May 21, 2007 | Graham

Howard needs a by-election

The Howard government is trying to get Australians to focus on the reality of a Rudd government, but no-one’s paying attention. Howard has even admitted that the public is “considering a change of government”, a necessary precondition to convincing the public that change is in the offing. The problem for him is that the public is not paying attention.
In 2001 he was well behind in the polls, yet as the election loomed, and before the Tampa arrived, the polls started turning-up for him. Why? One reason was that he changed direction on the GST, petrol excise and beer earlier in the year.
Another reason is probably that he lost the Ryan by-election. The narrow win to Labor in a seat regarded as the jewel in the Liberal Party crown in Queensland confirmed that he really could lose. It got the public’s attention and made them start focussing on the possibilty of a Beazley Labor government.
This is speculation. I’ve got no way of checking it against qualitative polling at the time. However it is confirmed in some ways by the experience of Peter Beattie. In mid-2005 Beattie was travelling so badly that he lost the safe seat of Chatsworth with a 14% swing against him. 12 months later at the general election he was returned in another landslide. Just as with Ryan, the by-election losses confirmed Beattie could lose and made voters focus on the prospects of a Springborg government. It also made the opposition cocky.
Howard’s government is cocky, desperate and disorganised. It’s not conventional wisdom, but a by-election may be just what they need.

Posted by Graham at 11:22 pm | Comments (5) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. Might just work, lets try Bennelong.

    Comment by Phil — May 22, 2007 @ 9:22 am

  2. Graham,
    The above sounds as desperate as Howard sounded in the party room today. Everyone is looking to 2001/2004 for inspiration or as a model. Take a look at 1996 instead. The reason that the polls are so strong for Labor is that there was a genuine desire to get rid of Joward in 2001 and 2004 and it was thwarted. So the tidal wave has built energy since then. The problem with the commentariat is that they confuse Howard’s rat cunning with genius. There has never been any kind of love or affection for Howard. Face it. He wouldn’t make most people’s guest list for a dinner party.

    Comment by barney — May 22, 2007 @ 9:37 pm

  3. Lets just call the Election and get it done with with!

    Comment by bmwofoz — May 23, 2007 @ 9:54 pm

  4. Howard seems to be lacking a compelling reform agenda. What is he going to do if re-elected? At the moment they are not controlling the reform agenda. They don’t really believe in shrinking the size of government (look at the massive hike in per capita real spending since 1996) and they don’t really have any sort of integrated vision of what government services they should be rolling out and as such they are going stale occupying some middle ground. They could have delivered some far more significant tax cuts in the latest budget especially in terms of middle income earners. They have boxed themselves in with caution. They are trying to be a better version of the ALP which is the wrong tactic.

    Comment by Terje Petersen — May 28, 2007 @ 1:09 pm

  5. I think the Howard Government is toast this time around. The voters can now see through the party, especially with the changes to Workchoices, the new savings to families in the budget and to the whole Rudd and Rein affair. They are facing a backlash. Voters finally have a choice!

    Comment by JC — May 31, 2007 @ 10:21 am

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