Australia Decides 2007 – Part 1
Since John Howard asked the Governor-General for an election on Saturday 24 November, we have seen the first two weeks of the 2007 Australian election campaign, and in short – Rudd is retaining his substantial lead in the polls, and he has been the net “winner” of the campaign to date.
Since the start of the 6 week campaign, John Howard and Kevin Rudd have released their tax policies (both proposing substantial cuts), and met for the first (and only) debate of the campaign. Most pundits gave the debate solidly and clearly to Rudd.
The result of this fortnight so far has seen a swing to Labor, rather than the commentariat’s expectation of a narrowing in the gap between the parties. The latest Newspoll has Labor on 58% of the two party-preferred (up 2), against the Liberal-National Coalition, on 42 (down 2). I recommend using Newspoll as the yardstick for measuring how the parties are performing nationally. Newspoll appears in Tuesday’s edition of the Australian (www.theaustralian.news.com.au), and is the pollster of choice for Australian politicos.
In recent threads, and via email, I have been asked by other PB-ers whether the mood for a change of government is as emphatic as the one in 1997 in Britain. My answer to that is “in some ways yes, and some ways, no”. The dividing line seems to partially be based on age, and to a lesser extent, on region.
Generation Y – the YouTube/Facebook generation – seems to have most heavily swung to Kevin Rudd and Labor. John Howard is the only Prime Minister most of them can remember and they seem to be very keen for a change. Some of the Murdoch state-based newspapers have quoted polling during the campaign suggesting that around 70% of 18-24 year olds are keen for a Rudd government. On the other hand, the swing among older generations is less pronounced.
From a betting perspective, the figures on Betfair say it all – the weight of the money is very much on Labor winning government. But go a little deeper and look at the seat-by-seat betting. The vast majority of money bet on individual seats is tied up in Bennelong (held by John Howard) and Wentworth (held by Environment Minister, lawyer in the “Spycatcher” case, and leading republican, Malcolm Turnbull). Both men are defending previously safe Liberal seats with now-narrow majorities that should fall if there is a uniform national swing that is sufficiently strong to deliver government to Labor. However, both men are favourites to hold their seats. What might this suggest?
Consider where the leaders have been campaigning in this week. For example, Kevin Rudd spent some time campaigning in Kew, a wealthy area in the safe Liberal seat of Kooyong in suburban Melbourne, the seat held by Sir Robert Menzies. While I don’t believe Labor will win Kooyong, it suggests to me that Labor’s polling shows big swings to the ALP in previously safe Liberal seats. The Liberals may well hold on to the odd marginal – particularly outside Sydney and Melbourne – but we may see some jaw-dropping results within the big cities on election night.
Towards the end of the campaign, I’ll write another piece on the campaign, and a guide on what to expect on election night if you are interested in following it on the web. In the meantime, feel free to leave questions and comments for me on this thread.
Alexander Drake is a former adviser to a cabinet minister in the Howard government