Memory lane ...
25, 1999, Wednesday, The Australian
BYLINE: RODNEY DALTON
THE Coalition received a morale boost yesterday with the latest Newspoll
showing it remains on course for a strong win over Labor at Victoria's September
The Coalition enters the 25-day campaign with a 10 percentage point lead over
Labor, indicating the party's decision in March to dump former Opposition leader
John Brumby for Steve Bracks may have been in vain.
The Newspoll, conducted exclusively for The Australian during
July and August, shows the Coalition's primary vote down two points to 50 per
cent. While Jeff Kennett's personal approval rating has slipped to 55 per cent
from a peak in March-April 1999 of 60 per cent, voters still rate him 20 points
higher than Mr Bracks, whose approval rating stands at 35 per
The Newspoll shows fewer voters -- 10 per cent -- are
uncommitted about Mr Bracks, but the five-point rise in his
approval rating has been matched by an increase in the level of dissatisfaction
with his performance.
Most voters have an opinion on Mr Kennett's performance as premier, with only 12
per cent remaining uncommitted. A third of voters are unhappy with Mr Kennett's
performance as premier, up marginally from the previous Newspoll.
The Coalition's lead over Labor is three points lower than the previous Newspoll
but is stronger than the 51-43 result at the 1996 election that the Coalition
won in a landslide.
Labor's standing peaked at 44 points late in 1998 but the Coalition has
rebounded, achieving a 13-point lead in the May-June Newspoll.
Since assuming the Labor leadership, Mr Bracks has struggled to
make a dent in Mr Kennett's popularity, which has been well above 50 per cent
since late 1998.
Mr Kennett holds a 32-point lead over Mr Bracks on who would
make the make the better premier.
Only 23 per cent of voters prefer Mr Bracks as premier but that
is five points better than the 18 per cent Mr Brumby achieved -- 46 points
behind Mr Kennett -- before his demise.
Despite the fury, Jeff will survive
BYLINE: MIKE STEKETEE * National affairs editor
JUDGING by today's Newspoll, the fury of voters against
whomever happens to be in government has yet to run its course.
No politician in Australia has been riding taller than Jeff Kennett. None has
presided over a more dramatic turnaround in a State's fortunes. None has a
bigger parliamentary majority. But the instinct of many Victorians is not to
reward good deeds but rather to bring Kennett down a peg or three.
The most telling story in the Newspoll results is the contrast
between the 80 per cent of Victorians who believe the Coalition will win today's
election and the 46 per cent who actually say they will give the Government
their primary vote.
It is the lopsided perception about a Kennett win that creates such fertile
ground for a protest vote. It is why the pitch in Labor's advertising has been
that "your vote can make Mr Kennett listen", and it is why the
Premier's warnings that Labor could win have become increasingly more voluble as
the campaign has progressed.
There are few signs that Victorians actually want a Labor government. They like
Steve Bracks, Labor's new leader, who started the campaign with
more people expressing no opinion about him than those saying he was doing a
good job, and ended it with a satisfaction rating equal to that of the
He has run a disciplined, focused campaign. Labor has even looked united under
his leadership. But many people suspect this is a veneer, beneath which lurks a
nasty factional brew. Voters remain to be convinced that Labor could run a
For that reason, today's Newspoll results could help scare
Victorians back to the Coalition. That, and the strength of the Liberal vote in
Melbourne, should be the Government's salvation today.
Newspoll shows a much bigger swing against the Government in
the country, suggesting that Labor has run the right strategy in focusing so
much attention on regional seats.
One Nation is mounting only a token effort in this election but the same
underlying factors that made it a force, particularly in Queensland, are present
in Victoria -- resentment that the good times enjoyed in the city have passed
them by and that the only recognition they get from governments is when they
look for ways to close down services.
But Labor's focus on the bush also betrays its true expectations. At best, the
country can deliver about half the 15 seats Labor needs to win office.
The fact that Labor, after seven years in Opposition, would be delighted with a
result that would see it facing a comfortable Coalition majority speaks volumes
about the dominance Kennett has achieved.
Editorial, Australian, September 18 1999
AND ANOTHER THING: Our Newspoll today shows shows the
Coalition and Labor motoring towards the line together in the Victorian election
race. The idea of Jeff Kennett as the underdog is hard to contemplate but the
poll does indicate the Premier may have been right when he said the election
would be close. And that would mean the Jeff-centred campaign has had the
decidedly unintended result of giving a huge boost to the standing of Opposition
Leader Steve Bracks.
HEADLINE: Opposition sun sinks in the east
BYLINE: Michael Magazanik
Parts of Victoria have become a wasteland for Labor, Michael Magazanik reports
NOBODY expects Labor to win today for one simple reason: the eastern suburbs.
The Opposition would need to win up to eight marginal seats in the east and
south-east: barren ground for Labor for more than 10 years.
At the 1992 State election, Jeff Kennett won 61 seats in the 88-seat parliament,
as Labor lost all its eastern suburbs seats and all but one in rural Victoria.
Four years later, Mr Kennett had another landslide victory, winning 58 seats.
Labor failed to win a single seat in the east and even lost Carrum, in the
south-east, to the Government.
The first and only sign of hope for Labor in the east came in December 1997 when
the John Brumby-led Labor Party romped to victory in the Mitcham by-election,
after a 16 per cent anti-Government swing.
But a year after the by-election, federal voting figures would have given
Mitcham back to the Government.
Even on the pendulum, the Opposition's task is gargantuan; a
uniform 5.5 per cent swing would give it 16 seats -- 15 are required for
But Victoria is Kennett country and the Premier's political skills make uniform
swings unlikely. At the 1996 election, Mr Kennett's larrikin blue-collar appeal
meant the Government comfortably retained almost all of its seats in less
Meanwhile, the Government's true-blue Liberal seats registered big
anti-Government swings, a protest against Mr Kennett's personal style and cuts
to education and health.
As in 1996, Mr Kennett's style is likely to account for a huge fluctuation in
the swings from seat to seat today.
In rural areas, Mr Kennett is seen as Melbourne-centric and a strong backlash
against the Government is expected. Seats most at risk are Ballarat East (0.1),
Ballarat West (1.4), Narracan (1.7) and Bendigo East (5.1). Strong anti-Liberal
swings are also likely in Seymour (4.2), Ripon (4.6) and Gisborne (7.9).
In the inner-suburbs, big swings are unlikely. Which means Labor is not going to
pick up marginal Liberal seats such as Bentleigh (4.8), Mordialloc (4.7) and
Prahran (4.7). Labor will also struggle in Tullamarine (3.1), but may pick up
the ultra-marginal Liberal seats Carrum (0.8) and Oakleigh (0.9).
But the Government's big strength is the growth corridors and outer-east, where
Mr Kennett is hugely popular. The Kennett phenomenon gives the Liberals a chance
of picking up Labor-held Dandenong (3.4) and Dandenong North (2.3).
Independent-held Frankston East is too close to call.
The Liberal Party is also a strong chance to pick up Gippsland West, which fell
to an Independent in 1997. Most insiders tip that Independent Russell Savage
will hold Mildura and the National Party faces a strong Independent challenge in
But if National Party candidate and former football star Paul Couch can grab
Polwarth from the Liberal Party, the National Party has a strong chance of
holding the balance of power in the next parliament if the Liberal Party loses
seats to Labor.
Strangely, some Government MPs claim their boss would be quite happy if he lost
three, four or five seats.
"It would help him instill a bit of discipline into the troops," one
MP says. "The back bench wouldn't be quite so big, complacency would be
less likely to set in."
This analysis is suspect. Mr Kennett is a warhorse and headkicker. He'd crawl
over broken glass to win an extra seat.
August 25, 1999, Wednesday
SECTION: LOCAL; Pg. 4
LENGTH: 1127 words
HEADLINE: Bracks to make up on the swing
BYLINE: MALCOLM MACKERRAS
THE second Kennett victory on March 30, 1996, gave the Coalition 53.5 per cent
of the Legislative Assembly two-party preferred vote and 58 seats (49 Liberal
and nine National). Labor won 46.5 per cent and 29 seats. An Independent was
elected for Mildura.
Three subsequent events have changed the numbers. First, on February 1, 1997,
Susan Davies (Independent) took Gippsland West from the Liberal Party at a
Second, on December 13, 1997, Tony Robinson (Labor) took Mitcham from the
Liberal Party at a by-election.
Third, during 1998 Peter McLellan (Frankston East) resigned from the Liberals
and became an Independent.
The pendulum is based on the March 1996 general election
figures except for Mitcham and Gippsland West.
For Mitcham, the swing shown is that needed by the Liberal candidate to regain
the seat his party won at the 1996 general election. Consequently, it is not
nearly as safe for Labor as its placement on the pendulum makes
it appear. But it is my view that Robinson will retain the seat.
In the two seats shown as Independent, the swings are those needed by Labor in
Mildura (based on the general election vote) and by the Liberals in Gippsland
West (based on the by-election vote).
Since Frankston East was won by McLellan as a Liberal it is shown on the pendulum
Counting him as an Independent gives the Liberals 46 seats, Labor 30, Nationals
nine and Independents three.
I seem to find myself more optimistic for Labor than most other observers. My
guess is that Labor will gain seven seats, Frankston East plus six from the
Liberal Party. That would bring Labor's numbers up to 37. The Coalition would
thus be left with 49, of whom nine would be Nationals.
It would still be a handy win for the Coalition. The big winner, however, would
be the National Party, which would then legitimise its position in the Coalition
by holding the balance of power in the assembly.
My reasoning for being relatively optimistic for Labor takes three lines of
First, expectations tend to have perverse effects. In 1996, there was an
expectation of a reasonable result for Labor. The consequence was that Kennett
enjoyed a win much better than generally predicted. This time the reverse is
likely. Excessive expectations for Kennett will diminish the size of his actual
Second, last time Labor still suffered from the Cain-Kirner tag of "guilty
party". Now, seven years on from the first Kennett victory, Labor has lost
that tag. Since no one expects Labor to be in government, the tag cannot be
Third, I have noticed in the past a link between retirements of government
members and overall results. A large number of retirements is a bad omen for a
The Legislative Council election is easy to predict. Labor cannot possibly win.
There are 22 provinces for the upper house. Council members (two for each
province) are elected on a rotating basis. Terms of half the members expire at
each general election. Thus members are elected for two terms of the lower
The council has 44 members -- exactly half the assembly's 88. Each province
consists of four complete and contiguous lower house electorates. For example,
the Koonung province is made up of Forest Hill, Knox, Mitcham and Wantirna,
while Eumemmerring consists of Berwick, Dandenong, Dandenong North and Pakenham.
It just so happens that each of the 1992 and 1996 council elections gave exactly
the same distribution of seats between Coalition and Labor. Each time the
Coalition won 17 seats (14 Liberal and three National) and Labor won five.
Consequently, there are now 28 Liberals in the council, 10 Labor and six
Labor performed so disastrously, both in 1992 and in 1996, that it was only able
to win its five safe provinces, Doutta Galla, Jika Jika, Melbourne, Melbourne
North and Melbourne West. In other words, its 10 current members consist of two
each for these five ultra safe provinces.
There are a couple of complications to the council.
Although there are at present no provinces divided between Labor and Coalition,
two are divided between Liberal and National.
The second complication relates to the Ballarat province. Since Rob Knowles
(Liberal) was elected for Ballarat in 1996, electors in any of the Ballarat
East, Ballarat West, Gisborne or Ripon lower house electorates will need to fill
in three ballot papers, one for the assembly and two for the council.
One of the two council papers is the "normal" term to replace the
Liberal member elected in 1992. The other is for a by-election to replace
Knowles, who will resign his place to stand for Gisborne in the lower house.
Consequently, suppose there were a swing to Labor of, say, 6 per cent. Then each
of Eumemmerring, Chelsea, Geelong, Monash and Waverley would be
"divided", one each Liberal and Labor. By contrast, both Ballarat
Council seats would be Labor.
Associate Professor Malcolm Mackerras teaches in the school of politics at the
Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra.
* MACKERRAS PENDULUM
Swing required: 10.5% Mitcham fell to Labor at a by-election in December 1997
after a record 16 per cent anti-Government swing. The by-election had been
sparked by the resignation of MP Roger Pescott. The candidates are Labor's MP
Tony Robinson and Liberal Andrew Munroe.
Ballarat East (Lib)
Swing required: 0.06%
The most marginal seat in the State. If 14 votes change hands, Ballarat East
will fall to Labor. Barry Traynor has held the seat since 1992. Labor leader
Steve Bracks will use his local appeal to try to help candidate Geoff Howard
over the line.
Gippsland West (Ind)
Swing required: 0.30% Gippsland West fell to Independent Susan Davies at a
February 1997 by-election caused by the resignation of former Liberal leader
Alan Brown. A collection of Independents traded preferences (Labor did not run)
and Ms Davies's strong 32 per cent share of the primary vote allowed her to
vault past the Liberal candidate on preferences.
The Liberal Party is certain its candidate, Gerard McRae, can win the seat back.
Frankston East (Ind)
Swing required: 3.1%
Peter McLellan won the seat for the Liberals in 1992 and held it at the 1996
election. Mr McLellan quit the Liberal Party in 1998 but is unlikely to retain
the working-class seat. Labor's Matt Viney is favoured over Liberal candidate
Swing required: 0.8%
Labor held Carrum from 1976 to 1996. In 1996, Carrum voters elected Liberal
David Lean. Labor's candidate, Jenny Lindell, is considered to have a
strong chance of winning the seat. However Liberal insiders believe Mr Kennett's
blue-collar appeal will allow them to retain Carrum.