When the pollsters start hedging their bets it’s time to take a punt on the Federal Election. With Rod Cameron’s caveat that the then current polls “defied reality” I logged on to the bookies. At 7:30am on 17 September 2007 the odds quoted on a Coalition win were $3.70; too good not to have a fling.

So I am now Crikey’s declared ‘Percy the Punter’.

29 September Sol Lebovic, the founder of Newspoll, states polls are not predictive. He utilises the metaphor of a football match. An opinion poll, he says, is getting the score before a game has finished.

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Right now it’s more. It’s reporting of hypothetical punts on an imaginary race. The real race hasn’t even started.

Tuesday 2 October, Newspoll declares that Howard hypothetically riding ‘Economy’ is a good length ahead of Rudd (48/33) and saddled up with the old stayer ‘Interest Rates’ is a neck in front (36/31).

The bookies quote Coalition $3.10, Labor $1.37.

But the real race hasn’t even started.

We don’t know what the jockeys are going to be wearing. Will Rudd be wearing ‘Fiscal Conservative’ colours or – post-Tony Blair – ‘Education Revolution’? Will Howard don ‘Experience’ with a red-slash of ‘Security’?

We don’t know the weight in the saddlebags. Will Rudd be carrying Roxon plus Gillard? Or will ‘Shadow Health’ be barred from the track? Will Howard be carrying Coonan? Or will Telstra’s shareholder-letter turn out to be as light as a feather?

We don’t know the mounts. Will Howard ride ‘Economy’? Will Rudd ride ‘It’s Time 2’?

What we do know is that policy overlap is running round like a headless chook.

Want a Medicare Safety Net? Vote for Kevin, or John Peter. Want troops out of Iraq? Both Kevin and John Peter have agreed to one further rotation of the Australian Overwatch Battlegroup in southern Iraq in 2008.

But intelligence reports of Iran planning to ship surface-to-air missiles across the border, if confirmed, could shatter the geo-political equation.

The race hasn’t even started.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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