A little over a year ago, when poor old Simon Crean was still leader of Her
Maj's opposition, I wrote this
piece for the Canberra Times, predicting, Malcolm Mackerras-like, that
Howard would lose the next election. (At that stage I knew not of the existence
of Labor Lemmings.)
The finishing sentences: "Nothing
is certain in life or politics, and Jemaah Islamiah, the US State Department or
a well-timed Labor crisis could save Howard yet.
But barring that miracle, Howard’s end will come at the next election".
Well, JI has
intervened, and Centrebet, which was paying an already one-sided $1.48
for a Coalition win to $2.40 for a Labor one, has blown out to $1.30 versus
Can I make the
obvious point? Imagine Bomber was on offer.
You might not have seen the Howard
and Latham hair
Or journalist Margot Kingston at the 'Not Happy John' launch. Someone's taking their celebrity
Or that wacky Mr
Morgan who (before Jakarta bomb) had Labor even further ahead, 56
Our politicians are real Aussies, which means they greet bombs with outrage directly proportional to the number of "people like us" blown up. Indonesians
and other South East Asians don't fall into that category and have been
suffering such atrocities for years, and we barely noticed, let alone
cared, before October 2002. But yesterday our Embassy was targeted, so we are livid,
we've sent a posse over and our politicians have extended their sympathies
to families of the eleven-plus dead and scores of maimed Indonesians. Is such
extending a first? Might this be part of the problem?
Anyway, for interest's sake go to the Two
Decades of Newspolls and look at the two party preferred graphs after the
Bali bombings (near the right hand end). This isn't in the same league, but it's
good news for Howard in a political sense and doesn't he know it. The
Father-figure Protector of the Nation, set mouth, eyes unblinking, returns to a
television screen near you.
Latham and Howard have called a halt to the campaign, and Uncle Ray
out as host of the debate because of the changed format. This reminds us of
the last debate in 2001, which leads us to that campaign, and we recall that the
SMH's Alan Ramsey wasn't always as anti John Howard as he is today. In fact, "close
to the PM's office" was an apt phrase during that campaign, and his anti-Beazley
rabidity was a thing to behold.
About the one and only debate, Alan wrote:
If you were entertained, informed, bored or
a bit of all three by the debate, of one thing you can be utterly sure: that's
the end of Ray Martin with John Howard. However the election goes, even
if Howard were to change his mind and debate Beazley again this campaign,
Martin will never, ever host another television event of any sort involving
Howard. Neither, I'm sure, will the Nine network.
Howard has every reason to feel he was very
deliberately set up and done over.
Here's the full column. Well,
Nine's got the gig again (as if they ever wouldn't under Howard) but Martin's
gone, replaced by Laurie Oakes and a gaggle of journalists.
September 7 The
polls are tolling
ACNielsen in the SMH
has 50 50.
Newspoll in The
Oz has same. Coming after the weekend, more bad news for Labor.
50 50 can go
either way, but would very probably mean a comfortable Coalition win.
September 6 Margaret
Simons on Latham's story
Margaret Simons in The
Australian discusses Mark Latham's worldview, in which all wisdom and
goodness resides in thick-necked outer suburban white male four-wheel drivers.
All Simons' quotes seem to come from this
Australian op-ed piece two and a half years ago.
The big flaw in the model is that these suburbanites that Labor "needs
to win back" are quite well off. They live in big extending houses,
carports overflowing with four-wheel drives (yes, them again), they might have
an investment property and they love their private health rebate.
They live in well-moneyed, low unemployment seats like Lindsay
in Sydney, Aston
in Melbourne and Dickson
in Brisbane, and might even "eat out and buy in domestic help" from
time to time. They're classic swingers who help decide most federal elections.
In the cities, the poorest electorates (which tend to be migrant-heavy)
still return Labor members. (Go to the pendulum
gallery, click 'median income' at right, and see that from 150 up to 89, all
Metro seats are Labor held.) The parties go on
about "battlers", but the real "battlers" live in safe seats
and are ignored.
What about outside the capitals? you ask. Good question. Almost wholly
absent from his equation, unlike Mark's outer suburban blokes they haven't
necessarily benefited from two decades of reform, they have many marginal seats,
their votes are up for grabs and they've always been Labor's best chance for
victory at the next poll.
September 5 Newspoll
in the marginals
A Newspoll for the
Herald Sun shows 52 to 48
in the government's 12 most marginals compared with about 51
to 49 at the last election. Seats polled: Deakin
(NSW) and Solomon
Sample size 1608. Also in the 'Tiser here,
with the headline 'PM preferred Leader'. I wrote about this almost meaningless
measure in the AFR
a couple of years ago. Unlike Crean, Latham's problem is not that people can't
imagine him as PM, it's that they can, and it stresses them. But they reckon
he's a good bloke and like him as opposition leader.
It's that time again. Before every election, the suggestion that we might,
just might, get a hung parliament pops up. You know: the polls are close,
there's nothing in it, punters can't make up their minds ....
Annabel Crabb in the Sunday
Age adds herself to a list that so far contains folks such as Bob Hogg,
Grahame Morris, Dennis Shanahan and Michael Costello. [Update: Glenn Milne in
weighs in with the biggest 'hung parliament!' beat-up of all. Further
reckless commentator.] We can also include Antony Green, who says the
"prospect" is "real" in this article.
These predictions have always been wrong in the past and they're probably
wrong again, for the simple fact that a hung parliament is statistically
unlikely. It's like predicting a draw in an AFL match between two equally strong
Admittedly, the probability of three independents retaining their seats
widens the window of opportunity. But what Antony, quoted by Annabel, was
referring to here is mysterious: "Anywhere between eight and 13 seats [lost
by the government] and you basically have a hung Parliament," he said.
The numbers in current parliament are: Coalition
82; Labor 64;
Independents 3 and Greens
The notional new numbers are Coalition:
Labor 63; Independents
3 and Greens 1.
Perhaps Antony is assuming the Green
Michael Organ retains Cunningham,
an unlikely prospect. In any event, the window is smaller: between 8 and eleven
net seats would need to go from Coalition to Labor to see a hung parliament.
Twelve would see a Labor majority (assuming they win back Cunningham) and 13
certainly would (unless other independents get up).
September 4 Polling
in Queensland marginals
Before reading this, go here
(it will open a new window) and click Queensland at top left. This will bring up
the Queensland pendulum. Toggle between there and here. The first seven seats,
up to and including Dickson,
are the Coalition's most marginal. Newspoll surveyed them for The Australian
and found two party preferred voting intentions, over all seven, to be 52
to 48. Those seats, after adjusting for subsequent
redistributions, voted about 53 to 47
in 2001. So that's a one percent swing to Labor in the Queensland marginals,
which, if taken literally, would yield .. no seat gains for Labor.
Dickson's not really marginal, but has a profile due to Cheryl Kernot's
Another News paper, Brisbane's Courier-Mail, reports
a TNS poll in the "trio" of Dickson, Longman and Hinkler. It includes:
The TNS poll, which surveyed 305 voters in
each of the three seats, found a stunning turn-around in support for the
Howard Government in the seat of Dickson compared with the last TNS poll in
The Coalition now has a 12 percentage
point advantage in Dickson adding to the 6 per cent margin from the 2001
While the Liberals held on to a swing of
about 2 per cent in Longman, in Hinkler, where the margin was too close to
call in June, the Coalition has marched ahead to a 14 percentage point
With no tables and few numbers in the online version, it's not possible to
make much sense of this stuff. What's the "swing" in Longman? Are they
saying the Libs are ahead in Dickson 62 to 38,
or 56 to 44? If the
latter, then that's the same as the 2001 result.
Anyway, those numbers are much too small to say anything meaningful about an
individual seat. In aggregate, yes. But we don't know what they say. But no sign
of a big swing to Labor.
McNair poll has 55 to 45
in Victoria, a three percent swing to Labor since the last election. The sample
of 406, however, is too small to take seriously. Then there's the strange
inclusion of La
Trobe in this sentence:"The two-party swing to Labor of 3 per cent
would see the Coalition lose the seats of Deakin (1.6 per cent), McEwen (2.2),
Gippsland (2.6) and La
But as they point out, McMillan
is also now a notionally Coalition but would fall back to Labor if it swings by
majority in Australian history?
A certain Mr Bludger claimed early
this week that in 1996 Mr Howard won the biggest majority in Australian history.
This is the sort of thing Dennis Shanahan would write, and I corrected him. Mr
B. corrected his statement, sort of, changing it to 'equal third'.
Howard got the 'third highest' seat majority (forty) only if you ignore the
increase in House of Representatives size; it's been in the 147 to 150 range
since 1984. (It started with 75 in 1901, jumped to 121 in '49 and 148 in '84,
with small variations around those figures.)
A superior measure of electoral prowess would be the proportion of HoR seats
won. On this, Howard comes ninth out of 37. I'm constructing a table of that
soon, but in the meantime here's
something similar, a list by winning two party preferred votes since 1949.
Howard's three elections come sixth, 13th and last.
September 3 Morgan:
51.5 to 48.5
Curfew in Townsville; Werriwa three years ago
Herbert MP Peter Lindsay
thinks he's in trouble (which he probably is; his seat is first off the Queensland ramp) and
plays 'look at me' by calling for a curfew for
children. One is reminded of the member for Werriwa's
reaction to bad internal polling in his seat in the dying days of the 2001 campaign:
Bring Back the Rod.
Does this sort of stuff work? Looking at 2001,
Werriwa borders the electorates of Macarthur,
Fowler and Prospect.
At right are the two party preferred swings to the Coalition in those
seats. This part of the world swung big to the government, as you can see.
Latham's intervention didn't stop his seat swinging to the Coalition more
than three of his five his neighbours.
September 2 Adelaide
Advertiser takes a small (558) sample in South Australia and finds 47
to 53. Actually about a one percent swing to
Labor from the last election, which would probably yield one or two seats. (See
SA pendulum by going here
and clicking SA at top.)
August 31 Newspoll
says 52 to 48. about
a 20 seat majority for Labor on the pendulum. But somehow this translates to
"The Newspoll survey suggests the first six-week election campaign in 20
years has started with the major parties neck and neck."
Still, the right direction for the Coalition, with the gap halved.
Furphy Watch: Parramatta: Herald Today (no link)
bangs on about Parramatta, 'former Labor heartland' . They're in Parramatta the
suburb, but they're also referring to the electorate.
If you go to Parramatta in the pendulum gallery, you'll see that the suburb
voted Labor 57 to 43
at the last election. You'll also see that the seat has been held by the Libs
and its predecessors for over 80 years since 1901. Never Labor heartland.
August 30 (II)
Malcolm Mackerras double today. One in the
Oz, the other in the Fin Review. The Fin is
subscription only online, so reproducing the column is not allowed, but if
one did, it might look like this.
Am adding media election links to right hand panel. So far only ABC, Sydney
Morning Herald and The Age. Others, such as the Oz, will be
added as they appear.
August 30 The
result on October 9?
Four possible outcomes, with odds
1. A Labor landslide, something like 53
to 47, with about a thirty odd seat majority for
Latham. Notwithstanding the rude things I've said about Marky Mark, this could
quite easily happen with an 8 and a half year old government that has never been
much of an electoral performer nor very popular, has squeaked out of jail
twice and a PM who's not much of a campaigner. 1 in
2. A quite close Labor win, probably with regional Australia putting Latham
over the line while outer suburban four-wheel drivers (like Lindsay
and Aston) stay with the man who
presided over a tripling of their house values. 5 in 16
3. A close-ish Coalition win, with a similar majority to the current one,
same as scenario 2 except regions don't move to Labor. This could even
involve a two party preferred vote majority for Labor as safe Labor seats (like
those in western Sydney) swing big while the outer suburbs move a little but not
enough to change hands. 1 in 2 chance.
4. A big Coalition win, a majority over 30. 1 in 16
I include a hung parliament in scenarios 2 & 3, but the chances of a
hung parliament are very long.
That's one broad brush approach. Others, such as state by state, another
Lot's of fun over next 6 weeks, with tables and charts. Don't forget the pendulum
August 29 On
your marks ... October 9 it is
A six week campaign, the longest since 1984. There's a lot of mythology
about that campaign, and how it helped Opposition Leader Andrew Peacock
establish himself as an acceptable alternative and 'almost win'.
Actually, Peacock didn't 'almost win' in 1984, the swing to the opposition
was an ok 1.5 percent, but Hawke government's safety margin stayed at 2.2
percent, the same as in 1983. See this
I digress already. Anyway, I think a long campaign will help the government
because Latham already has great presence in the electorate and the government
will be trying to wear off the shine and open him to scrutiny.
If there's one thing Marky Mark has been good at, it's knowing when to keep
quiet and how to remain attractive in an elusive way, at a distance. It's
stopped him becoming a whinging opposition leader. Can he keep doing that?
Will he be yukky up close? The risk is that when people do eyeball him for the first
time they'll find it off-putting or scary.
On the other hand, Howard may simply now be unelectable. This government has never
been popular, or even respected, more tolerated.
At right are
two pictures. The top is a lemming, the
second a goose. On the evening of October 9 (or whenever the result it
known) a big one of these will appear on this site. If Howard wins, it'll
be a lemming. If Latham wins, it will be the goose.
The goose will signify me, because of my
bagging of Mr Latham for nine months as unelectable, a boofhead and irredeemable political
At the moment the ALP is way ahead in
all opinion polls, but I still hold to my prediction. At this stage.
August 28 That
nice Mr Morgan says
55.5 to 44.5, with
kindly if unsolicited advice that now is 'Not a Conducive Time
For L-NP to Call the Election'.
August 27 Government
polling and meta-lying: a tangled web
Poor Mr Howard. Lying about the fact that you lied comes with the
territory of lying in the first place. But he found another dimension necessary when denying that government
polling shows people believe he's a liar.
The long uncomfortable pause, followed by that which comes naturally
under pressure: another lie, a big one, that the government's polling shows
they're doing 'very well'. Will he find himself having to deny that
he lied about what the polling says?
Anyway, best to interpret the opposite: government polling apocalyptic.
I hadn't noticed the last column in this
table in my rave below about capitals versus rest of country.
It shows swings of 5% and .5% respectively, presumably to Labor, which means
2001 two party preferred votes, again respectively, of 49.5
to 50.5 and 53.5 to 46.5.
Different to the AEC's numbers, Nielsen I think uses phone exchanges
instead of electorates. But like the AEC it indicates about three fifths of
voters inside capitals, two fifths outside. Their 2001 figures must come from
surveys as well.
Reader Geoff Lambert has sent this
PDF table, with is of 'the TPP and TPP trend (linear regression) and the
predicted date Mr Latham passes below the event horizon (50% but he could lose
at 51%). Based on all published polls, smoothed and "bias-corrected"'.
He also reckons 50.8 is the average of all two party preferred votes Labor has
needed since WWII, and 50.8 is where his graph will be on October 9.
August 23 ACNielsen's
quarterly number crunching in The Age
Unlike The Oz, Fairfax papers SMH and the Age are too
tight to commission fortnightly opinion polls. That's a pity, because Newspoll
is overvalued basically because it's the only outfit that comes out
fortnightly and has a nice online archive database.
Anyway, Fairfax pollster Nielsen has consolidated three surveys to produce
numbers large enough to be meaningful state by state - at least in NSW, Vic and
Qld - and by other demographics. The national aggregate is 52.5
The headline reads 'Coalition
facing a hiding in capitals' (44.5 to 55.5),
with the 'best news' for the government in 'regional Australia', where the
Coalition holds a 53 to 47
We don't know how Nielsen classifies, but using the AEC classifications the
Coalition polled 55 to 45
outside the capital cities at the 2001 election and 48
to 52 in them. (National vote was 51
to 49.) Those numbers were nothing
special; Labor always does much better in the cities and the Coalition in the
According to Nielsen, there's a swing to the opposition on in both
categories, and if you go to the pendulum,
choose 'metro' and 'non-metro' from the right hand panel, and plot swings
3.5 and two percent respectively to Labor, you get a net change of 15 seats,
which is enough for Latham form government with about four to spare (majority of
A reader or two suggests I reconsider my 9 months worth of consistent
prognostications of a Latham disaster, given recent published polling. They think I
might eat my words.
My response is that if opinion polls continue showing Boofhead way in front,
I will start munching. And if the good numbers for Labor stay 'til at least the middle of
the campaign, I'll be a flip-flopping. But let's wait and see.
The lemmings are going nowhere!
August 19 Canberra
Times: ten myths
Rather cross with the Canberra Times for not telling me about the
publication of this
piece today until after it had appeared. I had filed before Tuesday's
opinion polls, which rendered the line that Crean's "last Newspoll in
November last year, for example, was better than Latham's most recent
result" grossly untrue.
Apart from that, I stand by it one hundred percent .. give or take a few.
August 17 ACNielsen
Nielsen has 53 to 47
with primary votes 39 to 42.
Greens on 9, One Nation 3, Democrats 2. Here's
Out of 19 points of minor party and others, 14 flow to Labor and five to the
Coalition, which is almost three quarters (74%), up from 58% at the 2001
election. A big Green jump accounts for some of this, but the rest is difficult
Newspoll (no link) has 54 to 46,
with primary votes the other way round, 42 to
39. That looks more like it.
Alan Ramsey and
Politics followers with memories beyond last week will recall that during
the 2001 election campaign there was no bigger mainstream political commentating
(so leaving aside the Piers Akermans of this world) fan of John Howard's refugee
rhetoric than the SMH's Alan Ramsey. According to Alan, Howard's every
utterance about 'people of that type' was spot on and Kim Beazley was spineless
not to join him 100 percent.
When Labor subsequently set up a Senate Committee to find out who told the
PM what and when about children overboard Ramsey called it a 'stunt' and a waste
Now it's Latham who can do no wrong, and it'll be interesting to see what
Alan comes up with on the topic in tomorrow's column.
August 15 Taverner
A poll in Fairfax's Sydney
Sunday papers, of 600 voters in NSW and Victoria, says 53 to 47.
Several points about that.
That many respondents mean a four percent margin of error (within a 95%
confidence interval). You can see the formula here.
Presumably the only poll those two states because of their papers'
readership, but it really would make sense to poll the whole country. They could
just spread their 600 phone calls across the country and the error margin would
be the same.
Anyway, NSW and Victoria voted almost exactly 50:
50 in 2001, so the Taverner poll indicates a swing
of three percent. to the ALP. In those two states alone that would net ten
seats, almost enough for victory. In the whole country it would see a Labor win
by about 16 seats (similar to the government's today).
A gender break-down showed an eight percent drop in female support for the
Coalition (from 42 to 34 percent) with little change in Labor's. Assuming three
hundred females were interviewed, this involves a 5.5 percent error margin.
That's getting pretty big.
August 13 Time
for a Newspoll graph, showing
two party preferred support over the last year.
53.5 to 46.5
August 12 Omnipoll
A reader asks about my lack of mentions of Omnipoll, a new pollster
which has 'appeared in the Daily Telegraph in recent weeks'.
Says reader, the Tele's Malcolm Farr is involved and Farr
'raves' about them.
I must admit the outfit's existence had passed me by.
From what I can see, News Ltd's Tele, Adelaide Advertiser,
Courier-Mail and Hobart Mercury have published two, the first on July
27, which had the Coalition ahead 51 to 49.
The second, on August 10, after Latham's "stunning" FTA win (fancy
neither accepting nor rejecting legislation, but putting up amendments.
That's thinking outside the square!), put it at 54
Which reminds me, it's
time for yet another reminder of something I've been putting ever since
December last year, with (annoying to some readers) regularity: Boofhead is
going down. And forget all this oh, it's going to be close, only a few seats
in it! (as I heard Grahame Morris predicting the other day). 'Close'
elections are rare in this country. The Coalition should be returned
comfortably, probably with an increased majority.
Unless, unless .... Caucus installs Beazley.
Do I tilt at windmills?
Update It turns out Mr
Bludger has been digging around Omnipoll; lots of info at his August 11
August 7 Alan
Mr Ramsey, much lampooned for putting inverted commas around large
junks of his columns, goes
the whole hog today with 100% quotations in his main piece. But a little
over a year ago he wrote
with prescience after Butler's appointment as Tasmanian governor that Premier
Jim Bacon will 'learn but it'll be too late'. How (apart from
unforeseeable detail of who would be premier) true.
August 5 And
Greg Sheridan finally says
something incisive - that Howard's response to Latham's amendments blew it.
"The Government should have said Labor's proposed amendments are
meaningless but we're happy to pass them ... "
August 4 FTA
Marky Mark finally does something smart. The opposition's neglect of PBS as a
scare campaign has always been a mystery. It has fine ingredients: tens of
thousands of oldies' hip pockets, and one man bravely standing up to foreigners.
But he used the Kilkenny
Cats thing on Lateline the other night too. Let's hope they don't keep
August 3 Newspoll: 50
A discernable trend is in, and it favours the Government. Mark Latham
now attracts a lower vote than Simon Crean's final Newspoll.
July 30 Morgan
July 28 Lemmings
update As the day approaches when Lemmings
answer for their sins - handing the Coalition an unnecessary fourth
term - it's worth asking how much of their own money they put into the exercise.
That is, if, as I think likely, Marky Mark takes them backwards at the election,
will Lemmings take bullets for their comrades? Do they tend to be in the
marginal or safe seats?
I've added an 'L' to Lemming seats in the full pendulum. (Go to pendulum
gallery and click full pendulum.) It's a mixed bag, but the furry critters
are over-represented in the danger zone. For example, of the seventeen Labor
seats with margin of five percent or less (including notionally Liberal
McMillan), ten have a sitting Lemming.
Good on them! A leaner but savvier next Labor Caucus.
July 27 Time
for a Newspoll graph, showing
preferred PM since March 1996.
singing animated Bush-Kerry cartoon is worth watching - a few times.
It'll open in a new window and will probably take a minute or so. But
worth the wait. Toggle between here and there while it loads. (Now an ad at