June 01, 2004


Hal G.P. Colebatch on would-be Prime Minister Mark Latham and incumbent Prime Minister John Howard. Read 'em and commence to argue.

UPDATE. Chris Sheil on May 25:

The government is reeling. All election plans are off. His Darkness has gone back to the drawing board, after a budget that will go down as one of the most comprehensive political failures of his entire period of government. We know all this because today's ACNielsen poll has reinforced the messages from the three other post-budget polls, showing that the ALP now has an extraordinary 12 point (56/44) 2pp spread. If carried through to the real poll, this would give the ALP a massive landslide victory, leading to wild and unprecendented celebratory scenes from one end of the wide brown land to the other.

And Newspoll today:

John Howard and the Coalition have bounced back to an election-winning lead three weeks after the budget - their best position since Mark Latham took over as Labor leader.

In what appears to be a delayed reaction to the budget, there has been a startling 13 percentage-point turnaround in the primary vote, giving the Coalition a 10-point lead over Labor.

These polls will continue to swing around before the election. Best not to take them too seriously.

Posted by Tim Blair at June 1, 2004 05:06 AM



Posted by: CurrencyLad at June 1, 2004 at 05:29 AM

Latham sounds like a dark version of Kerry.

Posted by: The Real JeffS at June 1, 2004 at 06:25 AM

Where's Miranda Divide to pop in here with a

"Your boy is on the nose!"

or a

"You yanks know nothing about Australian politics." (funny how she will comment readily on US politics though...)

My main fear of a Latham administration is, suprisingly enough, not the "drunk-at-the-wheel" type leadership Latham may provide, but rather Crean as treasurer.

Please guys, I just got a new job. I don't want to lose it.

Posted by: Quentin George at June 1, 2004 at 08:19 AM

Labor left office with a $10.3 billion budget deficit in their last year, and government debt had skyrocketed to $96 billion. The thirteen year average of inflation was 5.2 per cent, unemployment averaged 8.5 per cent and interest rates averaged 12.7 per cent.

Hands up all those who want Simon Crean in charge of their mortgage?

Posted by: Byron_the_Aussie at June 1, 2004 at 09:33 AM

When are the Australian elections.?

from a yank that knows nothing about Australian elections..(but I' m learning)

Posted by: debbie at June 1, 2004 at 09:41 AM


The elctions can be held at any time within 3 years of the time that Parliament sat after the last election. However, the PM usually has a lot of discretion as to when the election will take place, as it is he who advises the Governor General to call the election. Our last election was in November 2001, so the next one will be somewhere betweeen Novemeber this year and February next year.

Posted by: toryhere at June 1, 2004 at 09:51 AM

Hmmm. The previous polls (favourable to the ALP) received blanket coverage across all media.

This is the first time I have seen an item on the new poll (favourable to the Libs).

As Media Watch would say - no bias here!

Posted by: The Mongrel at June 1, 2004 at 10:33 AM

down under we have elections every morning before bleakfast

Posted by: Galen at June 1, 2004 at 11:11 AM

I agree that Howard's going to win, although I think that the doubts about Latham will transcend pro-Coalition enthusiasm as the main factor. This is the way of Australian politics; people's votes are normally inspired by hatred for one party rather than love for another.

But just what sort of name is Hal G.P. Colebatch anyway? Even pretentious American plutocrats who like to put to 'II' and 'III' after their name don't normally bother with two middle initials. Perhaps there are 3 other guys called Hal Colebatch in Australian public life that he's keen to differentiate himself from? Just curious.

Posted by: tim g at June 1, 2004 at 11:22 AM

Latham again exhibited his unfitness for office last week in Parliament. Not reported anywhere.

The Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, was saying Latham had been unduly influenced by the political views of Dick Morris. As Downer made second reference to Latham's admiration for Dick, Latham could clearly be seen holding up his hand and gesturing with thumb and index finger what he thought was the size of Downer's 'Dick.' Downer said something in response about how Latham was still in the gutter "where he's spent so much of his life."

Now Latham should not start in on genital jokes. He really shouldn't.

Posted by: CurrencyLad at June 1, 2004 at 11:57 AM

Well Newspoll is more prone to sampling error than either Neilsen or Morgan.
Compare the sawtooths it has comapred to the others.
Newspoll has not been as accurate in the last two elections either.

A huge swing like this in a fortnight is unheard of. does it correlate with party polling? well err no. The Libs polling have them losing seats such as Wentworth and Corangamite at present.
It is out of sinc with both Neilsen and Morgan polls.
Moreover the focus group research doesn't tally with this result either.

Sit doen and enjoy an earl grey and wait for the next couple of Newspolls . They will change

Posted by: Homer Paxton at June 1, 2004 at 12:15 PM

I remember little Hallie Colebatch back when he was a permanent student at U.W.A . Boring as shit even back then . As to the political competition viz "The Madman V The Dead beat" ; least the Madman has a pulse . When is the Liberal Party gunna pull the heart-lung-brain machine on the "Dead beat" ?

Posted by: Bill O'Slatter at June 1, 2004 at 12:26 PM

Join the cue of doubters Bill!

Posted by: CurrencyLad at June 1, 2004 at 12:48 PM

Congratulations, Homer, you've managed to get just about everything wrong.

Newspoll and Neilsen (telephone polls) have similar sampling errors. Morgan (face-to-face) has become increasingly less reliable. You may recall Gary Morgan with egg on his face after predicting a Labor landslide on the eve of the last election.

Focus Group research cannot tell one anything about election results - they are used to formulate stragtegy.

That said, it's true that the polls don't mean much this far out from the election.

Posted by: James at June 1, 2004 at 12:49 PM

As far as I can work out, there's Hal Colebatch the conservative novelist and Hal Colebatch the more leftish journalist. Not to mention Tim Colebatch and Peta Colebatch, both journoes.

And to cap it off, for some reason I often get Hal Colebatch (I) mixed up with Nicholas Hasluck -- no idea why; mild dyslexia perhaps, plus they both used to write for Quadrant from the early 1980s onwards.

So the "GP" is not affectation, but a way of distinguishing himself within the Borg Collective of Colebatches.

Posted by: Uncle Milk at June 1, 2004 at 01:00 PM

Latham is like all Labor leaders and their supporters: they give lots of middle income jobs to pseudo-intellectuals who then try to pretend that they are elite. Meanwhile "the workers" who are supposed to be Labor's core constituency, see their lot reduced by the complete incompetence of the union dominated neantherthals of the party. But of course the idiots of the press will be happy, because Labor SAYS that it cares for the "disadvantaged".

Posted by: toryhere at June 1, 2004 at 01:02 PM

By the way Homer,

The only way the Liberals could lose in Wentworth is if Peter King stands as an independent and directs his preferences to Labor.

Posted by: toryhere at June 1, 2004 at 01:06 PM

Uncle Milk - many thanks. But your post raises more questions that it answers. 3 guys all called Hal Colebatch - what are the odds? Bear in mind how hard you have to search to find someone called Hal in Australia (or south of the equator, for that matter). And it's not as if the name Colebatch darkens a large number of pages in the phone book. And surely Hal is a diminutive form of another name - Henry, Halworth, Hallington, Halle Berry? Couldn't at least one of them avoid the confusion by simply using the longer version?

And what's more, surely they are related - brothers, even? Did their parents have either a perverse sense of humour or acute memory loss?

There must be more to this story - I sense a dark conspiracy to confuse and befuddle Australian newspaper readers (redundant though this may seem). This is of far more interest to me than anything in (original) Hal's opinion piece which, like all the other speculative election commentary around at the moment, could be summed up in one sentence - "election result yet to be finalised".

Posted by: tim g at June 1, 2004 at 01:49 PM

Sorry Uncle Milk - re-reading your post, I realise that you are referring to 2 Hal Colebatchs, not 3; the first Hal that you refer to is actually the GP version writing for The Oz. But it seems to me that with such a profusion of Colebatches extant - a big batch, if you will - we need only wait a few months before another Hal emerges.

Posted by: tim g at June 1, 2004 at 02:02 PM

Notice for Tim; There are two Hal Colebatchs at least in Australian public life. One, Hal K Colebatch, DPhil is an academic in Sydney. One, Hal GP Colebatch, PhD, is a lawyer-journalist-author in Perth. They made an agreement to use their middle initials to avoid confusion. This was published in the media, so learn a few facts before showing you ignorance, you smart-arsed dummy!

Posted by: Sue at June 1, 2004 at 02:07 PM

Sue - lighten up. You'll live longer.

Posted by: tim g at June 1, 2004 at 02:24 PM

Newspoll gets more sampling error than the others. look at the results. It has a lot of sawtooths. The explanation that there is a lot of volatility is hooey.
14 point turnarounds in a fortnight have never happened before in Newspolls.

I am merely telling what the Liberal polling is saying today. Quite different to Newspoll.
Focus group research tells an issue that is whitehot which will turns people's votes.
It ain't there at present except for the thought that Howard has been there too long and we need a change.

Last time we saw a large change in the vote in the Newspoll I said similar things and was proved right.

Posted by: Homer Paxton at June 1, 2004 at 03:08 PM

Keep digging, Homer.

The sample size of Newspoll is about 1200, Neilsen is about 1400. The difference in sampling error associated with these sample sizes is about 1%. If you believe that Newspoll is more volatile, then that would have to be due to something other than sampling error.

As English appears to be your second language, it is difficult to respond to your sentence regarding focus groups. The following sentence is similarly opaque.

Regarding your last point, the only way that a poll can be validated is by an election result. So exactly how were you proved right?

Finally, would you care to publish (or link to) the results of Liberal party polling that establish the correctness of your views?

Posted by: James at June 1, 2004 at 05:09 PM

You go John Howard, you good thing!
The alternative is too horrendous to contemplate! The vacuous, cliche driven Latham, and the nodding dog Rudd!
God help us.

Posted by: Kate at June 1, 2004 at 05:33 PM

Thanks, Tim G, but when I need advice from a smug, ignorant fool like you I'll ask for it.

Posted by: Sue at June 1, 2004 at 08:23 PM

Thanks, Tim G, but when I need advice from a smug, ignorant fool like you I'll ask for it.

Posted by: Sue at June 1, 2004 at 08:23 PM

Actually, Homer is almost certainly right; there hasn't been a 13-point turnaround in the space of a fortnight.

Newspoll has a 3% margin of error. In two-party terms, that means the margin between Coalition and Labor is always off by anywhere up to 6 points in either direction.

A fortnight ago it was 46-54; today it's 53-47. Almost certainly, the Coalition's lead in the later poll is exaggerated. And almost certainly the earlier poll exaggerates Labor's lead.

So the net effect is a steady increase in support for the Coalition. That's consisent with State polls in WA and SA.

It also accounts for the fact that respondents immediately post-Budget don't want to give the impression they've been "bought". That's a reasonable attitude, but it's an attitude that doesn't reflect true voting intention. It's also an attitude that fades very quickly as the media abandons its "Howard's attempt to buy off the voters" angle.

Bottom line: I don't think the Coalition's up by 6 points. At the same time, I also don't think they're doing any worse than level-pegging.

Labor is right to treat the magnitude of the Coalition's lead with some scepticism. But they're barking mad if they want to ignore this poll entirely.

Posted by: Grand Old Elephant at June 1, 2004 at 08:40 PM