An extraordinary editorial in this morning’s Australian makes the case for completely disregarding the findings of Newspoll about Federal voting intentions which the paper publishes twice a month.

The editorial acknowledges that the ALP beats the Coalition on a two-party preferred basis but then argues “many factors explain the ALP’s strong performance without suggesting the party will win the next election”.

Sol Lebovic, the chairman of Newspoll, is actually quoted in the editorial giving a reason to ignore his work with the explanation that voters are temporarily “parking” their support with the Opposition. “If this is so,” says the Oz, “it explains the volatility of polls, which have become a short-term indicator of the Government’s performance.”

Behind the undermining of the credibility of its own opinion poll is sensitivity to claims by Barrie Cassidy on his ABC Insiders program yesterday that the news media has been manipulating opinion polls to make Kim Beazley look bad.

The editorial argues that the trouncing of Beazley by John Howard when pollsters ask people who would make the better Prime Minister shows the federal ALP is in trouble. Apparently there’s no parking in those figures so Cassidy is urged to “do what Australia’s Left rarely deigns to and consider the collective wisdom of the country’s punters”.

Centrebet is paying $2.25 for a Labor win versus just $1.57 for the Coalition so “until the ALP stops blaming the media and recognises what everyone else can see – namely, that all the good ideas in the world won’t work without leadership – the Opposition will remain just that.”

For my part I’m not getting sucked in by this further attempt by the Murdoch press to pretend that it is gunning for Beazley. As I wrote in Crikey on Friday, true conspiracy theorists “understand that the underdog is the preferred position for a politician and that those devilish Murdoch lackeys are doing their best to save Kimbo from the damage that would come from being seen as a winner.” Will these media barons stop at nothing?

Peter Fray

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