Labor's new federal president, Carmen Lawrence, has been in
politics a long time and would have seen a pea and thimble trick or
two. She can expect more to cross her desk over the next year.
Those tricks are the party polls that point to electoral
Make no mistake, Simon Crean is a lacklustre leader and the
published polls show it. But the party's internal polls, at least
the versions launched into the public domain via friendly
journalists, are too shonky to be believed.
Take the most recent, in The Australian in September under
the front-page headline "Crean's New Poll Shocker".
Said the report: "Internal polling by the Queensland [Labor]
party shows all seven of its federal Labor MPs in the lower house
would be wiped out, with the ALP's primary vote slumping to just 32
per cent. Support for the coalition had soared to a 52 per cent
Read those sentences carefully. Taken together they are bunkum.
At the last election, Labor did very poorly in Queensland. Its
primary vote was 35 and the coalition's 46. After distribution of
preferences, that went to 45 versus 55 (two-party preferred) - a
10-point lead for the government, giving it 19 seats to Labor's
seven and one independent.
Now, according to September's internal poll, the government's
position has improved. But enough to take every Labor seat?
We have to tread carefully with aggregate survey data. Parties
can go backwards in votes but pick up seats. There's no such thing
as a uniform swing.
But to make any use of such polls, uniform swings must be
assumed. It's not perfect but it's the best methodology available.
Now, Oxley, with a margin of 8 per cent, is Queensland's safest ALP
seat, so if every seat is to fall the swing must be at least that
amount. And here the poll gets wobbly.
An 8 per cent swing on the 2001 result would give the coalition
63 to Labor's 37 per cent (two-party preferred - that's what decides
seats, remember). But can we get 63 to 37 from primary votes of 52
to 32? Not in this universe. It would mean that, of the 16 per cent
voting for neither major party, the coalition eventually receives
preferences of 11 and Labor gets five.
That won't happen. No one disputes preferences will strongly
favour Labor at the next election.
In fact, a reasonable two-party preferred estimate from the
leaked numbers might be 58 to 42 in the government's favour.
That's a swing of 3 per cent and, assuming it's uniform, an extra
three seats to the government.
A horrible scenario for the ALP, but not total annihilation.
This was just the latest in a line of dodgy leaks through various
channels. You can't blame the leakers for trying it on, but
journalists who are willing conduits might apply some rigour to the
Peter Brent is editor of mumble.com.au,
a website that looks at electoral behaviour.