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Five more weeks (Groan!)

October 22nd, 2007

Now the one and only debate is over, and both sides have launched the bulk of their policies (there are presumably some last-minute goodies, but the big money has been spent), what are we going to do for the next five weeks? The Policy Speeches could normally be relied on to inject at least some interest, but not when the policies get announced in the first week.

After the endless pre-campaign, five more weeks of pointless stumping about will have people turning off in droves, I imagine. If it weren’t for compulsory voting, I suspect we’d see a big drop in turnout. Normally, boredom is good for the incumbents, but I’m not sure how it will play out this time.

A couple of random thoughts:

The first week of the campaign has been pretty much a draw, I would say. Rudd’s win in the debate pretty much offsets Howard’s wins in having the debate on the conditions he demanded (though the worm got in through the backdoor anyway) and in setting the terms of the tax debate. The government got enough of a bounce in the polls to stay in the race, but it needs another good set of polls to avoid the narrative switching to loss of momentum.

I’m surprised at the extent to which the government is pushing the anti-union line. I’m sure it plays well in the small business heartland of the Liberal party, but I doubt that it resonates with the average undecided voter. The strike wave of the 1970s polarised attitudes, but anyone for whom this is still a vivid memory is pretty sure to be a rusted-on supporter of the Liberals unless they’re a diehard union militant.

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  1. swio
    October 22nd, 2007 at 13:13 | #1

    I wish Labor had held off on releasing the Tax policy and let Howard debate himself last night.

    By the end of this week everyone would have forgotten about Howard’s tax policy and there’s no way Howard could have gotten anything out of standing in front of a bunch of journo’s for an hour or so. It would have rated about as well as replays of parliament.

    Then beginning this week and next Labor could have started its campaign in earnest knowing that the co-alition had no money left to spend. If Labor were really smart they could have given minimal tax cuts and instead made major multi-billion dollar policy launches once a week until election day completely sucking up all the column inches and airtime for the remainder of the campaign.

  2. Kymbos
    October 22nd, 2007 at 13:25 | #2

    I agree with swio on this, but not many others do. I guess it would have been very bold, but to bank some of the surplus rather than give it as tax cuts in such inflationary times would have given Rudd the mantle of ‘fiscal conservative’ and left Howard looking like a man with only a fistfull of dollars to offer the electorate.

    I guess you don’t take big risks when you’re 8-12 points up.

  3. Anthony
    October 22nd, 2007 at 13:34 | #3

    I would say the debate was more Howard’s loss than Rudd’s win but overall I agree with your analysis John.

  4. 2 tanners
    October 22nd, 2007 at 13:45 | #4

    I agree with swio. You could virtually have one $1 billion policy EVERY DAY, and set out in terms like ‘we will spend another $1 billion on NSW roads’ – so that the costing jocks can’t play silly sausages with it. And still have change from your $34 billion, and still call yourself more fiscally conservative. You could even call a stop to the spending if you wanted to leave yourself true fiscal wriggle room and the polls were good enough.

  5. gandhi
    October 22nd, 2007 at 14:45 | #5

    What this campaign needs to keep things interesting is a couple of exciting new stories. And they will certainly come along…

    Howard is hoping for another Tampa to hove into view, but the big stories may well involve more complex things like this or this.

  6. October 22nd, 2007 at 14:48 | #6

    I don’t concur with the mindset of “let’s get the election over with”.

    The stakes are very high, and it will be a catastrophe for Australia and the world if Howard were to be re-elected.

    Rudd clearly won the debate, even given the narrow constraints and given Howard choosing a format to give himself the least possible exposure to scrutiny.

    By any objective measure, a govenment with the record of Howard’s should stand no chance whatsoever of being re-elected, however in spite of this and in spite of Howard losing the debate last night, his defeat is by no means assured.

    Just as Labor lost the election in 2004 after Mark Latham had clearly won his debate with John Howard, the same could happen again in 2007.

    That there is any possible chance of Howard being able to win in these circumstances is a sad indictmentof the health of our democracy.

  7. mugwump
    October 22nd, 2007 at 15:38 | #7

    That there is any possible chance of Howard being able to win in these circumstances is a sad indictmentof the health of our democracy.

    Hilarious, daggett. The fact that people like you do not hold the levers of power is a sure sign of a healthy democracy.

  8. Colin Webb
    October 22nd, 2007 at 16:10 | #8

    mugwump: I’m not sure why you continue to be given air time. Reading your contributions to this blog over many months, I have concluded that you are simply a rude person who abuses the privilege of conversation. Your response to daggett is both personal and insulting – and frankly, I would consider it to be unacceptable if this was my blog. You, and some of your fellow travellers, are constant reminders of the incivility of your kind. Having noted how often and how negatively you spew forth your bile, I am tempted to say “get a life”, but I doubt you would know what I am even referring to.

  9. mugwump
    October 22nd, 2007 at 16:50 | #9

    Colin Webb, daggett insults 50% of Australians and you call me negative and bilious?

    What kind of person thinks it is a “sad indictment of the health of our democracy” that “there is any possibility of Howard being able to win”?

    Only someone who themselves doesn’t believe in democracy.

    Howard only has a possibility of winning if a large portion of the electorate vote for him. For it to be any different, you have to take away the right for people to vote, or the right for people to run for office. In other words, daggett’s statement is equivalent to a call for an end to democracy. So I stand by my counter: the fact that his ideas have no traction is a sure sign that our democracy is in rude health.

    Tell me Colin, how negative and bilious would you consider me if I said

    “That there is any possible chance of Rudd being able to win in these circumstances is a sad indictment of the health of our democracy.”?

    Yeah, thought so. I am only holding up a mirror here. Don’t blame me if you don’t like what you see.

  10. wilful
    October 22nd, 2007 at 17:36 | #10

    Nah he’s onto something mugwump. You seem to be able to make a contribution when it comes to economics posts, but anything vaguely partisan and all you spout are Liberal party attack lines. “Oooh, the union bosses!!”

    You’re not Andrew Bolt are you?

    You’re right, it’s quite possible for someone to vote for the Liberals and still be a decent person. But you don’t ever lead off a post like that. You’re entirely hypocritical in your post at #9, and it’s tedious.

  11. mugwump
    October 22nd, 2007 at 17:50 | #11

    Give me a break, wilful. Someone claims democracy is in decline because too many people are voting for Howard, and I call them on it.

    Daggett’s statement is offensive. It should be offensive to anyone who actually believes in democracy. Like I said to Colin Webb, how offensive would you find the statement with “Howard” replaced by “Rudd”.

  12. October 22nd, 2007 at 18:08 | #12

    It is stupid to on one hand criticise tax cuts as inflationary and then advcate big ticket spending on fashionable policy areas. Other than infrastructure and education investment tax cuts are the only significant option that stimulates the supply side (ie disinflationary). And education and infrastructure spending will benefit the supply side in the yonder distant future not the here and now.

    In any case none of these will effect inflation at the end of the day if the RBA is doing it’s job. They will merely effect interest rates. And as tax cuts will make Australia a more interesting proposition for inbound investment it is not even clear that tax cuts would push up interest rates in any sustainable way.

    In inflation adjusted per capita terms (and even ignoring GST) the current government is spending 34% more per annum than the Keating government did in it’s last year. And this in spite of significant falls in unemployment.

    Like Bob Browns video commentary on his parties website it appears that some people here are wedded to the notion of bigger government and endless increases in public spending whatever the circumstance. The fact that the federal government is spending like never before does not even bring a moments hesitation for the statist hive mind.

  13. wilful
    October 22nd, 2007 at 18:10 | #13

    No dude, the bigger point is that you’re a hypocrite.

    I agree that Daggett’s statement about Howard was stupid. But you say nothing intelligible when it comes to partisan attack lines. It’s boring.

  14. wilful
    October 22nd, 2007 at 18:13 | #14

    BTW, I had an interesting discussion with lindsay Tanner the other day (not my usual circle, but anyway). He was saying that more tax cuts would be bad, would be inflationary, etc. But this was two weeks ago, the day before the election was called. Party discipline would rule out anything else sensible being said there.

    He came across as a highly intelligent bloke who had a decent grasp of the numbers and the policy challenges. Reckon he’ll make a decent Minister for Finance.

  15. Hermit
    October 22nd, 2007 at 18:17 | #15

    I’d like Rudd to give us the nuts and bolts of his clean energy policy to see if it has some basis in reality. Recall that a journo confronted Bob Brown at the Press Club and said his clean energy targets were physically impossible. Over to you Kevin.

  16. mugwump
    October 22nd, 2007 at 19:18 | #16

    shorter wilful: if you hold a different opinion to me, you’re a hypocrite. Go back and reread the exchange – maybe someone close to you can explain it in simple terms.

  17. JB
    October 22nd, 2007 at 19:53 | #17

    I’m interested in hearing better arguments from both sides on how we can develop better renewable energy sources, and diversify from our reliance on coal. For example, we recognise that geothermal energy is conceptually very simple, but the real costs holding back a massive ‘hot rocks ‘development in Central Australia are building the transmission lines to the population centres. Australia will still continue to be a major exporter of coal for the longish term, but we could replace part of our CO2 emissions by seriously investing in renewables. I’m looking for a bit of vision from either party (and I don’t think clean coal or CO2 sequestration are viable options.)

  18. jquiggin
    October 22nd, 2007 at 20:52 | #18

    Mugwump, this is getting tiresome. Please stop the personal attacks on other commenters, and please don’t debate this request. You’ve been warned on this before.

  19. mugwump
    October 22nd, 2007 at 21:43 | #19

    Typically selective quiggin.

  20. jquiggin
    October 22nd, 2007 at 21:51 | #20

    OK, you’re banned for 24 hours. I don’t have time to waste on this kind of thing. Please read the discussion policy and consider it carefully before you resume commenting.

  21. The Doctor
    October 22nd, 2007 at 22:45 | #21

    John,
    I think that it is not a case that boredom favours the incumbent, it favours the status quo.
    Secondly, the only thing Howard can reasonably do is renounce the policies that have caused the problem in the first place. The problem with that however, is that nobody is going to believe them if they did – mainly because of the spectacular way they implemented WorkChoices!

  22. October 23rd, 2007 at 00:56 | #22

    Thanks for the support, Colin Webb.

    To those who see my statement:

    That there is any possible chance of Rudd being able to win in these circumstances is a sad indictment of the health of our democracy.

    … as silly, I simply say, do you really want to start defending Howard’s record: The AWB scandal, the Iraq War and the increased threat of terrorism, ‘WorkChoices’, the initial $55million wasted telling us what the Government has since admitted was wrong by having introduced its ‘fairness test’ accompanied by a further advertising blitz telling us of the rights we all thought were guaranteed to us anyway before the 2004 elections, “Strengthening Medicare”. etc, etc ?

  23. October 23rd, 2007 at 01:37 | #23

    After the endless pre-campaign, five more weeks of pointless stumping about will have people turning off in droves, I imagine.

    I’m already sick of it, and I’m standing for Parliament myself.

  24. gandhi
    October 23rd, 2007 at 08:34 | #24

    Hermit,

    Recall that a journo confronted Bob Brown at the Press Club and said his clean energy targets were physically impossible.

    Gosh, “a journo” eh? Well, that’s all the proof I need!

  25. October 23rd, 2007 at 09:55 | #25

    Thanks Jacques, fellow candidate, same here. The only thing interesting about the debate was the conditions John Howard stipulated, his threat to spend 90 minutes talking to himself (riveting TV in anyone’s language) … and the worm.

    Now, I always thought the worm was an inane piece of trivia. I was wrong. I found myself channel-surfing to get the channel that had the worm on it. So, the ABC lost out this time.

    The debate was sooooo exciting! Everyone will have forgotten by the weekend what Kevin Rudd and John Howard were saying. I should have stayed with the internet broadcast of Bob Brown’s debate. http://www.greensblog.org My Telstra ‘fraudband’ cable failed me on this, so I went back to the TV.

    Willy Bach
    Greens candidate for Griffith

  26. matt byrne
    October 23rd, 2007 at 22:21 | #26

    Hi john,

    I heard that at the Greens debate you asked a question to Sen. Brown about the Greens economic policy. I was wondering what the question was and what was Sen. Brown’s answer? Im interested because we don’t normally hear much on Green economic policy.

    cheers

  27. jquiggin
    October 24th, 2007 at 06:15 | #27

    Unfortunately, Matt, your info wasn’t right though I have spoken to the Greens about economic policy in the past.

  28. gandhi
    October 24th, 2007 at 14:13 | #28

    Matt,

    I asked a question to Bob Brown and got a reply. Details including YouTube videos and transcripts are on the Greens blog.

  29. BilB
    October 24th, 2007 at 15:43 | #29

    This waiting around for the election has all of the appeal of those sweltering endlessly hot mid summer days followed by the sleepless nights. Worse, to come it looks like we have to endure the heat as well as the wait. Double agony. The only consolation is that Howard’s memory will vanish instantly with the first cool breeze after the election. And the torture of the last decade will be over.

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