Chris Sheil won’t be happy about this Newspoll showing Labor doing badly in the Queensland marginals it must win to form government.
And it looks like Latham has leaked significant aspects of his tax policy to George Megalogenis in the Weekend Oz. Two sandwiches and two milkshakes, George says. That’s bound to impress the punters.
But it does seem as if Latham plans to do something (though probably fairly minimal) about low-income “poverty traps” by changing the family payments system. It sounds constructive but fairly unimaginative, and still complicated enough that I wonder how many voters will really absorb the detail amidst all the campaign hoopla. In any event, the kicker will be what Costello is waiting gleefully to exploit: how will they pay for it? What programs will be cut to achieve the needed $8 billion plus in savings?
Sunday Update – A further Newspoll published this morning mirrors the Queensland marginals one released yesterday. Today’s poll covers the 12 most marginal seats across the whole nation (including Solomon, the most marginal of all, where I live). Like yesterday’s Queensland marginals poll, it shows the Coalition leading Labor by 52 to 48% on a two party preferred basis. The sample size was 1600, a bit larger than the Queensland one (which was just over 1000), but that still leaves a biggish margin for error. Psephologist blogger Mumble puts the Queensland marginals poll in context:
Those seats, after adjusting for subsequent redistributions, voted about 53 to 47 in 2001. So that’s a one percent swing to Labor in the Queensland marginals, which, if taken literally, would yield .. no seat gains for Labor. …
Anyway, those numbers are much too small to say anything meaningful about an individual seat. In aggregate, yes. But we don’t know what they say. But no sign of a big swing to Labor.
On today’s poll, Mumble says “Good numbers for the government. At this stage the lemming remains more likely than the goose.” Mumble agrees that polling at this stage suggests Howard is more likely to win,
and is labelling himself as a goose for consistently predicting a Labor victory (as he had previously done). In other words, it’s beginning to look very much like Lazarus might rise from the dead yet again.
BTW Why some commenters are labelling these Newspoll efforts as “push-polling” I have no idea. Presumably they don’t have a clue what push-polling actually is. I guess they’re using it as a synonym for dodgy and illegitimate, designed to influence rather than measure. But even then, how can one dismiss polling marginal seats as illegitimate? It’s precisely what the major parties concentrate on, and it’s what we need to know to have any chance of predicting the outcome. Why shouldn’t Newspoll undertake such polling? I’d wager the ALP shills wouldn’t be labelling it “push-polling” or dismissing Lebovic’s record for accuracy (which is actually better than just about anyone) if his marginal polling was showing Labor in front. It’s a classic case of shooting the messenger.
These two polls also throw new light on Howard’s decision of a week ago to call the election now. He would have had marginal seat polling showing the early part of this apparent trend when he made the decision. It’s beginning to look like a smart, calculated call rather than a desperate last throw of the dice by a PM who’d lost the plot (as some left-leaning bloggers have been painting it until now).
(original primary post – cont.)Michael Costello published a reasonably persuasive defence of Labor’s “leave policy releases until very late” strategy in yesterday’s Australian. But I remain to be convinced of the wisdom of this strategy with complex tax and family payment reforms, where people need space and time to absorb what it will mean for them. Even more generally, I’m not sure that I accept Costello’s premise. He takes as his masterpiece model John Howard’s successful 1996 campaign strategy. But there are many differences between then and now, not least that most voters simply don’t hate Howard the way they did with Keating.
Costello asserts that there’s no point in releasing policies until swinging voters are paying attention:
Fifth, you need to put policies out when people are listening. Swinging voters only start paying detailed attention to an opposition during the election campaign. Until then they don’t see what the Opposition says as having much impact on their lives.
But surely that only applies where the policies are stodgy, predictable and not very different from those of the incumbent government. Another piddling tax cut and some tinkering around the edges of family payments. Wow! I’m excited! What about indexing marginal rates, something that should have been done years ago, and that really would give the tax system some integrity and make governments fiscally accountable? What about sorely-needed education and health policies to restore the badly run-down public systems? That would need major funding boosts that simply aren’t going to be realisable given tax cuts and Latham’s promises to keep tax and spending constant or lower as a proportion of GDP. What about at least some of the excellent policies contained in Barry Jones’ ridiculed but visionary Knowledge Nation document? And so on. Latham and his colleagues are colourless technocrats unwilling to “think outside the square” or dare to challenge neoliberal orthodoxy. I suspect that’s why the policies they’ll be trying to sell won’t capture voters’ attention for more than a few days. They’re boring, boring, boring and essentially indistinguishable from Howard, despite all the sound and fury.
As one of Paul Watson’s execrated baby boomers, I can’t help hearking back wistfully to Labor’s It’s Time campaign in 1972. Like now, that was an era of prosperity, with an economically successful but tired government led by a discredited but not hated PM in Billy McMahon, and the residual bitterness and division of an earlier US-led war from which we hadn’t quite managed to extricate ourselves. Labor’s exciting campaign and early release and marketing of a huge range of progressive even visionary policies, most of which have stood the test of time, changed Australia’s political landscape and produced an irresistable momentum for victory that I just don’t feel in 2004. I know there’s a long way to go in this campaign, but right now Labor’s strategy doesn’t fill me with confidence or hope. But with any luck I’ll be proved wrong.