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Nicholson in the Oz

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January 24 Canadian election day - the bell tolls

A 13 year old national government in Canada gets the electoral flick, for no particular apparent reason. The reason for the early election, a corruption scandal, barely got a mention in the campaign, the economy roars along with - yes - the lowest interest rates since whenever, lowest unemployment since [insert year], house values through the roof etc etc, and the Opposition leader is not particularly liked. Of course, that doesn't mean everyone under the sun won't come up with reasons - Liberal Party arrogance, Canadians simply decided such and such, silly election ads, ...  perhaps even "Harper's battlers"?

But spare a thought for a certain government which goes to the polls late next year at the ripe old age of 11 and a half. Poor Mr Costello. [Update: today's reshuffle, generally reported as a win for Brendan Nelson, might, if we let the imagination run wild, make the chances of Dr N. replacing Howard more likely.]

January 23 More on Geoff Gallop

Here is a copy of a piece of mine in Saturday's Financial Review, elaborating on January 17 notes below.

The 'Inquirer' section of the Weekend Australian (no link) piled more nonsense into the mix, implying that Gallop's dire situation at the outset of the 2005 campaign was all Boofhead's fault, and that the WA premier's subsequent performance on election day led "Labor insiders" to suggest that he "may" be - wait for it - "the ALP's best West Australian leader since World War II".

Yes, and my next-door neighbour "may" be an alien from outer space. But neither of those things is likely.

January 17  Geoff Gallop's resignation - good for Labor?

"One of the nation's  most popular Premiers", according to the Oz, but Gallop would be better described as the opposite. (Well, he was in the top six.)

"He could well have governed for another seven years", reckons Peter Van Onselen in the same paper, but I wouldn't have put two bob on him winning again.

My one and only ever visit to Perth was late last year, when I caught the Premier on the radio, from parliament, excoriating the Opposition as soft on security. "We don't compromise with terrorists!!" he bellowed at high octave. A John Howard imitator, and consensus probably has it that this is the only way a Labor Premier can win, this was the "secret to his success".

But Gallop was, electorally, easily the least successful Labor Premier around today, coming pretty close to losing last year's election, and currently behind in the polls. Bob Carr was the second worst - that is, his re-elections were the second closest - and neither was he averse to wallowing in shock-jockery. The Premiers with the biggest wins, Beattie, Bracks and (the late) Bacon, tend towards restraint in their language. Is there a lesson there?

In any event, because no-one really knows why WA Labor was such a poor electoral performer, in the absence of other evidence I'm going to blame it on the leader. So with Gallop gone, whoever takes his place probably has a better chance of winning the next election than he did. (In NSW I rate Iemma's chances as about the same as Carr's would have been.)

January 1 2006 Creatures from the deep

One day on telly in the early '90s (probably on Channel 9 with Laurie Oakes), Prime Minister Paul Keating called Kerry Packer a "bottom feeder". At the height of the cable dispute mentioned in this Errol Simper piece in today's Australian, it was a disparaging description of Packer's mode of wealth accumulation: always on the make, trawling for bargains and demanding government favours.

Well, you can see a bottom feeder above and, really, there is no resemblance at all. More on the species here.

December 24 State governments vulnerable

According to Newspoll in the Oz, the Coalition is ahead in NSW and neck and neck with Labor in Queensland. Malcolm Mackerras is quoted in this article correctly noting that a NSW Coalition victory in 2007 would be good for federal Labor.

NSW and Qld are referred to by the writers as "the ALP's two bastion states", whatever that means, but the most important yet unsaid point that this they are the two Labor state governments that have been in the longest.

December 20 Opinion polls

Nielsen: 55 to 45, Newspoll 51 to 49

Nielsen has the parties equal on primaries (on what number I can't tell online); Newpoll's primary vote 41 to 39.

           Aussie ballot 150 years old    

Yesterday, in the Canberra Times, a piece I'm quite proud of, from my Uni work, about the introduction/invention of the "Australian ballot" in Victoria 150 years ago. 

Here it is, dummied up because Canberra Times haven't got it on their sparsely populated website. And here's the scanned version, about 200kb. The Iraq stuff is from the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, specifically this PDF page.

December 18 Morgan says 54 to 46

Will we get Newspoll and/or Nielsens on Tuesday? If so, interesting to see how commentators inject Cronulla into the mix.

White trash, Michael?

Michael Duffy has a comfy view of the world: in one corner there's John Howard, Duffy himself, several other commentators and the unpretentious masses of real, battling Aussies.  In the other: middle class trendies inflicting their politically correct view on everyone else. (It's part of the whole 'Howard's battlers' nonsense.)

Michael's binary template lets him down in yesterday's SMH; he thinks only poor, poorly-educated people riot. Comparing (the first part is sarcastic) "ethnic melting pots such as Turramurra and Woollahra" and "Bondi .. a beach used by wealthy people who've been to university" with the Cronulla "white trash", he concludes it's about "class and power". 

The table below has Census 2001 electorate data, from the APH library. (Suburbs would be preferable, and must be gettable somewhere, but I don't have them. Also, the data is four years old, of course.)

Twenty eight seats - all the Sydney ones - are ranked in decreasing order of proportion of residents from non English speaking backgrounds (right hand column). Also tertiary qualifications and median income columns. Cronulla is in Cook, which has the second lowest NESB component, while Lakemba, where apparently most of the Lebanese visitors live, is in Watson, with the second highest. (Seat names in blue are Liberal-held and red are Labor.)

Sydney electorates

Seat

Liberal vote 2004
(2pp)

ALP vote 2004
(2pp)

Median
Income 2001 
census rank

Rank by proportion with tertiary qualifications

NESB 2001
census rank

Macquarie 

58.9

41.1

19

16

28

Cook 

63.8

36.2

11

14

27

Lindsay 

55.3

44.7

15

22

26

Mackellar 

65.7

34.3

8

11

25

Hughes 

61.0

39.0

9

15

24

Macarthur 

59.5

40.5

17

24

23

Warringah 

60.5

39.5

5

5

22

Berowra 

62.2

37.8

7

6

21

Mitchell 

70.7

29.3

4

10

20

North Sydney 

60.0

40.0

1

1

19

Wentworth 

55.5

44.5

3

3

18

Bradfield 

68.5

31.5

2

2

17

Sydney 

33.6

66.4

6

4

16

Banks 

48.9

51.1

21

19

15

Greenway 

50.6

49.4

16

20

14

Chifley 

37.0

63.0

24

27

13

Werriwa 

40.7

59.3

22

25

12

Bennelong 

54.3

45.7

10

7

11

Grayndler 

27.4

72.6

13

8

10

Kingsford Smith 

41.0

59.0

14

12

9

Parramatta 

49.2

50.8

18

13

8

Barton 

42.5

57.5

20

17

7

Lowe 

46.7

53.3

12

9

6

Prospect 

42.9

57.1

23

26

5

Blaxland 

37.1

62.9

26

23

4

Reid 

37.2

62.8

27

21

3

Watson 

34.9

65.1

25

18

2

Fowler 

28.6

71.4

28

28

1

Turramurra is in Bradfield, and Woollahra and Bondi in Wentworth, both of which have higher NESBs than Cook. (Well, everyone apart from Macquarie does.) In median income and uni quals, it's true that Cook scores lower than either Wentworth or Bradfield (Watson has the fourth lowest), but Cook is still higher than nearly all the Labor seats and overall is a little above the middle (11th out of 28) in income. Another way to see it is that, apart from Labor held Sydney, Cook and neighbouring Hughes (no 8) are the highest earning seats outside of the north shore Liberal heartland.

Cronulla is very white, yes, but the "trash" part doesn't work. (Others have noted that what also sets it apart from its north shore beachy middle class counterparts is its train station.)

Interestingly, Watson ranks near the middle in tertiary quals, which might have to do with immigrants already having them when they get here, or as George Megalogenis reckons in the Oz, a high level of uni attendance by Lebanese Australians.

Neo-Nazis made me do it, Mum!

Least believable piece of responsibility shifting of the week: skinheads handing out beer in Cronulla. There y'go mate, get that into ya.

December 15 With leaders like this ...

"Obey the law of Australia or ship out of Australia. We are not going to see, step by step, our civilisation dragged back to the medieval standards of revenge cycles." 

A reflective NSW Premier pitching for federal Labor leadership, October 2003.

December 14 Aussies racist?

You don't hear George Bush, Tony Blair, Helen Clark or any other leader of a "comparable" nation thumping that they "don't want people of that type coming into this country", as our own PM did on several occasions during the 2001 election. Is our populace particularly susceptible to this sort of thing, or our political and media class particularly cynical? Probably the latter, but anyone looking at our 18th/19th century European foundations would notice the hysteria with which practically all white Australians - conservative, radical, progressive, democrat, anyone - viewed the dark hordes up north. It sometimes made London shudder, and was one of the their misgivings about Australian self-government in the 1850s.

Our ancestors were people of their time and geography - plus maybe a bit more.

December 12 Middle class Aussie hoonery

Some have described Sunday's Cronulla rioters as uneducated, poor, alienated etc. To me, from the telly, they were, predominately, as beachie middle class "Dad, lend us the four-be so I can get some Mackas" as can be.

Cronulla, incidentally, is in the solid Liberal federal seat of Cook, held by Bruce Baird. All the Cronulla booths voted Liberal last year, as they generally do, although Cronulla North used to be Labor, last returning an ALP two party preferred majority in 1998. Cook contains Sylvania Waters. (Rioters came from all round, of course.)

December 9 Record watch

Here's Hugo Kelly in yesterday's Crikey: "John Howard will lead the Coalition to the 2007 federal election and barring an economic collapse win a record fifth term."

Leave aside the probably-crap election result prediction: exactly which record(s) would Howard set if he won a fifth term? None. 

A while ago I searched "historic", as in "historic win", and its association with the current PM seems to begin at the 2001 election. Winning a third term, which no non-Labor government has failed to do since about 1910, was considered "historic". 

Herein lies the foundation of the grotesque over-estimation of Howard's political skills: it's always off a low base. Having been so unpopular as to appear set to lead one of the shortest governments in Australian history, his survival then left everyone shaking their heads in awe. We are witnessing political genius.

Record-setting, as well.

December 7 2005 Lemmings and Roosters

There's an old Labor saying, or there should be: 'neither a Lemming nor a Rooster be'. At first glance the two men at left have little in common, being prime examples of each species. But they employ similar rhetorical styles, which could be described as: 'keep plugging away mate, never mind the personality, stay on message'.

Boofhead Latham, for all his faults, understood that voters are more complicated than that. They're people, after all.

December 6 Newspoll 54 to 46

In the Oz, with a rise in satisfaction and drop in dissatisfaction with Beazley. These things lag the vote results, with all the good press Beazley got out of last fortnight's polls flowing through to thumbs up for his performance.

That's why satisfaction/dissatisfaction is largely Mickey Mouse: commentariat wisdom flowing back to the front pages via puntersville.

When Simon Crean was ALP leader, constant misinterpretation of Newspoll results that didn't do his voting intentions justice (he was sometimes ahead after preferences but Newspoll wasn't distributing them) would have exacerbated his shocking approval ratings; with Latham it was the opposite. Here's a refresher.

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