Perversity triumphs again. The opinion polls in Queensland were probably right, which is why they turned out wrong. It reads strangely doesn’t it, but it’s what I predicted in Crikey on Friday (Unhappy memories of 1980) would happen. Some people who flirt with voting against a government when they think that government will win easily, change back to being supporters when they realise it is actually facing defeat. Thus it was on Saturday.
As the media headlined polls continuing to show the Liberal National Party in front, the clear majority of people who thought Labor would win disappeared and with that disappearance came a change of support. This underdog impact might be strange but it is nonetheless real. Yet time and again I have seen politicians whose vanity is such that they refuse to take notice of it.
Liberal National Leader Lawrence Springborg is but the latest of them. He could not help himself from acting as a winner during the last fortnight and thus contributed to his own defeat. Labor, on the other hand, used journalists extremely well to cast off the front runner’s mantle. On this occasion the internal Labor party research showing the LNP in front might even have been correct. Being true or false matters not. What counts is getting the idea well publicised in stories like this one:
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The power of the press. I find it somewhat reassuring when the power of the press operates in exactly the opposite way to that which newspapers intend. Both Brisbane’s News Limited papers — The Courier Mail and The Australian — were strongly pushing the cause of the Liberal National Party. Steven Wardill on Friday had Anna Bligh “at risk of being turfed out of office at tomorrow’s election as Brisbane voters turn on her Labor team.” Sean Parnell of The Oz on Saturday morning was still saying “Queensland Labor Party will today lose its massive parliamentary majority, and possibly its 11-year grip on power.” Ms Bligh should thank both men for their help in sorting out who had underdog status.
Stick with the Crikey Indicator. The Crikey Election Indicator deviated very little throughout the course of the Queensland campaign and always had Labor favoured to win. Those who put their money where their opinion is do not follow opinion polls as slavishly as journalists. The final reading of the Indicator put the probability of a Labor win at 60%.
Slashing jobs at the Bureau. It is very hard for an outsider to know what iof any impact slashing some jobs of senior people at the Australian Bureau of Statistics is going to have on the quality of the important data it provides. The public service union is getting a sympathetic reception in many quarters by alleging that fewer people will result in poorer statistics but experience with other large organisations suggests this is not necessarily so. Feather bedding does have a way of becoming ingrained and I heard one ABS official making the interesting case that losing some chiefs would allow some of their bright young underlings to make a bigger and better contribution. Yet what my experience in Canberra has shown me is that when there is a major reshuffle work does slow down as people jockey to ensure that they get one of the remaining positions. Perhaps the onset of a major recession is not the best time for such an upheaval in the collection of economic data.