Australian federal election announced - polling day to be Saturday 9 October

The Prime Minister John Howard announced this afternoon that he had asked the Governor-General to dissolve the House of Representatives. There will be a federal election for the House and half of the Senate on Saturday 9 October.

Published polls suggest that the opposition Labor party currently has the edge over the incumbent Liberal/National party coalition government. The PM’s own trustworthiness, as well as lingering voter resentment at Australia’s involvement in the Iraq war, are two issues occupying electors’ minds and will almost certainly be heavily targeted by the opposition. The government will prefer to steer the attention of voters to its superior record of economic management - although that’s being undermined a bit just now by the record high petrol prices.

All the analysts expect a close race. Voting is compulsory in Australia, and electors must allocate a preference for every candidate on the ballot paper. So the second preferences of those who vote for the minor parties (particularly the Greens) are likely to be of major importance.

My prediction? Well, John Howard is an excellent campaigner and a *very clever * politician, but I don’t think he can pull this one off. I predict a Labor victory.

Just last year some of the G’Dopers were arguing that Howard’s prime ministership would survive nuclear winter, along with the cockroaches. Those latest polls are certainly interesting, as is the date, conveniently before the US election. Spain’s repudiation of their own Bush-supporting PM could be dismissed here by the loyalists as “Old Europe” just throwing a tantrum, but Oz? You’re seen as like us Yanks, maybe even more so than the Canadians. If Howard is sent packing, this might be the first-ever Australian election to influence an American one.

It was pretty much a given that the PM would have the election before the US one. John Howard certainly wouldn’t want to be caught in the fallout if President Bush loses.

The polls aren’t really all that close. The Murdoch press has falsely represented them as such, by focussing on primary vote. In primary votes, they’re about even, but there’s about a 10% green/Democrat vote, and the preferences from that will go to Labor.

I remember seeing a poll not long ago in the Sunday Telegraph of five “marginal” electorates. The headline was that it was going to be a borderline election. But if you actually looked at the figures, three of the electorates went to Labor on primary votes, the fourth went to Labor on preferences, and the fifth “marginal” electorate was actually a blue-ribbon Liberal seat, where support for the Liberals was so overwhelming that it offset the pro-Labor numbers in the seats that really were marginal, and allowed the egregiously misleading headline.

My guess is that Bush has told the little cunt that there’s going to be some sort of convenient crisis around the end of September, so October 9 would be a good day for an election.

Superior to what? They obviously need something to hang their hat on but I can’t see why it’s the economy.

Take low unemployment for example. They’ve ushered in changes to IR legislation which have allowed the workforce to become massively more casualised in the name of labour market flexibility. Perhaps the second highest rate in the OECD behind either the UK or US. Although this has kept enormous numbers of people out of the dole office, it could be said to have also devalued the average value of having a job. Twenty years ago, having a job meant annual leave and loading, sick pay, paid holidays and a measure of security amongst other benefits. Now, it means a lowly paid worker has a very high probability of having none of that along with the inability to get a loan from anybody other than a finance company or a shark. Much of the youth without even a McJob are also then pushed out of the unemployment figures into government funded training programmes which are often just cheap labour for… a McJob. Unemployment figures used to have some value as a measure of how many people were financially fucked. Their much less useful now.

How about the budget surplus? What is it – about $10b? How the fuck do they keep the $90b worth of unfunded superannuation liability for the Commonwealth PS off the books? They’ve clearly been governing for business and they use private sector methods like outsourcing to pinch pennies and yet they’re shy of using business’s accounting standards. Same with asset sales. I don’t make my money by selling my belongings and yet the government auctions off mobile phone licenses and calls it revenue. It’s even worse with the sales of real estate like office space. About the only office space we own now is Parliament House. The rest was sold off below book, revalued up by the new owners, and leased back to us on generous terms (for the owners). Meanwhile, the useless fucking ALP cops the flack over small beer like the Tokyo-style expensive Centenary House. What’s left to sell? Australia Post, Medibank Private and half of Telstra? With Telstra less than half privatised and pondering shenanigans like buying Fairfax, what will those predatory cunts try when they’re fully private?

What about foreign reserves? We have one of the world’s smallest holdings of foreign currency against GDP and yet the government has treated it like a piggy bank to the tune of $20b since they slithered into power in '96.

Strangely enough, you could be right about petrol sparking an anti-government backlash. Trust the dopey fucking Australian public for cracking it because the government won’t subsidise their wasteful use of fossil fuels against market forces it has no control over.

Gahhhh!

Just heard the Rodent on radio rhetorically ask who the people trust to keep rates low. He takes the credit for keeping them down and (correctly) will point at the RBA when they go up.

Having said that, yes he is possibly the greatest politician (notice I didn’t say human) Australia has had in decades. Although I was out of the country for the 8 years to 2003 I followed his progress with amazement from afar and it’s only in the past few months where I’ve noticed him slip (pollies’ super?). He is a maestro to be sure.

I think Howard is toast, and I think he knows it. Mind you, I thought that around the time of the Ryan byelection last time. But this time there aren’t the shots to be fired: last time he was able to bring the pork, this time it’s been out there the whole time; there can’t be another MV Tampa and a Sept 11 wouldn’t help him to the extent it did.

The US election is symbolic of the problems for Howard at the moment: he just can’t seem to win. If he went after the US elections it seems like he’d be screwed of Bush won and screwed if he lost. Same with what Howard clearly thought was his trump card - the FTA with the US. He thought it would be a boon and split the ALP. Latham’s move (forcing amendments on pharmacuetical benefits) made the whole deal seem like a victory for the ALP. And the nasty thing for Howard is that that remains true irrespective of whether the US rejects the amendments: if they don’t, the ALP retains the perception that it put some protections into the deal; if they do, the government looks like it tried to sign us up to a shonky deal. These damned if you do, damned if you don’t things seem everywhere at the moment.

The thing that the ALP hardheads are worried about, though, is the prospect of a seatless swing. The government could face a substantial swing and retain government. (The electoral pendulum can be seen here.) The Coalition has a great record in holding marginals. Partly that’s the benefits of incumbancy, but they’ve been impressive on top of that.

But I reckon this is going to be like the Keating government’s fall: the government held on with a monster fear campaign in '93, but next time the electorate (particularly in Qld) were waiting for them on the verandah with baseball bats (as the then Qld premier said). This time, same thing. The ALP will pick up nothing in Tasmania (obviously) or Western Australia (perhaps drop one there). They may gain half a dozen net from Vic (2-3), NT (1), SA (1-3). The position of the NSW state government won’t help, but that leaves only half a dozen required from NSW and Qld.

The overwhelming problem for the government is that all the little dodgy things they’ve done seem to have finally coalesced in the minds of the public and of opinion writers. Now, the children overboard thing from last time is not something a few bleeding hearts worry about: it’s just like everything else the government does. Whereas previously the government could weasel on an issue starting from a position of broad public trust, now they start from a position of public skepticism. It’s bloody hard to win from there.

Barring a miracle, I don’t think it will even be close.

woolly made a good call in that thread:

Other factors have been at work, though. Back then we knew that Bush and Howard were both full of shit, but the public at large has since had it demonstrated to them in spades. Also, the pathetic Leader of the Opposition at that time, Simon Crean, got turfed out in favor of Mark Latham, who is on record as calling Bush “incompetent and dangerous”.

I don’t see it that way. We make up out minds, you make up your minds. We’re making our minds up about the same stuff, but any kind of “peer pressure” is gonna be minimal. Seriously, it’s not going to be some wake up call to America if 51% or 53% or whatever percentage of Australians vote Howard out.

Quite true, the nature of our political system is that a 53% result would equate to the landslides of 1983 and 1996 other than that you are back to 1977 for the Coalition and never for Labor.

Don Chipp explained years ago that the election is really decided by about 40,000 (I think) people. Most electorates can be discounted because everyone knows the result without a ballot and voter demographics don’t ever change enough to make a difference. In the remaining “swinging” electorates the vast majority of voters can be discounted because they will vote for the party they prefer come hell or high water and never change. Most of my friends are devout Labor voters - you know middle class, tertiary education - and over the last few years they have bitched and moaned about Labor’s leaders Beazley, Crean and now Latham; and have castigated the party for its lack of meaningful policies but they will still vote for them.

This leaves the remaining voters, who actually make a decision each election, to decide who forms a government.

Personally I backed Labor at $2.55 before Crean was booted. I figured that they couldn’t choose Beazley again because if he lost another election where did that leave the party. And initially Latham looked the goods but I fancy that he is getting some pretty poor advice at the moment. He brought the recent abuse upon his own head by disappearing off the face of the earth. He signs up yet another self serving hypocrite (gee I love politicians) in Peter Garrett and then ceases all media contact. I think they dug up dirt on him as revenge. Their current plan of attack seems to centre on the “children overboard claims” and in all honesty I don’t know anyone that cares - even to Labor voters it attracts the enthusiasm of whipping Howard with a limp lettuce leaf.

I still think Labor will win but due to their performance in the last few months I will back the Coalition when Labor are favourites.

My other thought which I hope is too sneaky to be true is that this is all part of a plan. It works like this.

Howard and Costello think that Costello deserves to be PM.
If Costello stands and loses to Latham he is tainted.
Anyway the economy will hit the skids in 18-24 months - who wants to be PM then.
So Howard should take on Latham and lose, having forewarned us what Labor will do to the economy, interest rates etc.
And then Petey as leader of the opposition can start comparing his fiscal credentials to the Labor party’s in the leadup to the next election.

An even more paranoid theory involves Latham’s recent hospitalisation with pancreatitis.

Everyone I know with any medical background agrees that there are really only 2 prime causes for acute pancreatitis - alcohol abuse or gall stones. Since he didn’t have gall bladder surgery he must be a …

Assuming some information the Coalition have, it could work either way - it comes out before the election and Labor have no leader or it comes out after the election as part of the Costello ascendancy.

Anyhow nonsense or not this is more fun than I usually have thinking about politics.

Your theory falls apart with this very first statement! Howard and Costello hate each other. Howard doesn’t want Costello to be PM, and certainly wouldn’t fall on his sword for him.

Something you Aussie Dopers might be able to help me with - why the fuck don’t Labor have any policies? You know, health, education, tax, that kinda thing. All I’ve heard about is populist bullshit like free books for kids. Is this some kind of bizzaro parallel universe attempt at a small-target strategy?

Yes, I think it is just a continuation of the “small target strategy”. It worked extremely well for John Howard when he was opposition leader against the increasingly unpopular Paul Keating in 1996. Presumably the Labor party is hoping for a repeat now that John Howard’s popularity is beginning to fall.

I agree. If you have clear policies, at least some of the voters are bound to disagree with them. By not having any policies, you clear the way to run a campaign on the message “Look at me! I’m not John Howard!”, a platform which the Coalition cannot refute, and which the ALP reckons - I suspect rightly - will have a broader appeal than any policy-focussed campaign.

I thought it was more related to John Howard immediately adopting any policies the opposition put forward. Two examples I can think of are the politician’s superannuation schemes and the temporary protection visa system for refugees.

There’s an element of that, but I think only at a micro level. Pollies’ super may be good for headlines, but in the Great Scheme of Things it’s not an issue that the historians will have much to say about. I don’t see the ALP putting forward any big-ticket policies which would clearly distinguish them from the Coalition.

'Course, we’re promised the ALP tax policies some time in the next three weeks, so I could be proved wrong yet.

I think it will be a very interesting and close campaign. My prediction is the ALP to win on Greens preferences.

As for me, I have to say I’m at a loss - I just don’t know which way to vote…

I don’t trust Howard - starting with the “children overboard” thing and going on from there. I just don’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth. But I also think that the Libs have a much better track record on the economy. I think that, by and large, they’ve governed pretty well. I didn’t agree with the war in Iraq from a moral standpoint, I don’t like the FTA, but from an “Australia’s best interest” standpoint and our total reliance on the alliance with the US, it made perfect sense. Shame it lacked moral backbone.

I don’t like Latham either though. I don’t think his image has recovered from his bully-boy, mudslinging role under Crean. I think he’s a weasly, dirty politician. This I could forgive if he had a few policies and could offer a viable alternative to Howard. It’s a little like when Bracks beat Kennett - Bracks really didn’t have any policy, he just wasn’t Jeff - and that’s not a good reason to win.

As for the minor parties - I’ll be very interested to see how the Democrats go after their implosion a little while ago - I think they’ll be hammered. One Nation is a spent force. The greens are just a little too rabid and too far left of centre for my taste. What’s that party that has the “yogic fliers” in every election again?

I think Victoria will be an interesting state this time around - they were the strongest ALP state last time, but Bracks was still the golden boy then. I think the Victorian public have turned on the state government and may take it out in the Federal election. (Although I, for one, was most annoyed to be told that I, and all the others that live in my marginal, outer eastern suburbs seat couldn’t tell the difference between state labor policy on the Scoresby bypass and the federal labor party. Um… I know Bracks screwed us, doesn’t mean I think Latham will (well not for that reason anyway).

I think I’m one of the very few people who would love this to have been a Beasly vs. Costello election. I have a lot of time for both those pollies, and I think both would make excellent PMs. It would have been a far more issues driven campaign, rather than the personality driven cesspool we seem to be peering into at the moment.

I’d love to see Labor win. I think Howard is dishonest and not interested in what’s best for the people. I also resent our close association with America, and would like to see a PM who looks out for Australia first, the US second but think it’s too late to undo the damage done by going to war with Iraq.

One major gripe I have against Labor is that they’re backing Howard’s anti-gay marriage laws. Do we have to do everything America does, no matter how stupid? I can’t believe that, in 2004, we’re still discriminating against so many of our own. When Tasmania repealed it’s anti-sodomy laws in 1997, public opinion was that they were behind the times for taking so long to do so. I can’t believe that seven years on we’re taking what appears to be a step backwards in this matter. Why do so many Australians tolerate this prejudice from their leaders?

I agree with Bracks no longer being the golden boy in Victoria. While I’ve always preferred Labor over the Liberals, I would never vote for Bracks having seen his performance over the last couple of years.

You’ve fallen for another of Howard’s lies. Labor have been releasing policies constantly, except the detailed tax policy which is due out this or next week IIRC.

Labor may be releasing policies, but they’re not being well publicised, and I for one don’t know what they are. I get the impression that many of the policies are either very vague and wishy-washy or “me too” type policies - I guess I’m saying that it’s not at all clear to me what the labor position is on anything and why that’s their position…

I’ve fallen for nothing. All they’ve been releasing have been half-arsed populist piles of crap, seemingly in response to the stories on A Current Affair the night before. Books for kids! Exercise programs for fat kids! Initiatives to stop dodgy plumbers! What’s really in our haircare products - a special expose! The results will shock you!

They haven’t presented a coherent plan for Australia. Hell, even if they have got master plans in every area, we should know about them, shouldn’t we? A brilliant education plan kept in a box somewhere is worthless.

I agree with **robinc308 ** and Atticus Finch. The Labor party may have released heaps of policies, but if the details are available only from the ALP website, then the majority of voters will never hear about them.