Campaign reading: Boom versus gloom. If The Australian were in the good news business then “Iron ore boom versus Rudd gloom” would have been splashed all over page one, not hidden away under the fold back on page 19, but at least the story was there. Barry Fitzgerald and Paul Garvey note how on the hustings and in his campaign ads, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been calling the mining boom over. But he must have forgotten, they write, to tell the Chinese — the world’s biggest buyer of mineral commodities.

“Ever since returning as PM on June 26, the price of iron ore — Australia’s biggest export by a big margin — has not looked back as Chinese steelmakers frantically restock on the expectation that while there is a slowdown in the country’s infrastructure and urbanisation boom, an economic growth rate of more than 7 per cent on an already greatly enlarged economy means it still needs to suck in vast amounts of the steelmaking raw material.

“Iron ore has surged by 26 per cent, or $US29.80 a tonne, to $US142.80 a tonne since Mr Rudd returned to the Lodge and began mapping a re-election strategy that in part at least, links the claimed end to the mining boom to Australia’s ballooning budget deficits.”

Climate of fear killing off policy” in The Australian has Dennis Shanahan explaining how modern campaigning has reduced both sides to media slaves, scared of real reform.

Rudd’s new way? That’s a negative“. Despite the headline, Phillip Hudson in the Herald Sun spares neither side from his criticism that one-third of the way through this election campaign, both Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Rudd seem most passionate when they are attacking each other and whipping up a scare, which they both raise without being asked.

“Each camp says they are being positive but their strongest messages are dripping with negativity and creating suspicion about the other side.The real message isn’t, vote for me because I have the best plan for the future.

“It is, vote for me because I’m not the other guy. I’m the devil you know. Be afraid of the other side. Don’t risk it.”

Michelle Grattan describes how brother and sister play careful family politics on gay marriage for The Conversation in “Sometimes it’s hard being a sister“. Take Christine Forster, the gay sibling of Tony Abbott, who’s promoting same-s-x marriage, an issue that is giving the Opposition Leader grief, while she remains one of his loyalist supporters.

“Today Forster was due to attend the Australian Marriage Equality’s election campaign launch in Sydney. But she pulled out, after Abbott’s comment on Wednesday that ‘I’m not someone who wants to see radical changes based on the fashion of the moment’.

“‘I didn’t want to be the centre of media attention,’ Forster told The Conversation. ‘That would have been a distraction from the central marriage equality campaign.’

“Instead, she sent a strong message that can be interpreted — without too much of a stretch — as saying she would keep up the battle on the family front.”

In “Grass Roots Politics, Global Money Trees” at the Global Mail, Mike Seccombe and Clare Blumer explain how anyone in the world can contribute financially to Australia’s political campaigns and ask if this foreign intervention in Australian domestic politics is good for our democracy. And so to the journalist honour board this morning …

Other views: blogs and tweets of note. Future of the NT is Switzerland” headlines the Ambit Gambit blog’s assessment of yesterday’s Labor promise of lower taxes for companies in the Northern Territory:

“Until northern Australia decides to produce something for which there is an international market, no “push” solutions are going to work. People, and companies, go where there is economic advantage. And when there is economic advantage, they don’t need to be coerced.

“Having differential tax rates within the one country will only advantage one industry — the tax avoidance industry — with advisors and consultants springing-up to show companies how they can get this advantage.”

Campaign listening: 2UE 954 Sydney. Breakfast with Dicko and Sarah this morning, with them at Hammondville Public School celebrating its 80th year, which gave Ian “Dicko” Dickson the opportunity to have an old boy of 50 years ago, John Paul Young, along to perform live. That at least made it different to most of the breakfast programs I have been listening to since the election campaign started.

Border protection policies being made tougher by the Coalition headlined the news bulletins. Dicko read from the papers giving the same story and labelled it “tit-for-tat cruelty”, but Sarah Morice quite liked it. We’ll take you in because we are humanitarian but if it’s safe for you to go back you will be sent back. Until then you can work — for the dole too if you are on it — but no rights for permanent settlement and none of that family reunion business. That seemed fair to Sarah, but to Dicko, “It’s a vote winner, that’s what it is.”

An election wrap of the week for those who nodded off during the debate and went into a coma at the mention of politics — the PM’s use of notes, legalisation of gay marriage. It was a week of the good the bad and the Abbott — suppository and s-x appeal and Joe Hockey as George Clooney, Mark Latham’s view of the candidate for Lindsay and a ditty from Clive Palmer. And just like our prime minister, we have to zip, so into a recording of Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah. Lightweight but inoffensive.

The Muffin Break election bean poll was introduced, with its early results apparently showing coffee drinkers nationally going 42.8% for the Coalition 38.6% for Labor and then on to Mark Riley of Seven News for a more serious wrap of political affairs that was once again dominated by detention centres, temporary protection visas and sending non-refugees home ASAP. The consensus was that the political parties were battling to see who has the harshest policy, with the temporary protection visas giving the Coalition a marginal advantage in that department.

Dicko introduced the morning’s Newspoll polls in Dobell and Robertson with the observation that he and his partner had now been in five marginal seats now and had found it hard to find people who said they were going to vote Labor. So no surprise for this radio pair that Labor looked well on the way to losses. “We found that the marginal seats were not too marginal,” said Sarah as another consensus view settled on Labor struggling to win because its brand stinks.

The nightly news. A certain sameness about the main network news bulletins last night. Tony was down south in Tasmania offering some quite specific small bribes. Kevin was up north in Darwin making the big uncosted promise of a lower company tax rates for business in the Northern Territory that would start after the election after next. A bit of fluff and bubble about Abbott chatting with Katy Perry and running into a gay marriage advocate, and that was about it. As Graham Richardson wrote in his column for The Australian this morning:

“Our television executives know more about politics than most Australians, me included. Those who run the free-to-air networks Ten, Nine and Seven chose to run Sunday night’s leaders debate on their secondary channels. There was no way they were going to allow the debate to ruin the flow of good ratings that The X Factor and Australia’s Got Talent bring with them. They picked in advance that this debate would be the most boring in the history of Australian elections over the past three decades.”

And avoiding politics goes further than avoiding the debates. Finding an alternative to stories from the campaign trail to lead the nightly news bulletins is a major task these days. They succeeded last night.

The pictorial week and a dreary sameness. Just more of the same when it came to the photo opportunities this week. Daughters and running for Tony. Schools, children and babies for Kevin. And not a hard hat in sight.

The daily election indicator. Labor 13.8% (down 0.1pts on the day), Coalition 86.2%

Prediction market accuracy in the long run. As we keep getting so many new readers perhaps it is an appropriate time to repeat a few details of how the Crikey election indicator is calculated and what it is intended to show. The probabilities about each side winning are based on what actual markets are showing. The prices being offered by bookmakers are looked at but most weight is attached to Betfair, where the market is not affected by the opinion of bookmakers and the influence of large individual wagers.

The business school at the University of Iowa has been running markets on US political events for many years and an article on their accuracy was published in the International Journal of Forecasting. The abstract for that article reads:

“Prediction markets” are designed specifically to forecast events such as elections. Though election prediction markets have been being conducted for almost twenty years, to date nearly all of the evidence on efficiency compares election eve forecasts with final pre-election polls and actual outcomes. Here, we present evidence that prediction markets outperform polls for longer horizons. We gather national polls for the 1988 through 2004 U.S. Presidential elections and ask whether either the poll or a contemporaneous Iowa Electronic Markets vote-share market prediction is closer to the eventual outcome for the two-major-party vote split. We compare market predictions to 964 polls over the five Presidential elections since 1988. The market is closer to the eventual outcome 74% of the time. Further, the market significantly outperforms the polls in every election when forecasting more than 100 days in advance.”

Who gets the credit for education? My colleague Bernard Keane notes:

“Australia has 19 universities ranked in the top 500 in the world, according to the 2013 Academic Ranking of World Universities released overnight, and five in the top 100. The Coalition’s universities spokesman Brett Mason welcomed the data. He said in a media release this morning: ‘These outstanding results are a credit to all our academics and university administrators.Your hard work and dedication has not gone unnoticed.’

“Whatever that means. Mason’s media release didn’t mention the government, curiously. Not ever a mention of universities doing it tougher in the face of Labor’s recent cuts to higher education, which you’d have thought was an obvious angle for the opposition. Why not? Well, the answer lies if you check the same data from 2008, which gives a snapshot of the state the Howard government had left higher education in. In the same survey for 2008 Australia had only 14 universities in the top 500, and just three in the top 100. In five years, Australia’s universities have significantly improved in the rankings. Must be entirely due to hard-working administrators and academics.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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