September 18, 2007 | Graham

Incompetence and conversation change lead to recovery

The latest Newspoll has the government recovering by 4%. This could be a result of sampling error. Since July this year Newspoll has given a series of results that have clustered around a two-party preferred vote of 56 Labor, 44 Government. This most recent result of 55 to 44 is therefore well within the sampling error of plus or minus 3%.
Which doesn’t mean that it is a product of sampling error. My hunch is that the government’s position has improved for two reasons – APEC and leadership speculation.
APEC changed the conversation to a subject which favours the government – foreign affairs. Foreign affairs is one of the few areas where the government maintains a lead over the opposition in the public mind. So, while they have generally this year been arguing about issues like health, education, training, climate change and infrastructure which favour Labor, for a change they got the agenda right.
Who knows, Kevin Rudd’s polished Mandarin tutorial may have even lost the ALP ground. I suspect most voters understand that there is more to foreign affairs than currying favour with just one, albeit large, country. Howard’s battlers were never comfortable with Keating’s pitch of Australia as an Asian country, and his toadying to objectionable Asian regimes like Suharto’s and Mahathir’s.
While leadership speculation showed the government in a poor light, it also confirmed in most people’s minds, mine included, that we’d better start getting used to the idea of a Rudd government. Which means that the Rudd government now becomes an issue. As every state campaign in the last two years has confirmed, it’s easiest for a government to win if the opposition is the issue, this would also have had an effect too.
The challenge now for the government is to take the swing beyond the margin of error. Peter Costello made a good start at that this morning when he quipped that Kevin Rudd had already had his campaign launch (although the election has yet to be called) and that the way he was going he’d be having his victory party next weekend. Perhaps the Treasurer has been playing Achilles, and now that the PM has definitely said he’ll hand over the mantle of power, he’s decided to stop sulking. A few one-liners like that, repeated ad nauseum, could really make a difference in the polls. Even then, I suspect they’ll still need a “mean nasty and tricky” Trojan horse strategy if they want to make the citadel of government again.
One thing they need to do is to change the media interpretation of these polls. This poll does not show a significant recovery in the government’s vote any way you look at it, and if people think that it does, then attention will start shifting back to the government, which is the last thing Howard wants or needs. Some journalists may think they’re doing Howard a favour by boosting his election chances. Labor and Rudd will hope that they continue to think so.

Posted by Graham at 8:48 am | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. If discussion of issues, not just polls, is what you are looking for, then try 2 Broome Voices videos and see what voters are talking about at “Labor View from Broome”

    Comment by Kevin Rennie — September 18, 2007 @ 10:26 am

  2. I think it is a swingback. But maybe too little; too late.
    Didn’t they deliberately botch a poll back in 2004 to coincide with a Howard counter-attack on Latham?
    It has certainly coincided with a particularly vicious counter-offensive in parliament this week, including the vile attack on Col.Kelly, rigged umpiring blatant even by the current speaker’s standards and lots of personal rubbish from Costello and Abbott at bystanders, including reference to a gaffe that wasn’t actually a gaffe.
    The usual load of press and media crawlers magically had emerged from the woodwork just in time to back it all up.
    In a way, “smearer” Phelps himself gives away the reason for the animus- a party in danger of the same irrelevancy as Thacher’s Tories after John Major got thrown out.
    At the very time they have thrown themselves out of state government and saddled themselves with an even more entrenched and generally -feared “right”, they face an election where they discover they may have ceded too much of the centre without realising it ’til too late. Meanwhile, Labor has just put up a politician with the capacity to win the centre and even reassure the Right.
    What a shock for them.

    Comment by paul walter — September 21, 2007 @ 1:05 am

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