Hey, ho – let’s go! It’s time for the early election show.
Poor old Gary Morgan. His latest poll of federal voting intention- http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2004/3747/ – has scarcely got the buzz the Newspoll generated.

Morgan has Labor up 4.5 per cent on primary votes to 45.5 points, with the Government dropping 2.5 to 40 per cent. On his two party preferred figures, Iron Bark and his crew lead the Coalition 55 to 45 per cent.

Green and Democrat preferences are overwhelmingly flowing Labor’s way – 81.5 and 79.5 per cent respectively – and even 51.5 per cent of the yamps who still say they’ll vote One Nation intend to put a number two in Iron Bark’s box (as opposed to putting number twos in his letter box).

What is really interesting in Morgan’s poll, however, is the answer to the question “Regardless of who you’d like to win, who do you THINK will win the next Federal election – the Liberal-National Coalition or the Labor Party?”

Just before Iron Bark took over, 66 per cent of respondents thought that Howard was a shoo-in, compared to 21 per cent for the ALP and with 10 per cent down as “don’t knows”.

Of late, however, it’s been a different story. Here are the figures for the last few polls

  • April 10/11 & April 17/18, 2004 – Coalition 48.5 per cent, Labor 38 per cent, don’t know 13.5
  • April 24/25 & May 1/2, 2004 – Coalition 48.5, Labor 38.5, don’t know 13
  • May 15/16, 2004 – Coalition 52.5, Labor 35, don’t know 12.5
  • And the latest, May 22/23 & May 29/30, 2004 – Coalition 44.5, Labor 41, don’t know14.5

This interesting comment came out earlier in the week: “But with access to Liberal qualitative polling, Howard will be one of the few insiders who knows whether the Newspoll is an accurate reflection of improving Coalition fortunes – or a bizarre blip in the terminal decline of his Government.”

Looking at Morgan – and even though not many people take Gaz’s polls seriously nowadays – there’s still a very strong argument for Howard to go to the polls on August 7. Why should he extend the fight?

Labor might be running off cut-and-come-again economic policies – and with less detail than the Pudd’n even provided (at least Norman Lindsay told us if it was steak and kidney or plum duff) – but the Government has not wrong footed Iron Bark in the House.

It hasn’t had a convincing win in Question Time for weeks. There are only two more sitting weeks before the winter recess. If the Government doesn’t triumph then, why should it come back for more?

It’s $100 million plus advertising blitz seems timed to peak towards the middle of July. The Treasurer said on Monday that the first few Budget handouts will find their way into people’s pockets in the next few weeks – and there will be more to come plus the tax cuts in July.

John Howard will do or say anything to get re-elected (where have we heard that line before?), so bucket loads of money are going to be thrown around, as forecast in The Weekend Australian.

Whinging Wendy’s question still applies – where will it be coming from? We can expect the Libs to have a series of “outyear” commitments rather than immediate announcements – ten years plans, more national infrastructure projects and all lot of sexy sounding priorities that can suddenly go the way of non-core promises when “circumstances change” and it actually comes to have having to pay for them.

The Prime Minister plans to come back from the United States with something more than just some nice pics – more on the free trade agreement of a natural gas deal – but even if they fall through he will still have the “Labor is anti-American” and international statesman line to flog hard. This, combined with allegations of economic incompetence and inexperience, will give the Government two powerful weapons to play against the ALP.

Then there’s the issue of policy preparation. The Government laid out its platform in the Budget. If Howard waits he runs the real risk that Labor will not only get some decent tax and family policies together, but have plenty of time to sell them.

This is vital. The electorate clearly feels that it is time for a change – but still wants and needs Iron Bark to give them a concrete reason to vote for him, something that he hasn’t quite managed yet.

There’s the skill factor, too. Howard is a proven campaign performer. Iron Bark is a novice. Still, Labor dragged back around three to five points during the actual campaigns with Beazley in 1998 and 2001. If Latham does this it will be a landslide.

History suggests that a swing of around one to two per cent is more likely for a change to Labor government – but that’s where those preferences come in.

As they say in the classics, hey ho – let’s go!

Peter Fray

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