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The home straight

August 16th, 2010

As we enter the final week of the campaign, all the indications are that Tony Abbott and the Coalition have fallen short in their improbably near-run attempt to limit Labor to one term. If this happens, there can be few losers of Australian elections who have more richly deserved their fate. Sadly, there can be few winners who have deserved it less than Labor, on the basis of its performance since the abandonment of the ETS and the axing of Kevin Rudd. (In the event of an upset, both judgements would still be true). The media, for whom horse-race metaphors like the one I’ve used to title this post, seem to be the best they can do, can share in the credit for this depressing business.

A few probably forlorn hopes: First, it will be some consolation if the Greens win some Lower House seats. The very unlikely event that they might hold the balance of power in both houses would be the just reward to the major parties for their appalling performance. Nothing is impossible, but the odds against are long.

Second, win or lose, the ALP needs to sack Karl Bitar and his crew, and intervene in the disastrous NSW branch. The combination of corruption, thuggery and incompetence displayed by this mob is breathtaking, and they are a huge millstone around the neck of the Labor party.

Third, given the general dishonesty of the campaign, I would be perfectly happy to see Julia Gillard dump her absurd idea of a citizen focus group, and proceed to implement the climate policies we all know to be necessary.

A final point. When the Coalition has looked like winning, various people have pointed to this mildly snarky post in which I predicted we would never see another Liberal government. My point was not that Labor would be in forever, but that the Libs and Nats would have to merge before they could win. That has in fact happened in Queensland, which makes the continued existence of a separate, but permanently coalitional, National Party in NSW and Victoria even more absurd. But obviously, I was expecting Labor to stay in for at least two terms. At this point, I’m willing to renew my prediction, though obviously it’s a matter of probability rather than certainty. To be clear, I expect the Libs and Nats to merge at a national level before they regain government.

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  1. Doug
    August 16th, 2010 at 13:35 | #1

    – i am curious what about the Nationals in WA?

  2. PeterS
    August 16th, 2010 at 14:33 | #2

    “… I expect the Libs and Nats to merge at a national level before they regain government.”
    Where would that leave Turnbull?

  3. Fran Barlow
    August 16th, 2010 at 15:56 | #3

    PrQ said:

    If this happens, there can be few losers of Australian elections who have more richly deserved their fate. Sadly, there can be few winners who have deserved it less than Labor, on the basis of its performance since the abandonment of the ETS and the axing of Kevin Rudd.

    While I agree that the two boss class parties were execrable, I’m not sure those who reject metaphysics can adopt the language of just desert. One can I think speak of justice in a secular sense (i.e. reason arising from a recognition of the compelling and contested claims of individual humans and groups of humans) but terms like “just reward” 9below) and desert strongly imply non-human agency.

    It does seem possible that in addition to Melbourne, there is some prospect of The Greens finishing in front of the the Liberals in Tasmania in Denison and perhaps Franklin and defeating the ALP on Liberal preferences. There’s apparently a rough chance of an ACT senate seat from Humphries (Lib) and that person would be seated immediately.

  4. Neil
    August 16th, 2010 at 16:07 | #4

    “those who reject metaphysics”.
    Okay, you have inspired a lecture.
    “Metaphysics” is not the kind of thing you can reject. You can have a naturalistic metaphysics or a nonnaturalistic metaphysics; you can be a monist or a dualist or you can be agnostic about which is the right metaphysics. But you can’t say metaphysics is false (not and make much sense, anyways). You mean desert implies a nonnaturalistic metaphysics.
    (2) There is an enormous literature saying that your claim, understood as above, is wrong. I can’t think of one good reason why a nonnaturalistic metaphysics would matter to the question of desert. Suppose that dualism was true – so what?

  5. paul walter
    August 16th, 2010 at 16:26 | #5

    So, a Greens seat in the reps is still pie in the sky?
    Still no reps representation for nearly a million voters.

  6. Jim Rose
    August 16th, 2010 at 16:57 | #6


    If the Liberals win and I think they might just, it will be for two reasons.

    First, the labour party is is too shifty by half and weak under pressure. As soon as the polls tied, Gillard cracked and tried to reinvent herself as the phoney real Julia, rather than operate on a “what you see is what you get basis”, having confidence in herself, and “I have the ticker to be PM too”.

    Second, the mad monk is what is what he, warts and all. No focus groups, no careerism, and sufficient life balance to ride bikes, run marathons and volunteer as a fire-fighter. that is something ordinary people trust.

    The labour party is full of people who spend every waking moment thinking of politics and their own rise and rise. They have been found out as the scum of the educated middle class, rather than the cream of the working class.

  7. Fran Barlow
    August 16th, 2010 at 17:18 | #7


    Well I entirely reject metaphysics as a useful branch of knowledge and so far, I’ve survived OK. The idea that there could be some non-physical or supra-physical cause out there dispensing “just desert/reward” fails Occam’s Razor. I also see no evidence for it.

    It is at best here a rhetorical wave of the hand in the same class as notions of “evil” — by which we really mean to indicate our approval or disapproval of something.

    I am aware that historically, metaphysics also encompassed what now falls within the physical sciences, but of course, I am expressly referring to it in its contemporary usage to refer to non-physical agency/intelligence.

  8. Chris Warren
    August 16th, 2010 at 19:24 | #8

    @Jim Rose

    As usual you get everything wrong. So I am glad you thnk the Liberals might just win.

    Turnbull, Costello an Howard are all examples of people who were thinking of their own rise and rise even to the point of destroying their own house.

    The so-called “cream of the working class” is the middle class. Most “middle class” work just as hard as anyone else. They are part of Australia’s workforce.

  9. paul of albury
    August 16th, 2010 at 19:59 | #9

    Fran many people reckon they’ve survived ok despite rejecting science (if not it’s products). It’s not a good argument.
    Besides what does it matter? Are we unable to talk about what people deserve unless we believe in a god to strike them down? Do we need religion to have ethics? I’d be surprised if you argued that!

  10. Jim Rose
    August 16th, 2010 at 20:02 | #10

    @Chris Warren
    So Howard was a not a conviction politician!?

    • He proposed a GST because it was an easy vote winner, rather than a hard sell that he believed in because he thought it was good for his country.
    • He proposed workchoices as an easy vote winner, rather than a hard sell that he believed in because he thought it was good for his country.
    • He refused to sign the Kyoto protocol in 2007 to neutralise Rudd’s endless and in the end phoney moralising on climate change because Howard thought not signing was a vote winner, or because he thought signing Kyoto would betray what Howard stood for.

    Hawke and Keating were conviction politicians too so they did not have to resort to bread and circus like Rudd and Gillard to sneak through election days.

    the real Bob and real Paul were not especially unwrapped and put on public parade as an election special and voter treat.

    Turnbull was notorious for being stubborn. He lost the leadership on a point of principle, and he cross the floor to vote with the government on emissions trading.

    Voters voted for the real Bob, and real Paul, and knew they were voting the real Bob, and real Paul without a scintilla of doubt, and they thought they voted for the real Kevin07. The voters dropped keven07 like a brick when he turned out to be a phoney.

    The fact that the real Julia is an unknown shape shifter is why labour is facing defeat.

  11. August 16th, 2010 at 21:28 | #11

    @paul of albury

    Do we need religion to have ethics? I’d be surprised if you argued that!

    You don’t need religion to have ethics. That was my point. Appeals to “just desert” are implicitly deistic (i.e metaphysical in character)

    How can anyone deserve something unless one believes in some supra-human agency? Don’t you have a bootstrapping problem if you try to locate desert in human systems? Conversely, if one takes the view that humans have claims upon each other that derive exclusively from the logic of human agency and rthe principle of equality, how can what they get be just desert? It’s simply an output of rational conduct, which we may call “justice” for simplicity.

  12. Chris Warren
    August 16th, 2010 at 21:46 | #12


    Diatribe deleted


    </strongThe fact that the real Julia is an unknown shape shifter is why labour is facing defeat.

    Boy, this really does show you know nothing about any of this.

  13. Alice
    August 16th, 2010 at 22:40 | #13

    All I know is Tony Abbott is on TV now saying we all need “nourishment” from the arts…. (which is why he is keeping the superannuation perks on artworks??????? Thats useful for people who can afford expensive artworks isnt it)

    Spare me any more “Tony Abbott pretending to be Mr Nice Guy” as on Q and A tonight….this after accusing virtually the entire arts industry, the entire public service, and all academics of being lefties for ten years as the Howards ideological attack dog.

    I cant stand the pretense any longer – bring on the election – Abbott really deserves a Gold Logie award right now, not the prime ministerhsip.

  14. Peter Evans
    August 16th, 2010 at 23:12 | #14

    I’m looking forward to the end of the tiresome coverage of the campaign, and the endless articles in the media about the media. Of course, after Saturday they’ll be wise after the event and finally say the one of the two things they’ve failed to say during the election to any degree, namely that there’s no “it’s time” factor in the zeit geist and (1975 excepted) there’s not been a change of government, state or federal that I can think of, where that hasn’t been a major factor.

    The other thing they haven’t and won’t mention is what a bunch of top haters the Libs have become. This is a fairly new phenomenon – maybe less than 10 years old. There’s a gushing of outraged, hysterical hatred levelled at the ALP from all sorts who you’d hope would be more sensible (with a few exceptions). Since they have a blocking power in the Senate, Rudd et al tried to very conciliatory to the Libs after 2007 since getting legislation through was either Greens+Xenophon+Fielding, or the Libs, which they tried with the ETS. The Libs tossed it back in their face, never accepted they lost in 2007, and behaved like petulant 5 year olds. Labor appointed prominent Libs to plum posts, didn’t sack a lot of public servants and heads of statutory bodies – in general tried not to antagonize the patronage are of the Liberal party. Wasn’t worth it. But after July 1 2011, the Libs are out of it. And they don’t deserve any consideration for their atrocious behaviour.

  15. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 16th, 2010 at 23:17 | #15

    Alice, the problem with Abbott is that he is very dismissive of those who have opinions contrary to his beliefs. The classic example was the NBN case when he brushed aside the expert advice of those who know what is best for Australia when in fact he has little/or no knowledge of subject matter on hand.

  16. August 17th, 2010 at 03:22 | #16

    Pr Q said:

    When the Coalition has looked like winning, various people have pointed to this mildly snarky post in which I predicted we would never see another Liberal government. My point was not that Labor would be in forever, but that the Libs and Nats would have to merge before they could win. To be clear, I expect the Libs and Nats to merge at a national level before they regain government.

    Pr Q,

    The reason for the chronic confusion on this point is that you titled your post “the last Liberal” when you really should have titled it “the last National”. It is the National party which is in secular decline (drought, tree-changers) rather than the Liberal party which in fact has increased its overall share of the primary vote (and of course its share of the Coalition vote).

    When the eventual merger of the Liberal and National parties occurs it will effectively be a Liberal party takeover of the Nationals. It has been happening for a decade or more, as conservative Liberal party candidates in rural and regional areas pick up seats from the Nationals.

    So it was misleading of you to suggest that the “last Liberal” was upon us. Quite the opposite, with a capable leader such as Costello or Turnbull they quite possibly could have come close to an unprecedented victory.

  17. August 17th, 2010 at 03:31 | #17

    As we enter the home straight I want to review my predictions about this election made over the past year or so and put them on the public record for analysis, criticism and acclaim or ridicule.

    I do this both to get in some early bragging rights (Alter Ego: careful, don’t count your chickens before they are hatched, Ego: get it while you can]. But also to promote accountability in psephological science. Economics, politics and anthropology are blighted by the chronic unwillingness of practioners to subject their theories to predictive scrutiny. Apart from Pr Q who is a striking exception and to whom we are all in debt for his willingness to go out on a limb.

    Basically the ALP will win because incumbents usually win, especially if the economy is doing alright. The ALP should have cruised to a big victory (ALP 53 L/NP 47), had they passed an ETS of sorts and kept Rudd in as leader. As it is they will probably get a comfortable victory – I predicted ALP 52 L/NP 48 after Gillard got in.

    Back in NOV 2009, when Rudd was leader, I predicted the election would be ALP 53 – L/NP 47. My reasoning at the time:

    I have always thought that the polls average 55-45 was an over-estimate of the ALP. I am going for a 53 (ALP) – 47 (L/NP) spread in 2010, which is what I predicted for the 2007 election.

    It is possible (probable?) that the 53 (ALP) – 47 (L/NP) spread is the new equilibrium point for median voter preference in AUS’s two-party preferred electoral pendulum. This follows from the systematic pro-ALP bias amongst Baby Boomers, NESBs and single-mothers.

    My interpretation of the polling data since 2006 is that underlying support for Rudd-ALP has remained pretty stable. Although the observed polling data jumps around a fair bit it tends, IMHO, to overstate the ALP’s vote.

    Obviously things changed a bit since late 2009. In 24 JUN, just after Gillard took over, I aired the possibility of a voter back-lash on the morrow of Gillard’s coup. I was also the first to predict the campaign would go “post-modern”:

    Remember these are the same geniuses that gave us the Latham Experiment. How did that work out for them? And the preference deal that gave Steve Fielding a Senate spot. And they have been managing things in NSW ever since Carr flew the coop. Not a pretty sight.

    So they are not infallible.

    Its quite possible that Gillard could put in an ordinary performance during the campaign. Or that the voters could get cynical about ALP leadership merry-go-rounds and opportunistic policy back-flips. Or that Abbott could amaze us all.

    That being the case then all bets are off.

    So the ALP is prepared to take big political risks (changing leaders just prior to the campaign). But not prepared to take big policy risks (going to the voters with a DD on ETS).

    Says it all about post-modern politics, really.

    Nevertheless, after a night to sleep on it, on 25 JUN 2010 I predicted the election would pan out as ALP 52 – L/NP 48, with the government suffering some slight punishment for excessive political opportunism, but still heading for a comfortable victory:

    I now think that Gillard will do at least as well, if not better, than Rudd would have done. So I posit at least a 52 ALP – 48 L/NP outcome. With a more respectable performance by the ALP in the marginal seats in resource-rich states, esp since RSPT dropped.

    That slump did eventuate, but apparently it was only a temporary reversal of fortunes for the ALP. In retrospect the ALP slump should be seen as a form of voter time-out/sin-bin to the ALP back-room factional wheeler-dealers.

    As the campaign progressed I became more alarmed about the ALP’s bizarre antics (the new Julia makeover, the clandestine Rudd meeting, the Latham serial pest). On 03 AUG 2010 I cataloged the ALP’s elementary errors:

    the ALP’s political strategy…has violated some basic psephological principles, and squandered the advantages of incumbency:

    – “don’t change horses in mid-stream”,
    – “governments lose elections, oppositions don’t win them”,
    – “governments should run on their record”,
    – “oppositions should be portrayed as risky”.

    I must give some credit to mumbles for correctly predicting the (temporary) voter back-lash against ALP’s cynical machinations.

    But I stuck to my guns about the eventual ALP victory. I suggested that the ALP needed to re-focus on Abbott in order to regain the initiative and claw back the lead:

    Still, the ALP’s remaining advantages, plus the disadvantages of Abbott, should be enough to get them over the line. But to exploit these factors the ALP MUST take the focus off Gillard and onto Abbott.

    Later that day, 03 AUG 2010, on Crikey, I suggested that the L/NP’s surge would run out of steam:

    I guess the big question is “does the L/NP have the Big Mo?”, as in “Mo-mentum” to carry it through to victory on polling day. My guess is “No” to the L/NP’s “Big Mo”, but I sure did not predict the L/NP closing the gap with such alacrity so early in the campaign.

    So, to sum up, I predict that the ALP’s comfortable lead will be consolidated over the final week, with the result likely to be ALP 52- L/NP 48, as predicted over the course of the year. For reasons outlined here, back on 23 JUN 2010, the day Rudd was overthrown.

    There is simply no precedent for a government as well-run and well-received as Rudd-ALP doing badly in its first run at re-election. Rudd-ALP tick all the boxes for re-election:

    – reasonably fresh incumbent;
    – economy humming smoothly, due to good govt fiscal & financial;
    – competent leadership triumvirate of Rudd-Gillard-Swan;
    – reasonably united party-room Caucus;
    – no ugly festering ministerial scandals.
    Meanwhile Abbott-L/NP look like a bad bet:
    – not very popular leader, prone to risky off-the cuff moves;
    – party room divisions over leadership;
    – unpopular policies on industrial relations and climate change.
    Moreover there is some evidence of a partisan realignment on the basis of profound demographic shifts in the electorate, namely the replacement of the Menzies-era gloomers with the Whitlam-era boomers in 55+ voting cohort. The aging hippie3s have have an allergy to voting L/NP, at least relative to the normal conservative tendency of older people.

    In short, the Rudd-Gillard swap probably slightly harmed the ALP, implying that all the ALP’s political machinations amounted “a tale, Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing”.

  18. wilful
    August 17th, 2010 at 10:50 | #18

    Well I have to say that I do agree with Jim Rose, and Tony Abbott is more ‘real’ (dissect the word as you wish).

    But for me, feeling that I have a better idea of who and what he is, makes me much less inclined to vote for the fellow. He would be an utter disaster as PM, truly a low point in Australia’s political history, I believe.

  19. Peter Evans
    August 17th, 2010 at 11:32 | #19

    Jack is right. There’s just no exhausted, “time for a change” mood. Also, elections in this country since the dawn of comprehensive polling have been well predicted by polls 3-6 months out from the election, and campaigns have been shown not to change matters much (it would be fun if a massive sustained scandal broke during a campaign, but that hasn’t happened). Campaigns always descend into pure froth and bubble and no focus whatsoever, so I think do very little to convince anyone to change their vote (sure, telephone polling can pick momentary popularity, but not what will happen in X days time in the polling booth).

    In the long run swapping out Rudd for Gillard is a good thing, and I think in 5 or 6 years time will be seen as a masterful move. I have far more confidence that Gillard can get the best out of her cabinet and negotiate far better outcomes with the Greens. Rudd was a great opposition leader, where all the focus is on the leader, but in government was fanatically controlling of all government messaging to the point it was killing innovation. The deposing of Rudd maybe is a timely wake up call to this country that there’s more to politics than celebrity and we live in a representative system, not a direct democracy. That’s not a hard concept to get ones head around, but folk seem loath to do it.

  20. Jim Rose
    August 17th, 2010 at 11:55 | #20

    It has been a long time – the cold war days – since Tory governments ran on vote for us because the other side are worse and have secret agendas.

  21. Fran Barlow
    August 17th, 2010 at 12:47 | #21

    @Jim Rose

    You must have a short memory. That (with suitable figleaves) was the pitch for every Howard government, arguably Keating’s 1993 pitch, and Hawke’s in 1990 and 1987.

  22. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 17th, 2010 at 12:58 | #22

    Wilful, I am listening to Tony Abbott on the ABC and he does look like a Z grade salesman. God help Australia if he gets into power.

  23. Fran Barlow
    August 17th, 2010 at 13:05 | #23

    Also, on the question of the role of focus groups in political messaging, it was an importation from the US which the Liberal Party began and still uses. Anyone who thinks Abbott’s current posture is not the product of focus groups is being naive. “Town Hall” meetings. Climbing off the stage? ahem … very American.

  24. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 17th, 2010 at 13:28 | #24

    Wilful, Abbott lacks vision for his policies are small potatoes in comparison to those of Labor. For example Labor’s National Broadband Network promises a fibre network to 93 per cent of Australians with speeds up to 100Mbps (increased to 1Gbps) at a cost of $43 billion in comparison to the Coalition which offer very little some $6 billion primarily in subsidies to existing carriers to improve existing hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC) and ADSL2+ networks, with fixed wireless networks in outer suburban, regional and rural areas. What the Coalition doesn’t tell the public is that operators of public computer clouds cannot guarantee your data will not be read by some foreign government.

  25. Jim Rose
    August 17th, 2010 at 13:50 | #25

    @Fran Barlow
    I am surprised that you would concede that the ALP had no positive vision and record to offer. more surprised that the Libs were seen by you as having a credible chance of winning in 1987 and 1990.

  26. Fran Barlow
    August 17th, 2010 at 14:21 | #26

    @Jim Rose

    The ALP had a positive vision of the service they could render to the boss class, a fact later acknowledged by Howard, Costello and Abbott.

  27. Jim Rose
    August 17th, 2010 at 14:29 | #27

    @Fran Barlow
    So Abbott’s social conservatism and his climate change denialism is a vote winning product of focus groups? The mad monk has had the same stripes for a long, long time.

    The recent negative ads against abbot talk about his some distant and very distant past as evidence that he is a rusted-on inflexible reactionary. Election smears work through repetition, not contradiction and mixed messages.

  28. Fran Barlow
    August 17th, 2010 at 15:37 | #28

    @Jim Rose

    So Abbott’s social conservatism and his climate change denialism is a vote winning product of focus groups?

    You misunderstand the role of focus groups. What a focus group does, if it is successful, is allow one to frame one’s own policy objectives in ways that stymie opposition and maintain coherent constituencies. Howard was and is a social conservative. Abbott probably is as well. The question was how to keep the core constituency for this agenda together while reaching beyond the core into less conservative voter pools.

    Climate change delusionism plays well with the conservative core. It’s a shibboleth which restrains those conservatives who might be tempted to jump ship to stay with the herd and vote against their interests. It’s a consolidating strategy. Rather than being about evidence based policy, the delusionist position frames the issue as one of localism arrayed against remote authority, common sense versus elite or esoteric sense, the little guy versus the government. In short, it is a variant of rightwing populism. In this it sits well with the overarching parochialism and xenophobia that infects the more liberal populists who vote ALP. So it firms up the base and threatens to wedge more liberal (but nationalistic) constituencies, allowing conservatives to posture (when it is useful) as anti-authoritarian. In the case of Howard, it works very well with his broader animus to what he calls “elites” (basically people with esoteric knowledge or who seem better educated than he was).

    It’s not so much that these policies can win votes. Rather, they can found a narrative that has sufficient coherence to both firm up the base while wedging the core. Most importantly, it sets a very low bar for the purveyor. If one claims that eggheads are “out of touch” (= remote, lacking authenticity or standing to declare) one can make a virtue out of what would normally be a weakness — ignorance and naivety. Howard/Abbott can adopt hoi polloi register, whereas the technocrat Rudd simply looks absurd trying it — underlining his want of authenticity. There’s little doubt in Abbott’s and Howard’s case that whereas with some people one can say that there was more than met the eye, in their case, there was a good deal less, and so this strategy was as good as they had. In Howard’s case, policies that provoked urban sprawl and massive leverage in outer urban housing, while not risk free, again made this strategy more effective, since he had large numbers of potential ALP voters hostage to volatility in petrol prices and interest rates — people who would sit for hours in their cars listening to rightwing loudmouths pour out their bile at all who threatened the outer urban fantasy.

    In a country such as Australia, the culture of which has always had a rather ambivalent dialog with remote authority, veering between cultural cringe and Barry Mackenzie, this was always the way conservatism was going to go, however it was in the days when the silver spoon set ruled and it was the ALP that had the market on plebeian authenticity cornered.

    Make no mistake though — this is what a focus group will tell you. If it happens to be something you can use, so much the better.

  29. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 17th, 2010 at 18:33 | #29

    According to the latest reports Brandis has let the cat out of the bag claiming the Coalition may not balance the budget by 2013. That is correct no balanced budget by 2013 just a lot of hot air.

  30. Tony G
    August 18th, 2010 at 01:41 | #30

    I am not going to be bold enough to call this one as I do not have a degree in political science like some, but…

    Looking at it from the bookies point of view, Centrebet, Sportsbet and Sportingbet; on an individual seats basis it is very hard to call with labor slightly in front.

    The bookmakers show the libs picking up 11 labor seats, with 2 to close to call but probably Lib and another 4 marginally labor but very very close. and labor picking up 1 lib seat McEwen and loosing Melbourne to the greens,

    As the punters money is laid out at the moment -Libs 59 + 13 – 1 = 71; Lab 88 – 13 + 1 – 1 = 75 independents 3 & 1 Green a. There are 4 labor seats that could technically go either way so Saturday night will be interesting although it looks like neither side can get 76 out right.

  31. Jim Rose
    August 18th, 2010 at 07:36 | #31

    @Michael of Summer Hill
    a furthur reason for vote liberal.

    the ALP has been unmasked as the fiscal conservatives in this elections. they are attacking abbott for fiscakl excess.

    a continuation of the fiscal policy of the Rudd government said to have saved australia from a recession requires the defeat of the Gillard government.

  32. Alice
    August 18th, 2010 at 08:52 | #32

    @Jim Rose
    Wow Jim Rose – the above comment unmasks you as a hypcrite. I thought you liked fiscal conservatism yet now you object to it and hold it up as an excuse to vote for a big spending Coalition?
    Keep tap dancing JR. Its obvious your devotion to the Coalition is like a mother’s love – unconditional.

  33. Jim Rose
    August 18th, 2010 at 08:55 | #33

    No. just pointing out the endemic inconsistency of progressives.

  34. Fran Barlow
    August 18th, 2010 at 09:13 | #34

    @Jim Rose

    Given that collapsing tax revenue associated with the GFC was the principal challenge to the government balance sheet, along with prospective increases in welfare payments, there’s no contradiction between wanting a balanced budget and fiscal stimulus.

    Far from amounting to some socialist spending spree, Rudd’s measures were perfectlly orthodox measures for a fiscal conservative to take. It’s one thing to complain about public borrowing crowding out private borrowing and pushing up costs. When private borrowing is collapsing due to declining demand, one need not reject the above principal to see that stimulating demand is warranted.

    The more salient point here goes to the credibility of the coaltion, which has now taken the road of effectively subsidising off-balance sheet loans by institutions that irt could not, in practice, allow to fail. In effect, it is proposing to furtively borrow money at above the price it could borrow directly, which simply shows that despite all its blather about public debt, it has no problem with increasing it and the pro-rata debt service costs at all, including on projects like the Brisbane Sydney inland rail which the Howard regime saw as having negative net worth. Why would one spend the billions involved to construct a rail link between Melbourne and Brisbane just to overcome congestion either side of the Sydney conurbation?

    The Coalition can’t pass the most important test by which it hopes to be judged — economic competence. Instead, as with its “direct action” furphy on mitigation — a policy which by its won reckoning has no clear business case — it has junked evidence-based policy in favour of cheap populist stunts aimed at its own targeted marginals.

  35. Fran Barlow
    August 18th, 2010 at 09:16 | #35

    { policy which by its own reckoning …}

  36. paul walter
    August 18th, 2010 at 10:16 | #36

    Fran, they don’t understand, if you want to cook an omelet, you gotta crack egg!
    And that its futile to mourn the eggshells while you hungrily eat dinner.

  37. Fran Barlow
    August 18th, 2010 at 10:35 | #37

    @paul walter

    The coalition likes to cherrypick the parts of the ledger that suit their talking points, and as often as not, their cherrypicking turns up rotten fruit.

  38. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 18th, 2010 at 10:51 | #38

    Paul Walter, Abbott has a thick skull so I don’t think you could crack his egg. But there is one issue which Abbott cannot escape from and many emigrants who are now upstanding Australian citizens will never forget what he has said in the past about migrants and asylum seeks. I give you three guesses as to who said the following ”Are there any Australians left in the so-called Australian Labor Party’?

  39. paul walter
    August 18th, 2010 at 17:50 | #39

    I wouldnt mind having a go, Mosh.

  40. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 18th, 2010 at 20:00 | #40

    Paul Walter, jokes aside it was Abbott who made the above racist comment for emigrants like Gillard have contributed enormously to this country.

  41. Monkey’s Uncle
    August 19th, 2010 at 23:34 | #41

    I am a little late to the discussion (I haven’t checked back in a while, so I did not realise this blog had started again), but I know everyone here has been missing me.

    Just to reiterate my earlier thoughts, a Labor victory in this election will be the best result for the nation. As much as I am unimpressed with Rudd and Gillard, and more generally the modern Labor Party’s penchant for opportunism, spin and protecting the spoils of office at all costs, it is sad to say that they are still the lesser of two evils. All the indications are that Tony Abbott would be at least as fiscally risky as Labor, but certainly a greater risk in terms of social and moral authoritarianism. Abbott frankly troubles me, and I certainly don’t want him near any heavy machinery. Besides, the Liberals aren’t really ready for a return to office.

    More generally, I am dismayed at the way the Opposition has exploited issues like boat people (more shamelessly this time around compared to anything from either side in previous elections). I have developed a healthy contempt for those who offer nothing but shallow populism and lowest-common-denominator type politics which, alas, dominates politics nowadays. But I am certainly in a mood to dish out punishment to the worst offenders. When you also consider how some in the churches have attempted to make an issue of Julia Gillard’s atheism, it all adds up to an election which is something of a mini-referendum on the sort of values that should underpin a modern, secular, decent society. A Labor win is necessary to get those parameters of public debate right, while a Coalition win would upset the equilibrium greatly.

    I wonder, am I the only one here who is willing to call it for the national interest? It just seems as though everyone else here is engaged in knee-jerk partisan barracking for their side, as though it were a football game.

  42. Monkey’s Uncle
    August 19th, 2010 at 23:50 | #42

    Fran Barlow :
    @Jim Rose

    The Coalition can’t pass the most important test by which it hopes to be judged — economic competence. Instead, as with its “direct action” furphy on mitigation — a policy which by its won reckoning has no clear business case — it has junked evidence-based policy in favour of cheap populist stunts aimed at its own targeted marginals.

    Fran, I forgot to mention the Coalition’s “direct action” nonsense on climate change, but that is indeed further reason they are not fit for office. Their alternative to a great big new tax on carbon is to simply throw money at industry in an attempt to bribe them to emit less. This is public money that has to be raised through …. I dunno….. raising taxes or borrowing money or some such. But hey, new taxes are politically risky. So let’s just promise to spend money without any taxes.

    When combined with Abbott’s ridiculously generous parental leave policy, he is indeed the candidate who looks like the big spender and a greater fiscal risk. As a fiscal conservative, I cannot abide this sort of thing.

    Besides, if it is a choice between government wasting money on dubious public works, school halls, home insulation, or spending big bucks on creating a new government entitlement, the former is actually preferable. At least short-term stimulus spending does not create a permanent sense of entitlement in the population or add ongoing costs to the budget in the longer term.

  43. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 20th, 2010 at 07:21 | #43

    Monkey’s Uncle, today’s Newspoll show a close result but I still stick to the stats I mentioned before ALP 53% & L-NP 47%.

  44. Fran Barlow
    August 20th, 2010 at 10:38 | #44

    @Monkey’s Uncle

    While I regard the use of the term “waste” as grossly misleading in re BER, Home insulation etc, I can’t argue with much else of that MU.

  45. Monkey’s Uncle
    August 20th, 2010 at 11:01 | #45

    I think it will be a bit closer, but the information from the key marginal seats suggests the Coalition can’t win enough to get over the line. I think Labor may lose 10 or 12 seats in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia, but gain one or two in Victoria (there is also a slim chance Labor could pick off another two seats from the Liberals in South Australia). The Greens should win Melbourne, and are perhaps a small chance in a couple of other seats.

    All in all, that works out at Labor winning by a handful of seats.

  46. Monkey’s Uncle
    August 20th, 2010 at 11:20 | #46


    It is also fair to point out that with any short-term fiscal stimulus, whenever there is a need to spend money relatively quickly there will always be a certain amount of waste. Or at the very least, money that could have been spent more efficiently in other ways.

  47. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 20th, 2010 at 11:36 | #47

    Monkey’s Uncle, unless surveys have a population of 1200 plus they mean very little.

  48. Fran Barlow
    August 20th, 2010 at 11:38 | #48

    @Monkey’s Uncle

    Exactly so, as I say in a post that for some reason is in moderation. Once you accept that almost any such program will involve some sub-optimal application of resources or a failure to realise some program goals (typically a bit of both), defining “waste” becomes difficult.

    Also there can be hidden (and thus hard to measure) benefits. A business owner who thinks that demand will crash may lay off staff and not rehire them until he or she is sure demand has recovered. Conversely, the governments determination not to allow demand to crash may tip the scales in favour of keeping people on, and that in turn supports demand as well as does the stimulus. Tax receipts go up and welfare claims decline. Yet we don’t and can’t know what this actual figure is so we really can’t exactly work out the net cost to the budget of every extra hour worked.

    And what is the longterm human cost of being un(der)employed? Again, these figures are rubbery but there are health system costs, impacts on families and so forth that are hard to quantify. What would be the costs of a surge in unemployment, forced mortgagee sales, declining property prices etc in circumstances where home equity is collateral for business finance, or where the business is home based?

    These are the imponderables and so I am a little leery about superfical specifications of waste and mismanagement.

  49. Fran Barlow
    August 20th, 2010 at 14:09 | #49

    @Michael of Summer Hill

    One of the standard ways of working out margin of error (MOE) is to divide 1 by the square root of the sample size.

    So a poll of 1200 would be 1/34.641 = 2.88% By comparison, a poll of 12,000 would have an MOE of 0.9% etc …

    On this basis a 1200 vote sample suggesting 50-50 could be 52.88-47.12 either way whereas at 12,000 sampled 50-50 could be 50.9-49.1 either way.

  50. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 20th, 2010 at 15:45 | #50

    Fran Barlow, I was just pinpointing the fact that a proper survey requires a minimum population of 1200 which makes you wonder about the accuracies of some of the articles being written.

  51. Alan
    August 20th, 2010 at 19:47 | #51

    Julia Gillard clearly respects Australia’s Christian heritage in marriage matters. I guess there’ll be wedding bells for Julia any day now, as an act of respect.

  52. Monkey’s Uncle
    August 20th, 2010 at 23:46 | #52

    Michael of SH, I don’t take much notice of the polls. I mainly look at the betting markets, and which side is showing shorter returns overall and in the key marginals. These show Labor favoured for a narrow win. International evidence shows that betting markets and political futures markets to be more accurate predictors of election results than opinion polls. I know this is a touchy subject re the Efficient Markets Hypothesis, but it’s true.

    Opinion polls on the overall 2PP vote nationwide are a pretty faulty way of forecasting results. Not only do they have a high error margin of plus or minus 3%, which can make a huge difference in seats won, but they don’t tell you anything about whether either party’s vote is holding up better in the marginal seats than elsewhere. You might as well try to guess where a scud missile is going to land.

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