June 15 Prospect: going, going ...?
Peter Hartcher in SMH unveils Kevin Rudd's Russian doll metaphor ... again. I think he likes it. Others might find it glib.
Peter's main subject is Chris Bowen, the member for Prospect in Sydney's west.
Former member Janice Crosio's personal vote would have contributed to the 2004 movement. Coalition 2pp is now higher than at any time over last two decades, probably longer.
Maybe in a decade or so Prospect will be Liberal held and North Sydney Labor. (Also depends on future redistributions.) Seats change.
[Update: Here it is in The Age, complete with a reference to Labor needing "17 seats" to win. This bit of Prime Ministerial miscalculating has been dealt with by Bryan Palmer and Charles Richardson. It's now become a "fact"; this is how rumours start.
The article alleges that WA will be "pivotal to the election", and
"Labor strategists believe the party must not only hold its five seats in the west, but win two others to have any chance of winning the election."
But the chances of this election coming down to two seats are miniscule, and WA is one of the least important states.
All seats are equally "pivotal", but statewise SA and Qld are much more important than WA. The true importance of these recent Westpolls is if, like recent Galaxys, they are revealing national movement back to the government. That's the worry for Labor.
[Update 1pm: Westpoll data
I now have the Westpoll data.
Samples 415 in Cowan, 427 polled in Hasluck and 409 in Stirling, for a total of 1251.
The results were Cowan: Coalition 51.5 to 48.5; Hasluck: 52 to 48; Stirling 53 to 47
2004 results were, respectively, 49.2 to 50.8; 51.8 to 48.2; and 52 to 48.
Because of small individual seat samples, I'd be inclined to add them all up and say Westpoll gives a status quo situation in those three seats overall - or small movement to the Coalition - compared with the last election. Which is what their last statewide one said. More Westpoll data here.
After all that: pollbludger has the data, much prettier, here.]
Commissioners are, in theory, supposed to be independent of the government of the day. They occupy statutory positions and so differ from public servants. Federal Police head Mick Keelty is a commissioner; so is Ian Campbell at the AEC.
But in the end they're probably only as independent as the current government allows them to be - and how willing they are to stand up to them. There seems, for example, to be a history of State Auditors-General (also statutory positions) being immune to pressure and giving governments grief; perhaps rotten relations with governments doesn't matter much to Auditors-General.
One problem with electoral commissioners is the method of appointment: see the fourth column in this table. Appointment by Governor-General/Governor just means, of course, the PM/Premier/Cabinet chooses someone.
Appointments that legislatively involve the parliament and /or consultation with other political parties are better. Of course, it depends on what you call "consultation" and the makeup of parliament, but South Australia's appears the best: advertising the position, consultation, a committee, both houses of parliament agree (and PR in the upper house, so not usually a government majority there).
At the very least, a Commissioner who doesn't feel psychologically beholden to the generosity and wisdom of the current PM is preferable.
In Tuesday's Crikey, pollsters Irving Saulwick and Denis Muller flayed the issues questions in Galaxy's recent polls. They didn't pussyfoot around.
(They and others are calling it "push-polling", but push-polling is something else: purporting to survey but really just spreading rumours about someone/something. It aims to directly influence the respondent, and through her/him others in the community. Under push-polling, the actual results are not necessarily published; they is secondary. See Wikipedia.) [Update: also this.]
I have Crikey's permission to reproduce the Saulwick/Muller item here.
And this: my contribution on the same topic the following day.
(I've rounded Westpoll's numbers, because the paper is still ... well, see (2) here.)
The sample size is 400. That's pretty small, but doesn't mean we should dismiss the numbers entirely. The government's support seems to be holding up in WA.
But check out the strange data under 'Sample Error' at the website of Patterson, who conducts the Westpoll.
(This slightly numbers-heavy post can be found here.)
June 12 Galaxy in Queensland
In Courier Mail, gives federal two party preferreds 52 to 48. Here's the data. (Note the numbers given for the 2004 election are wrong; they appear to be the 2001 results.)
The last Galaxy Qld poll, in February, said 55 to 45, a swing to Labor of 12 percent on the 2004 Qld component. At that time, national polls generally showed about a ten percent swing.
Today's survey describes a Queensland pro-Labor swing of 9 percent, against last week's Galaxy which had a national swing of 6.
So you could interpret this and last week's Galaxys together as saying (1) Labor's national vote has dropped; and (2) the swing in Qld is still higher than the national one.
(The Courier Mail still has trouble counting; plotting these numbers against the pendulum would give Labor 17 out of 29 seat - which is "at least double" the current 6.)
(William describes me as "... excellen[t]". Cool.)
Milne on Malcolm
Glenn Milne in the Oz nicely summarises Shane Easson's Wentworth paper. (However, Glenn's claim that Turnbull will "certainly" lose the seat at either this election or the next is not made by Easson, who anticipates the next NSW redistribution will be after 2010.)
But there is something else that is likely to work Malcolm Turnbull's way.
Another Wentworth thing: the new electoral laws
In the paper, Shane notes, apropos of Turnbull's potential to build a personal vote, that the 2001 census ranked Wentworth fourth in NSW in the proportion of people moving residence.
Nationally, the ranking is a less stark 27th - see this sorted excel file from aph website (2006 data out soon!) - but that still puts it in the top fifth. And as Easson says, "the recent redistribution which added Kings Cross to Wentworth can only have added to the turnover rate".
Two of the big items in the government's new electoral laws are (1) closing the rolls on the day the writs are issued (and three days later for people changing enrolment details - but not those who have dropped off the roll); and (2) heightened ID requirements for doing these things at any time.
The latter, as I understand it, makes getting on the roll or changing your details easier for driver's license holders (80-90% of electors?), but a significantly increased hassle for those without. I don't have data on licenses, but the Cross, Paddington, Darlinghurst, Surry Hills etc are, like many inner city areas, not parking-friendly, residents often have little use for vehicles, they're not economical.
Folks in these suburbs are disproportionately prone to getting hit by either close of rolls or new ID requirements (or both), and it's fair to reckon a decent majority of them would vote left of centre if they made it to the ballot box.
Usually around the country, these sorts of areas are in safe Labor seats, but not in this case.
Attempting to quantify this is too difficult, but if Labor just misses out on Wentworth, expect a big stink.
Here again is Shane's paper.
Last year NSW Labor fellow Shane Easson penned this piece on John Howard's chances in post-redistribution Bennelong. I think it remains the most detailed published analysis on the topic.
Now Shane's taken his fine tooth comb across to Turnbull Territory to assess the ALP's chances there.
His main conclusions: (1) Future redistributions are going to continue unloading Liberal voters into Peter Garrett's rather safe Kingsford-Smith and picking up Labor-ish ones from Tanya Plibersek's much safer Sydney. (Both are bad news for Malcolm.)
(2) Secondly, Shane attempts to extract the Peter King and other effects to estimate a notional margin for Malcolm going into 2007. He puts it at 4.5%.
So if the NSW swing to Labor is greater than this, Turnbull is in trouble.
This is detailed stuff but step by step and easy to follow.
Read it here. [PDF]
No Newspoll on Tuesday: 2 weeks in the sun
This weekend is a long weekend. Therefore, I have been informed, there will be no Newspoll published next Tuesday. Pollsters often don't survey over long weekends because many people are away and the sample is skewed.
This means that Newspoll (and Nielsen, due the week after next) will arrive a little over a fortnight after Monday's Galaxy, which showed 53 to 47. That poll altered the narrative, stopping the "Costello for PM" campaign dead. The word came that Howard was back in the game, and all reporting since then has been through that prism.
You're right, it's silly, but that's the way it is.
The latest Morgan, to be released later in the day [update: here, taken last weekend], has, I hear, a small movement back to Labor. (A few days before Galaxy, Morgan too contained movement to the government.) But since 2001 commentators, rightly or wrongly, don't pay Morgan as much attention.
The next regular polls will tell if 53 to 47 is the new ballpark.
In the past six months, the "Rudd's honeymoon is over" yarns have only lasted a few days before being pushed over by some poll or other. The week after next, Howard will have enjoyed two weeks as "the Master" who may well back back from behind once more. (Note: Centrebet's Labor win payout has continued to move up, now to $1.78. [update 7 June: $1.80.])
Whether all these things favour one side or the other is anyone's guess. The momentum effects of Galaxy were bad for the Treasurer's ambitions, but not necessarily for Rudd's.
(Of course, factoring in your own views on whether Howard or Costello would be harder for Rudd to beat adds another dimension.)
Mr Keating's advice
Paul Keating's performance last night on Lateline was funny, effervescent, choc-full of chutzpah and with lots of those word pictures. (He seemed at pains to, uncharacteristically, share credit with Bob Hawke for all those economic reforms.) His reference to Joe Hockey was laugh out loud funny.
But is his advice to today's ALP of much use?
One of his pet recommendations (although not last night) is that Labor take massive personal tax cuts to the next election - put a three in front of the top rate.
As noted last year, this would surely lead to disaster - "where's the money coming from?" "here come higher interest rates" etc.
The tax idea says it all. Keating has never been opposition leader. His stardom came in government, as Treasurer and PM. With the gravitas and legitimacy that come with incumbency, he hammered away, beat up opponents, displayed flair, finesse, flicked switches etc.
But only incumbents can behave like that. An opposition leader who tried to would look pathetic and deranged.
Being in opposition is different to being in power. The one Labor win of the 1980s and 90s which potentially holds lessons for today's Labor is the first one - in 1983. But Keating only looks to the later ones.
(He did have a point though about the need to address interest rates.)
June 6 Mug punters: me in Crikey
Andrew Leigh, ANU economist and blogger, has a few words to say in response here.
(Andrew notes that I said much the same (including allusions to sheep) here a few months ago).
Update: "Leopold", who has obviously been following the betting numbers more closely than me, notes at Andrew's blog that I
"made a small error - Centrebet had $1.63 [not $1.69] before the Galaxy was published, and had moved Labor’s way for nearly two weeks before that poll was published."
But after Galaxy's publication on Monday Centrebet turned around and is now at $1.72. Furthermore,
"there was a ‘budget bounce’ in the betting market, which unravelled with the emergence of polls showing no such thing. ... The punters initially thought the budget was great for the government, then, coincidentally, reversed their view at the same time as the polls suggested otherwise ..."
It's not a bad tactic, except the other half of the story is missing: that Rudd is a weak leader who would let his ministers push him around.
Such a thing might have worked under Beazley (I must admit). But while Rudd is seen as both safe/conservative and tough/ruthless, it's not likely to yield many dividends.
(Recall immediately after December's leadership vote, Gillard and her backers attempted to create a double-headed leadership. Such talk stopped pretty quickly.)
Mind you, I still hold to this.
Got hold of questions and data for today's Galaxy. The Terror hardcopy didn't bother with them, maybe the other two News Ltd tabloids did. (Nothing online.)
Here they are. As you know, Galaxy takes their preferences seriously when calculating a notional two party preferred. But a 2pp of 53 to 47, from primary support of 44 to 42 and Greens on 10 looks a bit narrow. Maybe 2 or 3% of the 4% "others" were Family First.
On the other results, eg that 42% are afraid of too much union influence under Rudd, and the same number worried about interest rates, I heard Fran Kelly on radio this morning noting that wouldn't you know it, these were the same issues the PM has been hammering.
No coincidence, that's why Galaxy asked them specifically, extracting a 'yes' or 'no' to the propositions (scroll bottom). It's rather leading, and I'm surprised the levels of agreement from Coalition supporters weren't closer to 100 (rather than 73 and 68 respectively).
Still, just what the Howard doctor ordered after the weekend's bout of Costello-itis. [End update.]
Hope glimmers for the government
Galaxy in the Tele says 53 to 47. That's the closest anyone's given it since, I think, December. Future polls will tell us if this means much.
(Malcolm Farr incorrectly claims Galaxy was "the only poll to correctly predict a comfortable Coalition victory in the 2004 federal election." The other, of course, was ACNielsen.)
I would also add in favour of a change the 'honeymoon': wall-to-wall attention, Tanya on the cover of the glossies, Peter doing the Macarena again, showing he has interests apart from numbers etc.
At the very least it would shift attention from the Ruddernaut.
Australia today has nine Electoral Management Bodies - the federal one and one for each state and territory.
(By comparison, India's Election Commission runs all elections, state and federal. Something like this was contemplated here - and pretty quickly dismissed - after federation in 1901.)
A couple of years ago I began a paper that I thought might also evolve into a thesis chapter. It looked at independence of Australia's EMBs, specifically the on-paper independence of the Electoral Commissioners - method of appointment, tenure, how easy to sack.
It no longer fits into my thesis, and remains uncompleted, possibly never to be completed.
At the time, I spoke to a few Commissioners and others, and the consensus was that the law itself was secondary, more important was the inherited set of practices - how far ministers were prepared to push things and how ready the Commissioner was to give minister the finger when appropriate.
(For an early, fascinating example, see section 4 of this extract from the 1914 Royal Commission in Election Law. The Labor Minister King O'Malley tried to dictate who would and would not work at particular Tasmanian polling booths at the 1913 election. While the Chief Electoral Officer rolled over immediately, officials further down stood their ground and O'Malley eventually backed off.)
This table lists features of each Commissioner's statutory independence, and attempts to determine which provides more most independence. It also doubles as a handy link to current bodies and legislation.
May 31 Waiting for 'iggins
SMH analysis the other day of consolidated Nielsen data revealed, unsurprisingly, that a ten-plus point swing to Labor would see buckets of Coalition seats fall, including (in uniform terms) the Treasurer's.
Although as pollster John Stirton said: "this is not a prediction".
Higgins has been going the way of North Sydney - slowly to Labor, but probably too slowly to shift across the line this year.
Below is the (unadjusted for redistributions) Higgins bar chart. In 2004, the 2pp was about the same as in 1984, although Labor's national and Victorian votes were both down about 4 percent points.
But getting over the 50% mark in 2007 looks a Herculean task.
Are Higgins and North Sydney the next Lindsay et al?.
Let us go back in time. Three seats - Hughes, Lindsay and Macarthur - went dramatically to Howard in 1996. The outer south-west Sydney neighbours were the biggest swingers in the country outside Qld. Commentators whacked a silly "battlers" (and allegedly high quality local candidates) label on it, but they were (and are) mainly distinguishable from other western Sydney seats by their accumulating wealth.
And with hindsight, their behaviour at the previous election was an indicator of things to come.
In 1993, Keating's last hurrah, the country swung to Labor by 1.5 percent, and NSW by 2.2 percent. But these three shifted only a little or moved the other way. Hughes and Lindsay went to Labor by half a percent each, Macarthur went to John Hewson by over a percent. Safer (and poorer) Labor seats further in swung to Keating big time, eg Watson by over 6 percent.
Then in 1996 the country swung to the Howard's Coalition by 5 percent, and NSW by almost seven percent. The trio went by more than 11 points each.
If one is overly interested in patterns (as one should be), then one might ask: are seats like North Sydney (notwithstanding this) and Higgins the next big swingers? North Sydney moved to Labor in 2004 while NSW did the opposite; Higgins swing just .4% to Libs while Victoria went by 3%.
Are they (and others like them) preparing to bolt in 2007?
Higgins probably won't be publicly polled before the election, but North Sydney might be. Something to watch out for.
May 30 Me in Crikey on recent polls
May 29 Newspoll, counter-intuitively, says 60 40
In the Oz.
May 28 AEC launches Enrol to Vote Week
With, for example, a banner ad at top of the Oz.
Earlier today I whinged under this heading that the link only went to the AEC's homepage which didn't, I claimed, have direct links to relevant enrolment pages.
I was wrong, I hadn't looked close enough, the homepage does have those links.
There they are at top, next to a plug for the budget.
|May 25 Release
Poor Mr Howard ain't the only one who perhaps should have gotten out early. Spare a thought for federal Liberal Director Brian Loughnane.
But my favourite is Remo Nogarotto (left), who ran NSW Liberal campaigns in the late 1990s. After the October 1998 federal poll he was credited with keeping NSW marginals in the Howard government fold, despite a large state-wide swing to Labor, so saving the day.
Have the Oz to thank for this reference to Piers Akerman in the Tele, who quotes a Westpoll showing the federal government travelling well in that state.
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