This is a collection of media commentary during 2007 in which the writers make predictions about the federal election.
Judge for yourself how well they did…
Recycled, Rejected And Right Off The Rails
Yesterday, in the nation’s Parliament, with hardly a politician to be seen anywhere, we got some election realism. Three rows of recycling bins, whacking big green ones with yellow lids. More than 300 of them. Where? In the basement corridor of the ministerial wing. The bins seemed a more apt commentary than all the desperate, last-minute Coalition windbaggery going on around the nation on what is about to descend on the Prime Minister after 33 years in public life and almost 12 years remaking Australia in his own miserable, disfigured image. They arrived two days ago and whoever they’re for, 48 hours before a single vote is cast today, you felt somebody, somewhere, finally got it right. The end of the line … It’s a nice irony that the 30th anniversary of Howard’s first big heave-ho up the slippery pole – he was treasurer for five years, while his first budget (in 1978) introduced an income tax surcharge, an increase in the Medicare levy and Australia’s first petrol tax – should come on the first day of the last week of his last election campaign. And, I continue to assert, his last week as Prime Minister. Two days ago, an old Labor friend, sometimes referred to as Whispering Death, the nickname of that wonderful West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding, phoned to say, very quietly: “I think we might have got [him] this time.” I think he’s right. The end of the line.
– Alan Ramsey [Sydney Morning Herald – November 24, 2007]
Howard Will Win Poll As He Is Lesser Of Two Evils
My tip is the Government will retain power, but only just. As shifty as it has been, it is perhaps the lesser of two evils as the Opposition seems to have even less substance to offer, both in terms of economic management talent or in its front bench, generally. It’s a pretty ordinary offering facing voters — whichever way you turn.
– Mick McGlone [Albury Border Mail – November 20, 2007]
Brace For A Rudd-Slide
Two words sum up the Coalition’s election campaign: bloody awful. A complete and utter shambles from start to finish. It started with the $34 billion tax cut, perhaps the greatest flopperoo in campaign history. Despite being one of the most expensive promises ever made in the lead-up to an election, the Coalition has not put one television advertisement to air to back it up … Howard finished the first week by losing the televised leaders’ debate. He looked nervous, bad-tempered and stale. In contrast, Kevin Rudd looked confident, fresh and capable … The interest rate rise itself was another black-letter news day, a humiliation that could have been avoided if the election had been held on November 3 … The Coalition’s doleful campaign launch failed to produce any of the momentum the strategists said was vital, and Howard was trapped into spending so much money that he found himself wedged by Rudd on economic management … So can John Howard still win? One can construct such an argument, but it looks near impossible given the state of the polls … Coalition optimists maintain that they have run an effective marginal-seats strategy which will see the Government hold the line. They are deluded. As the cliche goes, when the swing is on, it’s on. I also believe Howard will lose his seat of Bennelong, on the basis that voters will reason that with the Coalition set to lose the election, there is little point returning Howard to Canberra.
– Jason Koutsoukis [The Age – November 18, 2007]
History About To Repeat Itself – In Reverse
And have no shred of doubt, a week out, that Labor is going to romp this one, just as Howard did almost 12 years ago. The Coalition swept 29 seats off Labor in 1996 before losing 18 of them 2½ years later in the election that gave us the GST Howard had pledged, as opposition leader, he would “never, ever” introduce. This time, with this leader, after all these Howard years, Labor is going to reverse 1996. And when the Rudd team duly buries its opponents next weekend, it will deny Howard the glory of matching what Hawke and Keating managed to rack up between them – five election triumphs on the trot. However galling, Howard will have to make do with four. The Labor duo, in absentia, will have bested him. That in itself is enough to warm the hearts of the two men who have kept a chill distance for the past 16 years … This election, polling among 18-24s, including first-time voters, has increased Labor’s advantage in this age group to 53 per cent to the Coalition’s 32 per cent of the primary vote, with the Greens polling 11 per cent, easily their best showing in any of the four age groupings … The 2001 and 2004 elections were a mirror of the figures between campaign polling and the actual result. And this year, with the election just seven days away, Nielsen’s campaign primary poll average for Labor is 48 per cent, the Coalition 41.5 per cent. With a week to go that says lights out at Kirribilli for the Howards and welcome Kevin Rudd and co. The carnage in NSW and Queensland will be immense.
– Alan Ramsey [Sydney Morning Herald – November 17, 2007]
Howard’s Coalition Of The Barely Willing
Can the coalition pull it out? Common sense says no, but Andrew Robb, one of the more dispassionate and respected poll watchers, afterwards, said it was possible. Granted, Robb’s a homie, but I’ve still got that little question in me, too.
– Peter Ruehl [Financial Review – November 13, 2007]
PM Still Has A Chance, But This Race Looks All But Run
In 1972 when the youth of Australia stormed the conservative barricades and installed the Whitlam Labor government, they marched under a banner protesting against conscription and the Vietnam War. Thirty five years on there is another war – this time in Iraq – but as today’s youth march on the Howard Government battlements the banner they are carrying calls for action on global warming. In both cases the government of the day somehow failed to hear, or worse ignored the sound of those marching feet until too late. A consistent trend in the opinion polls leading up to the November 24 election shows that the Howard Government has failed to connect with young voters and to capture their imagination. The Prime Minister’s 11th hour conversion on climate change and to the merits of the internet as a tool to reach out to young people is unlikely to cut too much mustard with this key section of the electorate … Howard is … effectively saying that in spite of their shortcomings and lack of vision, the Liberals are still a safer bet in these troubled times than the inexperienced alternative. In other words, the electorate needs to weigh up the benefits of the known with the risks of chancing its luck with the unknown. And Labor environment spokesman Peter Garrett’s flip-flopping on issues in his own portfolio, as well as displaying a lack of discipline on broader Opposition campaign policies, has inadvertently strengthened this Coalition strategy by raising the spectre of uncertainty under a Rudd government. But Howard may have let Rudd get too far ahead to be able to run him down in the straight. This is something he could ponder on this Melbourne Cup day.
– Malcolm Colless [The Australian – November 6, 2007]
Garrett, Abbott And A Week Of Blunders
This feeling that nothing is really working is starting to pervade the Liberal rank and file, who are making preparations for survival which do not include John Howard. These days his picture seldom appears on their campaign literature or posters: ironically, Howard is getting a better run in Labor advertising than Liberal, with his famous quote about Australian families never having been better off getting more repeats than Fawlty Towers … There have been some reports from the provinces that the coalition is hanging on in some of its marginal seats, and that it still hopes to squeak across the line with a last minute surge of pork-barrelling and scare tactics; and on paper it’s still possible. But it’s looking pretty unlikely. This week is basically a write off, swamped by Melbourne Cup and interest rates, after which we will have the massively delayed official campaign launches and the final frenzy. It will be noisy, expensive, unedifying and probably very nasty, especially if Abbott and Costello have anything to do with it. But it will probably make very little difference to the voters, increasing numbers of whom can’t wait for the end of November, to vote and get it over with and then get stuck into the pre-Christmas drinks.
– Mungo MacCallum [crikey.com.au – November 5, 2007]
Wake Up And Smell A Party Party Its Use-By Date
I hereby issue the following public call to my fellow journalists, commentators and, above all, admirers of John Howard, who continue to believe the Government can win the election: It is time to wake from your Rip Van Winkle-like slumbers and accept the reality that is staring you in the face. The Howard Government is gone … I believe history will judge the Howard era kindly. But I also believe it will judge it as having concluded on November 24, 2007.
– Imre Salusinszky [The Australian – November 5, 2007]
No Room For A Wedge
Australia seems to be in a condition of Howard fatigue but not Howard rejection. This gives the Coalition some heart despite the polls still pointing to its likely defeat. The Coalition’s problem is that Howard fatigue seems entrenched and almost impervious to policy initiatives. It creates the strange but dominant mood of this election: the voters are contemplating a change of government but only want a cosmetic change of direction. They prefer a home renovation as opposed to buying an entirely new house … It is wrong to think that Rudd does not stand for change. But he stands for a different type of change. Rudd has narrowed and redefined the differences in Australian politics. Above all, he sees himself as modernist … The upshot is that Rudd has had some success in moving the election agenda to his preferred issues. By denying Howard the political wedges he has deployed against Labor since 1996, Rudd has put Howard under new pressure. The consequence is that Howard looks less relevant and effective. Rudd is not going to blunder Latham-style at campaign’s end. But Howard has seen his best opening and he will exploit it relentlessly. He called Rudd yesterday a world record copy cat, except where he was following the trade unions. Howard’s message is that Rudd is too cosmetic and lacks conviction. It is probably Howard’s last, best hope.
– Paul Kelly [The Australian – November 3, 2007]
Paths To Victory
Kevin Rudd has been saying for weeks that the 2007 election, which shows him cruising to a crushing victory in the national polls, is “a tight election” and will go to the wire. As the Labor leader might say: “Do you know something? I’m right.” And he is. The fight in this election and the likely outcome is to be much closer than national poll snapshots suggest. Based on calculations by strategists and MPs from both sides, it is possible for Labor to get the magic number of 16 – the minimum net seats gain it needs – but final victory may come down to one or two seats in Western Australia on election night. Labor’s ahead and can get 16 seats based on a strong performance in NSW, but the Coalition is far from out of the fight … Some Labor campaigners have also started to issue quiet words of caution about getting pipped at the
post because of the Liberals’ expertise in marginal seat campaigning. Such warnings run completely counter to the ALP’s deliberate months-long strategy of talking up the polls and leaking favourable results in key seats … What is emerging is that NSW may be more important to Labor winning than Queensland, where so many seats are claimed to be in danger … Howard’s strength is WA and he has defensively visited the vulnerable Coalition seats of Stirling and Hasluck, and offensively visited the Labor-held seat of Swan. The ALP seat of Cowan is also difficult to judge after the retirement of popular local MP Graham Edwards, so Labor could lose one or two seats in Perth. If that happens, the nightmare of the 1969 Don’s Party election could be relived as the late-voting, late-counting West pips Labor at the post after power seemed so tantalisingly close to being in Rudd’s grasp.
– Dennis Shanahan [The Australian – November 3, 2007]
Labor Favourite At Halfway Point
It is only with the benefit of hindsight that commentators and political scientists perceive trends, factors or turning points that determine the outcome of federal election campaigns. So to try to judge the course of the 2007 campaign at the halfway point is, at best, a speculative exercise. However, one of the undercurrents of this election is the realisation that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Labor went into the election campaign with all the polls suggesting it would win easily … It is likely that Labor’s standing in the polls will weaken in the last week of the campaign as the barrage of Coalition advertising and mail-outs increases, and the scrutiny of the media (much of it hostile to Labor) intensifies. A slip-up over policy, or some incident involving a character flaw, could slow Labor’s momentum though the Liberals’ campaign remains vulnerable to hiccups too, as the example of Tony Abbott demonstrated this week. The campaigning skills of the parties in the marginal seats will be crucial to the final result, and it [is] here that the Liberals have the advantage of experience and the resources of incumbency. But at this stage, Labor must still be regarded as favourite to win.
– Editorial [Canberra Times – November 3, 2007]
Howard’s Grand Failure
This election campaign is far from over and John Howard could yet win. But it’s not likely. The most likely outcome is a substantial victory for Kevin Rudd.
– Greg Sheridan [The Australian – October 25, 2007]
CPI A New Blow To Howard’s Chances
Treasurer Peter Costello was at pains yesterday to put a positive spin on new consumer price index figures showing an annualised headline rate of inflation of 1.9 per cent, but he and Prime Minister John Howard have reason to fear the consequences of a stronger than expected increase in the underlying inflation rate. It is now almost certain that the board of the Reserve Bank of Australia will decide to raise interest rates when it meets on November 6. It will mark the first time interest rates have been increased during an election campaign, and will in all likelihood set the seal on the Coalition’s fate after four terms and more than 11 years in office.
– Editorial [Canberra Times – October 25, 2007]
That’s Right, We Didn’t See It Coming
That’s the fun and privilege of being a paid know-all. Were your local MP prone to get things wrong as often as your average pundit, they would quickly be hounded out of public life … Incidentally, I still think Labor will win. But I can’t shake the feeling the election will be close, notwithstanding the Liberals’ cockamamie attempt to remove Howard. Odds of $3.70 for a Coalition victory strike me as absurd; just imagine if the stubborn bugger sneaks back. Forget Lazarus with a triple bypass: it would be the full crown of thorns, crucifixion and escape from the cave.
– Matt Price [The Australian – September 15, 2007]
Government Must Prepare For A Record Landslide Loss
Election landslides are rare events in Australia. There have been 23 federal elections since 1949. In most of these it was a close result in terms of votes. The three highest proportions of the two-party vote were all achieved by the Liberal Party. In 1955, Robert Menzies won 54 per cent of the vote, a swing of nearly 5 per cent. In the so-called Vietnam election of 1966, Harold Holt achieved a two-party vote of 57 per cent. The 1975 election, after the constitutional crisis, saw the Fraser Liberal party win 56 per cent of the votes after a record swing against the Whitlam Labor party of 7.4 per cent. The Newspoll data suggest the possibility of a new record in 2007. Over the 23 elections, the highest two-party vote Labor has received was 53.2 per cent in 1983, the first Bob Hawke victory, and even that was hardly a landslide swing to Labor. The Newspoll result, a Labor vote of 59 per cent, would mean a swing of almost 12 per cent to the Labor Party. In Australian terms, since 1949, that would be a landslide swing, 5 per cent higher than the 7.1 per cent swing Labor achieved in 1969. There is an important difference. In 1969, Labor won a big swing, and a bare majority of the two-party votes. But it failed to win a majority of seats, and stayed in opposition …The Liberal Party was formed in 1910. The worst ever result for the Coalition was 24 of 74 seats (32 per cent) in 1943. Since 1949, its worst result was 50 of the 125 seats (40 per cent) in 1983. Once the official campaign starts, there will be a massive effort from the Liberal Party. But there is very little time for the Howard forces to find something – anything – to save it from the possibility of another record loss.
– Dean Jaensch [Adelaide Advertiser – September 12, 2007]
The Case For Howard
The other day a friend flattered me by saying that in 2004 I was the first commentator to announce that Mark Latham was mad and that the Coalition would win the election, with an increased majority. At least I think he was flattering me. Anyway, on the strength of that, I thought I would chance my arm again and make a prediction about the coming election … If Howard is pushed out, the Liberal Party and the nation will be the worse for it. It would reek of desperation, the Coalition would lose and the country would then face all the unknowns of the Rudd economic policy, as well as the real agenda of a union-dominated government … In any event, if the parliamentary party and its fair-weather supporters all calmed down for a minute, they would realise the party already has the best person leading it, a leader who has a great record of economic success, who is stable, and who is entirely known and understood, probably the most important qualities in an election where experience is likely to be the important issue. Now it is time for my prediction, on the assumption that the Liberal Party does not take collective leave of its senses and force or let Howard resign. The Coalition parties will win and with a good majority. All right, I know this time I am saying a good majority and not a bigger one. I say good because it will be a majority that will come in part from different seats than has the present majority. It will be as messy as a Jackson Pollock painting, with Coalition wins as well as losses, but it will end up as a working majority.
– Neil Brown, former Liberal minister [The Australian – September 10, 2007]
Two Dead Men Walking Come To Town
Which brings us back to a debauched Howard leadership in its 12th year holding hands with an utterly discredited Bush presidency in its seventh year, each of them as tatty and as grubby as the other … What, in the circumstances, is this country and this hugely diminished Prime Minister doing feting such a decrepit political carcass? What, politically, could Bush possibly bring to Howard’s table? Only, you’d have to think, further “anger and foreboding” among Australian voters, already tired of Howard’s Government of poncing, self-absorbed mediocrities, but most of all, sick and tired of the Prime Minister himself. Howard has no business bringing Bush and his policy obscenities here a second time, whatever his self-interest. Australia has had enough of this ugly President, just as it’s had more than enough of our own ugly Government. Get on with the election, Prime Minister, for all our sakes. Most of us, this time, are absolutely aching to get rid of you … Like George Bush, John Howard is [a] dead man walking. Kevin Rudd will be prime minister by Christmas. Bet on it.
– Alan Ramsey [Sydney Morning Herald – September 1, 2007]
Poll Wizard Tips Cliffhanger
Over successive federal elections, long-time South Australian MP Rod Sawford has had an uncanny success rate in calling election results. Mr Sawford’s indicator has turned out to be on the money since it was first tested in 1961 – that is an unfailing litmus test for the actual result through 18 federal elections … Based on a formula developed by his grandfather, Mr Sawford believes he can predict which way an election will swing based on three economic signals: unemployment, inflation and interest rates. If the majority of the indicators are lower than they were at the previous election, the government of the day will be returned. If they have all gone up since the last election, the government will be defeated. The tricky part is if the indicators are split – a situation we are faced with now. Since the last election unemployment has fallen, which is good news for John Howard; whereas interest rates have jumped, which is bad news for the Government. Inflation, though, remains delicately in the balance and we won’t know the direct comparison with the last election until the election itself is called. Mr Sawford makes his call around the time an election is called and says the timing of the election is critical because that determines which quarter inflation figures are used … This time around Mr Sawford says it will be close, deadly close, and at this stage could be a repeat of the 1961 election … “This will be the closest election since 1961,” Mr Sawford said. “And the party that wins will win by two to four seats. What Kevin Rudd has been saying is correct, this will be a line ball election.”
– reported by Gerard McManus [Herald-Sun – August 4, 2007]
Labor’s Big Lead Will Evaporate Before The December Poll
The real problem the Government has got is that the electorate is basically bored. There’s no anger out there, there’re no baseball bats, no one’s marching the streets calling on the Government to be thrown out of office. I don’t detect anger. What I do detect is boredom. People perhaps wanting a fresh face. They’ve been in government a long time … That’s the challenge the Government has got: to convince the electorate that things will change dramatically if there’s a change of government … Unless (Rudd addresses the number one issue which is the budgetary situation in this country), (Labor’s) lead is going to evaporate very very quickly … The Coalition will win the election. I think the election will be held in the first couple of weeks of December … That means there’s over four months to go till the election. I think Labor’s lead is substantial at the moment, but I think their policy basis is very brittle … I think over the next four months as each policy is dissected, and particularly as you get to the hard policies around the economy and the budget position, that Labor’s lead is going to evaporate.
– Michael Kroger [Sky News – July 23, 2007]
A Week For Howard To Be Happy With
This has been a good week for John Howard. For a start – the drought has broken …While the talk was of drought and the people of Melbourne and Sydney were worried that their lawns might die, global warming was a big negative for the Coalition Government. With that “crisis” past, global warming will not be such a big issue. The decision of Mr Howard to act decisively and actually do something about the devastation of outback Aboriginal communities has been well received. There is an admiration for a politician prepared to walk the walk rather than talk the talk. Taking action rather than talking about taking action gains support even if there is scepticism about whether the action will actually achieve anything. At least the man is trying. To round out the week, the Prime Minister released his policy to increase the support given to disabled Australians and their carers. For some one like me who has spent years trying to manipulate pictures in the cause of winning votes, this was great politics. As I wrote yesterday John Howard has come across this week as a caring and compassionate leader. Kevin Rudd, meanwhile, has continued to play the intellectual nerd making smart statements. A month ago I was foolhardy enough to write that this election contest was over and that Labor would win. I wish I hadn’t been so definite about that prediction.
– Richard Farmer [Political Owl Email – June 29, 2007]
Howard Scratches The Itch Of Hostility To Aborigines
Responses to the Prime Minister’s Northern Territory intervention fall into one of three broad categories. The first comes from people who are unable to see sincerity or value in anything John Howard proposes on the subject of Aborigines and so dismiss his plan out of hand … Observers at the other end of the spectrum see a wise leader of men who has bravely declared “enough is enough” caring not a hoot for the political consequences … But most people are somewhere in between: yes, they say, of course it’s an election-year stunt, but it’s also worth a go. At least somebody is trying something … At first glance this makes sense. But something is wrong with the equation. The comparisons with the Tampa incident five years ago are useful but have their limits. Like Tampa, last week’s announcement was big, sudden, unorthodox and enlisted the armed forces. It dissolved a long-standing bipartisan status quo and replaced it with uncertainty, turmoil and emotion. It returned to our screens the John Howard of old: unblinking rock of certainty and action among the swirl of hand-wringing. And it scratches at a very Australian itch. But the nature of that itch is where the difference lies. For there is no wide concern in the broad Australian community underlying or overt about the plight of Aboriginal children. Middle Australia, frankly, doesn’t give much of a damn … But the brutal political logic is inescapable: if the issue is to remain on the front pages, Howard and Mal Brough’s language must ramp up to higher and higher levels of intemperance. Being seen to inflict distress on (adult) Aborigines will be not an unavoidable byproduct of the exercise, but a necessary component.
– Peter Brent [Canberra Times – Jun 29, 2007]
Big Guns Line Up For A Shot
When John Howard slashed superannuation entitlements for federal MPs in February 2004 in the face of Mark Latham’s populist campaign for the Lodge, some senior MPs argued that it would make it far more difficult to attract serious talent to Canberra. Why would someone give up a lucrative career for a lot less money if they couldn’t snare a decent retirement package, some lamented. But here’s a fearless prediction. Whatever the outcome of this year’s poll – and my money remains on a narrow Coalition victory – the next parliament will comprise a more formidable array of talent. While Labor continues to feel the heat over its union links, Kevin Rudd has used his leadership authority to jettison a generation of caucus also-rans. A stronger line-up has been assembled. Within the Liberal Party, too, there are signs of generational change.
– Steve Lewis [The Australian – June 19, 2007]
It’s Looking Like 1969
With the Howard Government showing a flicker of life in the west and expectations being lowered by the Prime Minister about any dramatic poll reversals ahead of the declaration of the campaign proper, senior Liberals are now comforting themselves with the idea that this year could see a historic repeat of the 1969 election. That was the poll where Gough Whitlam fell just short of victory, but ominously perhaps for Peter Costello, built the platform for his successful tilt at the Lodge three years later in 1972. Last week, a more upbeat John Howard told his party room that the “arithmetic” for Kevin Rudd to win the coming election was formidable. And he’s right. Rudd has to take 16 seats to form government. No matter what the polls are telling us now, the fact is that Rudd has an effort of Augean proportions ahead of him.
– Glenn Milne [The Australian – June 18, 2007]
PM Marooned In Chifley’s Shadow
FUTURE history books will note that John Howard was one of two prime ministers (the other being Ben Chifley) whose governments were defeated as a consequence of abusing Senate power, one of two (the other being Stanley Bruce) to lose his own seat at the general election defeat and one of two (the other being Robert Menzies) to serve 10 years in the top job. Howard will also be remembered as the only PM who, incredibly enough, decided not to retire at the top of his form after 10 years in that office. Peter Costello will be the most successful minister never to be PM … Today many Liberals and Nationals are reconciled to the inevitability that their Government will be defeated, and they wonder why. The answer should be obvious: “It’s Work Choices, stupid.” Another answer, but really the same one, might be: “It’s Howard’s abuse of his Senate majority.”
– Malcolm Mackerras [The Australian – June 8, 2007]
How Howard Lost His ‘Honest John’ Credibility
It has been a bad fortnight for Labor, and the Coalition must pare back Labor’s lead to, say, 53-47 for Howard to be still in the race. Meanwhile, I stand by the predictions I have made in The Canberra Times and elsewhere … The 2004 election was the one in which John Howard tricked six million Australians into voting for the industrial relations revolution he had always wanted. That revolution subsequently became known as Work Choices … Where they were blindfolded by Howard three years earlier, the Australian people next time will vote with their eyes well and truly open. I expect they will vote for the repeal of WorkChoices … A political leader can implement major change if he is honest with the electorate. Thus the GST and Telstra privatisation were never popular with the general public but they have been accepted as legitimate because Howard had a mandate for them … My recent opinions have been that the Howard Government will be defeated in its attempt to get a fifth term with Howard himself defeated in Bennelong in his attempt to get a 14th term in that seat. I stand by both predictions. Bennelong is not merely a marginal seat, it is so marginal that it is actually the median seat on my pendulum.
– Malcolm Mackerras [Canberra Times – May 14, 2007]
Costello Buys Time
A lot of people have written the Howard Government off lately, having been caught up in the Rudd juggernaut as it hurtles towards what some assume is certain victory. But Howard – and more particularly his Treasurer Peter Costello – has other plans: they are determined to run the Ruddster off the road. We have had two significant events in the past 10 days which make this a bankable proposition – so bankable, in fact, that yesterday the bookies narrowed the odds on a Labor victory to almost even money, matching the Coalition’s chances for the first time this year. The first was the messy handling of Labor’s industrial relations policy – which business was still ranting about yesterday – and the other was the Budget … As the dust settles, it is clear the Budget is the best reality check we’ve had in federal politics, reminding us that you cannot count this Government out and, if the Rudd insurgency cannot convince people it is time for change, the Government can win the coming poll.
This going to be a war of attrition. It is a day-by-day, knock ’em down fight that will be settled when
there is only one man standing. It’s either John Howard or Kevin Rudd.
– Dennis Atkins [Courier-Mail – May 9, 2007]
Spectacular Comeback Needed
John Howard has earned is reputation as the come back kid of politics. At the last two elections the final vote for his Coalition government was more than 5 percentage points higher on election day than the polls indicated it would be six months before. Those achievements were even more spectacular than Paul Keating’s come from behind victory in 1993 when the six months saw Labor pick up from the forecast 40% vote to the actual 44.8% … It is perhaps not an impossible task but it is bigger than any party has managed at the last seven elections for which I have opinion poll figures. A betting man would be sorely tempted to take the current price on offer about a Kevin Rudd victory.
– Richard Farmer [PoliticalOwl.com – April 27, 2007]
Howard Shouting, No One Listening
Astute in the rules of Realpolitik, John Winston Menzies Bush Howard observed that governments are defeated before elections, at that moment when people stop listening to them … It’s not just that they’ve heard it all before. They’ve stopped listening already. Something profound is happening out there, and the old formulas aren’t working. The problem for the PM is a consequence of his political success. Term after term after term, finally the most reliable worms turn. Or the worm employed to respond to televised sales pitches just lies there. An unresponsive electorate mightn’t detest a political leader. It might just become bored. The legendary It’s Time! campaign cut “for a change” off the oldest political slogan in the books and gave it some razzle-dazzle. But Rudd is the antithesis of Gough Whitlam. He’s not even emulating Hawke. He has reverted to the older slogan. It’s time for a change. Nothing too radical. Nothing radical at all. And the electorate is hearing him, loud and clear.
– Phillip Adams [The Australian – April 24, 2007]
Rudd To Save Unions’ Skin
Labor’s resurgence in the polls occurred long before Kevin Rudd’s ascension. Howard’s decision to employ his surprise Senate majority to pursue unflagged reforms instantly played the demoralised Opposition back into the contest. Yet Rudd’s popularity is both resilient and spooky. A Newspoll reveals disapproval of Rudd remains at historically negligible levels, and the fall-out from the Sunrise debacle has only extended the preferred PM’s lead over Howard. If Rudd has the balance right on workplace reform – and I suspect he has – he’ll likely save the union movement’s bottom while delivering the Government a painful kick in the pants.
– Matt Price [Sunday Telegraph – April 22, 2007]
Fears Of A Clone Perturb ALP Faithful
In any biopic of the incumbent PM, Rudd could be cast as the young Howard. Give Kev a track suit and a fake hearing aid and get him doing early-morning jogs, and you’d give the voters a sense of security, of change without change. I’ve always reckoned a lot of people will vote for Rudd by mistake … Pushing Rudd’s barrow was a lonely task, but once over the line he instantly justified my enthusiasm. Who could have imagined such a surge of support for such a nerdy newcomer? Of course, Howard was our secret weapon. After a decade, voters realise that what I’d been saying about him for 10 years was 110per cent true. In 2007 perhaps even Simon Crean could beat Howard. Or Bill Hayden’s drover’s dog. Clearly Howard will be defeated by Howard, although having Rudd around will certainly help.
– Phillip Adams [The Australian – April 17, 2007]
No Iemma Factor In Federal Election
It is always dangerous to compare state and federal voting behaviour because it is like comparing apples and oranges. My inclination, therefore, is not to read too much into Premier Morris Iemma’s re-election in NSW. This result will reinforce rather than change the way the federal election campaigning is already being conducted on both sides, and it has not made it any easier to confidently predict the federal result. …The NSW election hasn’t really changed much at all. Rudd and Howard know that. Neither will change their established approach to their campaigning. Howard is still the favourite to win. Rudd still needs swings in the right places and the end result could be decided by the distribution of good and bad fortune. Howard has had both in the past. When he’s had bad luck he has lost. With good luck he has won. Rudd can only hope and pray that the good fortune will be his on this occasion.
– John Warhurst [Canberra Times – March 29, 2007]
Resilient Howard Against The Ropes
It is a political truism in Australia that oppositions do not win elections so much as governments lose them. While there are exceptions to the theory, there are sound reasons to suppose that the Liberal/National Coalition Government is unlikely to lose the next federal election. It has a comfortable parliamentary majority and is led by a man whose good luck (some genuine, much the result of hard work and perseverance) and political skills are probably unmatched in modern Australian political history … The equally conservative Australian electorate has long preferred the devil it knows to any other, and Howard’s success owes much to this instinct. Add to that the considerable public resources available to incumbent governments for electoral purposes, their ability to set, and dominate the agenda, and no sober political analyst would write off Howard’s chances at the next election … But the ground in which the Coalition has laid its foundations for success is shifting, and in a manner which leaves it looking shaky.
– Jack Waterford [Canberra Times – March 14, 2007]
Howard In Trouble? Bennelong Time Coming
Maxine McKew’s decision to challenge Prime Minister John Howard in his NSW seat of Bennelong has set up a fascinating array of political possibilities for this year’s federal election. …Of course, the most likely scenario is that Howard will win his seat whether his Government is returned or not. …Since the last election Bennelong has been made more marginal by a redistribution which has taken in parts of the Labor-held seat of Parramatta. So yes, the PM has a fight on his hands, but the main game for Labor is to force Howard to spend more time campaigning in his electorate a real distraction from the pressing need that Howard be here, there and everywhere else on the campaign trail. The next election is going to be close, and the appearance of the Prime Minister in key marginal seats will be important if the Coalition is to recover some of the ground it has lost to Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd during his honeymoon period. …High-profile candidates cause a media storm and McKew has certainly done that. However, once the storm dies down and the numbers are crunched in Bennelong, she is unlikely to win the seat. But it will be close, as well as a distraction for the Government.
– Peter Van Onselen & Wayne Errrington [Canberra Times – February 28, 2007]
There are suggestions that Liberal minister Gary Nairn is in deep trouble in his electorate of Eden-Monaro. Based in southern NSW, Eden-Monaro is the classic bellwether, usually falling to whichever party forms national government. But if an election had been held recently, Nairn would have been in serious strife. So, too, the Liberal vote is said to be weaker in Braddon and Bass, the two Tasmanian seats that it picked up in 2004 as the Apple Isle voted en masse against Mark Latham’s forestry policy. Ironically, the vote in Bass is said to be particularly soft for Liberal Michael Ferguson, as voters turn off the proposed pulp mill in his electorate. The Liberal Party holds its internal polling extremely tightly and one well-placed Liberal source says the Government remains on track.
– Steve Lewis [The Australian – February 27, 2007]
Time For Some Coalition Discipline
It is foolish to make predictions about elections when many voters have yet to make up their minds. Yet, right now, the Coalition is clearly in trouble and facing its biggest political challenge since 1998 when Labor (under Kim Beazley’s leadership) gained 51 per cent of the total vote but Howard narrowly won more seats. The Coalition has not been seriously challenged since then, despite much media-driven excitement about Labor under the erratic leadership of Mark Latham in 2004. Rudd is most likely to win votes and seats at the next election. The question is whether he can attain a net gain of 16 seats and/or topple the Prime Minister in his increasingly marginal seat of Bennelong in northern Sydney. The threat to the Howard Government in general, and to the Prime Minister in particular, should focus the Liberal and National parties on their present discontents. The Coalition is in trouble and needs to take remedial action as soon as possible before the current disorder and indiscipline becomes endemic.
– Gerard Henderson [Sydney Morning Herald – February 27, 2007]
McKew Can Beat Howard In Bennelong
Prime Minister John Howard should be worried that high-profile media personality Maxine McKew is standing as the ALP candidate in his electorate of Bennelong, a leading election analyst said. Ms McKew – a broadcast and magazine journalist for more than 30 years – has confirmed she will stand against Mr Howard in his northern Sydney seat. …The ABC’s electoral analyst Antony Green said the seat would act as a “litmus test” in the upcoming election. “I think it really will be one to watch,” Mr Green told Southern Cross Broadcasting. “If the Labor party wins the election, it’s likely they will win Bennelong. I can’t really see the situation where John Howard is defeated and the government is re-elected… He should be worried,” Mr Green said. “The opinion polls are showing his Government is behind, a Morgan poll in his electorate showed a roughly similar result to the national poll, so if there is a change of government it’s quite likely that seat would fall as well.”
– Antony Green, ABC election analyst [Herald-Sun online – February 26, 2007]
Labor to win election and Bennelong
The Coalition still has the budget up its sleeve and the economy very much in its favour and Australians love a winner, but we reserve our special love for those (like John Eales for example) who knew when it was time to leave. It’s a skill of which politicians seem almost universally bereft, and though it’s very early days, my money, like Canberra’s best known psephologist, is on a Labor win and a Bennelong loss.
– Patrick Baume, media analyst with Media Monitors Australia [Canberra Times – February 21, 2007]
Howard will lose Bennelong, Liberals will lose the poll
Let me be the first pundit to predict that the Liberal Party will lose this year’s general election as a whole, and Bennelong in particular. If John Howard is foolish enough to contest this election the only way he can save Bennelong is by promising something he will not promise — that, if elected, he will serve out his entire term. Any failure to do that could lead to a repeat of the Jeff Kennett/Burwood fiasco of 1999. …by election day in 2007 almost every pundit will be predicting that the Howard Government will be defeated and that Howard will also be defeated in Bennelong.
– Malcolm Mackerras, psephologist and University of NSW political scientist [Crikey Email – February 20, 2007]