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Judging the budget

Thursday, 15 May 2008 - This year we will not need an opinion pollster to tell us what people think of the budget and the performance so far of a new government. The Gippsland by-election on 28 June will give us a real, live measure and Labor must be approaching it with some confidence. more

Closer than reading the papers might suggest

I am intrigued by the way that journalists have jumped aboard the Barack Obama band wagon with such alacrity with much of the writing now about the manner in which Hillary Clinton should withdraw from a race she cannot possibly win. The evidence of the opinion polls and the Crikey US Election Indicators suggests that the contest is not yet over with Ms Clinton having a good chance in the the three primary contests on Wednesday (Australian time).

In Texas the opinion polls, as measured by the Real Clear Politics poll average, have Obama the narrowest of favourites after Clinton had led for many weeks. more

Changing the donation rules

Thursday, 21 February 2008 - Malcolm Turnbull had his former Liberal Party Treasurer hat on yesterday as he proposed a radical change to the way political parties are allowed to finance election campaigns. Mr Turnbull wants donations banned except those from individuals. "I would love to see a day when no unions or corporations could give donations to political parties", he told the House of Representatives. "I would love to see a day when only individuals on the electoral roll were allowed to give money to political parties-with an annual cap. I would support that but this is a big issue and one that this parliament owes the nation a careful consideration." more

The Political Donors of 2006-07

Friday, February 01, 2008 - As you glance down the list of donations to political parties published by the Australian Electoral Commission I am sure you will be as interested as I was to see how public spirited companies in the property and development business are! more

Two Old Leaders Keep Their Records

Wednesday, November 28, 2007 - Two old leaders have kept their records by the narrowest of margins as votes get closer to being completely counted from last Saturday's poll and Bob Hawke will no doubt be happier about it than Malcolm Fraser. more

Limited Role for Advertising

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - Political television advertising will grind to a halt this evening with the major parties having spent $40 million or so without achieving anything. There has not been a single ad from either side that has cut through the natural scepticism of voters towards messages from politicians. In short there has been a colossal waste of money. more

Nine Can Keep its Worm, The Owl Wants Functional MRIs

Tuesday, November 13, 2007 - That worm thing crawling along the bottom of the screen is so passé. The new way of determining what swinging voters think is to put them in a scanner and do some functional magnetic resonance imaging.

A group of academics have done just that at the Ahmanson Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at the University of California , Los Angeles. more

The Differences Between States

Thursday, November 01, 2007 - Some intriguing, if inconclusive, evidence this morning of the significant differences in the voting intentions of people in the different Australian States. more

Estimate of Probabilities for Every Seat 2007 House of Representatives Election


Getting the Picture Right

Thursday, September 27, 2007 - For the political advance person it is not the words that matter but the picture. For every person who actually listens to the news there is another who only glances at the screen and hears very little. Getting the right background and the right supporting cast is thus of paramount importance. more

A Clever PM Postpones an Answer

Monday, 3 September 2007 - John Howard knows better than any politician that governments should not set up inquiries when they do not know what they will find. more

A Hawke's Eye View on the Form

Friday, 24 August 2007 - Speaking with what he describes as "a certain amount of authority, from my own personal history in such matters", my old boss and former Labor Prime Minister, Bob Hawke thinks Kevin Rudd's night on the tiles in New York "made it easier for a lot of punters to identify with Kevin." Not a normal form guide comment but elections are no ordinary race meeting and punting PMs are a rarity in the straight laced environment of today's Parliament House. more

Serving the Gravy Will Require Timing

Wednesday, 22 August 2007 - Treasurer Peter Costello has now given Australians a little taste of the gravy to be dispensed by the Government between now and election day. In announcing that the budget surplus for last financial year was $3.7 billion higher than predicted in the budget back in May he promised some spending to come down the track on medical miracles and tertiary education. Not too much spending and not too quickly mind you because there is one problem about vote buying this year. An independent Reserve Bank makes timing everything. more

Promise Now and Pay Later

Tuesday, 21 August 2007 - The pre-election gravy train keeps chugging along with six recent promises by the Prime Minister adding $1,292,026,700 to the list of projects announced by the Prime Minister on is campaign jaunts around the country. You will find the details at Grass Roots Gravy Train where we will keep updating the way John Howard gives away tax payers money during his re-election bid. more

See also Promises Galore - $7 billion and Going Strong

Hurray! Another Policy Difference at Last!

Friday, 17 August 2007 - In Australia 's careful game of political chess the play in recent times has been very much on the defensive side. Every attacking gambit of Prime Minister John Howard has been matched by Kevin Rudd being prepared to sacrifice a pawn or two like a candidate from the Electrical Trades Union or even a Peter Beattie. Whenever Mr Rudd feints with a potentially popular policy like spending on education or the approach to climate change, the government matches it. So we might be having a long campaign but it is a very cautious one with Labor even pretending to be more fiscally conservative than the Liberals. more

Old Habits Die Hard

Wednesday, 8 August 2007 - It is differences of opinion, it appears, that make a Coalition when it comes to election campaign tactics. The last few days have revealed a clear difference in approach between the Liberal Party and the National Party. more

Cautiously Increasing the Pressure

Thursday, 2 August 2007 - Kevin Rudd might be the volatile and temperamental man in private that some journalists have described but in public he continues to show a discipline that is admirable in a political leader. He has developed quickly in to a campaigner of great skill with his delivery of firm understatements and there was a sign today that he is beginning to broaden the areas where he is prepared to attack the Government. more

Avoiding the Horse Race

Monday, 23 July 2007 - John Howard is on Mark Twain's side if not quite as eloquent. "It is not best that we all should think alike," wrote the American, "it is differences of opinion that make horse races." In his major speech of the weekend, delivered to the NSW State Council of the Liberal Party, Mr Howard spent much of his time bemoaning the fact that Kevin Rudd the Labor Leader was trying hard to stop this election being a horse race at all. The Prime Minister was not referring to the size of the Labor opinion poll lead but the persistence with which Mr Rudd keeps thinking alike. more

The Complete Form Guide

Wednesday, 18 July 2007 - When a bookmaker has Labor favourite to win the election but his prices on individual seats show that Labor would not win enough seats to do so there should be an opportunity to make a little profit. Hence today's publication of an Australian federal election form guide giving an assessment of the chances of Labor and Non-Labor winning each individual seat. Where Sportingbet is quoting a price for an individual electorate it is shown as well.

I have assumed that the Owl's Election Indicator (based on Betfair) is a correct assessment with the ALP a 54.8% chance of winning. That would result in the ALP winning 77 seats to non-Labor's 73 seats. The opinion polls are currently showing the ALP winning around 94 seats which points to a winning chance of around 90%. more

A Marginal Water Supply

Wednesday, 4 July 2007 -The pumps are about to begin working in the parishes of Bega as the real business of marginal seat electioneering gets under way. more

A $300 Million Pre-Election Advertising Spree ?

Tuesday, 10 April 2007 - Based on the experience of the last two years there is a good chance that next month's budget will see $300 million allocated for spending on advertising by the Federal Government in the coming financial year with most of it concentrated in the period before this year's election is officially called. more

Waiting for the Positive Ads

Tuesday, 3 April 2007 - The biggest electoral advantage of the Liberal-National Party Government is about to unfold and the television industry is looking forward to it with an eager anticipation. The pre-election Government campaigns are now in the final stages of preparation and the spending is about to begin. more

What, Me Worry?

Tuesday 20 March 2007 - John Howard has become the Alfred E. Neuman of Australian politics. He bounded down the steps of his VIP jet with a cheeky grin as if he did not have a care in the world. The old fellow even carried his own bag and kept the minders out of sight. The image was a Prime Minister capable of doing things on his own; a PM keen to get on with the job of running the country. more

A Little Bit of Kiss and Tell

Tuesday 20 March 2007 - That a little bit of kiss and tell is no impediment to electoral success was confirmed in Finland at the weekend when the publication of a book by the mistress of Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen was credited for a late revival in popularity that led to his re-election. more

Howard Makes the Television Advertisements

Wednesday 14th March 2007 - Prime Minister John Howard hit the television screens of New South Wales last night urging a vote for the Liberal Party of Peter Debnam. Nothing unusual about that, you might say, but for the fact the advertisements were paid for by the Australian Labor Party. more

A Judgment on Inexperience

Monday 12th March 2007 - The battle of the keywords is now well under way as Labor and the Coalition struggle to damage their opposing leader. For Labor the recent task has been portraying John Howard as one of those clever politicians who are too tricky by half. For the Liberals the emphasis is on the words judgment and inexperience as they search to find a way of turning Labor's superman leader back into a mere political Clark Kent . more

The Next Round of Leadership Speculation

Tuesday, 6th February 2007 - We will all know to start taking opinion polls showing Labor comfortably in front seriously when the next round of Liberal leadership speculation begins. The subject has been off the agenda since Peter Costello accepted that John Howard would not be retiring but there is no one like a back bencher fearful of losing to bring it back again. more

Sleaze Disappoints Again

Monday, 5th February 2007 - The danger of relying on the sleazy behaviour of a government as a way of winning an election was shown yet again at the weekend when the West Australian Labor Government had the rare distinction of increasing its vote at a by-election. more

The Right Conditions for the Under Dog Effect

Friday, 2nd February 2007 - Damage control is one thing the NSW Labor Government is getting plenty of practice at. This morning it was the turn of Water Utilities Minister David Campbell to deal with a Daily Telegraph story predicting two years of total chaos for residents in the path of pipelines to take water from a planned desalination plant to the rest of Sydney. more

A Long Way from Howard's Battlers

Tuesday, 30 January 2007 - Maxine McKew is a model of educated elegance – well mannered, well spoken and beautifully dressed. An identikit representative if Labor is trying to present itself to the tertiary educated working women and men of the nation's central business districts with a keen interest in political events. more

Difference of Opinion Makes a Horse Race

Monday, 27th November, 2006 - If there is one lesson from the electoral results of the last decade in Australia it is that voters need to be given a reason to change. When the policies of Labor and Liberal are those of tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum the people stick with what they know. Only massive incompetence, it seems, will stir the electorate in to punishment mode and that has not been present at a federal level since Paul Keating was dispatched and in a state since South Australia turned on the Liberals back in 2002.

At the last polls in Western Australia , the ACT, the Northern Territory , Tasmania , South Australia , Queensland and, at the weekend, in Victoria, finding meaningful policy differences between Labor and Liberal has been impossible. There have been no doctrinal differences and the devil we know has won clearly. more

Drink it Or Lose It

Tuesday, 26th July, 2006 - The opponents are calling it Malcolm Turnbull's ‘drink it or lose it” $22.9 million - vote to drink recycled sewerage or lose the promised federal government funding. Australian electors have never before had such a dramatic choice as that confronting the rate payers of Toowoomba this Saturday. It is officially the Toowoomba Water Futures Poll and Federal Parliamentary Secretary Turnbull ordered the referendum as a condition of government money being offered. more

A Campaign Preview

Friday, 21st July, 2006 - Kim Beazley gave a preview yesterday of one aspect of the message Labor will give the people at the next federal election – however you vote in the House of Representatives, don't let John Howard keep control of the Senate. more

Costello Will Fight the Next Election Whatever Happens

Thursday, 6th July, 2006

The will he, won't he stories about John Howard's retirement got another airing this week from journalists in, of all places, the Solomon Islands .

Peter Costello's presence at a conference of Pacific Island nation treasurers was the ostensible reason for the visit by the press back. The real reason - that visiting a Pacific hell hole is more attractive than Canberra in mid-winter - would not do for the expenses sheet.

So what was a poor journo to do when there was no rioting in the streets or an angry big brother trying to electrocute the Australian Treasurer? Bring out a variation on the tried and true leadership challenge as a way of justifying the airfare and drinking money.

And so Peter Costello was asked for the hundredth? .thousandth? .umpteenth time when he would take over as Prime Minister. And because he is the Treasurer at a Treasurer's conference why not freshen things up with a Keatingesque reference to a "secret Kirribilli deal."

It worked like a charm. Headlines and sound bites provided. Bean counters satisfied. But no information at all relevant to John Howard's future with the PM responding for the hundredth? .thousandth? .umpteenth time that he would stay for as long as his party wanted him and it was in the interests of his party for him to do so.

Not that it really matters anymore because Peter Costello will be the central personality of the Coalition campaign whether John Howard goes or stays. more

Sensitive and Hyper Sensitive Booths in Kerala Election

Tuesday, 2nd May, 2006 - They obviously hold their political views passionately in Kerala - in the two northern districts of Kannur and Kasaragod tomorrow 10,000 police will be on duty to supervise at "sensitive" and "hyper sensitive" polling booths. more

£1 for Every Extra Vote

Thursday, 27th April, 2006 - Humiliated by their loss to Tony Blair's New Labour in 2001, the British Conservative Party turned in 2005 to the Australian Lynton Crosby. more

Prodi Defies the Underdog Factor

Wednesday, 12th April, 2006 - The opinion pollsters have a let out clause in Italy. There is a two week black out before election day during which no polls can be published. If and when you are wrong you can blame the late swing. Which is just as well. more

The Indicator Points to Prodi

Monday, 10th April, 2006 - Romano Prodi continues to be a firm favourite to win the Italian election when voting is completed later today. The Owl Election Indicator, based on market trends at the Betfair betting exchange, has Prodi with a 78.8% chance of victory to Silvio Berlusconi's 19.2% chance. more

Tasmania Returns All Sitting Members

Wednesday, 29th March, 2006 - At the Tasmanian election 10 days ago there were 95 candidates standing for the total of 25 seats in the five electorates. Of that number, 23 were members of the previous House of Assembly, one a previous member of the Federal Parliament along with 71 hopefuls. At the close of counting yesterday, all the retiring members were re-elected along with the former Federal member. Only one newcomer made it. more






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The view from the New York Post

The Spreading American Influence Reaches Labor - Tuesday, 28th November, 2006 - In their excellent little book Limiting Democracy (UNSW Press) academics Colin Hughes and Brian Costar lament the increasing adoption of American campaign methods by the Australian Liberal Party.more


© Richard Farmer 2008