Even more reasons why it’s August 7
Hillary has spun enough economic indicators over the years – and agrees entirely with Bob McMullan this morning.

A thirteen-point turnaround? Fuggedaboutit! Not with Iraq,
Trish Draper, leadership instability and lie after lie after lie coming
out of the Government.

Blame sample size. Blame the technique. Blame the
ABS. Blame the pollster. Blame something, blame someone –
but keep your head when all around are losing theirs. What’s more
you’ll be a pol, my son. That’s how Hillary reacts to figures
like these.

A jump in Coalition support of six per cent to 47 per cent, its highest
primary vote in a year? A fall of seven in Labor’s primary vote
to 37 per cent – the lowest since the last days of Simon Crean? A
2PP of 53 per cent for the Government?

Sol, mate! As a great man, er, great tennis player, once said “You cannot be serious!”.

Lebovic says Labor is losing ground by delaying the release of key
policies. That didn’t hurt the Libs in 1996, once PJK had reached
tipping point.

So he hasn’t got the details, but unlike John Howard back then, Iron
Bark is offering much more in the way of policy themes and directions –
and, most importantly, values – than those infamous “headland speeches”
ever provided.

“To pretend that there’s been a 13 per cent vote shift in a fortnight is absurd,” McMullan told ABC radio this morning.

“It never happens in Australian history at our most volatile times.

“It certainly hasn’t happened in the last two weeks.

“To try to pretend that this is an actual measure of what’s happening,
as against a measure of some sampling error in the polling, is absurd.”

A bit of volatility after a Budget, yes. A bit of volatility with speculation over an August election, yes, too.

Lebovic’s comments that wobbles in Victoria over police corruption and
South Australia over Mitsubishi aren’t convincing. The first
issue is obviously one for Steve Bracks – and the second ultimately
dependent on the Federal Government.

Hillary’s with McMullan on this on, but with one important
qualification. Hillary is prepared to accept a bit a volatility,
but no cockiness at all.

Iron Bark is setting a framework based on values. Hillary
believes Carmen Lawrence should have been thrown out of public life in
ignominy a decade ago – but that her comments about as reported by Glenn Milne yesterday about voters wanting a vision for a better future articulated rang true.

So some Labor MPs might be getting cocky. Iron Bark should shut
them up – PDQ – but keep doing what he’s doing. The “vision
thing”, the story telling strategy worked well for Messrs Clinton and
Blair.

This government is at tipping point (and look up this piece from the Age by Shaun Carney from last year and re-read some Wendy Wedge if you don’t know what tipping point means).

As the election gets closer, as poll dates become more concrete, views and voting intentions also begin to firm.

The punters do start to wobble when expectations are set about a
product sale – but the seller isn’t out there with the any details
other than “you’ll like it, I promise”.

That’s the punt Iron Bark is taking – but if he and the ALP are disciplined and hold their ground, they will win through.

The Budget was clever. Economically disastrous, but clever.
That’s why yours truly swears Graham Morris wrote it.

It was well targeted at the demographics of the 30 odd key marginals
Labor needs to win half of to govern in its own right. It
delivers dollars to many of the punters in these electorates who are
within or below the average $28-37,000 individual incomes in the most
marginal seats. There are significant numbers of voters earning
more than $52,000 who will get tax cuts and also win with family
payments – big bags of cash – between now and August.

But all of this is the power of incumbency – and the Prime Minister and his advisers know this.

Howard only needs to retain the margins from last time. He
doesn’t need a swing. $100 million of Budget “information”
advertising mightn’t buy all that much, but when “enough” is the status
quo from 2001 it’s a damned good start.

Today’s Newspoll will only reinforce that view – and it also reinforces yours truly’s view that we’re going in August.

The campaign started on Budget night – and it was a dead giveaway that
we were in full campaign mode when a slogan was splashed across the
lectern at the Prime Minister’s 30 years in politics do.

The Budget “education” ads aren’t funded to run to October. It
would be very politically risky – a dead giveaway that they are really
party political – to try to top them up. Ads like these don’t
have a long life span.

There’s another giveaway of an August poll in the Sydney Morning Herald today; Cosimer Marriner’s
piece that said the Feds will delay issuing debt notices to families
who were overpaid family tax benefits this financial year until
September.

Plus there’s only another sitting fortnight after this one. If
Howard comes back from the US of A with some good pics and an
autographed photo of Arnie – plus a hint of liquefied natural gas
contract from the Governator – then he’ll be off to Yarralumla for,
yes, an August 7 poll.

That’s the one thing in today’s Newspoll you can trust.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at hillarybray @crikey.com.au

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW