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Feeling optimistic

September 30th, 2004

As regards the election, I’m feeling more optimistic than at any time since the first flush of Lathamania around New Year. Howard looked like a beaten man on TV tonight, and with more than a week still left to go, I think that will sink in with enough voters to make the required difference.

Howard has nothing coherent to offer. His foreign policy is to follow Bush to catastrophic failure[1]. Domestically, he has accepted that the public want services more than tax cuts, but he’s too much of a Thatcherite to change his own thinking. The result is an incoherent spray of spending promises, targeted tax breaks, and so on. The result is that his $6 billion has been generally derided, and Latham’s $3 billion generally applauded. And of course his reputation as a responsible economic manager is gone for good.

Against this, there’s the fact that incumbent governments tend to survive unless there’s a really compelling reason to throw them out. Howard may not be much good, but there isn’t a recession on and the Iraq catastrophe doesn’t affect us directly. Until now, I’ve felt these considerations to be evenly balanced. Now, however, I think the odds are significantly in Labor’s favour.

fn1. Our only hope here is that our jihadist enemies have shown themselves more than a match for Bush in both stupidity and capacity for pointless evil. Their brutal atrocities, many committed against fellow-Muslims, have largely, and perhaps completely, offset the support they have gained as a result of the invasion of Iraq and Bush’s continued backing of Sharon/Likud against the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians. A large number of Muslims, I think, have the same view I do: “a plague on both your houses”.

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  1. September 30th, 2004 at 23:37 | #1

    Jill – the big trouble with the safety net is that it will /does encourage gaming and cost shifting in the system. It has the potential to derail medicare if not reigned in quickly – and if it is reigned in it isnt the safety net anymore. See a post on Robert Corr’s Kick and Scream site earlier this week with figures as to where the safety net spending is ending up.

  2. Shaun
    September 30th, 2004 at 23:46 | #2

    JQ, you always strike me as a level headed sort of bloke and it fills me with confidence to hear your prediction.

    I thought Latham would win but I am a lefty crazy so to be reinforced with your views gives us all hope

  3. albatross2147
    October 1st, 2004 at 00:34 | #3

    Did anyone else see The Mad Monk on Lateline? After first saying that he could not remember that he recently had had an audience wirh his Emminence, Cardinal Pell, the unwed father finally admitted that his memory having been jogged by Tony Jones that he had in fact seen him.

    But Abbott wasn’t about to share with us the the purpose of the call at the Prince’s saying that it might well have been for the benefit of his soul (no doubt censure of pre-marital sex figured prominently).

    Most telling was was the baleful look that Abbott gave Jones at the end of the interview. No doubt a place in hell is being prepared for Jones as I write.

  4. Harry Clarke
    October 1st, 2004 at 08:21 | #4

    The fiscal surplus is about $8 billion in an economy of $800 billion and Howard is promising to spend an extra $6 billion over 4 years rather than $3 billion. Are commentators getting a bit carried away and lost in the fog of politics?

    The vote-buying (rasther than tax-cutting) is awful, I agree, but it is hard to pick between the two sides. Latham is promising free hospital care to those aged over 75. Is this not expensive and cynical vote-buying?

    The excitement among you lefties about the prospects of a Labor victory makes me wonder about your naivete. And I assume it is this excitement that is driving your expression of sectarian views and hypocritical, class-based hatreds. If I thought you really meant what you write I’d really be worried.

  5. Fyodor
    October 1st, 2004 at 08:45 | #5

    Albatross2147,

    That Lateline interview had to rate as some of the best TV this election outside of the Chaser. “Oh, you mean THAT Catholic arch-bishop. Yeah, I’m confessing my sins to him all the time. I am a politician, you know.”

    I half-expected the Mad Monk to don his Oxford blue boxing gloves he was so angry.

    Latham’s taken the initiative, and the Rodent’s paralysed in the proverbial headlights. Let’s see how the next week pans out.

  6. October 1st, 2004 at 08:56 | #6

    I’m not afraid to not recall meeting with Cardinal Pell during the election campaign. I think every one of us who doesn’t recall meeting with Cardinal Pell over the last few weeks should take a stand and publicly assert our lack of recall, lest anybody get the wrong idea.

    Once more, just so we’re clear: “I, Alan Green, do not recall meeting with Cardinal Pell during the election campaign.”

  7. Tony Healy
    October 1st, 2004 at 09:03 | #7

    A story in today’s Herald, Praise God and pass the health-care ammunition, has Catholic health care spokesman Francis Sullivan alluding to what seems to have been intervention by Howard to squash Liberal support for the health reforms now adopted by Labor as Medicare Gold.

    Passionate and articulate, Mr Sullivan was also conveniently indiscreet, telling assembled media pundits that the Health Minister, Tony Abbott, had also been briefed on the policy and had been “very positive”.

    Abbott’s denial yesterday, saying that he had been sceptical and “non-committal”, hardly matched Mr Howard’s high-octane denunciations. more …

  8. RoD
    October 1st, 2004 at 09:46 | #8

    Lateline 30-Sep-04: Best episode ever.

    Compass should be juicy on Sunday night… our politicans sharing their religious thoughts. Is Abbott on first? What’s on second?

  9. Bill O’Slatter
    October 1st, 2004 at 10:41 | #9

    “A large number of Muslims, I think, have the same view I do: “a plague on both your houses” I think you have spent too long looking at the world through the prism of rational Western economics. What the majority of Muslims think has no bearing on the jihadi except as a source of funds ; an there the majority don’t know what their contribution to Islamic charity actually does.

  10. Ros
    October 1st, 2004 at 10:52 | #10

    For all the excitement on both sided about who is spending what who has got real costings etc., I am beginning to suspect that the Australian public is playing the parties. The media may wax lyrical about how Aussies are put off by the vote bidding, but I see an alternative, the public is bidding them both up. The danger for Latham is that they are going to stay with Howard but are forcing him to keep biddng. A punter about a week ago featured in the Australian, expressed what seemed to me quite a remarkable approach to casting a vote. Then I am a committed right winger, so am probably unable to see the value in her approach and those of us that frequent this sphere are pretty much pushing our political lines. Anyway the voter said that at THAT POINT she had done her sums and her conclusion was that she would probably vote Labor this time but go with the coalition long term. Essentially an outright request for the bidding to continue. I understand that there is evidence that voters lie to pollsters. I wonder if that is what they are doing now. It would provide a possible explanation for the weird swinging that is going on.

  11. David R
    October 1st, 2004 at 11:07 | #11

    I’m sensing a strong undercurrent of support for Labor in the electorate. It’s not based on any analysis of the like presented here at JQ.

    I feel the support is similar to that which swept Steve Bracks to power over Jeff Kennett in Victoria. None of the polls prior to that state election detected the strength of sentiment, and there were not really any specific issues that galvanised the electorate for or against either candidate.

    The result was really a total shock to all pundits.

    I’m wondering if there is a similar trend in this 2004 Federal election. Or maybe it is just wishful thinking?

  12. Dave Ricardo
    October 1st, 2004 at 11:07 | #12

    Speaking of brutal atrocities against fellow Muslims, here’s the first 2 paragraphs in a story just in

    “At least 45 people were killed, most of them children, and 200 wounded in a string of car bombings in and around Baghdad.

    Most of the casualties were children who had gathered to watch a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new water pumping station in a working-class district in the south-west of Baghdad when two car bombs exploded. ”

    What can you say?

  13. October 1st, 2004 at 11:51 | #13

    The partisan gloves are off in the run up to election so Pr Q thinks that a Green Left sound bite is now a reasonable subsititute for fair comment:

    His foreign policy is to follow Bush to catastrophic failure1.

    So I guess Bush/Howard should just return AFGHAN to the tender mercies of the Taliban/Al Quaed.
    And I seem to remember that “a little fellow with bushy eyebrows” followed Clinton-Rubin, not Bush-Powell, into the democratisation of INDON & liberation of E TIMOR.
    That INTERFET expedition been the centrepiece of Howards foreign policy. The tens of thousands of people saved from the mass graves being prepared for them by sectarian Kopassus/militias might not regard Howards foreign policy as a “catastrophic failure”.
    Nor would the hundreds of thousands of people in Pacific Islands living in the Arc of Crisis to our North regard Howard/Downers nation-stabilising actions as a “catastrophic failure”. Howards efforts have been, for the most part, off the Lefts radar screen in this respect.
    The one policy where Howard has “followed Bush to catastrophic failure” has at least paid off to AUS in security terms with extra US bases that Howard won for being a willing coalition partner.
    But Pr Q chooses not to mention this tribe of 800 lb security gorillas that mock the Lefts feeble critique of Howards foreign policy.

  14. mother superior
    October 1st, 2004 at 11:56 | #14

    i think we should invite all independent-thinking muslims to australia as refugees and get grandma to give them all a big piece of her best teacake with a really hot cup of coffee, then put them to work doing what they do best: forcing women to wear veils, even when they don’t want to, and making the desert boom. they’ll enjoy that so much, and even if we have a little bit of discomfort with it, through any slightly darker moments will come shining our smugness in our compassionate superiority. plus, someone “up there” will reach down and save us from everything, including us.

    but before we do that, perhaps we had better take a concise look at islamic history and its contemporary condition through a truly independent, highly analytical, clearly dedicated and compassionate muslim’s eyes. not just a token look, either. Irshad Manji’s The Trouble With Islam needs careful reading, cover to cover, its bibliography thoroughly checked out, and further research pursued, by all would-be commentators both muslim and non-muslim.

    the revolution that we as a global community are now undergoing would inevitably have arrived on our doorstep and would therefore have required our attention sometime. the sooner we take on the massive responsibility of dealing with it, for the well-being and greater good of our descendants, the better. there’s no time like the present to re-consider all our preconceived notions and study the problem dispassionately so that we don’t fall into the trap of trying to deal with it entirely emotionally (‘compassionately’). rather, what is needed now is itelligent contemplation incorporating both constructive emotion and good sense.

    there’s little hope of a positive contribution from those of you who continue to insist that “emotions = the good” and allow them to control your policy decisions, so you can count yourselves out of any possible solution right here and now. you have little hope of acquiring the deep understandings necessary to such a solution, if one exists, as it’s well known that the emotional faculties are physically embedded in, and therefore most highly connected with, the least intelligent areas of the brain. in fact, it’s probably because the emotions are potentially wholly subject to the centres of higher awareness that make human life so potentially rich and enriching.

  15. Gaby
    October 1st, 2004 at 12:36 | #15

    I agree with the stated optimism. Its campaign has steadily improved and gathered momentum. I think at this stage that Labor will win. It needs a “coup de grace” announcement next week, perhaps on education to shore up its position.

    I think that the ALP’s TV advertising has been effective, particularly its use of repetition as a rhetorical device. And especially using it during the AFL Grand Final in S.A.!

    I am troubled by the polls, which are all over the place.

    And especially by the bookies. I heard this morning that the Coalition is still $1.40 and the ALP is at $2.70. A bookie took a bet of $200,000 at $1.33 on the Coalition the day before Medicare Gold. Presumably on the basis that the price on the Coalition could only shorten. It has subsequently fluctuated out to $1.40.

    These odds, and the polls, significantly vary from my perception of the true odds.

    Any thoughts as to why? Is it just punters’ herd mentality?

    P.S. “The Election Chaser” is a great laugh as well as being daring and edgy. It really must pique the inflated pride of our politico-aristocrats. Again, compare Latham’s good natured interaction to Howard’s inability to deal with that sort of spontaneous confrontation last night.

  16. Frankis
    October 1st, 2004 at 13:07 | #16

    If Howard were serious about foreign policy he wouldn’t have Alexander Downer in charge of it. Case closed. Although speaking of 800lb gorillas Jack, if you missed it last night then the 7.30 Report transcript conveys most of the flavour of the mangling administered to the hapless Lord Alex by hairy chested diplomatic gorilla Kevin Rudd. I rated it a slaughter, and a metaphor for the gormlessness and unsupportability of Howard’s foreign policy in the face of brutal modern reality.

  17. ms
    October 1st, 2004 at 13:11 | #17

    oh dear, I don’t know what got into me just then, addressing a naive footnote instead of keeping my eye on the main game. of course the election is all that matters at the moment, so heads back in the sand everyone. the tribes must stick together, what ho and all that, eh? boat people – whoopsie daisy, did I just say that? please ignore my compassion, it’s going off like a firecracker today. shoosh compassion, shoosh I say…

  18. Fyodor
    October 1st, 2004 at 13:22 | #18

    Frankis,

    Good link. That was an absolute demolition, and demonstrates why the Howard cheerleaders are so damned WRONG on the issue of national security. I’m looking forward to a Rudd-Beazley combo finally achieving some security progress in our region. We’ve had enough of the Howard/Downer/Hill circus.

  19. tim g
    October 1st, 2004 at 13:50 | #19

    I’d like to share in the optimism but…

    The marginal seats just don’t look to be lining up for Labor. The pattern in recent elections has been for the Labor swing to be swallowed up in safe seats (for either side) and for the marginals to scarcely move at all. The marginal seat of Hindmarsh that I reside in should be a belwether; you couldn’t imagine a change of government unless this one moves in to the Labor column. Yet it seems to be actually firming up for the Liberals as the campaign unfolds. If this pattern persists, even a 52/48 margin for Labor on TPP might not be enough to get over the line. (Remember 1998?)

    I acknowledge the possibility of a beneath-the-radar pro-change sentiment that materialises on polling day a la Steve Bracks 1999. But there are two sides to this; namely, increasingly unpopular state Labor governments (in WA and Queensland especially) might actually serve to flatten the Labor vote on the day, to a degree that isn’t currently showing up in the polls.

  20. October 1st, 2004 at 13:54 | #20

    Fyodor at October 1, 2004 01:22 PM continues his petty Stalinist campaign of misrepresentation and fabrication on this governments foreign policy record:

    Howard cheerleaders are so damned WRONG on the issue of national security.

    I take it that even Fyodor can grap that E TIMOR was a national security issue. If the so-called “Howard cheerleaders” (fer crissake, one cheer for John Howard is hardly something to lead the crowd!) are so wrong about Howard’s good job on national security then why did Nobel Prize winning Ramos Hortas thank Howard for his good work in liberating E Timor and ending the massacres:

    it was thanks to Prime Minister John Howard that the United Nations intervention had succeeded, saving thousands of lives.

    Or is Horta another cheer-leader for Howard?
    From now until election time I am quite happy to keep shoving the truth about Howards good deeds in E Timor right down the throats of history-erasing Leftists (not Pr Q in this case) until they choke or concede on this point at least, if only for Clio’s sake.

  21. Fyodor
    October 1st, 2004 at 14:59 | #21

    Jack,

    For the record, I think the Howard government handled the East Timor crisis well. I’ve never disputed that, but one swallow does not a summer make.

    Howard’s foreign policy and security policy are a jumbled mess that have not made Australia any more secure. If you want to debate these issues any further with me, open up a thread on your own blog (Catallaxy seems to be a favourite) and we’ll have at it. I for one won’t abuse the Captain’s generosity any further with OT rants.

  22. imogen
    October 1st, 2004 at 15:03 | #22

    And isn’t a tragedy that one good deed in E Timor is critically diminished by our refusal to deal equitably and fairly with that same country over deep sea oil and oceanic boundaries. Howard’s generosity and farsightedness when it comes to foreign policy close to home is shown for what it is.

    Then he committed us to an illegal collusion on the invasion of Iraq which has cost tens of thousands of lives, and littered the country enough depleted uranium to ensure a long-term health crisis similar to what Vietnam now suffers as a result of Agent Orange. Against the clear will of the Australian people – because according to our current farce of a Foreign Minister, to listen to the people would be ‘populist’ (the horror, the horror).

    Oh, and it’s made us a terrorist target. Very effective.

    Then there’s our involvement in the demolition of Afghanistan that instead of being a well-organised operation to take out terrorist camps, was a whole-sale bombing campaign that unnecessarily killed thousands and stopped critical food aid getting to millions. The great achievement we aided there? Replacing one bunch of fundamentalist, torturing, opium growing women-hating warlords with exactly the same.

    Way to go Johnny.

  23. David Lees
    October 1st, 2004 at 16:18 | #23

    Another interesting thing about polls recently is that they are finding it more and more difficult to get people to answer the questions. Hence, only those with strong opinions are being polled. Interesting article in a recent TIME magazine about this in America.

  24. October 1st, 2004 at 20:07 | #24

    Latham strikes gold!

  25. MickM
    October 2nd, 2004 at 20:03 | #25

    With or without Howards intervention in East Timor,if the Indonesian Govt did not allow it to happen it would NOT have happenned.Simple as that

  26. October 3rd, 2004 at 01:38 | #26

    hmmm…i think you might be right…

    australians are due for a change: they don’t usually let governments hang around for too long…and latham is clearly the best thing to happen to federal labour for a while…

    hes the first candidate anyone would dare pick over howard…so they might change while they get someone decent…

  27. October 3rd, 2004 at 08:53 | #27

    The winds of change are gusting through the willows,ratty would have had a sleepless night.

  28. October 5th, 2004 at 00:39 | #28

    Oh dear,jack-once agin you know nothing!
    And about east timor again-more reading required.
    Did you,perhaps go to one of those terrible public schools with no values?
    Howard was as uncaring about the timorese as any labor leader.There where about 1600 east timorese on temporary protection visas that we wanted to send home-bugger them!
    Howards office had an unprecedented number of calls when the killings started in timor and he had no choice but to help.
    Howard and downer constantly underplayed the threat of violence in timor and when it started insisted that it was “rogue elements” in the TNI,what bullshit.Australians aren’t stupid and demanded action,ratty was backed into a corner.
    The indos had lied to him and the TNI was murdering timorese at will,just as they had for 25 years since 1975.

  29. alex McDonell
    September 30th, 2004 at 21:57 | #29

    There is something going on out there that the major pollsters are not detecting. I felt a couple of months ago that a swing to Labor was on. Sure, Howard’s the incumbent but faces the challenge of trying to win a fourth term without the help of 9/11 scares and the support of the racist Hansonites this time. There was a swing to the coalition last time and a correction this time must help Labor. The only thing that will stuff it for Labor would be a terrorist attack in Sydney or Melbourne – possibly arranged by Howard!

  30. Jill Rush
    September 30th, 2004 at 22:22 | #30

    The arguments put forward to support Medicare Gold have been logical, clear and well presented by Labor. The arguments to support the safety net by Tony Abbott and the Liberals on the other hand have the smell of a rat about them.

    The problem with the safety net is that it treats families as if they are small businesses. Most families have quite enough to worry about without having to navigate yet another bureaucratic tangle.

    Most families have an unpleasant experience of the Family Tax Benefit system which requires annualised predictions of income in an an increasingly casualised work environment – encouraged by the Liberals as providing flexibility. This makes it almost impossible to make an accurate prediction resulting in weekly hardship for those who have decided to take money through the tax system rather than face large debts again.

    Many uncommitted voters have been watching cautiously – not being sure of the benefits of making a change to Latham – however he has ideas and policies and doesn’t insult them by targeting bribes towards those in marginal seats and their interests. He has provided solutions which consider the whole of society. Julia Gillard presented some very convincing arguments in this regard to support Medicare Gold Gold Gold.

    In contrast the ratty image is not helping Howard who seems to only have fear and loathing with cynical bribes on offer.

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