January 15, 2004 | Graham

Round-up of election coverage Day 2

The Courier Mail sprang quickly into action with a four page wrap around, but most of its coverage missed the mark. It appeared to readily accept that the “Foster-Care reforms” were the real reason for calling the election this week in an article that started with this paragraph “QUEENSLANDERS will go to the polls on February 7 in what shapes as the ultimate test of Peter Beattie’s leadership and Labor’s stranglehold on State Parliament.” “Ultimate”? Surely not. If he wins this election and runs again at the next surely it becomes at the least the “penultimate”. This is just one sample of some very breathless prose. It also broke the story on its front cover that “SUPPORTERS of Townsville-based minister Mike Reynolds tried to convince a Greens candidate who has emerged as his main opponent in the state election to “run dead” in exchange for backing to win a local government seat.” Full marks to the Greens for this hit. Beattie needs some opposition. The front page pictures juxtaposed a photo of Peter and Heather Beattie with Lawrence and Bob Springborg, I mean Lawrence Springborg and Bob Quinn.
Beattie has been making full use of his family in the photo ops, somewhat ironically given the trouble Steve Irwin is in for exploiting his, but feeding the chooks is a little safer than feeding the Crocs, and Beattie’s brood are at least driving age. The Springborg Quinn “Odd Couple” do provide a contrast, and not just because they emphasise political rather than family ties, but also because they are sartorially less resplendent than the Premier. He appears to be wearing a double-breasted suit at the height of Brisbane’s summer, while Quinn and Springborg are in shirt sleeves only. Quinn and Springborg’s wardrobe at least comes from the winninf the protest vote handbook.
The Courier’s tactical analysis was awry, partly because their pendulum doesn’t actually tell you much. I’ll get David Fraser to do a detailed post later on, but there appear to be at least three pendulums doing the rounds – David Fraser’s (also known as “ours” but also used by Mackerras in the Oz), Anthony Green’s and the Courier’s. Of course our’s is the only one worth worrying about, but there are logical reasons for the differences and they come back to the problems of calculating uniform swings in elections where Independents and cross-bench parties win a large number of votes.
My colleague John Wanna points out that Beattie won less than 50% of the vote. Well, yes, but his analysis relies on what is effectively a first past the post calculation. Making a two party preferred calculation Beattie is on something like 60% of the vote. A poll cited by the Courier suggests that Beattie’s share has shifted down about 5%. On that figure he would still have a majority of 21 seats.
There is some discussion of the Greens vote in the context of Townsville and ex-ABC announcer Andrew Carroll , their candidate in Mt Coottha. Our records say there is no Opposition candidate yet for Townsville. No wonder the ALP are trying to buy off the Greens candidate because with a lame duck late-selected National Party candidate the Greens could well win. Just as One Nation was a late breaking story that the major media missed in the 1998 election, the Greens could well be the same this time.
Which leads me to the ABC coverage. Anthony Green has his site up at last and has produced detailed analysis of the seats. Most of it is good competent information, but I’m pretty sure Anthony will be eating his prediction about a “Just vote one strategy” not being used this time. If the Greens poll anywhere near as well as rumours suggest they are, then Beattie will have twice the reasons for trying to turn this election into a first-past-the-post one. The radio coverage centred around the theme that this election was about bringing Beattie back to a sensible majority. That’s about right.
For my money The Australian has the best coverage. Its front page stories are properly cynical about Beattie’s reasons for calling the election and it is using our pendulum. Malcolm Mackerras is predicting a swing of 7%. We will see. The school of predicting elections using past results is a bit too Calvinist for me – not all things are predestined, or predictable at this stage of proceedings. The only commentary that was really off the pace was from Ross Fitzgerald who said “the current Government is investing the kind of money that the Bjelke-Petersen regime never did”. I guess after you’ve covered a few elections they all seem to blur, but Bjelke-Petersen has been gone 16 and a bit years!

Posted by Graham at 12:36 am | Comments Off on Round-up of election coverage Day 2 |
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