Home > Oz Politics > Time to call this one

Time to call this one

October 23rd, 2007

I don’t have much of a reputation for accurate election predictions[1],[2], but I’m going to call this one for Labor. Short of something unexpected and uncontrollable by either side, I can’t see the Libs pulling this out of the fire. I think it’s just a matter of waiting out the remaining month.

[1] A week out from the 2004 election, I thought the position was in Labor’s favor, and even on the day I thought the odds close to 50-50, so I wouldn’t base large-scale betting-market investments on my judgement if I were you.

[2] By contrast, I think I’ve called the Iraq war pretty well, but that’s another story.

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  1. observa
    October 23rd, 2007 at 22:47 | #1

    Pretty safe call JQ. And they tell me he’s even going bald http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22635215-1702,00.html

  2. observa
    October 23rd, 2007 at 23:40 | #2

    While you’re on a roll John, would you care to call the Afghanistan war?

  3. October 24th, 2007 at 00:23 | #3

    You believe Labor will win unless something extraordinary happens. Yes, with Labor having a 16 point advantage in today’s polls you might just be right.

  4. observa
    October 24th, 2007 at 00:43 | #4

    You know, that good war after Nov 24th presumably http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,22636612-401,00.html?from=public_rss

  5. October 24th, 2007 at 01:41 | #5

    Who will control the senate?

  6. rog
    October 24th, 2007 at 05:28 | #6

    A poll is a general sample – what is happening in the marginals is a different story, some of which are extra ordinary


  7. Spacehamster
    October 24th, 2007 at 08:07 | #7

    Considering that Rudd is fast turning into a Howard-clone, would it really make a difference?


  8. al loomis
    October 24th, 2007 at 08:09 | #8

    unfortunately, it’s not your call: the electoral commission will count the votes, the gg will issue the license to run the country.

    i know the oz chatterati like to pretend they are citizens, guiding discussion and decision making, but i suspect the bakers, real estate agents, and pensioners aren’t paying much attention. they’ve got one vote, to attain the best outcome from many pressing problems. this is an insoluble question, so most will very sensibly vote to maximize their bank balance. too bad about environment, global warming, resource depletion.

    since the oz chatterati accept this situation, they will not provide leadership towards democracy. like the village parsons they have replaced, they may wring their hands at what the squire is doing, but at the end they say: “let us bow our heads and pray.”

  9. Crispin Bennett
    October 24th, 2007 at 08:32 | #9

    @al loomis: you’re beginning to make a decent argument that democracy might as well be abandoned . I realise that is the opposite of your intent, but some are starting to think the unthinkable: that with our world’s ecology close to free-fall, weapons technology spinning out of control, perhaps humanity’s powers have extended far beyond the capacity of democracy to govern: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/perspective/stories/2007/2059992.htm

  10. observa
    October 24th, 2007 at 09:06 | #10

    “Who will control the senate?”
    Nick Xenophon?

  11. wilful
    October 24th, 2007 at 10:22 | #11

    I also am comfortable in thinking Rudd will be our next PM. 22 seats, I’ll say, including Bennelong.

    I reckon the Senate race will be close, but the minor parties (Greens and/or) will get the balance of power. Which will be an interesting test for them – I don’t have a lot of hope they’ll be responsible but they might surprise. Also of particular interest will be how the Coalition treat their Senate status before 1 July 2008. Quite possibly they will be too busy infighting to even notice!

  12. Bingo Bango Boingo
    October 24th, 2007 at 10:28 | #12

    al loomis, what a misanthrope you are. Bakers, real estate agents and pensioners are all capable of, and in fact do, exercise their votes with reference to policies dealing with the environment and global warming, and knowingly to the detriment of their bank balances. Resource depletion is a stretch, though. Normal people intuitively understand the absurdity behind the ‘resource depletion’ complaint.


  13. October 24th, 2007 at 13:22 | #13

    Howard’s chances have faded further now that the September quarter inflation number has come in above forecasts.

    BBB, I’m absolutely certain that ‘normal people’ don’t think about resource depletion at all. I reckon 95% of the general public think that petrol prices are high because of profiteering by the oil companies and servos. The politicians play to their idiotic petrol pricing inquiries.

    The reality is Australians have not suffered the full impact of rising crude oil prices over the past 7 years thanks to a surging dollar, and Howard’s decision to freeze the fuel excise at 38c/L in 2001.

    The punters think they’re being ripped off at the bowser, when in fact they’re paying too little.

  14. John Bignucolo
    October 24th, 2007 at 13:32 | #14

    Does the Australian media have an equivalent site to politifact.com? It would be really helpful to assist the public, including those salt-of-the-earth, but limited, Bakers, real estate agents and pensioners in sorting through the claims and counter-claims of the election campaign.

    From http://politifact.com/truth-o-meter/about/

    “About PolitiFact

    Each election year we hear this lament from our readers suffering the barrage of campaign rhetoric: “just gimme the truth.”

    That’s the mission of PolitiFact. The St. Petersburg Times of Florida and Congressional Quarterly of Washington, D.C. — two of America’s most trusted, independent newsrooms — have created the site to help voters separate fact from falsehood in the 2008 presidential campaign.

    Journalists and researchers from the Times and CQ will fact-check the accuracy of speeches, TV ads, interviews and other campaign communications. We’ll publish new findings every day on PolitiFact.com, and list our sources for all to see. …”

    For the political junkies out there, the example below gives a flavour of what it does, pointing out the absurdity of an assertion by Mike Huckabee, as he panders to the Republican Party’s conservative Christian base.


    1 out of 56 equals ‘most’? No, it doesn’t
    Pants on fire!

    During the Republican debate, Mike Huckabee said he believes one of the defining issues facing the country is the sanctity of human life. Arguing that the issue is of historical importance, he invoked the Declaration of Independence’s rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and said that most of the signers of the declaration were clergymen.

    Not even close.

    Only one of the 56 was an active clergyman, and that was John Witherspoon. Witherspoon was a Presbyterian minister and president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University).

    A few more of the signers were former clergymen, though it’s a little unclear just how many. The conservative Heritage Foundation said two other signers were former clergymen. The religion web site Adherents.com said four signers of the declaration were current or former full-time preachers. But everyone agrees only Witherspoon was an active minister when he signed the Declaration of Independence.

    One issue that may contribute to the confusion about which signers had a history in the clergy is that during the time the Declaration was written, people who studied at universities often received doctorates of divinity, a common degree designation, even if they were not working clergy, said Mary Jenkins of the Independence National Historical Park. As for religious affiliations, all of the signers were Protestant Christians with one exception, Charles Carroll of Maryland, who was Roman Catholic.

    We’d like to give Huckabee every benefit of the doubt, but even if you consider former clergymen among the signers the best you could come up with is four. Out of 56. That’s not “most,” that’s Pants-on-Fire wrong.

  15. sjk
    October 24th, 2007 at 13:33 | #15

    Crispin, there is no evidence that the guardian model proposed in the story you linked to would produce better outcomes than the present democratic model.

    David Shearman may not like the results produced – for example, WRT to the Murray-Darling – but who is he to say his preferences must be realised? There are many others whose claims are just as legitimate as Shearman’s – farmers, for example – yet in his model, these other claims would be ignored.

    Rather than appeal to the guardian model (which is really just an admission of defeat), Shearman should set about organising and trying to convince others of the righteousness of his cause.

  16. Bingo Bango Boingo
    October 24th, 2007 at 13:35 | #16

    Fair point re: normal people not thinking about resource depletion at all, carbonsink. Happily, this is precisely the level of thought that the issue ought to be given.


  17. Crispin Bennett
    October 24th, 2007 at 13:50 | #17

    sjk – I’m not strictly speaking arguing for philosopher kings. My position, if I have any, is your ‘admission of defeat’. I don’t think at this stage many truly believe that we have anything but the slightest chance of liberal democracies making it in decent shape over the next century. They show no signs that they have the capacity to rapidly implement the inevitably unpopular intentions that would be required.

    There’s a slightly delirious Neroish feel about the recent consumer orgy which suggests to me that many people are aware of this, in a shadowy sort of way. We are trashing our planet’s ecologies, and lavishing resources on machines to kill each other, but we don’t believe the juggernaut can be stopped, so we might as well enjoy it and spend big.

    As for persuading others: well, those who might want to do so just don’t have the resources needed to counter a century or so of corporate propaganda (now the primary means of human socialisation, at least in the wealthy countries).

    True, there’s no evidence that philosopher kings can save us. But there’s ample to show that democracy (at least when dominated by a corporate oligarchy) can’t.

  18. gandhi
    October 24th, 2007 at 14:00 | #18

    I think I’ve called the Iraq war pretty well…

    I’m sure you didn’t mean that to sound as crass at it does, Prof.

    I think the press needs to pay a bit less attention to Newspoll and a bit more attention to the marginals seats. For example:

    Already the cost in promises to the national public purse is approaching $100 million for services to a handful of towns and small cities along Tasmania’s north coast and rural hinterland. Aside from the Mersey bill, which is now about $64 million, another $24 million has gone to appease Burnie and Launceston (in the nearby marginal electorate of Bass) and an extra $8.5 million to carry patients between them.

    The hand-outs may not be over, either. A possible full takeover of the 350-bed Launceston General Hospital is on the cards…

    I think Rudd can win it, but all this talk about a Labor landslide being a done deal is not helpful.

    I suspect many 2004 voters supported the Libs thinking they would lose, but didn’t want a big Labor majority: instead, Howard came away with both houses!

  19. wmmbb
    October 24th, 2007 at 14:34 | #19

    The polls clear predict a Labor win. The question is what do they mean? In that context it is more interesting to speculate what possible course of events would change the polls? I suspect that the election campaign based on largess will not work, and is not working, to move the balance of opinion. Other that Rudd falling apart, could the government formulate a breakthrough strategy with Howard as their leader? The answer to that question may well be no.

  20. Andrew
    October 24th, 2007 at 14:53 | #20

    I think it will be a lot closer than the polls suggest – the ALP could well gain 53-54% of the primary vote and not get the 16 seats they need. Average swings count for little if there are masive swings in already safe labour seats and only modest swings in the seats thye need to win.

  21. Andrew
    October 24th, 2007 at 14:54 | #21

    I meant to say ’53-54% of two party preferred vote’

  22. wilful
    October 24th, 2007 at 15:16 | #22

    yeah but Andrew, there is a huge Latham effect and no reason to think that the Coalition are brilliant marginal seat campaigners. What reason is there to suppose that marginals wont move, and that already safe Labor seats will become safer? It’s not what the seat-by-seat polling is saying.

  23. Bingo Bango Boingo
    October 24th, 2007 at 15:26 | #23

    I think anyone who believes that Howard can pull things back from a 58:42 TPP Newspoll result, marginal seat strategy or no marginal seat strategy, is sadly deluded. John is quite right to call it won for the ALP at this early stage.


  24. Andrew
    October 24th, 2007 at 15:55 | #24

    No I don’t think Howard can pull it back – and I agree with JQ that the ALP will win – I’m just making the point that it may be a lot closer than people think. I’ve had a couple of recent conversations with senior ALP folk and they are certainly not counting chickens yet.

  25. sjk
    October 24th, 2007 at 16:20 | #25

    Crispin, I share your frustration, but I’m not prepared to admit defeat just yet 🙂

    Democracy may not be helping, but then, I think many on the other side are saying the same thing: The only difference is they think the the key threat is the laughable “islamofacism”. Ghod help us if they manage to capture levers of government. So, really, things could be worse!

    As for JQ’s main point, a quick look at the fairfax papers just now shows that only 3 of the top 15 stories refer to the election. Only 1 of 9 of the top stories at the ABC website is election related.

    I submit that nobody is reading the copious number of election stories because nobody cares.

    Australians have already made up their minds. And I think that is bad news for Howard.

  26. gerard
    October 24th, 2007 at 17:10 | #26

    BBB, why should resource depletion be given precisely no thought?

  27. wilful
    October 24th, 2007 at 17:14 | #27

    Because BBB believes in substitutability and human inguenity.

    I’m rather less sanguine about the general prospects – we’ve not found a decent substitute for water, for example.

  28. FDB
    October 24th, 2007 at 17:29 | #28

    I think it will be a massive landslide, 2PP 60%+ to ALP.

  29. Bingo Bango Boingo
    October 24th, 2007 at 17:45 | #29

    Precisely, wilful. There is no prospect of running out of anything useful, since capitalism economises. Of course, some things will become more expensive, but broad substitution will occur as soon as it is cost effective. On water, I am as optimistic as ever. After all, we have found a substitute for naturally occurring fresh water: saltwater + electricity.

    FDB, it’s a real possibility.


  30. gerard
    October 24th, 2007 at 18:05 | #30

    Fine, be optimistic, but to say that substituability and human ingenuity will meet the problems is a far cry from saying that the issue should be given “precisely no thought” – unless you’re saying that ingenuity can occur without thought, substitutes can be found without thinking, and the cost or time scales involved aren’t worthy of consideration.

  31. October 24th, 2007 at 18:20 | #31

    Oh I see, “the market will provide” right BBB?

    I can’t tell you how and when it will provide, but I know that it will. Just have faith.

    I think market fundamentalism will remembered as one of the sillier religions of time.

    FDB and BBB. There is precisely zero chance of a
    60-40 2PP vote. I reckon 55-45 is the upper bound.

  32. October 24th, 2007 at 18:28 | #32

    gerard: LOL! Ingenuity without thought indeed.

    The problem for the market fundamentalists is they’re not the ones that need to do the thinking, its the geeks and techies that have to figure it out. Guess who hangs out at peak oil sites? Economists? Nah. Its the techies and geeks.

  33. tonyg
    October 24th, 2007 at 19:00 | #33


  34. tonyg
    October 24th, 2007 at 19:01 | #34

    How come registration is no longer required to comment?

  35. jquiggin
    October 24th, 2007 at 19:11 | #35

    I found that I’d fallen off the spamlist, to a level Akismet could handle, and it seems to improve access to the site.

  36. JB
    October 24th, 2007 at 20:37 | #36

    I would like to disagree with Andrew’s comments earlier. My view is that the 2004 election increased the margin by 2%. I understand that LP insiders are saying that the swings aren’t being replicated in the last 16 seats as based on Mackkerras Pendulums (or whatever they are officially called. However, it is the seats in the 5-10% margin that LP officials should be concerned with. There are many of them that have had an inflated margin after the 2004 Latham effect (often getting 5% swings) so they could easily have the big swing like in 1996. I’d love your comments

  37. Jill Rush
    October 24th, 2007 at 20:42 | #37

    observa -you may well be right. SA may well decide to send Nick Xenophon to the senate because he has a quaint sense of principled action. In a close tussle SA folk won’t mind having him there in their corner and won’t mind if he holds the balance of power either.

  38. al loomis
    October 25th, 2007 at 08:01 | #38

    crispin, and sjk: when has democracy been tried?

    rule by cabinet is not democracy. your right, it’s not working well, for most people. stop calling it democracy, and we can hope to get actual democracy. until you break out of your doublethink prison, you’re the problem.

    for those who had a british/ozzian education, actual democracy is distinguished by three conditions:

    direct election of officers of state,

    public administration of state activities,

    and primacy of citizen initiative law.

    oz has none of these features, it is an oligarchy masquerading as a monarchy whose national language is newspeak.

  39. Crispin Bennett
    October 25th, 2007 at 08:14 | #39

    al loomis: yes, I understood that to be your point. Unfortunately if we did have a more democratic system, our chances would be even worse. The average citizen-subject would kill rather than have to pay the real price of petrol, for example.

    If you can think of a way to trash the corporate oligarchy without destroying production, and then institute a generation-long education program emphasizing individual critical thinking, then democracy might, perhaps, improve things. But as long as the primary shapers of cognition are a crude congeries of superstition, hominid common-sense and corporate advertising, true democracy would lead to rapid disaster.

  40. wilful
    October 25th, 2007 at 08:54 | #40

    direct election of officers of state,

    Couldn’t think of anything worse.

  41. PeterRickwood
    October 25th, 2007 at 09:50 | #41

    al loomis: i know the oz chatterati like to pretend they are citizens, guiding discussion and decision making, but i suspect the bakers, real estate agents, and pensioners aren’t paying much attention

    Why are people persisting with this chatterati/chardonnay-socialist rubbish? It is the equivalent of the simple ‘big business is evil’ line that the mainstream left have long since ditched, but the mainstream right still seems to hang on to their equivalent caricature. Why is it that educated people trying to engage in the political debate are so objectionable? Other than the fact that they disagree with you, of course….

  42. sjk
    October 25th, 2007 at 10:35 | #42

    al loomis, of course, strictly speaking we use a republican governance model, not democratic … but then, that was the price we paid to extend citizen participation in government as the demos grew larger than the city-state. Not ideal, could be better … could be much worse.

    I do however agree with your suggestion that we directly elect our officers of state. In fact, I wrote my thesis this year on electing our representative to the United Nations.

  43. Crispin Bennett
    October 25th, 2007 at 10:36 | #43

    Peter: one reason both sides persist (aside from the various common cognitive and affective biases that tend to strengthen stereotypes) is that there are kernels of truth to these caricatures that just ‘ditching’ them fails to deal with.

    The chattering classes are obviously a false bogeyman, as they don’t have real power. But the right are correct that they are out of touch with ‘ordinary people’. Anyone who’s spent time in workplaces not dominated by the university-educated (and I don’t mean just blue-collar here) will easily call to mind conversations that make the left-leaning blood curdle, and see how fundamentally fake is our public discourse, and I don’t think there’s much doubt that the educated play a role in that fakery.

    And on business: it may not always be evil, but that’s only because of the cumulative effects of law and regulation. It’s always going to be as evil as it’s allowed to be, or can get away with it, as that’s how the market’s discipline arranges it. Even now, companies will use armed militias where they can get away with it (http://www.aseed.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=21&Itemid=38), and it’d be naive to suggest that if offered slave labour as in Europe’s not so distant past (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/germancos.html) the majority would refuse.

    Both stereotypes are exaggerated, but jettisoning what’s right about them doesn’t help gain a clearer view.

  44. Bingo Bango Boingo
    October 25th, 2007 at 12:02 | #44

    gerard, I was saying (admittedly unclearly) that ‘resource depletion’ per se should be given precisely no thought. Obviously a lot of smart people will have to do a lot of thinking to improve extraction methods, manage transitions, etc. However, the debate that surrounds the phrase ‘resource depletion’ strongly implies (at least to me) that resources do something useful in the ground and that somehow we would be better off leaving them there (ie. it is the depleting itself which is undesirable). That, to me, is insane.

    carbonsink, no one is blindly following ‘market fundamentalism’. The economisation of resources and substitution is simply a matter of lived experience in the real world over many centuries. No faith is required.


  45. wilful
    October 25th, 2007 at 12:31 | #45

    BBB I agree with both you and Julian Simon that for a large class of inputs, substitutability will continue to work well. My favourite example is the use of copper – fibre optic cables work better and we’re not about to run out of sand.

    However, faith in the historic inevitability and universality of this stuff is I think optimistic at best, or naive. It works for most goods, but there are a bunch of things that aren’t about to be substituted easily. Water is as I’ve said one of them – I don’t think desalination will make for profitable agriculture any time soon. Soil is another. Oil another. Sure we can postulate low soil, low water and low oil futures, but they’re really really big hurdles to get over, and I don’t think we can blithely wave our hands and say the market will provide. Getting over those humps will require concerted effort and massive government support, which is therefore a political and not an economic problem.

    Anyway, this is a major diversion from the thread topic, maybe we should cut and paste it into weekend reflections later. Why isn’t anyone else giving their seat predictions? or Senate guesses? C’mon, put your numbers up, so we can mock in a few long weeks.

  46. PeterRickwood
    October 25th, 2007 at 13:02 | #46

    Crispin Bennett said: one reason both sides persist (aside from the various common cognitive and affective biases that tend to strengthen stereotypes) is that there are kernels of truth to these caricatures that just ‘ditching’ them fails to deal with.

    The chattering classes are obviously a false bogeyman, as they don’t have real power. But the right are correct that they are out of touch with ‘ordinary people’.

    I still dont see how it is useful, for a few reasons. Firstly, the term is used in a strictly pejorative manner, and so merely reinforces any real division, which is unhelpful, just as blanket branding business as money-grubbing evil multinationals is unhelpful. Secondly, what does it mean to claim that the `chattering elites’ are out of touch with the mythical `common man’? Does it just mean that they have a different set of priorities and values to other sections of the population? Can’t we say this about any sub-group of the population that we choose to define? Single mothers? Aboriginals? Small business owners? Pensioners?

    Are the so-called chattering classes any less in touch with the rest of the population than pensioners? Or some other groups? I think we’d all be better off if we left the pigeonholing alone and just discussed the issues at hand.

  47. wilful
    October 25th, 2007 at 13:15 | #47

    Fully agree with Peter, I’ve found it quite absurd that someone such as myself can be labelled an ‘elite’ by the likes of Professor David Flint or the News Ltd hacks. What an absurd label to fling around.

  48. Crispin Bennett
    October 25th, 2007 at 13:34 | #48

    Peter: I’ve contributed to hijacking this thread too much already, so I’ll make this my last comment.

    I entirely agree with you that talking about substantive topics is better than using stereotypes to abuse ‘opponents’. All I’m saying is that by denying stereotypes (rather than understanding, unpacking and only then challenging their contents), all you’re doing is denying fault-lines that really exist. And, yes, one of these is undoubtedly between the guardians of public discourse and many uneducated Australians. Although there was lots else going on, I think this is one of the things that Keating fell foul of. Huge numbers of people (you can call them ‘common’ if you want) see nothing wrong at all with complaining about ‘our Indigenous brothers’ (said with a nasty little wink); and more generally the process of challenging sexism and racism has as yet only progressed through a thin layer of society. When right-wingers complain of lefty or liberal elites, they are being ludicrous, but the reason the jibe has longevity is that it taps into very real differences between how Australia looks in the media, and how it plays out across huge swathes of the country. Denying that fact won’t make it go away.

  49. jquiggin
    October 25th, 2007 at 14:27 | #49

    I hadn’t followed this thread before writing my latest post, but the recent comments fit naturally there, so I suggest moving the discussion there and leaving this one for more directly electoral concerns.

  50. James Farrell
    October 26th, 2007 at 20:37 | #50

    You also deserve some credit for advocating a Rudd leadership, back in the Crean days when he was still obscure.

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