Pick the Newspoll. The last published Newspoll figures on voting intention surprised a few people … apparently the major parties are level pegging. Newspoll will give us the state of the parties again next week (we assume) and the new numbers will be very interesting. In the lead-up to the 2007 elections we at Crikey played a little guessing game on polling and in these apparently volatile times it seems appropriate to do so again.

Take a punt: enter your best guesses of the primary vote that the next Newspoll will show for the major parties and others along with your estimate of the two-party preferred position and the approval ratings for the Prime Minister and the Opposition leader.

We will reward the winner with a set of magnificent news season’s First Dog on the Moon tea towels with the winner being the person closest to correct across all categories. In the event of a tie, the first correct entry gets the goodies.

The scoring system is simple. If the Newspoll number is, say, 52 and you predict 52 you score 0; if 53 you get -1, for a 54 -2 etc. When we add up the scores for all the answers the person closest to zero wins.

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You will find the entry form here. Good tipping.

The form guide. Figures for the last three starts by Newspoll are given below with the most recent outing given first.

PRIMARY VOTE

Labor — 41, 48, 47
Liberal — 36, 30, 32
National — 5, 4, 4
Greens — 10, 10, 10
Others – 8, 7, 7

TWO PARTY PREFERRED

Labor — 52, 59, 58
Coalition — 48, 41, 42

APPROVAL RATING

Rudd — 59, 63, 67
Turnbull — 32, 32, 33

A mayoral campaign triumph. If Alexander Downer does decide to run for the post of Adelaide’s lord mayor, his campaign will surely benefit from the impending arrival in the city of Wang Wang and Fu Ni. Li Desheng, deputy chief of China’s Wolong Nature Reserve, has just returned from South Australia after checking on the progress of the construction of the exhibit at Adelaide Zoo, which will be the home of the pair of giant pandas for the next decade.

He has proclaimed that everything is in readiness for the departure of the pair at the end of their quarantine period, which began on October 21 in the Bifengxia base at the Wolong Nature Reserve in Ya’an, Sichuan province.

It should be noted that this panda diplomacy owes nothing to the efforts of our Mandarin-speaking Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. It followed intensive negotiations in September 2007 at a meeting between President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister John Howard before that year’s Asia-Pacific summit.

Then foreign minister Downer found time during his negotiations over whether Howard should be replaced as Liberal leader before the impending federal election to ensure that Adelaide was chosen as the host city.

Now a real challenge for Peter Garrett. Having got that Queensland dam business out of the way, environment minister Peter Garrett can start preparing for a real challenge. India’s Central Zoo Authority (CZA) on Monday ordered that all elephants in the country’s zoos and circuses be set free in national parks, sanctuaries and tiger reserves as soon as possible. If Australia’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in worthy of its name, it will surely follow the lead and try again to stop elephants being held in captivity in this country.

To its credit the RSPCA did try to get overturned the disgraceful decision of the then environment minister Ian Campbell  in 1975 to allow Sydney’s Taronga Park zoo to import elephants from Thailand. Along with the Australian branch of the Humane Society International and the International Fund for Animal Welfare it asked the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to stop the importation but the tribunal merely imposed stricter conditions on the facilities in which the animals be kept.

Now India’s CZA has determined that even good zoos do not have enough room for elephants to move about freely.

The RSPCA agrees with that view. It says on its website that the problem with keeping elephants in zoos is that their needs cannot be adequately met in a captive zoo environment.

Consequently, the welfare of elephants kept in zoos is severely compromised. Potential causes for poor welfare in zoo elephants include restricted space and opportunity for exercise, unsuitable climate, extended periods of confinement, hard or wet flooring, inappropriate diet, small social groups, lack of stability in social groups, lack of opportunity to exhibit natural behaviours, and exposure to aversive stimuli in training and handling.

For example, zoos cannot provide adequate space for elephants. Elephants are, by nature, nomadic creatures that are constantly on the move. In the wild, an elephant will walk up to nine kilometres each day. It is nearly impossible to provide, even an adequate amount of space and exercise, in a captive environment. In addition, zoos cannot mimic the social structure that elephants need to thrive. Elephants in the wild can exist in herds numbering up to 58 animals. Female elephants particularly are intensely social animals, existing in small groups made up of mothers, calves, aunts and so forth.

These animals develop strong lifelong bonds with these family members. When elephants are held in captivity, moved and separated from their group, this cause unacceptable levels of distress and the breakdown of these family groups.

Having talked this good talk, it is now time for the RSPCA again to demand action and at least prevent any further elephant imports.

I subscribe to Crikey because I believe in a free, open and independent media where news and opinions can be published that I can both agree with and be challenged by.

As a Crikey subscriber I always feel more informed and able to think more critically about issues and current affairs – even when they don’t always reflect my own political viewpoint or lived experience.

Jess
Singapore

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