very real” and “not a tactic to scare voters”. Particular concern was expressed over the strategists’ failure to scotch the snowballing perception of Alan Carpenter as “arrogant” — a theme which has developed a life of its own since the early election was announced a fortnight ago.

When respondents to Saturday’s Westpoll survey were asked unprompted to name the single issue that would most influence their vote choice, fully 10 per cent responded with some variation on “Govt/Carpenter arrogance”. The apparent potency of this message has not been lost on the Liberals: the word “arrogant” appears twice, delivered with carefully modulated emphasis, in their latest 30-second radio advertisement.

Of course, the polling leak and accompanying talk of internal panic might just be a ruse to boost Labor’s winning margin rather than avert defeat. On the other hand, the shift to the Liberals recorded in last weekend’s polls was entirely consistent with the anti-Troy Buswell effect that was well understood to be at work in the preceding surveys. We have evidence now that is not merely anecdotal that the perception of arrogance is starting to bite. And those generous odds from Centrebet are still there for the taking.

The second is from Monday: I should add that Wendy Duncan is a better chance than I believed at the time, as she has done very well on the preference tickets.

The range of issues turned up by state elections these days (law and order, hospital waiting lists, water supply) is usually so narrow it can be hard to tell one campaign from the next. Two concerns which don’t often rate a mention are equal opportunity and sexual harassment.

It is an indication of the extraordinary state of affairs in the WA Liberal Party that Labor is pursuing these unconventional lines of attack in its first negative advertising of the state election campaign. Commercial radio audiences are being targeted with ads in which a young girl declares her aspiration to grow up in “a place where women have a voice in the community” and “a society which respects women”. An older female voice then breaks the bad news that the Liberal Party “boys’ club” has “only one woman running in their held seats”, and that “Liberal Shadow Treasurer Troy Buswell thinks it’s funny to play with a woman’s bra in public and to sniff a woman’s chair”.

The two issues are closely related. As well as making him poison in the eyes of women voters, Buswell’s heavily publicised indiscretions clearly presented a stumbling block to the party’s efforts to recruit female candidates. His emergence as leader in January also coincided with the departure of the party’s existing two women in the lower house. Shadow Tourism Minister Katie Hodson-Thomas announced her retirement plans before entering the party room meeting that confirmed Buswell as leader, having earlier complained he had subjected her to “inappropriate” remarks in the presence of male colleagues (she admits to regretting the decision now her long-standing ally Colin Barnett is back at the helm). Shadow Attorney-General Sue Walker quit the party a fortnight later, citing factionalism and her lack of “trust” in Buswell. Walker will attempt to hold her seat of Nedlands as an independent against Bill Marmion, who won Liberal preselection as the only male nominee in a field of four.

One failure at least could be put down to misfortune rather than carelessness. When Barnett announced his retirement in February, the unopposed preselection nominee for his blue-ribbon seat of Cottesloe was Deidre Willmott, policy director for the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a front-bench shoo-in. Willmott of course was compelled to stand aside when Barnett returned to the leadership a fortnight ago, and could not be persuaded with alternative offers of an upper house seat or a shot against Sue Walker in Nedlands. She has now been appointed chief-of-staff to Barnett and will no doubt take his place in Cottesloe if the Liberals lose the election, although this is not openly acknowledged.

When nominations closed on Friday, it was revealed the Liberals had managed a grand total of six female lower house candidates out of 58. Current polling suggests this will translate into two elected members out of about 24, both marginal seat newcomers with no obvious claim to a position on the front-bench. The situation is only slightly better in the upper house, where the most likely result will be four Liberal women out of 15. The Nationals too are likely to emerge with an all-male complement of three or four lower house MPs plus one in the upper house, unless their existing female MLC Wendy Duncan can pull off an unlikely win in Mining and Pastoral region.

The best Barnett has been able to make of the situation is to offer a front-bench position to Liz Constable, the long-standing independent member for the naturally Liberal western suburbs seat of Churchlands. Constable has been a notable presence alongside Barnett on the campaign trail, despite not yet having had much to say relating to her nominated portfolios of public sector management and government accountability.

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.

178 comments on “Yesterday’s papers: week two”

Comments Page 1 of 4
1 2 4
  1. Even if raw polling suggests the result will be tight, this might not translate into the required seats. The effect of the (so-called) one vote, one value redistribution was to boost Labor seats at the Liberal’s expense. On the 2005 results, the Libs will need to obtain a 2PP vote of 51.5% to deprive Carpenter of his majority. And then Barnett will need to obtain the support of the Nationals and Independents Walker and Woollard (assuming they win) to govern. A tough ask.

    On these figures, Barnett needs more like a 54.0% of the 2PP to govern in his own right.

    I don’t doubt Carpenter is in a worse position than Gallop was at the same point in 2005, but I’m still comfortable in putting my money on a Carpenter win. Even if it’s a repeat of 1989 where he loses the majority vote, but hangs on regardless.

  2. That lack of congruency between betting markets and and what purports to be polling figures is very difficult to reconcile. Reinforces the uncertainty and tentativeness noted before.

    On another matter, I used to have a strong perception in the olden days, that if you did not vote, you were fined. That perception is now much weaker. This raises a number of questions:

    1. Is there a trend where people are simply not turning up to vote?

    2. Were there sufficient vote dodgers in the NT to skew the outcomes significantly? In particular, were labor’s losses basically more or less equivalent those who did not turn up? If so, does labor have a turnout problem?

    3. In the NT did the sudden election call have an impact on people not having time or the opportunity to register? If so, were these votes that might normally have gone to labour?

    4. Are there similar issues (vote dodgers and unregistered voters) that may impact on WA outcomes?

  3. 2 “That lack of congruency between betting markets and and what purports to be polling figures is very difficult to reconcile. Reinforces the uncertainty and tentativeness noted before.”

    There is another element to this that has not been discussed so far. The punting in the NT was almost exclusively for Labor. Bookies would be keen to get a bit of conservative money into their bags before the money comes for Labor in the WA election.

  4. I really cannot see a Labor loss,

    1. Carpenter is so confident he called an election 6 months early
    2. The state is booming, unemployment is record low
    3. The state has so much money to bribe the electorate
    4. The Lib leader has been at his job for 10 days, and was retiring

    Labor is too long in the betting

  5. dovif @ 4

    Apart from your no 1, which might just as well represent a miscalculation as anything else, your other points would normally be regarded as received wisdom. They are good points. This leaves the alternatives that the polling is way out, or factors other than the usual received wisdom are operating.

    Apparently the debating worm went well down on anything negative and up on anything positive about the state and the future.

    Maybe the voters are heartily sick of what they regard as a choice that is only about awful stuff that should be in the past: as represented by a compromised tweedledum and a compromised tweedledee?

  6. Hmm.

    The Liberals are firming in the betting odds, with one bookmaker urging Opposition Leader Colin Barnett “to have the removalist on standby”.

    Centrebet, Lasseters and Sportingbet have all trimmed their odds on a Liberal win as bookmakers report the agencies are showing no interest in the Labor government.

    Centrebet’s Neil Evans said an Adelaide woman with a sound record in election betting had placed nearly $2,000 on the Liberals at 3-1 to win the September 6 election.

    The agency shortened the Liberals’ odds from $4 to $3.75 following a steady stream of support for the outsiders, Mr Evans said.

    Labor’s odds lengthened from $1.22 to $1.23.

  7. This from the Lassiters guy.

    Lasseters’ Gerard Daffy said there had been no money for Labor and the bookmaker was now offering $1.30 for the favourite, out from $1.18 at the start of the campaign.

    The Liberals had shortened from $4.30 to $3.50.

    “I think the betting might reflect an anti-Labor feeling across the nation,” Mr Daffy said.

    “If I was Colin Barnett, I’d have a removalist on standby.”

    Sportingbet has Labor at $1.25 to win and the Liberals at $3.80.

    What Anti Labor feeling across the country ?

    Is this guy for real ?

  8. Frank

    You mean you did not notice how unpopular Ruddie is? LOL

    He might have a little point, but it probably has more to do with the Anti-Howard vote disappearing, I think that was worth about 4% in the last NSW election

  9. The only ‘feeling’ I detect in the Balcatta electorate is one of ennui. One neighbour complained: We’ve only just finished one year-long election, now we have another one. When I pointed out that the November election was federal and the September 6 one is for the state parliament, she said: Oh, they’re all the same.

    It must be hard for pollsters, trying to be all scientific and mathematical, when the electorate simply couldn’t give a sh*t yet. The numbers will bounce around until polling day, then people will go with their gut feeling on the day.

    The ‘anti-Labor feeling across the country’ is more likely anti-government feeling; people are sick of hearing about politics and politicians, especially when the MSM reports are so often so negative.

  10. How can anyone claim there is an anti – Labor vote across the nation with national and state opinion polls showing otherwise and only one state or territory election being held so far.
    Daffy doesn’t mention how much money has come in for the coalition.

  11. Sounds like the betting agencies are struggling to get people to bet on the Coalition, actually. They wouldn’t be talking the Coalition up if they really thought it would win.

    I agree with #4dovif about the reasons why Carpenter should win, and he also has a favourable redistribution.

    There’ll probably be a swing against Labor though.

    I must say, from my eastern states vantage point, I’ve heard buggerall about the actual election policies of either side, except the Libs promise to pay teachers more, and the Nats demanding more mining revemnue to go to the bush.

    The parties are so scared to have their policies stolen these days, that they don’t announce new policies till late in the campaign. And they even have the “campaign launch” near the end of the campaign. Bizarre.

  12. The parties are so scared to have their policies stolen these days, that they don’t announce new policies till late in the campaign. And they even have the “campaign launch” near the end of the campaign. Bizarre.

    And the media(ch7) were complaining how the ALP would only give them 90 minutes notice to attend a location, with no detail in the SMS message.

    This of course is designed to prevent the enemy from finding out what your policies are – standard practice of course.

    Mind you, if you want detailed policy info, the ALP to it’s credit usually post the day’s announcement media release and policy document by late afternoon at while the libs usually post theirs a day later.

  13. The two questions I ask myself as a political observer is what has Labor done wrong in WA to deserve to be tthrown out and what have the Libs done to deserve to be elected? I have no doubt there will be some swing against Labor but probably not enough to see them beaten.

  14. Latest ALP ad targeting Barnett which makes excellent use of the news footage of the 2005 election campaign where he got his sums wrong 🙂

    Hmm, it wasn’t the one that I was thinking.

  15. More “ennui” from the Balcatta electorate here (local obsessives will have seen this already).

    Pseph, I’m in Fremantle. I can tell you the Labor postal vote application form hit by letterbox nice and early, despite the seat’s non-importance – nothing else of interest though.

  16. Gary @19,
    The answer to the first question is a very long list. The answer to the second is a very short one. It might account for the ennui in (inter alia) Balcatta. It may also account for your second sentence.

  17. 8 The Liberals are firming in the betting odds, with one bookmaker urging Opposition Leader Colin Barnett “to have the removalist on standby”.

    Indeed, but did the bookmaker tell us whether the removalist destination is the retirement village or the knackery?

  18. Either way come September 7, I get the feeling that a lot of people (bookies, so called experts, Colin Barnett etc.) will be having omlete for breakfast…..get it, egg on face etc, etc…… LOL.

  19. Actually I stand corrected on the Libs.

    Mr Barnett has addressed a business lunch hosted by the 500 club, which today pledged $400,000 for the Liberal Party’s election campaign.

    After initially talking up tax relief Mr Barnett has now settled on more modest cuts.

    He says if the Liberals win they will provide $250 million of tax relief over the next four years.

    The amount falls well short of what business wanted and Mr Barnett did not specify which taxes he would cut.

    He says an economic audit would be commissioned within 30 days of the Liberals winning office.

    The audit would review all taxes and make recommendations for tax relief.

  20. he didn’t identify what would be cut and by how much

    And that is the key, Barnett makes vague announcements with very little detail nor prduces any figures, unlike the ALP’s Policy Documents which ALWAYS have a table with the relevant figures etc.

  21. I love a good “fistful of Dollars” policy always to unspecified people at an unspecified rate. It really is the Liberal campaign strategy at its best. If under pressure begin to throw money like confetti.

  22. I love a good “fistful of Dollars” policy always to unspecified people at an unspecified rate. It really is the Liberal campaign strategy at its best. If under pressure begin to throw money like confetti.

    And Labor can quite easily ask which services/programs will be cut to fund the Tax Cuts .

  23. How does the WA media let this crap slip by? They are so utterly useless, only the ABC will probably mention it.

    I mean can you imagine what The West would do if Carpenter promised $250m of tax relief without saying which taxes and by how much?

  24. Wow – there’s a huge level of ALP support in this site. I am unquetionably conservative but at least try to maintain some distance.
    However, since a response needed to be made, here you go –
    There seems to be little need for a new audit of state taxes and possible room for relief. Hasn’t there already been such a process underway for some time – can’t remember who headed it up but it was a partner at one of the big law firms…
    As for no mention of the specifics – it is hardly a new strategy by an opposition leader – announcing forums and panels and committees is the small target approach to winning an election. Mr Rudd used it extensively just a few months back with great success. All Barnett needs to do now is announce a post-government junket of our ‘best and brightest’ to plan strategies that can’t cost any money, sound nice, but will achieve absolutely nothing. Now that’s government!
    I noticed that Carps tried to claim the benefit last night of abolishing state taxes that were REQUIRED to be cut by the GST agreement…
    Tax policy is not an easy area and without a) Treasury or b) enough funding to do private costings, it will always be tough for oppositions to put together a comprehensive package. Doesn’t mean they won’t do anything and it is beyond doubt that this is not a low-taxing government!

  25. Steve @ 25 – the ALP have promised that before, hence the cheeky title of the Greens’ anti-uranium mining bill Uranium Mining (Implementation of Government Commitments) Bill 2007.

    (disclaimer: Greens member and candidate low down on the E.M. ticket)

  26. The other announcement by Carpenter today along with the scrapping of Uranium Mining was the funding for renewable energy. Perhaps the Uranium lobby might begin to give up on their clean, green uranium rhetoric and consider other options for the future.

    “Mr Carpenter made the announcement in Albany, at the same time as he revealed a $7 million financial sweetener for baseload renewable power schemes.

    A 10 cents a kilowatt-hour incentive, in addition to contract prices, would be paid for the production of wave and geothermal-powered energy.

    At present there is about 270 megawatts of renewable energy generated in the state, mostly from wind farms, Mr Carpenter said.

    Carnegie Corporation, which is trialling wave energy technology in the region, welcomed the announcement.

    Managing director Mike Ottaviano said it showed state governments were now recognising the potential of wave energy”

  27. “Barnett promised $250m of tax cuts”

    Story says will go to businesses and householders.

    If ALL of the tax cuts go to householders it works out at about $90 per household per year, or about $1.80 per week.

    Whoo hoo, thats less than Amanda’s milkshake, about half the cost of a coffee per week.

    Thats if ALL goes to householders.

  28. 45 Frank, loved the little copout hook in that policy document.

    “Windfall state budget surplus revenues will also be directed to tax cuts, unless needed to meet unexpected contingencies such as natural disasters.”

  29. “I think the pressure is starting to get to them”

    Could be that Barnett has a wry sense of humour also steve.

    If the tax cuts are split 60/40 business households works out to 2c a day per household member, ie Barnett throwing his 2c worth in.

  30. Perth Now on Ripper’s response.

    WA Treasurer Eric Ripper has accused the Liberals of releasing a tax policy with no detail – but refused to commit to similar tax relief before election day.

    Opposition Leader Colin Barnett has promised West Australians $250 million worth of cuts through reductions in payroll tax, land tax and stamp duty.

    The extent of the tax cuts would be decided after a five-person panel reviews government expenditure and makes recommendations.

    “Two hundred and 50 million dollars is a major commitment that will bring down rates of tax … and they are in addition to whatever tax concessions have been included in the budget forward estimates,” Mr Barnett said today.

    “So, this is a further tax cut than what has been put in place in the last budget.”

    Treasurer Eric Ripper said he had never seen a situation in an election campaign where a tax policy was announced without any detail.

    He said the Liberals had now made $3.5 billion in promises, compared with Labor’s $800 million, and had not said how they would fund them.

    “It is extraordinary that … a leader would announce a tax policy without a policy,” Mr Ripper said today.

    “He (Mr Barnett) can’t say who will benefit, he can’t say by how much they will benefit.”

    “I think he makes it up on a day by day basis.”

    Mr Ripper declined to say what kinds of tax cuts Labor would offer.

    “We are delivering assistance to pensioners and families, and we’re going to keep doing that,” Mr Ripper said.

    “But I’m not going to foreshadow exactly what’s going to happen in the rest of the election campaign.”,21598,24247021-2761,00.html

Comments are closed.

Comments Page 1 of 4
1 2 4