05 January 2013

Reasons to be cheerful, part 2013

Dear Alex White,

I disagree with most of your post, and its basic argument. I realise your job is to gee up people on the left and get them mobilised, but you do people a disservice by misleading them in the hope that they'll get fired up and forgive you afterwards. Maybe that's the difference between being "of the left" and just being broadly supportive of the Gillard government over the Abbott alternative.

OK, so the Gillard government has done some good things, some bad things. Sounds like every other government really - including, as you point out, the government of the US.

The government will change if they can be convinced that those who are now in Opposition will do the good things better and the bad things less badly. This is how Howard beat Keating in 1996, it is the same basis on which Rudd beat him in 2007, and it is the same basis on which neither Beazley nor Latham beat Howard.

Abbott cannot convince anyone that any policy area would be better managed by him and his crew than by the incumbents. That's why they can't and won't win. It's in the media's interests to pretend it's a tight race and that there is intense political competition, but there isn't really. The competition isn't there - people who follow politics see it now, and those who don't follow politics closely will see it when they choose to look, which will most likely happen closer to the election.

You can shove your polls up your arse. Really. Without a known polling date polls are pretty useless, and the wider the gap between the polling and the election date the less reliable it is. The statistical busywork applied to polls to convince people of their validity is much the same as that applied to astrological forecasts; the a priori assumptions are bullshit, the output is bullshit, so don't try and impress me with the process.

The fact that there is no real competition between the parties, while journalists engage in increasingly stupid tricks to insist that there is, diminishes mainstream media rather than leads a credulous population buy the nose. You're wrong to take the power of the mainstream media as given.

The potency of the AWU/Gillard thing diminished within the final sitting week of parliament last year. The idea that it will retain the potency it had earlier in that week, or that it will increase, is rubbish. I notice you didn't mention Ashby, which is OK as I'll do it for you.

James Ashby will have to appeal, but in doing so will make it difficult for the Coalition to escape the taint of sleaze. It will also make it difficult for Ashby, a man who has lived his life in pursuit of publicity and is about to learn in the harshest way possible that "there is no such thing as bad publicity" is, in fact, bullshit. The story of Ashby is all wind and no candle, leaving the protagonist without any redeeming legend or other benefits of superstardom - and, indeed, almost no grace.

Any inquiry into Abbott's earlier slush-fund attempts depends entirely upon whether Pauline Hanson will play along, which will require her to give up her dream of a parliamentary pension to carry her into old age.

These issues will negate any lingering benefit to the Coalition from Gillard/AWU and start to eat into core Coalition strengths (e.g. stewardship of the economy). They will work against the Coalition particularly hard in Queensland, where the effect will be like cutting out a melanoma with a broken bottle. Abbott has repeatedly proven powerless to stop the LNPQ from self-harm that spills over federally.

As for asylum-seekers, there is a real bind: yes, there is an active push toward exclusionary policies, but also revulsion at the impacts of those policies (e.g. children self-harming, Australian citizens being deported). Mostly, the media just present these facts; sometimes you'll see a story where someone goes into bat for one side or the other, but you get that.

The question on asylum-seekers is: who do you trust to resolve this impasse? Nobody trusts Abbott to resolve it, you can only trust Abbott to be harsher while playing stupid media games with those exposing cruelty. The Coalition loses credibility when it appears to criticise the government for doing something it would do if it had the chance.

And the bottom line is, it won't get the chance. The link between state and federal politics tends to be weak, but state governments in Queensland and Victoria are acting in such a way that it is possible to say to voters in those states: state Coalition policies are a dress-rehearsal for what an Abbott government would be like.

Labor will win 4-5 seats in each of Queensland and Victoria. Labor will win at least one seat in South Australia; it is not beyond the realms of possibility that it could win both Boothby (knocking off Andrew Southcott) and Sturt (Chris Pyne), which would make Adelaide as much a Labor town as Canberra or Wollongong. This will be offset by winning/losing one seat here or there in NT or WA, but you get that.

Labor is more likely to win Denison than the Libs. The Libs have a chance in Braddon and/or Bass.

God only knows what will happen in NSW. The Labor Right in this state has collapsed as a governing model. The O'Farrell government has had the fresh paint knocked off it, but on one side is a non-Opposition, and on the other it is not as threatening as the Abbott-led federal Opposition.

The Coalition will not win Greenway, Robertson or Page, where Labor has a strong local presence and (except in the case of Greenway) representation independent of the NSW Labor Right. Any Sussex Street stink wafting around Michelle Rowlands will be more than countermanded by the smell of sulphur emanating from the Lib, owing to the branch-stacking in that area by the religious right.

At this stage it is hard to tell what Lindsay, Banks, Reid or Lyne might do, but then Labor could pick up Cowper and/or Hughes. Windsor will win New England if he runs again.

As for Dobell, if Craig Thomson is vindicated as comprehensively as this suggests, Labor would be mad not to run him and the Coalition wouldn't have a chance, given that their candidate's only pitch is how awful Thomson appears to be if you accept everything of which he's been accused.

What Abbott will achieve in NSW is what 1980s-model Howard did - big swings in safe Labor seats (not enough to win them though) while losing close battles in the marginals. MPs like Laurie Ferguson and Chris Bowen will have their arses handed to them, but not their heads.

I don't expect Abbott to be Prime Minister at all, which is why I'm not spooked by your Abbott Government scare campaign.

The spectre of a Royal Commission into the union movement didn't save the Fraser government in the early 1980s, and that was when a majority of working people were also union members. If the unions aren't tightening their administrative practices in the light of HSU and AWU then they deserve what they get. Say what you like about the SDA, but that union's leadership has been vigilant against the kind of abuses and slackness that seem to be prevalent at sister bruvver uvver organisations.

It was the spectre of a return to WorkChoices in 2010 that stopped Abbott's momentum in the first week of that election campaign. Because he's a moron, and because people like Abetz and others on his frontbench are too, he hasn't developed an alternative policy or a strategy for "playing down" those vote-losing concerns. People didn't vote Coalition until they got over their promise to dismantle Medicare, and people won't vote Coalition until they develop a workplace relations policy that is substantially different to WorkChoices.

So Alex White, what does that leave you with? Your no-brainers about the Middle East Western Asia, the global economy and climate change. Big strategic insight right there.

Your idea that people will be like so many turkeys voting for Christmas, as instructed by The Daily Telegraph, is ridiculous. You assume that the Federal Coalition is more substantial than it is, and that the government is the supine outfit Kevin Rudd left it as: enough of these bullshit assumptions. Let us start the new year with Reasons to be Cheerful:


  1. David Perth5/1/13 3:59 pm

    No punches pulled here. Experience suggests that once an election is called, the real campaign starts, and the faux campaign of the last two years will fall away very quickly.

    The economy, "whatsinnitforme" policy, and the debate(s) will quickly become central. Given his predisposition for walking away from hard questions at press conferences, I wonder whether Abbott would have the stomach for televised debates.

    1. Luv ya Andrew. You whitewashed Alex beautifully. We are in for an interesting year. The media went apoplectic over Macklin and her comment. Where is Ian Drury today forgot how great he was? You always manage to sift the wheat from the chaf.

  2. andrew you have made my day,

    thankyou for going over the seats and explaining , you make things so clear.

  3. NBN, or NO NBN, that will be the central question. Or an NBN handed to Rupert on a plate with a pretty little bow on it and a message from Tony to say it's OK to make another fortune you don't need, nor will not be alive long enough to spend, after I sell it to you for a song to fill up my massive black hole so I can pay for inane policies like giving the Too Posh to Push Set money for designer babyware.

    I don't think that even the CUBs on 50-100 large a year are going to fall for that and vote 1 'North Shore'. Even if Tony is trying so hard to look like a cast member of 'Jersey Shore'.

  4. Please, please let Pyne lose his seat!!! And Abbott NEVER be Prime Minister. Then 2013 will be worth it. From your blog to whatever god's ear.

  5. You made my day by mentioning Cowper as a possible my ultimate dream to see Pruneface Hartsuyker return to the Clog Place to see tickets to get in.

  6. Insightful article as usual. Another assumption that the media keeps making (particularly people like Mumble) is that Labor is going to campaign exactly the same way it did in 2010, which is BS. Gillard's grown a lot in the job (ironically inspired by Abbott's attack-at-all-costs style), and there almost certainly aren't going to be the same sort of destabilising Rudd leaks there were back then, in addition to all the 'knifing' crap losing whatever aura it once had. Abbott's best chance of winning was in 2010, not 2013.

  7. (This site won't accept my Wordpress identity : Psyclaw)

    I'm with you AE.

    For 2 years I've been saying that the premature speculators about this coming election result have ignored one critical issue. The vote will be preceded by a campaign.

    Abbott will have to do something he has fled from for the past 2 years ...... answer sustained questioning about his policies and himself. The news grabs of a brief mantra repeated thrice that he has used exclusively will not suffice in a campaign.

    I won't even bother to list the many occasions JG has exposed herself to rigorous questioning and has come through with flying colours.

    And one key bit of bullshit AE did not list was the hallucination that Abbott "nearly got them home" in 2010. The fact is that they failed because of him.

    Anyone who thinks that Abbott-the weight-in-the-coalition's-saddle-bags is now not an exponentially heavier handicap than in 2010, as a result of his conduct since, is dreamin.

    1. "And one key bit of bullshit AE did not list was the hallucination that Abbott "nearly got them home" in 2010. The fact is that they failed because of him."

      This is so true, I have been saying this since 2010. All the Libs I know shuffle their feet and look at the ground. I think in their hearts they too know it's true, but the polls keep them cowed into thinking they are wrong to doubt.
      Howard had some appalling polls during his prime ministership but still prevailed at election time, and Abbott failed to win an election that was practically handed to him on a golden platter. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

    2. Well, I didn't list it here but I have referred to it often (check the archives). For mine, it was when Abbott was confronted on Workchoices toward the end of the first week of the campaign that the Coalition's election-winning momentum stalled and went into reverse.

  8. Hi Andrew, thanks for the entertaining post. It's not my job to fire up anyone or mobilise them. I'm glad that so many people are confident that Gillard and Labor will win (I hope Labor does win), but I can't help but wonder that such misplaced optimism will lead to people just keeping on doing the same thing that has gotten us to where we are now. Accepting that polls now are meaningless, I wonder exactly which seats in Victoria and Queensland you think Labor will win, and how? As for the opposition, I certainly do not credit them with any magical powers or assumptions of competence. I simply think that currently, most Australians would rather hold their nose and vote for the Libs (no matter how much they dislike Abbott) than see the current Labor government be returned. This can be turned around, but not if Labor just keeps doing what it has done for the last 12 months.

    1. OK, here are my predictions for Victoria:

      Burke (to be recreated 2013, Murray abolished)

      As to Qld, any win by Katter will be at the expense of the LNP (can't see Katter winning Capricornia). Unsure about regional seats, so here goes:

      Dawson (to Katter)

    2. Andrew, Katter's best state booths were not in Dawson. Apart from Kennedy federal booths - Herbert booths shared with Townsville state seats, Flynn booths shared with Callide and northern Burnett state booths and Leichardt booths in the Cairns area to a lesser extent were his best.

      Gympie and some of Nanango that are shared with Wide Bay were also strong.

      Hinkler is another matter due to Rob Messenger possibly running as an independent. Very hard to call how that four way contest will go.

      Katter's most likely gain is Herbert followed by Flynn and Leichardt then Wide Bay with Dawson/Hinkler/Blair/Maranoa very outside chances.

      The more interesting aspect is if Katter preferences deliver any of Hinkler/Dawson/Leichardt/Wright/Forde to Labor.

      As for Labor gains - I just don't see Bonner or Bowman being likely despite the current state government's influence. Brisbane is in play though, Dickson maybe, but I doubt it. I think the state government has ruined the LNP's chance to pick up Liley, Rankin or Blair. Labor's Moreton and Petrie were as good as gone 6 months ago, but now it could go either way. This is offset though by possible nLabor gains of Forde and Hinkler through Katter preferences as well as Longman and maybe Dickson.

      Queensland Observer

    3. Hi Andrew,

      Just letting you know that Murray ended up not getting abolished in the redistribution.

    4. Thanks QO. I keep wondering why Wide Bay, Herbert and Hinkler stay with the Nats and got tired of predicting a switch. Will keep an eye on those other seats though.

  9. Even as a pox-on-both houses Greens voter, this is an encouraging appraisal of the lesser evil's chances, and it's admirable that Andrew is willing to stake his reputation on specific electoral outcomes.

    With that in mind, how will Mitt Romney's loss last year affect the Coalition? I'm thinking specifically of the media cocoon American conservatives wrapped themselves in which prevented them seeing the unfolding political reality leading up to the Republicans' loss.

    The Australian News Limited media aren't quite as boosterish as Fox News, but it'll be interesting to see if they attempt some sort of moderation due to a recent case example of voters flat-out ignoring them during an election campaign.

    1. I have a hard-earned reputation as a crap tipster.

      The cocoon thing is a real dilemma. The Oz are in the fortunate position where they will be backed by a mogul no matter what, until he dies.

      The Australian media need to make out that the contest will be close. This is why they are not going hard over Ashby, because to cut down Abbott will probably mean a resurgent government and a predictable election. See also Hillbilly Skeleton above on the NBN.

  10. My fear about the campaign is that having spent a two years letting Abbott and the coalition get way with photo ops and doorstops, the MSM will do it all again. wouldn't it be great if as a collective they told both parties that when the campaign bus leaves,they won't be on it. they should make the pollies come to them and submit to detailed questioning and detailed analysis, not just follow along to the next morning tea and what for a few scraps. OK, I am dreaming, but ... Pyne losing his seat, now that is a dream!

    1. I reckon they should cut the press gallery by at least 90%, and hand much of the reporting to policy specialists. That said, journalists will have to decide whether credibility will save them or whether they just wait for the PM to fall over or something.

      Sturt voters might baulk at voting Pyne out if they think this will mean Adelaide becomes a one-party town, but he has been so obnoxious in Parliament that the polite voters of that electorate will get rid of him, particularly if the Labor candidate appears nice.

    2. Are there any policy specialists left? They certainly won't have much to do reviewing Liars Party policies, although I suppose they could write a crit of Bishop, J's electioneering wardrobe.

      Getting rid of Prissy and that whiny nasal voice would be a joy surpassed only by Liealot getting the finger from the good folk in his electorate, followed by a hefty lawsuit from Craig Thomson and a knee in the goolies from Peter Slipper.

  11. Labor at the moment is at about a 80% chance of proving the old adage: Oppositions don't win elections, governments lose them.

    Many in Labor, and possibly foremost the Prime Minister are still to unlearn the wrong lessons they learned from the 2001 election. The PM is still in thrall of Howard's 'lie' tying border security and asylum seekers together for one and still holds Howard up as a 'hero' when compared to Abbott. Has she forgotten the electorate rejected Howard in 2007?

    The Treasurer has not in any meaningful way exposed the 'fraud' that Costello was a great treasurer and as a result often gives the opposition free kicks and allows many to be conned into believing that the conservatives are better at managing the economy.

    Elsewhere I have proposed that the election will not be won or lost in the 'big' states but in the 'small' states and territories with Labor losses being in believe it or not Canberra (the electorate) also Bass, Brand, Lingari and another believe it or not Perth. Denison is an even money bet to go Liberal or Wilkie to retain.

    In many ways Labor has wasted the last five years and has not set itself up as the 'naturals' to be the government and in many ways Alex was correct in stating: "... but unless Labor really pulls its finger out in the next few weeks, there is simply not enough time for it to build the on-the-ground campaign infrastructure and volunteer base needed to hold onto all those marginal seats."

    I reckon the government has at most five weeks from the first sitting day of the year on the 5th February to turn things marginally in their favour.

  12. 'Any inquiry into Abbott's earlier slush-fund attempts depends entirely upon whether Pauline Hanson will play along' Please explain ?

    1. Hanson would need to go at Abbott with a detailed list of grievances backed up with documentary evidence. If she stonewalled at any inquiry, she would make it hard to mount a case against those who put her in pokey.

      If she put Abbott in the frame, or made life uncomfortable for him and any collaborators now in the LNPQ, she could kiss goodbye to any future attempts at running for parliament because she would need indirect Coalition preferences to avoid embarrassing herself.

      The only non-Hanson option would be if one of his key AHP offsiders rolled over (in much the same way that AHP got to Terry Sharples within One Nation), and even that would be undermined if Hanson wouldn't co-operate.

  13. Looks like the reinvention of Tony Abbott has started with a big spread in Perths Sunday Times today. I haven't read it .... I imagine the content will be common to other News Ltd Sundays and full of insightful analysis .... Not

  14. I left this comment at "The Political Sword". Thought I'd re-post it here.

    Unfortunately, Andrew's response to my "2013" post is done without him understanding any of the context of my previous posts on the election, campaigning, Abbott, etc.

    Last year I spent 3 months working for Obama in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. I've seen how an effective campaign works first hand. I've worked on ALP election campaigns in marginal and safe seats since 2004 (state and federal). I've spoken to senior ALP campaign officials.

    My view is that unless the ALP makes some drastic changes and adopts serious community campaigning, then it is unlikely to win.

    Abbott and the Libs need to achieve only a 1% swing away from Labor and to the Libs to win. They are likely to win Lynne and New England. Even if Labor held all of its current seats, the loss of these two Independents would likely result in an Abbott government.

    Which seats can Labor win? How? I've written extensively on what I believe needs to be done.

    Unfortunately, Labor can't win just through wishful thinking.

    1. I never believed that Labor would win through wishful thinking. I read previous posts on your blog and disagreed with them, which is not the same as failing to understand them. I think policy gives you something to campaign on, and that both Abbott and the MSM are less substantial than you would have your readers believe.

      It's a mistake to assume that I don't understand how tight a hung parliament is. It's also a mistake to assume that the 2010 election forms any basis for judging how people will vote in 2013.

  15. But why do you keep crapping on that there is an impasse in refugee law?

    The refugee convention is a legally binding treaty, it is not a hand bag to be changed with the colour of ones shoes.

    The only impasse is in the minds of the lazy, racist media and the lazy, racist ignorant so called leaders.

    Everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution, we do not have any right to deny them that right.

    End of the frigging discussion.

    1. It's not the end of the discussion, it's one element of the discussion, which you make clear in your third paragraph.

    2. There is no discussion, everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution, why make that something that is changeable.

    3. Oh Marilyn, there's plenty of discussion.

  16. Tim Wilson is director of policy at the ipa and does 3AW stints


    Thats the policy expert they have from the right??

  17. I had quite the epiphany reading the above article, particularly the fourth paragraph about the media's interest in maintaining its narrative of a tight race but how that is actually counter-intuitive. I should not be so concerned about the lop-sided MSM coverage. It does nobody any service, Labor or Coalition, left or right, MSM or customers.

    Its clear that this is what happened in the US. Few in the MSM seen the drubbing that the Republican's had and they look the worse for it.

    I often wondered, is it regime change, is it impartiality they strive for? Why are most political articles so bad, or as the case in Australia non-existent? The counter-intuitive effect of the basis for their articles as you noted suggests its simple stupidity.

    Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. (Hanlon's Razor). So, the epiphany is that it is not a big conspiracy, its the MSM's stupidity in maintaining their own narrative of a tight race. Tight races sell papers.

    But it is still frustrating. Too much is lost or wasted on it.

    1. I agree, and there's no shaking them out of it: journalists will hold to Tradition and the pose of Objectivity as their employer sinks beneath them.