Here are some of the election items sent to subscribers on Sunday after the dust had settled from John Howard’s spectacular triumph.
No-one picked it. With the supposedly “most accurate” Newspoll telling the world that the 2PP was 50-50 late last week (as we exclusively tipped in our 6.30pm Friday edition), the possibility of the Coalition seizing control of the Senate completely slipped under everyone’s guard – just like the way Steve Bracks got control of both houses at the last Victorian election without anyone predicting it.
The immediate question to ask is what legislation has been blocked by the Senate over the past eight years and will a supremely confident Coalition push the envelope and really hit the accelerator on its legislative program? The pressure will be on from its big business constituency and people like Murdoch and Packer will no doubt look for payback after giving such strong support.
Afterall, John Howard still hears critics complain of the do-nothing Fraser years when he was Treasurer. Here is a chance to do something, but the irony could be that policies which hark back to the days of John Hewson’s Fightback! could be just the thing that Labor needs to put them back in the hunt in 2007.
Telstra to be sold, unfair dismissal laws abolished, Packer to buy Fairfax, more intrusive spy agencies, more user-pays in our universities…
The list will be long and we’d love someone to go back through all the legislation and name exactly what could be on the table.
So why did Labor do so badly? There will be a torrent of analysis this week and we’d love to hear your views to boss @crikey.com.au and might even work up a survey on the issue.
To kick things off, here are seven government positives and Labor negatives:
Seven positives for John Howard
1. The economy is strong and John Howard remained on message throughout.
2. The Government’s negative advertising campaign was far more effective.
3. The Government pork-barrelled the marginals and key constituencies well and used that $125,000 postal allowance far more professionally.
4. The government had more to spend, partly due to incumbency and because business dug deeper than usual because they were worried about union mayhem with wall to wall Labor governments.
5. Howard promoted the team effectively whereas Latham was too much of a one man band.
6. Peter Costello was seen as a positive for the Government so Labor promoted one of the Liberal strengths.
7. Tony Abbott and more than $10 billion almost made health a positive for the Government.
Seven negatives for Labor
1. Labor failed to prove its economic credentials and Latham should have talked more about economic management and reform.
2. Labor’s advertising and campaigning was too positive, even though Howard was constantly called dishonest.
3. The Labor policies were too complex, came too late and created too many losers.
4. The media was clearly anti-Labor with the Murdoch press leading the way and not a single major daily paper endorsing Mark Latham.
5. Latham carried too much baggage from Liverpool and his crude and violent past and needed some life experience outside Labor politics to broaden his appeal.
6. Baggage from the Labor states (Energex, Vic tollroad and Carr financial blowouts) spilled over into the federal arena.
7. Latham had a bad last week with forests, the Medicare Gold blowout and even that election day picture of their man aggressively shaping up to the PM sent the wrong message.
To the winner the spoils, and the next three years will see John Howard control both houses of Parliament – the Senate either directly or via the religious fundamentalists at Family First.
There can be no complaint from Labor. The people have spoken and the verdict delivered. For Mark Latham and his party, the hard work of serious Opposition begins today.
A message to Peter Costello: you might be fantasising that maybe Howard will gracefully stand aside and let you take control? Forget it. John Howard is not for retiring. Why should he? He has increased his majority, again. He has the mandate, he will use it.
In politics, you have to wrest the Crown by force and guile. Peter Costello has shown he has the potential for leadership, but so far has not demonstrated the naked audacity to grasp the sword from the stone.
The Coalition must be congratulated on their overwhelming victory. From the Prime Minister and his Deputy, John Anderson, down, they have shown the will to power.
Their team at Coalition Campaign HQ performed like a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow: seamlessly, professionally, powerfully. The only noise you could hear during the past six weeks was the quiet tick of the clock on the teak dashboard ticking smoothly to victory.
John Howard and his team are back in the leather seats and the plush blue carpets of parliamentary power. Now they must use their mandate wisely.
Miranda Devine, Family First and Creepy Jesus
We didn’t have much on the potential new Senate kingmaker, Family First Victorian Senate lead candidate Steve Fielding, during the campaign except for this snippet on September 23:
Family First candidate nicknames
Family First’s lead Victorian Senate candidate Steve Fielding works in the superannuation industry as a marketing person for Vision Super – the old Local Government Super Fund. He’s universally known as “Creepy Jesus” by colleagues. Says it all really.
This earnt us a rap over the knuckles from Fairfax columnist Miranda Devine who wrote the following last Thursday:
The influential political website crikey .com.au, often echoed in print by journalists, has given the “God-botherers” much attention during the campaign, focusing on connections with the “autocratic” Assemblies of God church and the party’s opposition to abortion. One Victorian candidate was described as “Creepy Jesus”. Then Crikey criticised a Family First press release as “curious and defensive”. What do you expect?
Check out Miranda’s full column here.
However, our original informant from the funds management industry has provided this update on the man who could decide to sell the rest of Telstra:
He’s a vanilla god-botherer type. You know the drill – the type that pinches you on the arm just above your elbow as he’s looking meaningfully into your eyes. That’s the charisma bit. He’ll always able to find a way to weave in a yarn about his “community involvement” and church activity no matter what the context. Then he follows it up with a couple of probes about your personal life. Sort of an Amway Mormon if you know what I mean.
Apart from that he worked in New Zealand for a while as a marketing person for Telecom New Zealand’s mobile division before he landed the marketing gig at LASB.
Dear Crikey, perhaps the silliest silly performance in the tally room last night was Andrew Bartlett’s blaming of the Greens for the swing to the right in the Senate.
In fact, in the Victoria Senate race despite the Greens polling 8.65% and Family First gaining only 1.9%, it seems that the new Christian right party will win a seat because it receives preferences from both the Democrats and Labor. With the Coalition now guaranteed 38 seats in the Senate from July 2005, this one Family First seat gives the Howard Government effective control of the Senate.
For the Greens the 2004 election will be remembered as the one where the party at least doubled its Senate representation. Meanwhile the Victorian ALP and the Democrats will forever have to remember their odious decisions that gave John Howard complete control of the parliament.
There will be many interesting stories to be told about the results of this very interesting election, but let’s look first at that special object of your psephologist’s attention, the National Party.
The National Party, like its Coalition partner, was in triumphalist mood last night. Even though one of its seats is in danger, its leaders were trumpeting the recovery in its nationwide vote and claiming that they had finally put the trauma of One Nation behind them.
Well, look again. Yes, the Nationals’ vote rose slightly. But overall vote has never been the important thing for the National Party. Its total vote is largely determined by the Coalition’s performance as against the ALP, but the real threat to the National Party’s existence is the Liberal Party, not the ALP, and the fundamental indicator of its health is its performance as against the Liberals.
The big recent signal of National Party decline is that at each of the last three elections it has lost a seat to the Liberals, and made no headway towards winning any back. There were no further losses at this election, but only because there were no three-cornered contests in Coalition-held seats (not counting McMillan).
There was, however, one very revealing Liberal vs. National contest: for the Senate in Queensland. As recently as 1993, the National vote for the Queensland Senate was just under half the Liberals’. By 1998 it had fallen to a third. In 2001, it was only a little over a quarter.
Yesterday, the Nationals could only manage one sixth of the Liberal vote, 6.5% to 38.5% – not enough to win back the seat that they lost to One Nation in 1998. Instead, the Liberals will win three Queensland Senate seats for the first time.
There could hardly be a more dramatic demonstration of the fact that the National Party exists as a viable force only at the sufferance of the Liberal Party. But why that party continues to suffer it is a question for another day.
Simon Canning was right on Friday in The Australian when he singled out the Liberal’s advertising was much much better than Labor’s.
Even though the interest rate campaign was misinformation it hit the nerve of a public who really don’t have much interest or a grasp of economics. Intelligent people I know were fooled.
It was the work of Ted Horton, an advertising genius who learnt his craft at the knee of advertising icons Mo and Jo. What they taught him was that he shouldn’t write ads for his advertising friends but for the people. And it was that common touch in communicating with the people that won the campaign.
Who is Bill Shannon at Shannon’s Way and the team at Saatchi & Saatchi compared to Horton? There is only one person with the same common touch to bring back Labor into power. Love or hate the ocker king, Singo is the man. They’ve got about two years to ponder it.
The Nine Network could rightfully be said to have joined the ALP in being a loser from the 2004 Howardslide. Long the leader on election nights, Nine’s viewer numbers have gradually slipped since 1996 as rivals Ten and then Seven went to a more entertainment based non-election programming with regular updates.
That did the trick for Ten in 2001 and it did the trick for Seven this year, thanks to the movie Toy Story. More than a million people still watched Nine on Saturday night on average from 6.30 pm to 11 pm, but not many more than a million, and behind Seven.
It was the smallest audience for a federal election night since 1996 when the man known as ‘Honest John” first won power from Paul Keating. Official Oztam figures show that a total of 3.898 million watched free to air television in the five major metro markets on Saturday night, when the Seven network went head of Nine for the first time in at least four polls.
It was also the first time that Nine had lost an election night in terms of audience.
The total number of people watching was 100,000 people down on the 4.098 million who watched the 2001 poll night and other events on free to air TV, 67,000 or so down on the figure for 1998, and just above the 3.937 million who watched in 1996(but actually smaller given the growth in the TV market and the overall Australian population).
Seven was watched by an average of 1.040 million people, just in front of Nine with 1.014 million, Ten with 780,900 and the ABC with 890,700 or so people. SBS was watched by 171,800.
Nine’s audience is down on all elections, Ten’s down on 2001, its non-election programming with updates not as convincing as 2001. In contrast Seven’s non- election programming with updates did the trick with the audience up by more than 40 per cent on 2001.The ABC audience was up on 2001, but down on the 920,000 or so achieved in 1996 and the 1.01 million in 1998.