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Nicholson in the Oz

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March 6 Howard Conference slides

Here are some slides from my presentation the other day. Message essentially the same as in Canberra Times on Thursday: that Howard is lucky, not in the sense that lucky things just keep happening to him, but in one big piece of luck: becoming Liberal leader on January 30 1995. Leaders in many countries and jurisdictions have benefited from this long period of economic growth and then the war on terror. Compared with them Howard's poor electoral currency  reveals itself. In fact, had he won more easily, the mythology might have been more restrained. If we accept this downgrading of his electoral achievements, many of the "reasons" for his "astounding" success become unnecessary.

It's pretty rough; start with this chronological list of federal elections from 1910 (new window), then go to sorts by seat majority, proportion of seats won, primary and two party preferred vote. All have a large and small version, you'll find the links somewhere on each of the pages. 

(Two party preferred from actual AEC data from 1983 to 2004; AEC estimates from 1949 to 1980; Adam Carr's estimates from 1919 to 1946. Funny that the 1919 2pp is smaller than the primary vote -  to do with newly formed Country Party preferences flowing to Labor?)

Also this table of governments elected from 1993 to 2001. We could tentatively describe the poorer electoral performers as Gallop, Clark, Howard and Carr, possibly in that order (Gallop least impressive).

March 4 SA: Up up and away

Upon checking out recent South Ostrayan poll results at pollbludger, I'm upping my prediction from 31 out of 47 seats to Labor to ... 32 at this stage. Rann is obviously going to be more Bracks (58 percent two party preferred) than Gallop (52 percent). So a Labor majority of 17.

Got to feel sorry for the poor Rob Kerin, who was apparently a well-liked knockabout bloke as premier, but is in the wrong place at the wrong time and will be nursing a shattered ego in a little over a fortnight. And why that poor schmuck Robert Doyle in Victoria fights tooth and nail for the privilege of making it two in a row is anyone's guess. Politicians are not like you and me.

Speaking of the species, I've been at the Howard Conference the last two days where many interesting folk said interesting things about an uninteresting man, and I met and re-met nice people. Charles "whatever it takes" Richardson from Crikey (who was there) has noted that the PM's mind would not be a great place to be; thinking and listening and talking about the fellow for two days doesn't feel too healthy either! More later, after de-Howardification.

March 2 Howard's anniversary

My attempt in the Canberra Times today to inject a little realism into the celebrations.

It's hip to be square

With more space I would have looked at Caroline Overington's triumphalist extract (from The Australian's book 'The Howard Factor' published this week) in the Oz on Monday about young people and the PM. Lots of nonsense, its main evidence being the results of a 127 sample strong 2004 AES survey (which Overington states as fact), and trawling the hundreds of opinion polls published over the last decade to find two or three showing youth favouring the government (and ignoring the other several hundred surveys showing the opposite). [More here.]

February 24 SA Mackerras Pendulum

Malcolm Mackerras kindly sent me a copy of the pendulum published with his Monday Oz piece.  Very nice to look at; it is here.

February 23 (evening bulletin)

Mr Morgan says 52.5 to 47.5

About South Australia ...

Charles Richardson in Crikey the other day mentioned the gap in the Liberal-held side of the SA pendulum between the margins of 5.5 percent and 9 percent. (See either Antony Green's or William Bowe's pendulum. William has the independent held seat of Fischer at 6 percent margin.) [Update: see Mackerras pendulum.]

Charles reckoned that "while one or two rogue results either side of that gap are possible, one can be reasonably confident that Labor's gain will be close to seven seats." It all depends on what "close to" means, of course, but I'd say some "rogue results" are almost a certainty. If we look at Victoria in 2002, the statewide two party preferred swing was about 8 percent (?) while the individual swings ranged from about 16 percent to the ALP to - believe it or not - 3 percent swings  to the Coalition (the Nats, actually). See Adam Carr. Disparate results like this are the norm, and although SA has only about half the number of seats as Victoria - which probably means less swing variety - no sitting Liberal from Schubert inwards (on the pendulum) should feel too cocky.

February 23 Redistribution in Sydney, SA & more on Tassie

Bits & pieces

  • Antony Green on federal redistribution in NSW; he sees Labor losing a member

  • Reader Peter Tucker ruminates on Tasmanian election

  • Kevin Bonham in the Tasmanian Times

  • Hilarious Oz piece about a "worried" SA Labor campaign director hoping talented candidates get his party over the line.

  • A few days late, but here's Malcolm Mackerras on South Australia in the Oz, going for an eleven seat Labor majority; four less than my prediction below.

  • Speaking of Malcolm, I'll be sharing a podium with him and Murray Goot at a conference next week commemorating a certain fellow's ten years in office; Ian McAllister chairing. Exalting company for little old me. Crikey's Charles "whatever it takes" Richardson was originally going to join us, but the organisers moved him to another session; a pity.

February 20 SA & Tassie odds and an early prediction

A reader alerted me to rather good Centrebet odds for an outright Labor win in Tasmania; when I got there they were less rather good (down from $9 to $6) but still worth taking, which I did - a bit. (Which is not to say a Labor majority is the likeliest outcome, just more likely than one in five.)

While there, I noticed their South Australia bets, at this stage for just one seat (Norwood) and overall. For both, Labor is at at unbackable odds, for good reason. The overall bet  in particular - will Labor get more than half the seats? - is almost pointless, and the $10 payout for 'no' not nearly worth such a courageous call. (I'd want about $100.)

I reckon a bet as to whether Labor gets 31 seats or more would be interesting. Let's call that an early prediction for SA election: 31 out of 47 seats to the ALP, which is a majority of 15.

(Tassie's too hard, except to say a Liberal win very unlikely.)

Don't forget Antony and Mr Bludger.

February 17  ?

February 15 South Australian Election

  • The Poll Bludger is up, as Antony Green has been for a while.

  • Yesterday: Newspoll in Oz (no link) had federal support 51 to 49.

February 14 
Class of '96

These two women sit in neighbouring (next-door but one) electorates in Sydney's outer south and west, both elected with massive swings in 1996. Macarthur, squeezed between the two, also went by double digits.

Popular analysis at the time, encouraged by the always helpful Liberal Federal Director Andrew Robb, was that the large swings in Hughes and Lindsay were due to the no-nonsense, hard-working Liberal candidates - and weren't the Libs clever to preselect them? 

It was also suggested that the Hughes swing was a reaction to Labor member Robert Tickner's over-enthusiasm in his Aboriginal Affairs portfolio. The successful Macarthur candidate, John Fahey, had been turfed out as Premier the previous year, so any explanation emphasising his astounding popularity wasn't going to work. Macarthur was actually the biggest swinger of the trio.

See this table. Werriwa - another neighbour - also swung by 10 percent.

Now the smoke has cleared, we can see that it's more likely that Vale and Kelly were given what at the time were considered no-hoper seats, and something about the changing demographics of the area - hint: growing bank balances - was responsible for the result. Both rose to the height of minister, but are ministers no longer. 

Antony Green 

On the Nats, at ABC, here and here

February 2 'Historic' watch

As in 'historic third/fourth victory!' Here, in the Oz, on Howard's 2004 win (first par) in report on financial disclosures. Google "John Howard" and "historic" and you gets all sorts of weird stuff. Same with "John Howard" and "record". But actually the Man of Steel has set no records, apart from getting the lowest ever winning two party preferred vote in federal history (in 1998).

As you sip your historic second coffee for the day, you may wish to see the AEC returns here.

Bad Christian!

Update: A reader points out that in Tuesday's Crikey newsletter, Christian Kerr described 1996 as "the largest victory in the history of federation". This is a disgraceful slur on ... the history of federation, up with which we must not put. 

Fact: Howard's 1996 victory was smaller than Fraser's in 1977 and 1975, and Holt's in 1966, just to go back a few decades.

(Small print: in raw seat numbers, Big Mal's majorities were the largest in history, followed by Howard a decade ago. But taking into account the growth of the House of Representatives, and so looking at percentages, Fraser stays on top but Howard slips a few notches. In vote terms Howard isn't in the race at all. John Curtin in 1943, for example, got about 60 percent two party preferred compared with Howard's 53.5, and 66 percent of the seats to Howard's 63. He also beat Howard's primary vote.)

See also this table.

January 31 Newspoll 52 to 48, Nielsen 51 to 49

Newspoll in Oz here. Nielsen graphic here.

January 27 Malcolm gets a gong

Yesterday, Malcolm Mackerras became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO). Among other things, he's responsible for the introduction of the pendulum to this country, and I'm pretty sure the concept of the (aggregate) two party preferred vote as well.

My bets again

Here are bets I currently hold with the agency mentioned below, all for a hundred dollars or so.

  • Peter Costello to be leading Liberals at next election @ $3.00 (I wagered $100, so if I win I get back $300 including original $100)

  • Brendan Nelson to be leading the Liberals @ $10.00

  • Labor to win the next federal election @ $2.50

  • NSW Labor to win next election @$2.50

So if Howard pulls the plug, and is succeeded by the doctor with the nation's best bedside manner, who then goes down to Labor next year, I'll do alright. 

Howard's future

Trying to read a politician's mind is pointless, but the developments of the last six months - Costello's public backdown, Nelson promoted in reshuffle in which Costello supporters remain sidelined, a preening Howard declaring victory (again) in the "culture wars" - are all, to me, consistent with a prime ministerial retirement this year.

But bets aside, I would much prefer he stay on to lose in 2007, so adjusting his history book entry to something closer to what would be appropriate: competent, bright, hard-working, disciplined guy in right place at right time.

But I'm betting (literally) that he sees writing on wall and puts his own interests first.

January 25 Canada Pt II

A reader asks wonders why, as I'm such a Smartypants, didn't I ever predict on this page the Canada election result back when everyone expected the Liberals to remain in (minority) government.

My response: inasmuch as I considered it, my only written words on the subject are in an email exchange with someone at a certain online betting agency in early December. As follows.

Email 1 from me:

G'day XXXX (at a certain online gambling company), Any chance you'll be offering odds on Canadian election? Cheers, Peter
-----------------------------------------------
Email 2, to me (the next day)

Hi Peter,

I don't think so ... it looked like a fairly predictable outcome (Liberal minority government) when I researched it last week. Never say never but it's unlikely. Cheers, XXXX
------------------------------------------
Email 3, from me

A pity, I'd like to have a punt on the Conservatives (for good odds.) Cheers, P

------------------------------------------------

End of correspondence

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