June 21, 2004


How come John Howard’s poll numbers against Mark Latham are improving? According to the SMH, it’s because his ruthless personal attacks are beginning to find their mark:

The Government's campaign sought to undermine Latham personally by calling into question his experience and his ability to manage the economy and alliance with America.

How ruthless and personal can you get! Latham himself would never stoop to such levels. Meanwhile, ex-Keating speechwriter Don Watson is also getting personal:

Watson yesterday labelled Mark Latham "pathetic" for allegedly borrowing from speeches by former US president Bill Clinton.

"Why in the hell would you get up and make your statement, when you've been Leader of the Opposition for six months, and knock off a speech from Bill Clinton," Watson said.

"It's grotesque."

Posted by Tim Blair at June 21, 2004 03:52 PM

The transcript of that 7.30 Report interview is hilarious! Latham Auto-Cliche(TM) in overdrive:

"It's a room full of heritage. We are proud of the way in which Curtin forged the relationship with the US. I think that continuity over the 62 years since is very important. We support the American alliance. We can have differences. It's not a rubber stamp. We don't always agree, there have been differences from time to time."

etc etc ad nauseum...

Posted by: Matt T at June 21, 2004 at 04:18 PM

Gad, Howard doesn't have to say a thing: Latham and Rudd each day, in and out of parlaiment, backed up by their colleagues are not only cooking their own goose but are burniing it into a black crispy thing.

Posted by: d at June 21, 2004 at 04:34 PM

I am not sure if Howard will call this election early. The more people see of Latham's leadership skills the better it gets. So if Garrett is getting the environment portfolio who will he choose for defense? David Hicks?

Posted by: Rob at June 21, 2004 at 05:21 PM

Germaine Greer for Aboriginal Affairs.

Handled out of London.

Posted by: ilibcc at June 21, 2004 at 05:29 PM

John Pilger - Education and Communication.

Posted by: CurrencyLad at June 21, 2004 at 05:35 PM

Give Margo Kingston edukayshun.

Posted by: David at June 21, 2004 at 05:39 PM

Yesterday on the 'insiders' they had a go at Tony Abbott for mentioning Latham's kid's name in some parliamentary mocking. There was some tut tutting indeed from the leftists as to how low Abbott had stooped.

The incident concerned Latham making his son a chip sandwich. The irony, Latham uses his kids as political tools, when it suits him, yet, let one comment pass.......

The other point to escape the journos was this came the day after Lathams concern over unhealthy eating.

Posted by: nic at June 21, 2004 at 06:10 PM


Is that Goose plastic? Or is it a turkey?

Posted by: Razor at June 21, 2004 at 06:25 PM

Don't worry nick, no-one missed the irony in that.

Latham left himself wide open for criticism when he stuck his neck out over fast food. If he's prepared to use it for electioneering then he should be prepared to cop the flack.

I hope the election isn't too soon, watching Latham and his cauldron of political dolts is quite humourous. I mean what will happen to Kevin Rudd when Labor lose, he's almost as funny as the Iraqi information minister.

P.S. Carmen Lawrence as the minister for mental health. Is 'Majic Pudding' Simon Spleen getting a spot on Latham's bench??? That'll be worth the price of admission alone hahahaha...
1+1=Centenary House...

Posted by: scott at June 21, 2004 at 06:28 PM

There was some tut tutting indeed from the leftists as to how low Abbott had stooped.

Funny, remember when Latham the Backbencher brought up Abbott's illegitimate child in parliament?

Posted by: Quentin George at June 21, 2004 at 06:46 PM

Anyone notice that Latham has a boozer's nose?? Yes, a regular old stawberry conk, not quite as bad as the old QLD National State Minister Don Lane's but it's getting there.

Posted by: Chris at June 21, 2004 at 07:38 PM


Don't forget that Latham has mentioned and cruelly ridiculed Abbott for fathering a child as a teenager. The baby had to be put up for adoption. Abbott has spoken of it and said how much sadness it caused him and those close to him. Latham's morally sensitive comment: [playing on Abbott's regular criticism of unions]: "Tony's had one too many unions, that's his problem."

The two men nearly came to blows in Parliament one day when this was going on. That would have been good: Latham's pugilistic record is as the batterer of a defencless, unprepared little cab-driver.

Abbott won an Oxford Blue for boxing.

Posted by: CurrencyLad at June 21, 2004 at 07:52 PM

Quentin: I should have added: "As Quentin points out..."

Chris: In the 80s, I saw one of those rubbery old door-stops in a pub dunny under which some wag had written "Don Lane's nose." Looked exactly like it too. I was well placed to ---- myself laughing.

Posted by: CurrencyLad at June 21, 2004 at 07:56 PM

[Pointless and boring insult removed by the Management. Oh yeah, and the cretin who posted it has been banned, you know the drill.]

Posted by: Idiot at June 21, 2004 at 08:04 PM

Re "Majic Pudding" Simon Spleen.

Is it at all possible that the ALP will rush to increase the GST (as ALL governments in Australia are LABOUR) if elected.

I believe (rightly or wrongly) that the agreement of all state and territory governments and the Federal Gov't is required for a change in the GST rate.

Horror movie.....

Posted by: DaveACT at June 21, 2004 at 08:16 PM


You're talkin the briefest Premier's Conference in history.

"All those in...


Posted by: CurrencyLad at June 21, 2004 at 08:30 PM

CurrencyLad and Quentin,
thanks for that. Funny the leftist journos had forgotten that little incident, jeez they were protective of 'little marky'.

Latham: raises the issue of his kids and hate.
Latham: raises the issue of his kids reading.
Latham: raises the issue kids and diet.

He who lives by the sword....

Posted by: nic at June 21, 2004 at 09:48 PM

Minister for Homeland Security: Andrew Wilkie

Justice Minister: Geoff Clarke

Immigration Minister: Ali Bakhtiari

Posted by: Byron_the_Aussie at June 21, 2004 at 10:46 PM

it's amazing that having the temerity to, well, point out your opponents lack of experience and to (gasp) actually quote what they've said is now a 'personal dirty smear'.

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at June 21, 2004 at 11:00 PM

Regarding the polls, it's a few hours until the next Newspoll comes out, but you can usually get a feel for what it's going to look like by Nicholson's cartoon, which comes out earlier in the evening.

This one ain't pretty at all.


Posted by: Grand Old Elephant at June 21, 2004 at 11:13 PM

Mr Bingley:

I've noticed this for quite a while now, both here and in American affairs. When the Liberals or Republicans defend themselves and ask some hard questions, they are being "viscious", "personal", "ruthless" etc.

I'm constantly amazed at how quickly big and damaging stories disappear off the radar when they cast an unflattering light on non-Labor figures. Remember Andrew Bartlett, the Democrats leader, assaulting and abusing with foul language a fellow - female - Senator in the chamber while drunk? Was he pressured out? Noooooo. You'll see him on the news any old week talking about the violent, Haliburtonesque, oil-guzzling, human-rights trampling United States and its violence at Abu Ghraib. Amazing.

And why no questions to Mark Latham about his stated belief that parental misbehaviour and abuse of officials at children's sporting fixtures is quintessentially Australian? Given, incidentally, that the government has sponsored a public education campaign to stamp out such behaviour.

And where are the questions to Latham about teaching boys they must not resort to violence - as he so famously has - but should instead foster discipline and release their energies and aggressions in sports or other accomplishments in a civilised manner?

Where are these questions? Where are the questioners?

Posted by: CurrencyLad at June 21, 2004 at 11:22 PM

How about that Adelaide magistrate (the father of one of the people who was killed at Bali) as attourney-general?

who will he choose for defense? David Hicks?

Hey! David served in 'stan, unlike that chickenhawk John Howard. Maybe not on the correct side, but who are we to judge which is the correct side?

I wonder how long it will be before the father of the Al-Qaeda trainee and the father of a victim of an Al-Qaeda associated group hold hands in public?

Posted by: Andjam at June 21, 2004 at 11:40 PM

Grand Old Elephant:

Agreed - the cartoon augurs poorly for the government. (Even though it is based on a false premise - that Howard had been planning an early election. In fact he has said repeatedly that his inclination would be to go the full term).

It might be wishful thinking and it might be wrong but here's how I see polls at the present time in political history.

If educated and confident people struggle to defend the government from criticisms over Iraq, 'asylum-seekers' and even Abu Ghraib (ff sake!), how much more are randomly selected people inclined to verbalise or express their intentions according to what media biases tell them is the 'correct' response?

A Stanford University analysis of polls identifies a number of assumptions pollsters make, some of which may skew the results completely:

That [re calculating the correct margin of error] means that everyone in the population of interest -- those who will cast a ballot in these surveys -- has an equal chance of being included. For that to be true every voter, at the least, would have to: 1) speak the same languages as the interviewer; 2) be at home and not using the phone when the pollster calls; 3) agree to do the interview; 4) give an honest, considered opinion (rather than a politically correct one).

[By the way, go to Stanford's 'Grade the News' homepage to see how left-wing its worldview is - its writers are not boosting Bush's prospects at all].

Could it not be the case that - politically, rather than linguistically - many people who are polled do not "speak the same language" as the interviewer? Many of them may assume, self-protectively, that they won't convey opinions on the basis or pretense that they do. The more controversial the times, the more impossible it is to calibrate correct margins of error. I think, in other words, that there may be as many as several percentage points' worth of pro-government sentiment that are ghosting their way through these polls and will not be 'picked up' until election day itself.

Stanford studied California polling results vis-a-vis actual election figures and concluded - according to this analysis - that

Less than 45% of election results were within the margin of error of the poll. Which means that either lots of people change their minds just before an election (which means polls are mostly worthless) or that most polls are badly run (which means that margins of error are gross underestimates).

Two things therefore worry me about polls: 1) can people's guardedness ever be calibrated into margins of error when something so intangible - but undeniable - as media-driven PC influences the outward expression of political opinions these days? And 2) What is the relationship between the structuring of polls and the 'neck and neck' news preferences of newspapers and media companies - which are, after all, keen to sell an 'exciting' and 'close' election?

Posted by: CurrencyLad at June 22, 2004 at 12:11 AM

and maybe, currency, asking 1000 people about an election gives you a clear view of...1000 people, not several million.

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at June 22, 2004 at 12:37 AM

That's a fascinating theory. And I think there must be something to it; it's becoming increasingly impossible to reconcile Australia's major opinion polls, not just across organisations but now even within the same organisation from survey to survey. They're up and down like the French Alps.

Realistically though, in a country where elections are decided by margins in the realm of 2%, polls that have a margin of tolerance of 6% (3% MoE x 2 parties) aren't going to give you a clear picture. The intagibles you have spoken of simply serve to muddy the waters even more.

One thing that's just sprung to mind might be potentially relevant. During Crean's tenure as Opposition Leader, Newspoll essentially showed a static 50-50 race with the odd blip in the Coalition's favour. Meanwhile, if you belive the reports, the internal polling of both parties showed Howard heading towards a victory that would rattle the foundations of our political system. Labor would have struggled to win a single seat in my home state of Queensland.

Now, I know the people who do the leaking have their own agendas, but if all that is even remotely true, the Coalition's position was substantially better than what Newspoll was showing (and somewhat better than what ACNielsen was showing). And it's probably a fair bet that that is still the case.

Perhaps wishful thinking. Perhaps not. I do know this: polls over the past month or so have been shooting off in all directions ... ACNielsen narrowing from ALP +12 to ALP +4, Morgan narrowing from ALP +10 to ALP +6*, Newspoll going from a Labor blowout to a Coalition blowout and now almost certainly back to a Labor blowout ... and on top of all this, some interesting state polling showing a solid swing back to the Coalition in South Australia and a gargantuan swing back to the Coalition in Western Australia. The internal polling of both the Coalition and the ALP meanwhile, or at least what their spin doctors report to the press, seem to be in agreement that the momentum is with Howard but the (shrinking) lead still with Latham.

And I don't believe an individual Newspoll changes that, particularly one conducted over the same weekend as the most recent ACNielsen.

Oh, and I agree with you on the election timing. As the months drag on, Latham looks more and more flaky. His strengths (some of which are conslderable; I'll give the devil his due) are old news, and his weaknesses (prohibitive) are just now coming to light. If Bush pulls ahead in the US polls and looks like staying there, then an election late in the year (let's be honest; we both know how the media would spin an early-2005 election) might just be his best bet.

* I know Morgan is bunk, but the trends generally make sense. Given that they had Beazley up by 9% just prior to election day last year, I usually lop a good ten points off any Morgan ALP lead. ALP +6% doesn't look bad at all, given their history.

Posted by: Grand Old Elephant at June 22, 2004 at 01:07 AM

Oops. Obviously that last note should read 'last election cycle', not 'last year'.

Mr Bingley, as strange as it seems, 1,000 people is generally regarded as pretty accurate (even in the United States, whose population is a wee bit bigger than our own). It does give you a 3% MoE (and it is acknowledged that one time in twenty, the results will be even more outlandish), a fact which which should always be borne in mind.

What is generally less useful is when national polls (see, for example, the ACNielsen referenced by Tim at the top of this thread) decide to be ultra-clever and talk about state-by-state breakdown. You're dealing with a lot less than 1,000 folks for those subtotals--the result being that you should take them with an ocean-load of salt.

ACNielsen had Labor doing its best in Queensland (up 12%, cf. national lead of 4%), for example. That would be akin to Bush leading Kerry by 4 points nationwide and being up 12 in New York. They breed 'em properly in Queensland.


Posted by: Grand Old Elephant at June 22, 2004 at 01:18 AM

What line did Latham steal from Clinton?

"I did not have sex with that woman." And did he wag his finger or any other member as he said it?

Posted by: Stacy at June 22, 2004 at 01:23 AM

UPDATE: The poll's up, and it's nowhere near as bad as I'd anticipated.

Labor's up 52% cf. 48% for the Coalition. Also a big swing to Latham on the question of preferred PM--which suggests, if anything, that Labor supporters are oversampled in this survey, just as Howard's 22-point lead in the poll of three weeks ago was a sure sign that they'd gotten too many Coalition supporters.

So Newspoll and ACNielsen are in virtual alignment, and Morgan (for a change) isn't far off. Labor's ahead, but a fourth term for Howard certainly isn't out of reach.

Posted by: Grand Old Elephant at June 22, 2004 at 02:07 AM

Interesting breakdown GOE.

52 plays 48, then. Predicting these things is an egg-on-face exercise but put it this way: standard margins of error may mean this result indicates nothing more than level-pegging. Plus, if my 'effects of PC in controversial times' theory is right, a hidden few percentage points for the Coalition. Either way, it's best to just wait and see.

Sephologists and political scientists have also written pretty extensively on the importance of which party people think will win the election, quite apart from which one they want to win. This phenomenon, in turn, can feed back into voting intentions too over time.

Howard knows about all of this of course - wily, canny bastard that he is. Spring in Australia will follow on from the Olympics in Greece; there'll also be the usual football finals etc - sometimes considered feel-good factors that work for the incumbent.

Posted by: CurrencyLad at June 22, 2004 at 02:47 AM

The Phat One is at it again. This time he is outraged that someone has allegedly made up a story about him.

Listen carefully - that's the sound of the world's smallest violin playing.

Perhaps "the rabid Right" and the Phat One could arrange the following trade. We'll agree not to repeat the green Mao cap story if Adams acknowledges that the George W. Bush "plastic turkey" story (of which he is so fond) is a complete falsehood.

Over to you, Phil.

Posted by: Alex Robson at June 22, 2004 at 03:04 AM

I wonder where Ruth is?

Posted by: mojo at June 22, 2004 at 03:14 AM

If I was labor I'd read the polls a little closer than they do. Yesterdays poll showed Latham's personal approval had dropped 4% to 41% yet toddays claimed he had gained a 6% approval to bring him to 36%. So that 6% increase has him lower than the 4% decrease and his party polling reflects the swing against him.

He's like the Dog on the Tuckerbox. He just sits in parliament and says nothing because he fucks up every time he opens his yap.

Julia Gillard claimed last night on Lateline that Mark doensn't need to talk polocies because he focusses on 'around the kitchen table' issues.

Well Julia, he doesn't talk policies you stupid bitch because he doesn't have any.

Sol Lebovic from Newspoll said that the polls reflected more on the style of questions asked, not on who would win the election and backed that claim by the polls leading to the previous two elections where Howard was well behind yet shit the elections in, just like he'll do this time as well. Lebovic also claimed that these polls were often taken in areas where a safe seat was held to measure discontent, e.g. Kingsford Smith.

Posted by: scott at June 22, 2004 at 02:18 PM

"Relentlessly... ruthlessly..." "I wonder where Ruth is?" Proctor and Bergman, Firesign Theatre, "The Adventures of Nick Danger"

Posted by: richard mcenroe at June 23, 2004 at 01:24 AM