The meaning of Gippsland . I am indebted to ABC election analyst Anthony Green for this table of what happened to by-elections in the first year of the Hawke Labor Government which I think helps put the 6.5% swing against the Government on Saturday in to perspective.

Back in 1983 the new Hawke team also enjoyed a lengthy opinion poll honeymoon but there were swings against it in five of the six polls. As the biggest of those swings was 5.0% to the Coalition we can say that there is nothing in the Gippsland result for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to be happy about. Mr Rudd is claiming that it is the consequence of the hard decisions he had to make in his first budget that caused the swing but my memory of conditions 25 years ago is that Labor was contending with an even tougher economic climate than today. This Labor Government’s tough economic times are just beginning.

Obituaries premature. One thing the Gippsland by election result proves is that the obituaries for the National Party after the last federal election were premature. The Nationals vote on Saturday was solid and taking the Coalition as a team, there does not seem to have been any major problem caused by the Liberals standing as well. The combined primary vote for the Nationals plus Liberals of 60.5% is the highest since the election of 1996

Real girls eat meat. First fur wearers, now meat eaters. The animal liberation movement marches on with its campaigns targeting the rich and famous. Latest celebrity to incur the wrath of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is Jessica Simpson who dared to wear a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Real Girls Eat Meat”. The songstress might have thought she was making a humorous reference to her boyfriend Tony Romo’s vegetarian ex-girlfriend, Carrie Underwood, but PETA sees eating sheep as every bit as cruel as mulesing them. They doctored a picture of the T-shirt with Alistair Currie, a spokesman for Peta, saying: “Jessica Simpson might have a right to wear what she wants, but she doesn’t have a right to eat what she wants – eating meat is about suffering and death.”

Farewell to an annual favourite . The mindless nature of across the board percentage cuts in government spending is illustrated perfectly this morning with the news that the Australian Bureau of Statistics will not be producing a 2009 edition of its Yearbook. Cancellation of the publication was announced this morning by Brian Pink, the Australian Statistician, along with the loss of 180 jobs. The staff cuts will be achieved primarily through a combination of natural attrition, a temporary recruitment freeze and redeployment. Mr Pink said the ABS has been facing a tightening financial situation as the costs of conducting survey programs have been rising, and like other agencies we have been asked to deliver an additional 2% efficiency dividend. “In response, I have identified a number of savings initiatives for 2008-09, in consultation with clients, to ensure the ABS can deliver its work program within its allocated budget. In total these initiatives represent savings of around $22M in 2008-09.” Along with the decision not to publish the Yearbook, the ABS decided the content of the 2011 Census of Population and Housing will not be changed from 2006, Measures of Australia’s Progress will be produced on a five yearly rather than a three yearly basis, and a small number of surveys will reduce in sample size or content or not be conducted in 2008-09.

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