Happy anniversary

I have written a piece on the Rudd government’s first-year polling record relative to that of the Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke and Howard governments, which is freely available in Crikey. Elsewhere:

• For those with ready access to academic journals, the latest edition of the Australian Journal of Politics and History features a look at the role of the Senate in the Australian political system by Stanley Bach, lately of the Congressional Research Service of the US Library of Congress, and an examination of conscience voting in the federal parliament by John Warhurst of the Australian National University. The Australian Journal of Political Science has an overview of the introduction of proportional representation to the Victorian upper house at the 2006 election, by Nick Economou of Monash University.

• The Victorian Electoral Boundaries Commission has concluded there will be no state redistribution before the 2010 election, at least on the basis of “current information”. The present boundaries have been in place since the 2002 election. Hat tip to Tom the first and best. UPDATE: Further props to Tom for noting below that the determination rests on a definition of a “general election” that does not count the 2002 election, as it was conducted on the pre-reform regime when only half the Legislative Council faced election – perhaps contrary to the drafters’ intention.

• The Western Australian branch of the Australian Democrats has been deregistered after declining to challenge the electoral commissioner’s determination that it did not have 500 members.

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.

322 comments on “Happy anniversary”

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  1. Frank, this is exactly the sort of nonsense the Liberals don’t need. If they produced a detailed policy of that length on any subject they would be better off. Take another point of their primary vote for stupidity and another for laziness.

  2. “Why were Fraser’s figures so low?”

    You ar confusing beauty with voter intent respect
    Fraser ony won those beauty things on Easter Island , unless you look at oppoition leader as well

  3. Fraser’s figures were so low because he had no personality, wasn’t convincing, opposed for opposition’s sake, and was duely disliked, especially for his actions toward the end of the Whitlam government in blocking supply, forcing the people to vote for him lest they end up with another Labor government and a coalition controlled Senate.

    Notice how Fraser only barely won an election (1980) once Whitlam was gone, and then demolished in 1983.

  4. Frank @ 51
    It helps keep the faithful in the cart.
    Page 8 pretty well gives you the thrust of the next Liberal election campaign. Not very imaginative.
    The challenge for the Liberals will be to conflate Rudd with the damage. As long as Australia somewhat lags the thundering herd down the slope, people will think Rudd is doing OK.

  5. bob1234 credit where credit’s due. Fraser grew a personality as soon as he started criticizing the Howard govt over Tampa, involvement in Iraq, etc.

    Personally, I consider him the greatest ex Prime Minister this country’s ever had.

  6. [You ar confusing beauty with voter intent respect
    Fraser ony won those beauty things on Easter Island , unless you look at oppoition leader as well]
    Um, OK. But that doesn’t answer the question: “Why were Fraser’s figures so low?”
    [Notice how Fraser only barely won an election (1980) once Whitlam was gone, and then demolished in 1983.]
    No I meant when he was P.M. Why were his figures so low THEN?

  7. I think Fraser’s biggest problem was his Treasurer. It was always the extreme economic remedies of Howard that were the millstone around Fraser’s neck.

  8. Tip Costello thought well of Howard as Treasurer.

    [During Howard’s tenure as Treasurer, the 90-day cash rate peaked at 21% on 8 April 1982 at a time when loan mortgage rates were capped by legislation at 13.5%, and inflation peaked at 12.5% in September 1982. Peter Costello commented, in 2007, that “The Howard treasurership was not a success in terms of interest rates and inflation… he had not been a great reformer.”]

  9. [I think Fraser’s biggest problem was his Treasurer. It was always the extreme economic remedies of Howard that were the millstone around Fraser’s neck.]
    But the way Howard tells it, he wanted to start the reforms that ultimately the Labor government provided, but Fraser stopped him.

  10. “Why were his figures so low THEN?”

    Hav a look at an Easter Island monument , then a picuture of Malcolm Fraser Th momuments hav more warmth

    Additionaly Fraser carried legacy of ‘dismissal’ , of lack of legitimacy tones even after 1977 Furthermore his govt was austere like he Then Fraser partly took this sport loving nation out of Olympics So in all these areas Malcolm Fraser was never a pin up for voters but voters don’t vote on love for a PM , and in 1980 a fist full of dollars in there pockeys

  11. Another thing that comes into play for a new government is the public’s high expectations and the reality of government, especially without control of the Senate. That the ‘Sorry’ and Kyoto happened right at the beginning helped to fulfill some of that unrealistic expectation.

    Inevitably there has to be a period where especially a new (responsible) government must take some time to gather and assess information, get across portfolios and fine tune what their original policies were etc. The MSM and Opposition can then run the meme that government is doing nothing tangible except getting reviews. So maybe a dip in a new governments rating at or during its first year is only natural, especially if original expectations were so high as they would have been with Rudd.

    The GFC was a bit of a savior for Rudd as it now allows him to redefine some of the public’s expectations of his government through the prism of economic tough times. A public with lowered expectations are going to be less disappointed when some things cannot be done. Also the GFC and the governments response to it itself becomes the be all and end all of the governments performance who will be cut some slack. If the government does manage to meet a lot of their promises the public might be grateful for having their lowered expectations exceeded.

    It is difficult for the LNP to attack Rudd on this as ‘there is a war on you know’ and it will probably be counter productive. Turnbull may be in more danger of harming himself than the govt with his constant attacks on everybody.

  12. “The GFC was a bit of a savior for Rudd as it now allows him to redefine some of the public’s expectations of his government through the prism of economic tough times.”

    I do not see any semblance of a savior in th GFC for Rudd , th voters or this country
    Actualty GFC has diminished opportunities Rudd can persue for this Nations long term benefit socialy and econamicalyAnd even politcaly its a dangerous 2 edged sword

  13. Rudd’s personal ratings have gone up since the GFC climax and after Turnbull taking over in Opposition. The people liked what they saw in Rudd’s actions and approach and feel much more comfortable with him than Turnbull by a huge margin. And this is with Turnbull the merchant banker meant to be some sort of expert on economics/finance.

    Labor’s position appears to have strengthened in this time frame regardless of the fact their is now an Opposition leader with a 50% plus satisfaction level.

    The major issue in everyone’s mind is the GFC and its domestic effects. Everyone knows you have to deal with this effectively before anything else, all other things pale into insignificance in comparison. Rudd can moderate people’s expectations with regard to other promises and people would likely moderate their expectations in any case realising there is less money about to do things.

    It is a double edged sword but only if Labor really botch it by not following expert economic opinion, but with a plethora of experts at their disposal Labor can implement recommended and acceptable measures. Labor gets blame only if they have been seen to be totally irresponsible. That is not likely to happen with the likes of Rudd.

    This is a very visible global financial crisis and very visibly affecting all nations, many worse than ours. It has and will be all over the media for year and more and people are being informed about its nature maybe more than before. Labor will be more likely judged on if they did everything within their power to mitigate the GFC effects.

    The GFC is a bit of savior for Rudd because even though it reduces the scope of what he can do with regard to election promises it also allows him to legitimately amend the scope and detail of many promises citing the GFC, which people will understand. Just like Howard and the War on Terror. People will cut Labor much more slack if it is seen to be engaged in a real ‘war’ on the GFC whilst also attending to election promises.

    People might even see a familiar figure in Rudd fighting the war on the GFC for the protection of the people as they saw Howard fight his wars on Terror etc. As I mentioned before Rudd’s decisive actions in response to the GFC now has him defined as the ‘real deal’ PM. And his very personal support increase seems to demonstrate that.

    If the GFC is still around in the election year as it will be then voters might actually be scared to make a change of govt that has been fighting the good fight and has plans in progress etc. In the same way Howard used terrorism and refugee fear to boost his chances.

  14. Steve @ 46, that is old news and to date, I’ve wondered why the normally quite efficient and thorough Obama team hasn’t seemed too worried about this. Either they are clueless (find that hard to believe) OR they’ve figured out some legal angle around it which hasn’t as of yet, been made public to us.

  15. At last, a glimmer of hope that maybe talking up the economy is the new black. The Age’s editorial rips into Turnbull:

    [HYPERBOLE is the stock-in-trade of politicians. Even allowing for bombast and exaggeration, however, federal Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull managed to sound preposterous at the National Press Club this week. Not only did Mr Turnbull describe the Rudd Government’s guarantee of bank deposits as a “financial blunder of epic proportions”, he also said that the prospect of the budget falling into deficit was “an admission that Mr Rudd could not maintain a strong economy and above all could not live within his means”.

    Mr Turnbull has in the past warned of the dangers of talking the economy down, but if ever there was a case of doing so it was in his Press Club speech. ]

    Some journalists seem to be getting the message that telling everyone they’re financially ruined and that our country is a basket case along with all the others has a negative effect on consumer sentiment, the stock market, investor confidence and the general misery level out in society. What we need now is confidence, not of the cockeyed-optimist kind, but a realistic and practical appraisal of the situation. Instead we have been getting macho opinionista shouldering each other out of the way to be “blunt” and “frank” about things they didn’t have a clue on just a couple of months ago. The price of instant expertise is instant confusion and instant gloom.

    In Turnbull’s case, however, there is no excuse. He should know better, that’s his job. Good on the Age (and some of the thinking colomnists) for pushing back.

  16. BB@73
    Cf the Age, spot on.

    It remains a puzzle why Murdoch, who has much to lose from a declining economy, continues to permit the OO, and Turnbull, to trashtalk the economy.

  17. 75 – Watching Sky Noos this morning. The first report was about the OECD report. They flashed up a headline at the bottom of the screen that said something like “Australia to avoid recession” but went on to talk about all the negatives for Australia and did not verbally mention once that the report suggested that Australia would probably avoid recession.
    I guess bad news is bigger news than good news.

  18. William

    Thanks for the clarification last night on 84 vs 87. I think the point is still valid though. People shouldn’t assuem Rudd will follow the pattern of recent state governments, even though I agree he is polling and (more importantly) performing very well at present.

  19. Regarding responses to the GFC, at least we can’t be as bad as the US (OK setting the bar pretty low I know). Here is a fascinating piece by Krugman pointing out that the latest $800 Bn bailout may not have been necessary if they made a simple clarification of a previously given guarantee. The catch is, making that clarification might have forced them to admit the debt was incurred under Bush. Who do they think they are fooling? This sort of strategy virtually concedes that the right know they are aiming their political strategies at the morons constiuency:

  20. [Bidding for the NBN closes at noon today… anyone think Tesltra isn’t just bluffing?]


    It’s pathetic though. The other bidders who have been playing games with the Government all deserve to be awarded the tender far more than Telstra, but regardless of who wins Telstra is likely to launch a legal challenge.

  21. Regarding their copper infrastructure which is most likely to have to be compulsorily leased to provide the last mile in any fibre to the node network.

  22. Interesting review William!!

    While Hawke may have polled higher than Rudd and while he won in 1984 with a reduced margin I would say that there are several factors that have changed.

    The most important being that at the next election the Liberal Party will be haunted by the ghost of workchoices! and this Government is faced with two big issues that if it can handle successfully negate should set itself up for a second term.

    One thing that seems to have occured in recent years is once upon a time it seemed when Governments sought re-election they suffered swings, this has been turned on its head with second term thumping landslides in Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales and NT. in everyone of these landslides the ALP have turned its marginals into safe seats and picked up Liberal Party seats it has not previously held.

    If the Rudd ALP Government can take this country though this economic crisis without a recession it will own the economic debate for unlike the Asian economic crisis this is bigger and the impact as been far greater for a wider range of people! with petrol prices, property prices and Interest rates falling combined with a solid handout of $10.4 Billion combined with the Local Government grants the Government can be confidence of avoiding a recession.

    You may ask why did I include property prices! sure its a bumber if you brought in at the top of the market but House prices were reaching unsustainable levels when you consider that rent and wages had not kept pace, the conditions were ripe for a repeat of the Melbourne bust!

    The other big issues are ETS, the ETS issue that has the potential to make or brake the Government for it will test the ALP internally with its completing arms “Blue & White” the Government neess to ensure that its core Union base has protection which is made more important but the state of the economy, the ALP needs to make a policy that acheives the objectives of reducing the emissions while not Tatcherising the Hunter and La Trobe valleys.

    One way the Government can acheive this is by getting the country though the next year without a recession for that will build confidence in it! from that develop a solid I.R framework and from there develop a framework to introduce the ETS.

    If the ALP can balance these policies then it will be returned with a thumping margin! the only state that may hurt the ALP is New South Wales, yes I’m aware that people know there is a different between State & Federal but still if the NSW economy is tanking then it makes it harder for the ALP to convince voters who stuck with Howard last to swing, again if the ALP can remain recession free and can produce some good candidates also with one or two Liberals retiring then we could see the ALP make some gains.

  23. Well Glen, the Republicans caused this whole mess, and in the past few months they (Bush + his cabinet) have not demonstrated they have what it takes to get the US out of it. I think most folks would agree that Obama has made a very sensible decision in excluding them from controlling any economic levels. Obama didn’t exclude them – they excluded themselves.

  24. Glen 87

    Even the repoublicans would be better off without this government. It has proven incompetent in almost every way. Most peopel with a shred of dignity (eg Powell) left of their own accord some time ago. Who wouldn’t sack them?

  25. Re the Keating – John Robertson correspondence, discussed above.

    Keating mentions Robertson’s plan to move the LA to become premier.

    Don’t know if the plan is real or not, but I doubt it will happen. It’s simply too hard to find a seat winnable at by-election. You’d need a seat where JR would have good prospects (>90%) of actually winning it.

    So, exclude anything closer than a 20% margin in 2007. You then exclude:
    – Lakemba and Cabra (just had by-elections);
    – seats like Balmain, Marrickville, Canterbury and Heffron, where the current members are reasonable ministers and some of the few who are of benefit to the government and are not going anywhere (not to mention Green risk!);
    – the Illawarra seats (JR would be an outsider, they’ve elected a Green before at by-election, and after Wollongong Council anything could happen)

    … then you’re left with about 6 seats in the greater west of Sydney as possibilities. And of those, I don’t think Joe Tripodi, Paul Gibson or Tony Stewart are standing aside for anyone!

  26. I had a rabid Liberal supporter pointing out to me that Rudd is up for re-election before the next NSW State election. He felt confident that the NSW voters would vent their spleen on Rudd as they hadn’t been able to deservedly savage the NSW Labor Party, or what remains of it. He expected a handful of extra seats as a result. Any chance he’s right ❓

  27. Diogenes @ 91

    The Libs should be favourites for Robertson, due entirely to “local factors”. If I were them, I wouldn’t be banking anything else just yet. Macquarie St simply hasn’t eroded Rudd’s substantial political capital.

    Politicians always get mixed up in the State-Federal dichotomy. For years Bob Carr and John Howard attracted the votes of the same people. Each could have said that the other tier of government had little or no impact. Then Iemma won in 2007 and said Workchoices was an important factor.

    My personal view is that for 2010 it’s a factor only if people are getting a bit tired of Rudd by then. I guess anything’s possible, but no sign of it so far.

  28. There’s also a decent chance that Labor may pick up Macarthur and Hughes at the next fed election if the current holding pattern continues (which I’m sure it won’t, but anyway…)

    In Macarthur, Pat Farmer is set to retire and he almost lost to a 20 year old student last year anyway…

    In Hughes, Dana Vale would almost certainly retire if the Libs looked like they would lose the next election (and may retire nonetheless). If Labor can recruit a decent candidate (e.g. Steve Waugh), they would be in a very good position to pick that seat up.

    That said, I’m sure seats like Robertson will be vulnerable if their members don’t improve their performance. Another candidate for such a seat would be the very marginal Corangamite, where I hear the local MP (Cheeseman) is a bit of hack…

  29. I think if Rudd gives NSW its fair share of the stimulus package cash (neither more nor less than deserved) then people will soon see who their real problem is. No doubt Rudd will point that out in the next campaign too.

  30. I wonder what this will mean for the quality of ABC reporting…


    [ABC to lay off journalists

    The ABC will cut jobs in newsrooms across the country as it rolls out a new computer editing system.

    The news was delivered to staff in an email from the director of ABC resources David Cruttenden.

    “There are expected to be job losses in the division over time,” Mr Cruttenden said in the email, obtained by AAP.

    The new system means journalists will become responsible for editing their stories under a scheme called “desktop editing”.

    “Journalists will be trained in editing techniques over the coming months, with some full-time edit shifts being progressively wound back for each program,” Mr Cruttenden said.

    Desktop editing will be rolled out during the next 18 months following the “success” of a one-year pilot in Victoria.

    Mr Cruttenden, in his email, promises consultation, but then lays down how the roll-out will happen.

    “This initiative will be undertaken in two phases. Phase one will see the introduction of desktop editing for news (bulletins) and phase two will follow after 12 months for (the) 7.30 report and Stateline.”

    The ABC did not immediately respond to a request from AAP for comment.

    It is unclear exactly how many jobs will be lost.]

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