1996 Federal Election News
Week 1: Jan 27 - Feb 03
Feb 04 - 08
Feb 09 - 11
Feb 12 - 23
Saturday 27 January
Prime Minister Keating announced that the Federal Election will be held on Saturday 2 March. This will involve the dissolution of the House of Representatives and half of the Senate. Keating said the election is about consolidating the reforms undertaken by his government. He said the Opposition has failed to remake itself since the last election and that his government has remade itself so that the average age of the ministry is still 47, as it was when the government was first elected in 1983. Asked about the television debates that are now a part of the campaign, Keating called for one-on-one debates between Kim Beazley and Tim Fischer; Ralph Willis and Peter Costello; and Gareth Evans and Alexander Downer. Conceding that some people think the government has been there too long, Keating said they do not think that it is tired. Keating said the Labor Government has remade Australia into a more outward-looking, competitive nation. He said when Howard had a turn in government he gave the nation double digit inflation and unemployment.
Responding to the Prime Minister's announcement of the election date, Opposition leader John Howard said that the "13 long years" of the Labor government need to be brought to an end. He said he will not be making a grab bag of promises, but undertook to assist small business and to support Australian families. "I believe passionately in the unity of the Australian people," Howard said. Regarding Keating's idea for team debates, Howard welcomed the proposal, calling for debates involving Laurie Brereton, Robert Tickner and Carmen Lawrence. Howard said he was confident, but not smug about gaining the 7 seats he needs to form a government, acknowledging the advantages incumbency gives governments. Howard said he had a 33 day program that would take him to each state twice. Responding to Keating's allegation that he was bereft of policies, Howard said there would an unveiling of policies over the next 33 days, some of which would be a surprise. Howard said Keating had given the nation record unemployment and foreign debt.
Australian Democrats leader, Cheryl Kernot, said there was a second poll involved, namely for the balance of power in the Senate. She said it was a choice between "Kernot or chaos". National Party leader, Tim Fischer, said that the ALP's time was up.
Sunday 28 January
The ALP's television advertising campaign began today, featuring "Australians talking about leadership". The theme of the ads is "It's got be Keating" and "It couldn't be Johnnie Howard". Asked about the ads at a press conference, Prime Minister Keating said the election was about "leadership, commitment, passion and energy." Andrew Robb, Federal Director of the Liberal Party decried the ads on Channel 7's "Face to Face" and said the ALP was playing from the bottom of the pack.
Opposition Leader Howard announced some details of his small business policy, promising to cut paperwork by 50%, proposing the formation of a deregulatory task force that would report directly to the Prime Minister and the abolition of the unfair dismissal laws. Deputy Prime Minister, Kim Beazley, said the policy was about making it easier for business to sack workers. Howard also promised to reduce small business taxation, but Keating said this "is not policy, it's just a technical point in the tax system."
There will be two televised debates between Keating and Howard on February 11 and 25. Each will run for one hour. No agreement has been reached on a moderator for the debates, the Liberals refusing to countenance Kerry O'Brien, preferring Paul Lyneham instead.
France exploded a sixth nuclear device at Mururoa today. All sides of politics condemned the decision, although Opposition Foreign Affairs spokesman, Alexander Downer, said the ALP talked big but went to water on the issue. Democrats leader, Senator Cheryl Kernot, said there were "some bastards you can't keep honest."
Monday 29 January
Prime Minister Keating was in the Melbourne electorate of Dunkley today to launch his "Young Australia" youth policy which promises $37 million to programs for young people. Dunkley, centred on Frankston, has a youth unemployment rate of 30%. Keating promised education, training or employment to all young people aged 15-19 to reduce youth unemployment to 5% by the turn of the century. The policy includes more work placement measures, employment and training measures and help to young business people, including $6m for health education, $6.7m for an anti-drugs campaign and $23m for homeless youth. Keating said that 88,000 young people out of 1.3 million were currently unemployed compared to 158,000 when Howard was Treasurer.
Keating also accused Deputy Opposition Leader, Peter Costello, of threatening the Secretary of the Department of Education, Employment and Training over the distribution of the Young Australia policy. The Secretary, Mr. Volker, denied speaking to Costello. Costello called on Keating to apologise.
Keating gave a commitment to serving a full term "and beyond" as Prime Minister if he wins the election.
In Sydney, visiting the electorate of Lowe, Opposition Leader Howard promised to re-open the third east-west runway at Sydney Airport, to insulate houses under the flight path and to set a limit of 80 take-offs or landing per hour. He said the policy was one for all the people of Sydney, especially those Labor voters in ALP seats. Keating accused Howard of shoring up support for his own seat of Bennelong and Transport Minister, Laurie Brereton, said three runways was a dangerous policy.
The major parties have agreed to Channel 9's Ray Martin hosting the first debate between the leaders on February 11.
Gary Punch, 38, Minister for Defence Personnel and Member for Barton, announced that he was retiring from Parliament. He was first elected in 1983. Barton requires a swing of about 9% to go to the Liberals.
The fraud trial of former Liberal Party President, John Elliott, began in Melbourne today.
Tuesday 30 January
Much of today's campaigning was devoted to argument about the proposed televised debates between Keating and Howard. A question mark now hangs over the future of the debates, including the possibility of team debates between ministers and shadow ministers. The Prime Minister claimed Howard was running away from a debate next Sunday 4 February, whereas Howard claimed he had agreed to debates on 11 and 18 February. Keating said Howard was an "outrage" who was trying to roll himself up into as small a target as possible and was avoiding debate or questioning over his policies. Keating said Howard did not believe in his accountability to the electorate and was afraid to be seen with Fischer and Downer. Howard, visiting Dr. Michael Wooldridge's marginal Melbourne electorate of Chisholm (covering eastern suburbs from Box Hill through to Clayton), came under pressure from journalists to hold more press conferences. Howard visited the Garry and Warren Smith GMH dealership in Oakleigh to promote his small business policy.
The Liberal Party revealed its campaign slogans today: "For All Of Us" and "Enough Is Enough". The positive and negative slogans are designed to present a complementary picture of an Opposition that is opposed to governing for sectional interests and of a government that has had its chance. A song accompanies the slogans.
Treasurer, Ralph Willis, and Shadow Treasurer, Peter Costello, debated each other on television and radio today. Willis, whilst arguing that the overall tax burden would not be increased under a Labor government, refused to rule out new taxes.
Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett appeared to back away from his proposal to legislate to abolish State by-elections where a government has a majority of at least 6 seats. The proposal, widely condemned in the media as an attack on democracy, created much publicity yesterday, leading to more discussion of the possibility of a "Kennett factor" in the election.
A large crowd farewelled the outgoing N.S.W. Governor, Peter Sinclair, today. The crowd protested against last week's announcement by Premier Bob Carr that the new Governor would be part-time, would live at home and that Government House would be made more accessible to the public. Some Liberal and National Party members have claimed that this issue will cost Labor votes in N.S.W. Prime Minister Keating has dismissed the debate as an argument about where the Governor "puts his head" in the evening.
Campaigning continues in the Townsville-based seat of Mundingburra for Saturday's by-election, the result of which will decide the fate of the 6-year-old Goss Labor government. A large anti-Labor swing would deepen pessimism in the ALP about its prospects in the Federal election. Opinion polls continue to show the Federal ALP well behind the coalition.
Wednesday 31 January
Opposition Leader Howard, visiting the marginal outer Melbourne electorate of La Trobe, announced the coalition's Environment policy today. The policy proposes the establishment of a $1 billion fund to restore the national estate, including programs to arrest soil degradation. The $1 billion will come from the privatisation of one third of Telstra, a previously announced policy. The Environment policy was warmly received by the environmental lobby, with the Australian Conservation Foundation saying it represented the most important environment statement ever made by the coalition. Environment lobby preferences have been crucial to ALP victories in recent elections, especially in 1990.
Democrats leader, Cheryl Kernot, questioned the policy, indicating that the Democrats would oppose the privatisation of Telstra, denying the coalition the funds it will need. Kernot said that if the policy is deemed to be so important then alternative sources of funding should be planned for. In Bendigo, Prime Minister Keating said there was no guarantee that the policy would be implemented, quoting from a leaked coalition document which suggested that announced policies need not necessarily be put into effect.
Keating today attacked the Opposition's "Enough is Enough" slogan, saying it was a direct lift from the 1979 campaign of Britain's Margaret Thatcher, whom he described as Howard's "ideological godmother". Keating said that Thatcher stood for reduced government spending and reduced provision of government services.
Keating and Howard both appeared separately on Channel 9's "A Current Affair" tonight, Howard having refused a head-to-head debate. It is not clear whether there has been a resolution to the dispute over the televised debates, although it appears certain that there will be no debate next Sunday 4 February.
With published polls continuing to show the Government trailing the Opposition by significant margins, there is a growing sense of a change of government.
Thursday 1 February
Prime Minister Keating was in the Melbourne electorate of Bruce today, celebrating the 12th anniversary of the introduction of Medicare. Bruce, once held by the former Liberal leader, Bill Snedden, is notionally a Labor seat following the redistribution which saw Victoria lose one seat in the House of Representatives. Alan Griffin, the ALP member for the abolished seat of Corinella, is contesting Bruce against Julian Beale, who has held the seat since 1990. Keating claimed that Howard was not to believed in his support for the maintenance of Medicare since he is on record over a 13 year period as opposing it. Keating announced that Medicare offices in major suburban areas would soon be permitted to open on Saturday to provide extended service.
Howard hinted in an interview on The 7.30 Report that he may be about to announce tax cuts as part of his election program. During the day he came under pressure from the media to give categorical commitments not to increase taxes, although there is some doubt about his attitude towards automatic Consumer Price Index increases that apply to a wide range of sales and other taxes. In another exchange with Keating, Howard said the Prime Minister was "losing his grip" because of his suggestion that no Asian leader would deal with Howard were he to become Prime Minister. Keating said that Indonesia's President Suharto would "talk" to Howard, but he wouldn't "deal" with him.
Keating appeared on morning radio in Melbourne today, pushing his theme that Howard was afraid to debate him and was avoiding the public at every opportunity, abdicating his responsibility to hold himself up to accountability to the electorate.
Friday 2 February
Prime Minister Keating was in Tasmania today, visiting the marginal seat of Bass, which was won by the ALP's Silvia Smith in the 1993 election by only 40 votes. Keating promised $40 million towards the building of a Bass Strait passenger ferry. Responding to suggestions that it was a case of "pork", Keating said "this isn't pork, it's a great big lump of money"!
Opposition Leader Howard was in Queensland today. He is coming under increasing pressure over the proposed trade-off between the sale of part of Telstra and the funding of his environment policy. In Tasmania, Keating referred to green protesters as the "pro Telstra sale" group. Keating has said that Telstra is a national icon that should stay in public ownership, but today Howard produced a quote from former Cabinet minister Graham Richardson's book, "Whatever It Takes", that says Keating wanted to sell Telstra/Telecom six years ago.
Democrats leader, Cheryl Kernot, is continuing to criticise Howard's proposed sale of Telstra. Today she was also promoting her policies on home ownership, arguing for Australians to be allowed to use part of their superannuation savings to make home deposits.
There have been no new polls today, although tomorrow's newspapers will contain fresh polling from this week.
All attention will be on the Queensland election tomorrow in Mundingburra. Polls suggest the ALP is marginally ahead (one showing 51.5% two-party-preferred). If the ALP were to win the by-election, it would secure the Goss Government in office and give Federal Labor an important psychological boost. Anything other than a narrow loss would be interpreted as showing the ALP in deep trouble in the north.
Opposition Senator Amanda Vanstone opened the campaign rooms of Liberal member for Ballarat, Michael Ronaldson, last night. Ronaldson is in hospital following an operation for kidney cancer on Monday. Ballarat is a seat the ALP will probably need to win to stay in government. At the last election it was won by the Liberals with 52.20% of the two-party-preferred vote.
Saturday 3 February
At the close of counting tonight the Labor Party appeared to have lost the Mundingburra by-election in Queensland. The Liberal candidate, Frank Tanti, had 7764 votes; the Labor candidate, Tony Mooney, 6951 votes; and the former Labor member, now Independent, Ken Davies, 686. Whilst there is a large number of pre-poll and postal votes still to be counted, it appears that there has been a swing of about 2% to the Liberal candidate. Preferences from Davies will go to the Liberals.
|Mundingburra By-Election Results - 3 February 1996|
|Candidate ||Party ||Primary Vote|
|WOODBRIDGE, Pauline||Australian Women's Party||573|
The result means that Queensland's single chamber Parliament is now comprised of 44 ALP and 44 National/ Liberal members, with one independent member from Gladstone. The independent has voted with the coalition about 80% of the time since last July's general election. Assuming that final counting confirms a Liberal win, there are several possibilities arising from the by-election result:
- Mr. Goss could attempt to continue governing, waiting for Parliament to resume in March after the return of the writs and test his support on the floor of the Legislative Assembly.
- Mr. Goss could advise the Governor to call a fresh general election on the basis that the Parliament has become unworkable. There is no guarantee that the Governor would agree to this advice.
- Mr Goss could resign his commission and recommend that the Governor call upon the Opposition Leader, Mr. Borbidge, to form a government.
- Mr. Goss could resign as ALP leader, or be replaced by the ALP Caucus.
The Mundingburra result will be a psychological blow to the Federal ALP, appearing to confirm its parlous electoral position in Queensland.