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Running scared ?

October 5th, 2007

The delay in calling the election, combined with the continuous blitz of taxpayer-funded propaganda, is starting to become a story in itself, and not just a Labor party talking point. On the ads, readers Fred Argy and Daggett point to this blistering piece by Steve Lewis in the normally safe Herald-Sun.

On the timing, business is starting to complain. I was interviewed by the SMH for this piece, and got a follow-up from ABC News Radio, which suggests that it will soon be an established narrative.

A correspondent tips Tuesday 9 October as the day Howard will call the election, and I’m inclined to agree. It’s exactly three years since the 2004 election and might be regarded as auspicious. And whatever the Electoral Act might say, running more than three years without calling an election will correctly be viewed as running scared,The last PM to go so long was Billy McMahon, who allowed the Parliament to run for a little over 2 years and 11 months from its first sitting, going down to defeat on 2 December 1972.

A campaign period of much more than six weeks will also be viewed unfavourably so, for what it’s worth, my money is on 17 or 24 November.

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  1. ecgordon
    October 5th, 2007 at 15:50 | #1

    The next Parliamentary sitting day is October 15. That leaves the Howard government another 10 days for its ad blitz without having to submit itself to Parliamentary scrutiny. My bet is that the election will announced at 13:59 on that day.

  2. stephen
    October 5th, 2007 at 17:46 | #2

    back in July or early August I tipped either December 1 or December 8th; on the logic that people always are guided by what’s worked for them in the past, and John Howard has in the past waited until something has turned up to make an election more winnable (whether a Tampa or a Latham losing his cool) and proceeded thus to win. Unless the ‘something of 2007’ comes along, he will be inclined to string things out. the clamour from the press gallery for Howard to call an election is really just wishful thinking; the average voter in a marginal seat does not really care one way or the other what day it happens to be on.

  3. rog
    October 5th, 2007 at 18:23 | #3

    If you were in govt, how would you advise the electorate of the system and changes to that system?

    Marketing is a part of any successful enterprise, why should the govt be denied marketing its policies to the consumer?

    In yesteryear the ALP made good use of Singo until his polyamory became offensive to traditional ALP decision makers.

    Howard is playing a waiting game, the election is his prerogative. If he stuffs it up he will have to wear the consequences.

  4. October 6th, 2007 at 08:33 | #4

    I don’t think it is correct to say that there is some delay in calling the election. It just hasn’t been called yet.

    Fixed terms are a good idea. It would remove a lot of this speculation.

  5. swio
    October 6th, 2007 at 09:16 | #5

    In rugby league when attempting a conversion the kicker can take absolutely ages setting the ball up, checking the wind and generally taking their time. There’s a saying it.

    If your kick is successful no-one will care how long you took.

    Howard is confident enough to apply this logic to his political decision making. The polls are just not good enough at the moment. Why not wait and see if he can get a better starting point? Yes the political pundits will yap on about the delay and question Howard’s thinking, but they’re paid to talk so they have to talk about something. It doesn’t mean anyone is really listening. And the delay can be spun against Labor too, making them seem nervous and lacking faith in their good poll numbers.

  6. BilB
    October 6th, 2007 at 10:20 | #6


    Howard is playing his usual smug game. The election was really called some time ago, with in the Coalition party room. Howard has been spending the public’s money on his campaign and party money has been spent on member signage. The placards have been up for weeks in my area. This is standard Howard manipulation. What an AH.

  7. Fred Argy
    October 6th, 2007 at 10:43 | #7

    Let us remind Howard of his advice to Beattie “let the people speak”.

  8. gerard
    October 6th, 2007 at 11:11 | #8

    I’ve read that the Liberal Party has much less money than the ALP this time around. The Libs can’t afford a long campaign. So they need to employ as much publicly funded propaganda as they can. Luckily for the ALP the ads are so annoying, not to mention pathetically stupid, that they’re not likely to win the Libs any votes. You can’t polish a turd like Workchoices, and rubbing this turd in everyone’s face is not likely to do the Libs any favours.

  9. Bring Back CL’s blog
    October 6th, 2007 at 11:20 | #9

    It smacks of desperation to justify something on the fact Keating also abused in this way.

    It actually confirms just how out of touch this Government is and why we need a new one

  10. David
    October 6th, 2007 at 13:36 | #10

    Gentelemen take your seats

    The fat lady wants to sing

  11. gerard
    October 6th, 2007 at 14:33 | #11

    Interesting thread on this topic at possum’s website.


    without permission I am going to post Bushfire Bill’s comment here:

    Howard is not failing to call the election because there is so much more pork to hand out to his cronies.

    This includes the “informationâ€? ad campaign. It doesn’t matter if it fails. The moolah will have been paid out – at full freight – just in time for the discounts to the party to arrive, come the campaign. The cronies are minting money and it’s all coming from our taxes… pissed up against the wall.

    He still needs a parliamentary session to lock in some legislation (nuclear waste disposal, anybody?) that will bind a future Labor government or force it to pay millions, if not billions in reparations to the cronies. forget nuclear power. That’s a trojan horse. The aim is to get the ancilliary industries up and running. The rest is diversion (which many are falling for by arguing about the siting of power plants).

    The aim is not to win the election. That might be a bonus, but it’s not of paramount importance. The aim is to shovel out as much money as possible into the hands of urgers, sycophants, business cronies, advertising gurus and suchlike. It will all be repaid whether or not the Libs win… after the election… and in private, in the form of jobs for the boys, consultancies, positions on various boards, discounts to the party on election campaign ads, donations to the party and backdoor deposits to Swiss bank accounts.

    The aim isn’t to grease the palms after the election. They’re already being greased, and plenty. What we are seeing is one of the biggest heists in Australian history, right in front of our noses.

  12. Jill Rush
    October 6th, 2007 at 18:40 | #12

    The worrying thing is that the Liberals could easily be shoring up their post election position through irresponsible decision making which ties the Australian people into continued spending for many years. The Gunns agreement lasts for 50 years.

    A responsible government as opposed to a desperate one would go to the election and take their chances. This is part of the reason that people want to change the government.

    Unfortunately is appears likely to need a very strong people’s movement to change the way that government works. The situation re Gunns is appalling not only for the lack of attention given to environmental matters by the Government but for the absolute acquiesance by the Labor Party. Not even a peep about the lack of attention to the details of what happens to the land environment. GetUp looks to have a role for a long time to come.

  13. Paul Browning
    October 6th, 2007 at 20:04 | #13

    Meanwhile back on Earth, Federal election campaigns nearly always last 33 or 34 days. That is 4 weeks and 5 or 6 days. The normal practice going back about 6 elections with very few exceptions is the election is announced on a Sunday or Monday for 5 Saturdays hence. The political parties all know this and all plan 33 day campaigns accordingly.

    So if announced tomorrow (Mon 7 Oct), the election WILL almost certainly be 10 Nov. As each Monday slips past the election date likewise slips another week.

    My tip? Howard will announce next Sunday 14 Oct that an election will be on 17 Nov. He might still do it tomorrow but that will mean most of his last week message will be lost amid the euphoria of the Melbourne Cup. That might be handy but I still doubt he’ll do it!

  14. October 7th, 2007 at 07:28 | #14


    Many sensible comments here. I think this feeling of outrage is probably quite widespread. I hope we can actually stop this avalanche paid for with an obscene amount of misappropriated taxpayer funds by sending it back to John Howard with suitable comments.

    But I would go further. I suggest we send letters to Kevin Rudd to tell him that he will generate the same anger if he fails to hold a Senate inquiry into this abuse of power and pass legislation to ban this practice.

    I have reproduced a media release that I issued on 27 September:

    Willy Bach, Greens candidate for Griffith, is sending federal government ‘information’ back to John Howard and suggests that many more of us might like to do the same. “This is not really information, it is promotion of the present government, sent to us at our expense. This government is abusing public trust and it should stop the theft immediately�, Mr Bach explained. (See attached image)

    The Howard government is spending A$23 million to promote their plan without meaningful targets to deal with climate change. John Howard’s global warming propaganda will hit your TV screen too – and that costs a lot! This is one more reason to say that these people must be voted out.

    “I thought the Liberals took pride in their fiscal responsibility�, Mr Bach continued, “but A$1 million per Australian household would pay for a new Prius hybrid car (if they need it) + home insulation + thermal solar hot water and some photovoltaic panels to feed power into the grid + an energy audit + a water tank and some gardening lessons, tools and seeds to start growing their own food�.

    We could even pay compensation to people whose jobs would disappear if their industry became unsustainable. But John Howard prefers denial and sabotaging other nations’ efforts to comply with the Kyoto Protocol.

    By the way, I am still waiting for a response from Kevin Rudd’s office. Don’t expect very much improvement with Labor in power. Last time they were in government they also spent our money on their own promotion. I want Kevin Rudd to undertake to end this abuse of public trust. Kevin scored 1.8 on the Big Switch ratings, compared to my 5 – you have been warned.

    Willy Bach
    The Greens Candidate for Griffith

  15. Ken
    October 7th, 2007 at 12:46 | #15

    So, will it be better for JH that the election happens when the financing of Christmas is on people’s minds – or worse? For all the people who are just finding out that Workchoices was intended to cut wages the “good economic management” angle might well backfire as their Christmas finances rub their noses in it.
    For those of us trying to schedule local community events, the delay and uncertainty really does matter. Bloody irritating in fact.

  16. October 7th, 2007 at 12:51 | #16

    Workchoices was intended to cut wages

    I think it would be more accurate to say that Workchoices was intended to increase employment. The fact that this may entail a wage cut in some industries in some places at some times is part of the process but not the actual goal.

  17. October 7th, 2007 at 12:52 | #17

    P.S. If you insist however then it would be equally fair to say that the purpose of the Hawke/Keating Wages Accord was to cut wages.

  18. October 7th, 2007 at 14:34 | #18

    Would a move to fixed terms require a change to the Electoral Act or a referendum to change the constitution? (And please forgive my woeful ignorance on such an issue.)

  19. October 7th, 2007 at 15:52 | #19

    Alpaca – I doubt it requires a referendum. Although a referendum would be required if terms were going to be longer than the current 3 years.

  20. Muskiemp
    October 7th, 2007 at 17:28 | #20

    # Terje (say tay-a) Says:
    October 7th, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    P.S. If you insist however then it would be equally fair to say that the purpose of the Hawke/Keating Wages Accord was to cut wages.
    You forgot to include: and bring in compulsory superannuation.

  21. wmmbb
    October 7th, 2007 at 18:49 | #21

    Paul B, from an inter-galactic perspective that planet is designated Sol 3, and the hope is that they get their act together before it too late.

    The last or second-last Saturday in November may well be good candidates for the fixed date for federal general elections?

  22. October 7th, 2007 at 19:58 | #22


    Wage falls under the Wages and Price Accord were largely camouflaged by inflation. And to the extent to which wage earners were compensated it was via income tax rate cuts. Both reforms would have been worthy in their own right but Hawke was quite a political genius in terms of packaging wage rate reduction and tax rate reduction together into a single package and selling it with the help of the trade union movement. Full credit to him for that salesmanship (a pity he didn’t figure out how to fix inflation or booms and busts).

    However the early rounds of the Accord occurred from around 1984 onwards through the 1980s and superannuation legislation did not hit the scene until 1993. So your suggestion that superannuation was part of the Wages and Price Accord is probably correct for the latter rounds of the Accord but not overly relevant for the 1980s.

    In any case my point remains that like the Labor Wages Accord the objective of WorkChoices was to reduce unemployment.


  23. October 7th, 2007 at 19:59 | #23

    p.s. And if my memory serves me correctly superannuation was funded in part by reductions in the corporate tax rate.

  24. snuh
    October 8th, 2007 at 08:47 | #24

    P.S. If you insist however then it would be equally fair to say that the purpose of the Hawke/Keating Wages Accord was to cut wages.

    well OK, except the accord was implemented against the background of continuing problems with high inflation. i.e., at that time, industrial policy that led to a cut in wages actually made sense as policy.

  25. BilB
    October 8th, 2007 at 13:28 | #25

    Can the Governor General sack the government and call an election? Going on hearsay, I was told that a government member this morning declared that Howard intended to continue on until the polls had turned in the Coalition favour, and going on Howard’s belief that only he is a safe stewerd of the economy (like hell), he may just be tempted to carry on into next year using this morning’s poll (40% to 12%) as justification.

    Is this the time to be demonstrating to the Governor General, calling for action?

  26. October 9th, 2007 at 06:55 | #26

    Willi Bach wrote:

    I suggest we send letters to Kevin Rudd to tell him that he will generate the same anger if he fails to hold a Senate inquiry into this abuse of power and pass legislation to ban this practice.

    Yes, I am with you on this one.

    Don’t expect very much improvement with Labor in power.

    I think it’s still possible, but I wouldn’t be betting much money on it. Nevertheless, the choice is more important than ever now. If we don’t get this message out, then they may once claw their way back in, and our lzst chance to preserve democracy in any meaningfl sense will have been lost.

    Whilst some may hope that the advertising blitz will backfire, we can’t assume that the advertisers being paid so generously with our money don’t know what they are doing.

    Terje wrote:

    If you insist however then it would be equally fair to say that the purpose of the Hawke/Keating Wages Accord was to cut wages.

    Now, please tell us something we don’t already know. To quote from my article “Can Labor bring about a just society?” published in Online Opinion on 24 September:

    Both Bob Hawke and Paul Keating willingly adopted the agenda of the economic neoliberals to “reform” the Australian economy to give more wealth and power back to the Australian elite.

  27. Ken
    October 10th, 2007 at 09:34 | #27

    Reducing unemployment by cutting wages or increase business profitability by cutting wages? It looks a lot the same as being intended to cut wages. Mostly of the lowest paid, for whom the notion of being able to successfully negotiate wages and conditions is nonsense. More like a reverse auction, where the most desperate, who accepts the lowest offer, gets the prize of a low paid, unsecure job. Don’t tell me the peak business bodies back it because workers will be able to successfully negotiate wages and conditions that best suit them.

  28. October 10th, 2007 at 11:18 | #28

    Quick question. If the alternative to a low paid, insecure job is long-term unemployment which would you choose?
    If the person does make a choice to work for themselves, who are you to say they are wrong to do so?

  29. October 10th, 2007 at 12:29 | #29


    I wouldn’t even waste my time attempting to answer a question based on such stupid premises.

    If the only only alternative to “a low paid, insecure job is long-term unemployment” we change circumstances so that this is no longer the case, but first we have to free our thinking from the one-dimensional universe in which neo-liberal ideologues seek to imprison the rest of us.

  30. October 10th, 2007 at 12:59 | #30

    Here’s a question for you Andrew, in the same spirit as your question to Ken:

    If you find yourself dying of thirst in the middle of a desert and come across a well containing water contaminated with lethal levels of arsenic, do you drink the water or don’t you?

  31. Razor
    October 10th, 2007 at 16:58 | #31

    “A correspondent tips Tuesday 9 October as the day Howard will call the election, and I’m inclined to agree.”

    Is your economic forecasting any better than you political forecasting?

  32. Ken
    October 13th, 2007 at 08:11 | #32

    Workchoices was marketed to the public as a way for employees to get flexibility and make them better off. Not true. It was supported by business groups because it gave them flexibility and the potential to reduce wages. This looks true. I admit to retaining some old fashioned delusions that a wealthy nation like ours can keep improving wages and conditions at the bottom and that reversing that will not make things better. The current bombardment of advertising is perpetuating that misleading marketing of legislation intended to reduce wages.

  33. 2 tanners
    October 13th, 2007 at 10:18 | #33

    And following on from daggett’s (30) question, if you then find the bloke who poisoned the waterhole, what do you do?

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