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See the lemmings!

two decades of Newspolls

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Newspoll Opposition leader approval ratings

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March 24 By-elections

It is a little noted fact that the last term 2001-2004 was the first without a two-party byelection since ... well, living memory. The only byelection was Cunningham in October 2002, which the Liberals dropped out of - wisely as it turned out, as the Green candidate Michael Organ won, which in its small way contributed to the Latham leadership.

Like Werriwa last weekend, much idiocy had abounded about a possible Liberal win in Cunningham (thanks of course to John Howard, who we know could win any seat if he set his mind to it). If the Liberals had run in Cunningham - or if there had been another byelection with the Coalition running - the most likely result would have been at least a modest swing to Labor, which may have poured cold water on the more excitable commentators and given a boost to Crean. In turn, perhaps - who knows? - we might have seen a couple less Lemmings. Perhaps Crean would have taken Labor to last year's election, perhaps Beazley; either way the party would have done better.


Early this week Malcolm Mackerras had a piece in the Fin Review [no link] with advice to Howard: (1) resign the leadership this term, but (2) don't resign your seat.

Malcolm believes Labor would win Bennelong in a byelection and would then hold it. Without a byelection, he reckons Labor will eventually win the seat and "confidently predicts" it  will become the next Eden-Monaro - always won by the winning party. (Recall Antony Green on musings on such seats). 

John Watkins, who holds the NSW state seat of Ryde (within Bennelong) could go federal, in which case he "would have no trouble defeating Howard at the 2007 general election".[!]

Malcolm has a point about Bennelong - it is turning Labor - but perhaps he overstates it. The 2004 two party preferred vote was probably artificially low because of the multitude of candidates and the "Not Happy John" campaign. It recorded one of the highest pro-Labor swings in the state. We probably have to wait for a high NSW Labor vote for Bennelong to fall. Which will probably be whenever Labor wins government.

March 22 See my new site 

Newspoll: 54 to 46

Gerard Henderson draws a huge bow from Werriwa by-election to Latham's leadership qualities. 

Here's the table of seats by state and their (preliminary) two party preferred 2004 swing. Werriwa is in about the middle of NSW, next to neighbour Lindsay.

March 20 Werriwa - easy win for Labor

Pollbludger covers it. 

Hayes, the Labor unionist guy, got a slightly higher primary vote (about 55 percent) than Latham last year. His closest challenger, an Independent called James Young, got eight. After preferences it was 70 to 30, which means preferences split 60:40 in Young's favour. In Cunningham 2002 from memory about three quarters of preferences went to the Green candidate.

March 19 2005 Werriwa byelection day!

Will the Labor unionist bloke win? Or someone else? Does anyone care? (True, Alan Ramsey will be calling for Beazley's head if it isn't the unionist.)

Speaking of Alan, he goes on today about Sharman Stone, the Liberal who took Murray from the Nationals in 1996. Ramsey writes that, in the eight years since, she has made it incredibly safe, with a "whopping" 74.1 percent two party preferred vote in 2004.

But Murray has always been one of the safest Coalition seats in the country. That's not Stone's doing. She actually got a higher two party preferred vote in 1996 (74.2) than last year, but the previous National member, Bruce Lloyd, if you allow for an intervening redistribution, got an even higher one in 1990. (Stone defeated the Nat candidate 53.7 to 46.3 in 1996.)

He also waxes about Susan Ley in Farrer in 2001. I suppose one faction of the Coalition (Liberal) spending buckets of money to defeat another (National) means something, as does the the fact that both successful Libs were women. But neither benefited the government's majority, and it's hardly earth-moving as Ramsey has it. If they happened when the Coalition was in opposition they would be seen as wasteful indulgences. How about taking seats off Labor?

Ramsey also quotes, for second week in a row, Rodney Cavalier on how the Coalition, unlike the ALP, replenishes its backbench talent. That's kind of true in the case of a high-fliers (see below, and add Andrew Robb to the list) but I think it's fair to say the average Coalition backbencher is about as inspiring and endowed with broad life experience as the average Labor one. 

Mythologies develop after the fact. In reality, for example, Dana Vale and Jackie Kelly were a couple of hacks given what were then long-shot - if not unwinnable - seats in 1996. They romped home, for reasons totally unrelated to themselves, and became exceptional individuals of high quality. Furthermore, Andrew Robb and the Libs were geniuses for choosing them.

Similarly, only an observer unable to extricate the aura of incumbency from the winner, and on the other side the perceptions associated with being "losers", would perceive in the Coalition front-bench a higher discernable average talent than in the Labor one.

  • Morgan's latest has the Coalition back in front 52 to 48. (Note that Morgan now allocates preferences as they flowed at the last election, like Galaxy did last year with good results.)

Too many machine men

Sure Labor has a problem with too many apparatchiks rising through the ranks to parliament - look at Werriwa! - but Latham was hardly an antidote to all that - more a flamboyant example. Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull come to mind as people who, if you believe what you read, tried to find Labor seats, and were turned down because, you know, "it's not the Labor way", as Latho might have put it, head shaking. Labor likes to smirk at those two rising through the Coalition ranks, but really it was their loss. (Tony Abbott? As Billy Hughes said about joining the Country Party, you have to draw the line somewhere.)

Their few star recruits get crap seats - see Cheryl Kernot and David Hill. Peter Garrett stands out as the exception to the rule; he was the smartest thing Latham did. 

Just about everything Shaun's written since the election seems to serve to divert blame from poor old Mark. In fact, if it's anyone's fault it's Beazley's!

Shaun also writes that Labor "is not going to be able to build a parliamentary majority unless its primary vote moves closer to at least 42 to 43 per cent." Nonsense, of course - remember the 1990 result of 39.4 percent. Beazley lost in 1998 despite a two party preferred majority, and Carney appears to blame it on the low primary vote, but that of course is totally irrelevant. They lost because that 51 percent two party preferred wasn't spread over enough seats.

March 18 Werriwa byelection tomorrow

Someone pointed out this link, from ABC website days before last year's federal election. What do you call this: irony? Tragedy?

March 15 Nielsen poll ...

... has Labor in front 52 to 48. Here's the table in a new window.  

Update: Morgan agrees

Paddy and Alan: deserving each other?

Like some Crikey readers, I got a giggle from Paddy McGuinness's demand for Alan Ramsey's head in Friday's Oz. In particular the, what shall we call it, ironic self-acknowledgement. For example:

'Does the editor never ring Ramsey and say: "Look, Alan, gutter abuse of the Prime Minister and loony prejudice as well as consistent misrepresentation of the facts is just not what a quality newspaper publishes?" No, and apparently this kind of thing is acceptable to most other journalists who toe the conformist line at the Herald.'

Now that, of course, pretty well described McGuinness's writing about PM Paul Keating 1991 to 1996. (True, he copped the odd "bloated cane-toad" in return.)

Diving into databases for evidence, I found none going back far enough with reliability. There were, however, these remotely related items:

  • Paddy is extremely Alan-friendly here in 1994 and, more recently, in 2002. Political soundness - on children overboard in the second one (it's easy to forget that Alan is/was one of Howard's biggest barrackers on boating matters) - are the reasons.

Also, see Paddy tsk tsk about the amount of time Keating spent in Kirribilli, asking "why does the Prime Minister not live in his electorate when he is in Sydney?". But rather approving of Howard's 1996 move.

March 9 2005 Two emails

1. Someone named Antony writes ...

"A couple of observations on the final result in W.A.

For those amateur pundits who just can’t get away from the tedious line that there is always a seat that goes with government, WA was a bad campaign. Yes, Bunbury had been such a seat for two decades, but there was nothing that made Bunbury go with government. At least with the Liberals winning Bunbury while Labor won the election, we won’t have to deal with the hoary old Bunbury line at the 2009 election. Now if only a Federal opposition would win Eden-Monaro or Macarthur.

For those who decided Murray was now the key seat, shame the result didn’t match the theory. The Liberals won Murray , but it didn’t stop Labor winning government.

And for those critics who thought my carefully calculated redistribution pendulum based on the results of the 2001 election was a piece of crap that would tell you nothing about the 2005 election, where are they now?

Which Labor seats fell? Bunbury, the most marginal, and Murray, the third most marginal.

Now I’m not going to fall into the trap of claiming this is because the pendulum always works. Sitting member factors would certainly have helped Labor retain their surprise 2001 gains in Albany and Geraldton. But if you take the pendulum as a useful guide, it is always a better starting point than simply ignoring the result of the previous election.


2. Peter Nicholson ...

.. the Australian cartoonist, alerts us to his animations, hopefully updated weekly.

March 5 2005 Colin Barnett did pretty well last weekend ..

... say I (at least compared with state counterparts) in AFR 'Lies and Statistics' today. [No link.] This morning the WA Electoral Commission declared Coalition wins in Bunbury and Murray, so the Coalition won 40% of lower house seats, not the 39 I have in column. (Forty percent was also Labor's 2004 federal result.)

Mr Price

I, like many, find Matt Price a lively columnist (except for those cursed Bob Dylan indulgences), but his casual passing on of "sourced" election result nonsense is a worry.

In October last year, having himself anticipated a Latham win, Matt approvingly quoted some "senior Liberal" hard-head's assessment that anyone who had accurately predicted the election result "has no political nous". 

Not quite chutzpah .... but something closely related.

Today in the Oz Matt again utilises that deep-throat network to explain that

"[WA] ALP strategists were panicking on the Thursday before the vote. The previous night, Howard's day on the hustings attracted blanket, almost universally positive coverage on the crucial nightly news bulletins. Polling from both parties had the Liberals in a winning position on Thursday morning. Then came the notorious costings blunder."

If you've read Pamela Williams' The Victory (about the 1996 election), you can imagine the narrative: bang after the Wednesday evening news, Labor pollsters hit the phones ... the results aren't good ... by the Thursday early morning hook-up an apparatchik is bearing bad news: "Mate, we're stuffed". Stunned silence. Everybody downcast. That cursed Howard Halo. 

But on Friday morning the opposite. "Mate, we're on track!"

A similar fairy-tale got a run on on election eve. Party "insiders" have their agendas, and if trusting reporters repeat what they're told as fact, then good luck to them. 

But perhaps Matt's WA Labor sources are about as well informed as his federal ones during last year's campaign. Did the Liberal ones include that October wise-head?

March 2 Hawker Britton crows ...

... about the Gallop government's win and, by implication, their role in it. Funnily, not a mention of their pivotal position in the Latham Juggernaut.

Feb 28 WA results 

It looks like there was a small two party preferred swing to the Barnett Opposition, but Labor's safety buffer (the swing required to lose next time) grew a little. That sort of thing happens to incumbents. It also seems that outer suburban mortgage belts tended to swing to the government.

Crikey's Charles Richardson made the best seat by seat call, followed by Poll Bludger. In total terms, my original eleven seats (unwisely upped to 13 on election day) may still come to pass, but nine is more likely.

Apparently this will "boost Federal Labor's morale". You know, like all the other state victories over the last half a dozen years. The only good news for Beazley is that an incumbent nearly got knocked off. Early in federal election year 2007 Bob Carr will be up for re-election in NSW, and if the federal party knows what's good for it it will pray he loses. 

Feb 27 WA: Status Quo ...

... was a rock group I never did care for. 'Status quo' also describes the seat allocation after yesterday's election. The ABC tallyboard has Labor still with about 32 compared to everyone else's 25. The Mumble Predict-o-meter, which anticipated 34 to 23, upped to 35 to 22 yesterday, looks overstated right now, but let's see how the counting progresses. William the Bludger's five seat majority is almost spot on at this stage.

In any event, I reserve the right to point to posts such as this, this and - importantly - this.

Before "Barnett was a dud" becomes accepted wisdom, we should note that this is a respectable result against a first term government. Yes, the Coalition looked, according to opinion polls, set for victory as recently as last month, but that was under leader Barnett too. He must have been doing something right over the last year, and to preside over a narrow loss at this point of electoral cycle is nothing to be ashamed of. Look at the drubbings counterparts in other states have suffered.

Feb 26 Come in spinner, and a gratuitous Lemming plug

It's about 3pm AEST, and Steve Chase on Newsradio has just explained that the Coalition had "the momentum" and looked set to get across the line before Liberal leader Colin Barnett's costings blunder on Thursday. Along a similar vein, Robert Wainright filed this piece for the SMH on Thursday, beginning with "The West Australian Labor Government appears to have seized the momentum in the final days of a see-saw election campaign and is now a slight favourite to win on Saturday". This morning he explains that up 'til Thursday the Coalition was actually set to win: '"Labor's polling in the marginals showed the Government "short a couple of seats".

You can't blame the individual reporters; larger forces are at work, making them perpetuate whichever furphy has been popular the last five minutes. Perhaps it's what people wish to read and hear, and it's probably what their editors want them to file. The problem is when political players believe myths and behave accordingly. See, for example, these 47 deluded critters.

Newspoll: it won't be close

In the Oz, a very large Labor lead of 54 to 46. At this stage I've only seen the online version, but if we assume the questions were asked (as is usual for a Newspoll published on Saturday) on Wednesday and Thursday nights, we can note about half of them were before Colin's bungled press conference. If you believe that incident will change many votes you might like to nudge Labor's lead up a notch. (I'm doubtful the canal - or its handling - is much of a vote-switcher either way, but then I'm always sceptical of individual issues.)

Westpoll in the marginals

The West Australian publishes a poll (not on their crumby website), taken before the Colin Barnett Hour, in the seats of Albany, Bunbury, Joondalup, Murray and Riverton. They found the Coalition was ahead in all but Riverton! They spoke to "200 electors in five marginal government seats". Let's hope it's 200 in each seat, otherwise we can just throw the thing away. [update: pollbludger has the table.]

Says the paper: "The results - which indicated a Liberal win in at least four of the 10 key seats which will decide the election - suggested the Labor Government would most likely have been defeated if the election had been held earlier this week . The Liberal Party held an average of 52.5 per cent of the two-party preferred vote across the five seats, ahead of the ALP on 47.5 per cent. "

Albany and Bunbury are of course on everybody's hit list, even those tipping a Labor win. And 200 respondents a pop leaves individual seats of little value. Taken overall, Westpoll showed a 4.5 percent swing to the Coalition (Labor got a little over 52% two party preferred across those five electorates at the last election) which if replicated across the state would have spelt curtains for Gallop. But as a certain Mr Murray has previously noted, there will be nothing uniform about today's poll. Westpoll seems to have assumed that any Labor losses won't be made up for elsewhere, which is just wrong. In the absence of a huge Labor win, we can expect seats to go in both directions.

(A report in today's SMH gets in early with the myth-spinning: even Gallop's office was conceding they were done for until Colin's press conference. Expect more of this nonsense next week.)

I'll raise you to 13

Commentators, eg the ubiquitous Greg Craven, are addicted to the "knife-edge", but I'm going to up my three week old eleven seat majority prediction to 13. So Labor to win around 35 seats.

Feb 24 WA: Mr Murray calls it for Colin Barnett

Paul writes:

Essentially I think the Liberals can win all of these seats:
*Bunbury                               Likely
*Albany                                  Likely
**Joondalup                           Likely
**Swan Hills                          Likely
*Murray (notional ALP)       Likely
**Riverton                             Likely
And the Liberals have a chance in these seats:
Wanneroo                               Possible
**Mindarie                             Possible
Collie-Wellington                  Possible
Mandurah                               Possible
**Geraldton                           Possible
Kimberley                                Possible

Although recent events have put the last two into the very difficult basket.

I can't see Labor picking up any Liberals seats. Therefore, I think the most likely result is a coalition government relying on one or two liberal-minded independents - Churchlands and Alfred Cove.

However, Colin's canal makes the whole election completely unpredicatable
and anyone who says otherwise is insane.

Best regards, Paul"

Feb 23 Notes from across the desert ...

1. A couple of weeks ago, a Mr Paul Murray fired in a hygiene-related suggestion regarding a body part or two. I took the advice and, you know what, it's worked wonders. The latest on Paul is that he will deliver his election prediction to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) tomorrow (Thursday) at a lunchtime, after which he'll (hopefully) moon it in so I can post it.

2. Big Merv (who looks rather like Merv Hughes) from Albany writes:

You may get a bit of kudos by tipping Albany to go to the Nationals – We feel we are going really well and Beverley Ford has run a great campaign. Albany is a matriarchal town, we have had 3 female Mayors in fact I think we had the first female Mayor in WA and we have 1100 more female voters than male.

I will leave the thought with you.

Best regards

Mervyn Leavesley
President Albany Nationals

Response: actually, I'm suggesting a Coalition win, which would probably be Lib.

Feb 21 Werriwa

Lib's decision not to run a candidate in Werriwa had passed me by. Despite much reporting, they had Buckley's of winning, and the decisions shows they knew it, but there was always an outside chance of a third party coming through. With the Libs running you could think of Wills in 1992, without the Libs it is of course Cunningham in 2002, but Werriwa is not nearly as Green-friendly as the Cunningham. A footballer type must stand a much better chance.

It's still hard to see Labor losing, but they have, to level the field, helpfully preselected a unionist from central casting.

Feb 20 Polling out west

Only Fairfax and the Oz fork out for decent sample sized WA polls it seems. Latest local one: Perth's Sunday Times who last Wednesday employed Equity Market to ask 420 West Australians who they might vote for. The writeup is a bit of a shemozzle of numbers (absurdly reported to the decimal place) which only includes two party preferred before extracting undecideds. 

Probably the 2pp, once you exclude those who really won't pick a party, comes in at about 52 to 48.

Meanwhile, Poll Bludger produces a table of individual seat predictions from three commentators including himself. Only one, Colleen Egan, sees Labor taking a seat off the Coalition. Pundits are so unadventurous. 

William the Bludger's own assessment comes to a Labor majority if five. I'm standing by my own prediction of "about" eleven for now, but I think if anything it's too small. If published polls between now and Saturday show a further boost to government, it'll blow out to 13 or 15. 

I do try to stay away from individual predictions; however I reckon Albany will be the only seat picked up by Coalition from Labor.

Feb 19 Mr Carney ...

... like many a commentator confuses the preferences of his own profession with those of voters.  "Above all, what Beazley probably has to do this time around is to convince a majority of voters that he is serious, that he is not just going along for the ride." In reality that's the sort of thing voters don't give a rats about.

(Shaun talks to too many lemmings.)

And Mr Hartcher places too much confidence in figures. 

"McAllister's work shows that each extra 1 per cent that a prime minister gains in his approval rating produces an improvement of 0.47 per cent in the government's popularity compared to the opposition. But an extra 1 per cent in an opposition leader's approval rating produces an advantage for the opposition against the government of only 0.18 per cent"

Now I love numbers as much as - nay, more than - the next person, but this sort of analysis has so many problems. Amongst the plethora, even if we accept this pairing of data, who's to say it's the PM's popularity that drives that of the government, and not vice versa? How do we know they're not both caused by something else?

Feb 18 More reader commentary on WA

"Peter my reading of the large swings recorded in some so called mortgage belt seats in the federal election and whether they point to anything at the state election in WA is that the whilst the Liberals recored large primary vote swings, the ALP held its vote quite well, I believe the difference lay in the collapse of the minor party vote, not just one Nation, but (significantly for the Liberals) the Democrats vote.

My tip for roughies is not bassendean, but Yokine, and  Balcatta

The Liberals won Stirling by the improved vote in the booths in these two electorates, and both seats formed a large part of electorates lost by the Libs in 2001.

I would keep that collapsed democat/one nation vote in mind, they are not running many lower house condidates this time.

Love to hear your thoughts


My thoughts: we should forget overlaying 2004 federal swings - the inverse of an Alan Ramsey fantasy last year. This is a different contest - most importantly with an incumbent of a different persuasion - if anything the very groups who swung to Howard last year will move to state Labor in eight days.

WA - more on &&^% Bassendean (and others)

Another reader buys in:

"Dear Mumble

You probably want to move on from Bassendean but the suggestion that such a safe seat could fall is very interesting, although I agree with your
second writer that either it will not or it will be part of not just a
loss but a soul destroying devestation for Labor.

As you have identified much of Bassendean is mortgage belt and a large
part of it barely post housing commission mortgage belt.  Whatever was the
cause they did clearly desert Labor to some extent at the fed election.

Based on this Federal Election win Liberal spirits in this region soared
and they believed they could win and win big, I'll give you a brief
comment on the local seats:

Midland:  Cr Charlie Zannino truly believed after the federal election
that he could unseat Police Minister Michelle Roberts.   Briefly the Mayor
of Swan (two lots of two years I think) he started with a profile and as a
real local wheeler and dealer is running a 'Charlie Cares' type line (at
least before lib HQ took control of all the local campaigns and they all
started to look the same).   People of Midland might want to see his
treatment of Midland while a Swan councillor - an interesting voting

Swan Hills:   The libs always assumed they would win this and pre-selected
financial planner and 'tax guru' Blizard over Cr Zannino who had contested
this pre-selection just months after telling the Councillors of the City
of Swan how independent he was of all political parties in a failed
attempt to retain the Mayoral chain.  Blizard has seriously negative
charisma with die-hard liberals saying they will vote informal rather than
vote for him.   Party hacks have denied him the right to appear in media
(you know the usual battle seats meet both candidates type appearance) and
have him waving at passing traffic, clearly out of conversation range.

Apparently he himself suggested party hacks would not allow him to attend
local meetings with opponent incumbent Jaye Radisich.   Robert Taylor of
the West almost certainly had leaked Liberal polling showing Jaye Radisich
had a fantastic recognition factor and that most people who met Mr Blizard
wouldn't vote for him.  He also believes in eliminating State Taxes
altogether which is an interesting underlying belief for someone promising
to fix everything and put a police on each corner.

Ballajura:    After the Federal election and the euphoria inspired by the
belief this would translate to state voting which in turn leads to the
conclusion that this is a very winnable seat.   Their problem was that
their first pre-selected candidate a City of Swan Councillor pulled the
plug just weeks after pre-selection and months before the Federal
Election.   The response to an add for candidates was obviously met with a
response that was a little thin on the ground because local businessmen
were subsequently approached directly, again without success.   Seems a
little odd a seat they held not so long ago seems so very unattractive to
potential members.

But what happens depends largely on whether or not your call that the
mortgage belt will stick with the devil they know as opposed to having
formed a committed liberal voting pattern.   I think the discussion of the
one nation results last time clouds this primary issue without really
giving any helpful direction.  If you are right it is likely all three
seats will hold (although Swan Hills will be tough work).

If you are wrong then it might be Labor and the Nationals looking like
only half a party.    Also the Liberals might set a new record for first
time members jumping straight into Cabinet.

Hmmmm what I'd give to see a Labor / National coalition."

Feb 17  WA: Bassendean again 

A reader responds to Bassendean reader number one.

"Dear Mumble

I have to say that your reader has a point regarding Bassendean. I have had a lot to do with political stuff in that area and I have to say the winds are blowing funny. Lets not forget that this is traditionally considered Labor heartland in WA and yet Stephen Smith got a swing in the Bassendean booths that helped to cut his margin to 6.73 per cent--opposed to a young Lib called Alex Lawrence that didn't have the resources to staff his booths properly. Check out the results at Lockridge and Beechboro East for example.

Whereas this time around Michelle Stubbs seems to be receiving an inordinate amount of money for huge posters throughout the electorate. The Libs must have caught a whiff of blood.

I don't think Labor will lose this seat, but that margin will head south and in double digits. Lets not forget it got that high in the first place because of One Nation. Unlike in Swan Hills there is not really a green constituency, and even if they did they are off the boil now. The other factor is that the redistribution has blown the boundaries out take in new housing estates in places like Bennet Springs (part of Beechboro) and Caversham. These people are volatile with their vote (as Howard/Costello will one day learn).

That 18 plus per cent is an illusion. As Michael Costello has pointed out the concept of the 'swing' has only marginal utility."

Response: every electorate (not just Smith's) in WA swung to the Coalition at the last federal election. If that happens on Saturday week, then Gallop will probably lose. But this is a different contest. And, yes, housing estate voters can be volatile, but I think they're just the sort who will swing to the government this month.

Feb 16  Seats and seats

A reader writes

"Read your surprise seat of Leschenault. Methinks you should take a close look at the seat of Bassendean, was held by Clive Brown. Clive’s margin was virtually unassailable and hence the Libs didn’t waste any money on campaigning.

This time Clive’s retiring, Martin Whitely has been parachuted in, local ALP members are miffed and not pulling their weight.   The Libs have endorsed Michelle Stubbs, she is a local councilor with a high profile candidate putting in a huge effort.

This is your Labor surprise seat to counter the Libs Leschenault"

In my general scenario of a move to Labor, this is hard to believe. First Labor loss is likely to be Albany, although Kalgoorlie should be the first to go the other way. Give Central Kimberley-Pilbara to the ALP with its retiring Independent, and only one more seat to Labor would give that eleven seat majority.

Feb 15 A certain Mr Bludger ...

... is excelling himself with WA election coverage. 


It's true I speak glibly of the electoral cycle. But let me put it like this: I don't believe the one term WA government will, when it comes to the crunch, take the wrath for suburban power blackouts. Voters will reckon it can't be all their fault. But over in NSW the decade old Carr government is having a nightmare with public transport and has nowhere to shift the odium.

That's the cycle. One day I'll compile the numbers for percentage of governments that lose after one term, versus two terms, versus three and so on. As the number of terms grow the sample gets smaller, the success rate even more so.

Feb 14 Surprise seat? Leschenault

My nomination of "surprise seat" for the federal election crashed like Marky Mark, but here I go again. This choice arises from thesis that mortgage-belters are devilishly hard to shift from an incumbent government, but once that government is gone they come a-running to the new one. So let's watch Leschenault, current margin 12 percent for the Libs. 

Feb 10 Westpoll primary votes 48 to 44

Which, at 92%, would be high aggregate major party support in any Australian jurisdiction today, let alone one that languished at about 71% at the last poll (in 2001). No minor party or two party preferred support given in this report (hardcopy might have a table); without that info we can guess that 2pp might be about 53 to 47.

Feb 5 WA election prediction - out early with an 11 seat majority

Pardon my trumpet, but I predicted both of last year's election results exactly. (Federal one here and Queensland here. (For Qld I also nominated particular seats, which was not a great success, so I no longer do that.) 

The Queensland punt was made a couple of weeks out from polling day, when most anticipated a win by the Beattie Labor government but by a closer margin; by election day it looked within reasonable expectations. At the federal election, my longstanding anticipation of an increased majority for the Coalition, and the specific 24 seat margin posted days before the election, remained, to most, fantasy-land until about 7pm AEST October 9.

Now, with three weeks to go until the WA poll, several months of truly dire poll results for the Gallop government mean the smart money is on the Coalition, led by Colin Barnett. A Newspoll this week showing 50 50, and an announced water scheme (see pollbludger for more) have made some people not sure so.

I think the Gallop government will walk it in on January 26. Of course no-one knows what will happen between now and then, but I assume both sides behave with reasonable political nous and professionalism. Issues rarely "turn campaigns".

Of 57 Legislative Assembly seats, Labor currently (and notionally) has 32, giving it a majority of seven. There are five Independents. Labor's two party preferred vote in 2001 was about 53 percent, and a uniform swing of just 1.2 percent to the Coalition would wipe out that majority. 

I'm going for the ALP emerging with about 34 seats in the new parliament, so a majority of eleven. This is way outside what is currently considered a sane reading, but if I'm correct, it will resemble Queensland more than the Federal election - an eleven seat win appears absolutely loony now, but by Saturday 26 February opinion polls will show it to be a reasonable proposition.

As always, I reserve the right to change my mind, but promise not to alter the numbers in this post. 

Don't forget the pendulum.

Unca Alan, Marky Mark and a mysterious Lemming

Lovable old Alan Ramsey (who according to Crikey now sports a large white beard! - Saddam Hussein comes to mind) is likely to never recover from the Latham experiment. It's still everyone else's fault, and today's side bar, reproducing an email from an unnamed, unrepentant lemming, shows he's not alone.

"Dear Alan, as someone still grieving for the political execution of Mark Latham, I thank you for your brutally honest appraisal of his demise. These are just personal comments and are not for attribution in this period of caucus 'neo-unity'. It seemed to me Mark had the courage to try a new path for Labor, one that began by engaging with the Australian people in a style they initially found appealing. He succeeded in being heard across the nation and across the generations, no mean feat in today's sanitised media.

"He also set out to include the public in policy ideas. His success in making federal politics relevant to ordinary Australians was threatening to John Howard but perhaps even more threatening to caucus members resistant to change. Had he the time, support and political guidance appropriate to his bold style, Mark might have been able to take Labor on a political journey appropriate to the marketised lifestyle Australians have embraced, yet respectful of the need to sustain the community ethos that underpins Australian identity - an ethos Howard successfully exploits for political expediency yet cleverly attempts to diminish through policies of selectivity and exclusion ..."

Best not consumed before brekky, the empty clichés oddly appropriate to the much-hyped Latham juggernaut. But rewriting history isn't just the preserve of sentimental old Laborites who believe "it's how you play the game". Caught Gerard Henderson on radio yesterday explaining that Labor needs to - yes - "move to the middle", because Latham had taken them to "the Left". Puh-lease. As Greg Craven put it in the AFR a month ago, "most of Latham's own political instincts place him somewhere to the right of a stockman's dog".

Before revisionism is complete, let's put some things on the record. Yes, Latham did some smart things (reading to kiddies) and he knew when to keep his mouth shut. I suppose he released more policy than Beazley (which to some is a good thing). Unlike Crean, he understood that an opposition leader needs to tell a story. He wasn't as bad as the commentariat now has it, and he didn't implode before election day. (He just blew the most important thing, getting votes.) 

But contrary to contemporary received wisdom, he had a flat story and wasn't much of a communicator, poor at defending or even explaining policy. All his roaring successes - the ones that excited folk like Paul Kelly and made the community take notice - were either "tactical" but meaningless (politicians' superannuation, FTA) or examples of his unerring ability to ape John Howard (Redfern riots, immigration). Apart from Student Union foreign affairs utterances (that left poor Kevin Rudd repeatedly cleaning up mess) he went to water on every vaguely contentious social issue - more so than Beazley or Crean. 

But back to the emailing Lemming. Who is (s)he? I nominate this man.

Feb 1 Consider me mooned

Paul Murray, former editor of the West Australian, once famously lamented with something like "Come back Mooner, all is forgiven" by a naughty sub-editor, fires this on my January 30 post:


You really should pull your head out of your rear end old chap. If you couldn't establish before committing pen to paper whether or not I was still editor of The West Australian, what credibility can you have in establishing some of the more difficult propositions in the WA polity. I resigned from the newspaper in February, 2000.

You put up several straw men yourself, which even the most lunatic reading of my article could not sustain.

Of course I was arguing that the pendulum per se is stupid. Hence the sentence: "The problem is that the Green pendulum will not help you make sense of what is likely to happen in this election."

And I don't "seem to think" that Green preferences going through an independent can't make it eventually to Labor. The point I was making -- as I have in several earlier pieces you obviously hadn't read because Antony didn't alert you to them -- was that the perception that Green voters send their first preference to Labor is often wrong. That is seen through the prism of Dr Gallop's slavish pandering to the Greens to get their first preferences this time, even though that only decided one Lower House seat last election.

Your piece shows the weakness of Internet-based pseudo-journalism when perpetrated by people without the slightest training in the craft. The highlight is the final comment, based on a furphy, "I think he does." Intellectually dishonest, argumentatively insipid.

A journalist wanting to know what I thought would call the author. Which is what I did when I wanted to comment on Antony's pendulum. I rang him and discussed the matter.

Finally, I write for the newspaper as a freelancer. I own the out of state rights for the republication of my work. I now request you to take down what you have stolen from me.  

Best regards,

Paul Murray"

My responses:

(1) I've taken down his article. A pity.

(2) Yes, I know bugger all about WA politics, but I'll bet what Gallop wants is to be preferenced ahead of the Coalition, no matter if it's below an independent.

(3) If you ask the question: in how many seats would there have been a different result if Green preferences had flowed differently? the answer is: plenty. But Paul's right that Green preference 'directing' makes little difference.

(4) "The Green pendulum". There are other types? Which does he prefer?

Still on WA: Newspoll says neck and neck

Taken on weekend - with a line under the Latham saga and sandgroper Beazley back in saddle, the Oz report says 50 50 from 42 to 44 primary support.


SMH reports internal Labor polling, dodgy at the best of times, which allegedly says they're in trouble in Werriwa. I have a strong inkling that Werriwa will, like its neighbours, turn Liberal - or at least classic outer suburban swinger - in a in the near-ish future. But this is fantasy-land, and leaked internal polling is always full of agenda. Don't believe it.

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