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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

due credit to T. Abbott « Previous | |Next »
August 12, 2010

Much to my surprise Tony Abbott has done an excellent job in enabling the Coalition to unify the conservative base (with climate change and boats of refugees) have a fighting chance in this election. The tactics of negation to gain support in the middle of the electoral ground have worked a charm in both spooking Labor, and achieving a shift in the primary vote. All credit to Abbott, despite the scrambling campaigning by Labor.

This has placed the Coalition in the lead at the primary vote level:


Abbott's public image has been remoulded so that he now looks safe, sensible, and a man of the people. That is some turnaround from the "madmonk" by the image makers and Liberal powerbrokers. Is the Coalition ready to govern?

The consensus is that this federal election is similar to what happened in the recent elections in South Australia. In that state the published opinion polls showed a big a swing against Rann Labor. However, when the votes were in Labor retained government in Adelaide, primarily because the Coalition were out-campaigned in the marginals by Labor.

No doubt Labor strategists are sandbagging Labor's marginals in both NSW and Queensland and appealing like crazy to the undecideds in these marginals. Has Abbott made inroads into middle ground here? It seems so. If so how much is the swing in the marghinals? I have no idea. What is happening in the marginals is a black box for me and the media are of little help.

I cannot see that the Coalition strategy of just opposing something Labor has done will do the trick. "End the waste, pay back the debt, stop the big new taxes, and stop the boats" has been the mantra, and it only gets you so far. They are light on real action on policy to take them the next step. I doubt that it can be done by appealing to prejudice, fluff and deception. They need more good policies--like their mental health and and paid parental leave.

Their real action on water is money for irrigators to improve their infrastructure (they are not expected to do it for themselves) with most of the benefits from the efficiency savings going to irrigators. Real action on broadband takes us back to the 20th century. Apart from that what?

We cannot expect much information from the media on what is happening in the marginals. As Michael Gawenda says in One night in Rooty Hill won't kill you in Business Spectator about the journalism of those reporters who are travelling with the leaders:

These reporters are captives, embedded. They do not know, from hour to hour, sometimes from minute to minute, where they are going. They do not know where they will be spending the night. They do not know when they will be asked to be ready to get on the bus for a trip to a place unknown to them. When they are on planes, they do not know, literally, where they will land.What sort of reporting, beyond reporting of the moment, can they be expected to produce? It is hard to see how this reporting could be considered interesting or informative, apart from the unplanned dramatic eruptions – the leaks by the Labor rat, Rudd’s gall bladder problem, his campaign interventions, Latham’s menacing bullying of Gillard.

These reporters are helpless to do much more than go along for the ride, accept the rules of this game and in the main, settle for reporting nothing much of consequence.

Gawenda adds that most election campaigns make virtually no difference to the outcome; the polls at the start of the campaign are usually pretty accurate predictors of the result;and that what is happening in the marginals is a mystery. This is because the mainstream media does not have the resources to cover the local campaigns being waged in these seats in a meaningful way.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:00 AM | | Comments (17)


I understand the crowd angrily booed the NSW state government, according to one newspaper.
NSW will turn on the feds anyway, because of NSW Labor, so that's localised.
Preaching to the converted? Not necessarily if the Tories desperate spinners somehow cook it up as a grassrooots movement.
I just wish the NSW people would take out their justifable anger at state Labor, on state Labor.

Hey if I had the mass media behind me as Abbott has had, and the LIBs and the conservative agenda for that matter presented as a matter of course for decades, I reckon I'd be able to get as close to being PM as Abbott is.

In One night in Rooty Hill won't kill you in Business Spectator Michael Gawenda highlights the limits of the Canberra Press Gallery in an election campaign. He says that:

back in Canberra, senior journalists are engaged in the business of analysing and commenting on the events of the day and, if they have the time, on the policy announcements that were made. In most cases the analysis involves a judgment of which side had a good day, which a bad day, and whether or not Gillard or Abbott, had the momentum in the race to August 21. This analysis – of who’s up and who’s down – can change from hour to hour.

So they are reporting the surfaces of the campaign and most of what is reported is trivial.

Gawenda's analysis indicates that the mainstream media is unable to tell us what is happening the marginal seats that are the terrain of the battle. Can the local media?

I wasn't able to watch 'live from Rooty Hill as I don't have access to Sky News. I watched Gruen Nation instead. I understand that Gillard was given a hard time at Rooty Hill, and that Abbott played the crowd like a song.

Speaking of "the battle of rooty hill", dont suppose you read Mungo MCCallum's take at Fairfax?

yeah, I read McCullum's Pandering to prejudice at the National Times. The headline is awful given that he says that the 'westies':

are the people who were christened a few years ago the "aspirational" voters, on the basis that they were concerned primarily with material advancement. Surely that matters, but their aspirations go beyond bigger McMansions and plasma television sets. They are ambitious for a better, fuller and more satisfying life on every level; but today's politicians are only willing to offer the nethermost of bottom lines.

He adds that they tend to get most of their news and views from the tabloid Daily Telegraph and the shock-jocks of commercial radio.

McCullum doesn't say why this town in Sydney's west, which is conveniently centred on the electorates of Lindsay, Macquarie, and Greenway (marginal Labor) and Hughes (marginal Liberal), is so susceptible to the conservative's scare campaigns about boat arrivals.

Murdoch's campaign has been so intense in its anti-Labor stridency that it makes you wonder what the commercial pay off for News Corp is. The judgement would be that a Coalition Government would be much better than Labor for the commercial interests of News.

The commercial interests would be gaining the contract for Australia TV from the ABC for Sky News which is owned by News.

It could all come down to what happens on the friday before the election day. If we see 3 refugee boats on the tele news and a story from ACA about how much food prices have risen over the last 3 years all the policy talk will go out the window.

I think the election is starting to wake up, Les.
Two hours of population issue tv and I think there is slow, steady progress to be made with the Australian outlook, if people stay awake for a week or two and think over real issues in the real world.
It's a definitional underlying or meta-issues, a sort of bunch of single issues all convergent and even intertwined, but it will be rewarding for Australia and for Australians if they think carefully through what the election is really about. Almost a test of national character, the next couple of weeks.

has there been a shift in the dynamic of this campaign over the course of this week? Labor is back on track? Is the Coalition's scare campaign--- the nation teetering on the brink of disaster because of Labor's bad policies and actions---wearing thin?

Is the shift due to the realization that Abbott is serious about a return to the Howard era. Or is it due to the national broadband network highlighting how the Coalition appearing old fashioned, out of touch and going backwards?

In his Australia: a tale of two countries Jack the Insider says the election is close.

His analysis is that should Queensland swing heavily against the Government and return to its usual blue hue, the gain to the Coalition would not be enough to get it across the line.

A uniform 7 per cent swing would see Labor lose 10 seats north of the Tweed: Longman, Flynn, Dawson, Forde, Petrie, Leichhardt, Brisbane, Bonner, Moreton and Blair. That’s a worst-case scenario. Moreton and Blair especially look safe and there may be some heroic holds in Dawson and Petrie, but let’s stick with a loss of 10 for now.

That's worst case. Certainly, Labor will do what it can to minimise the carnage in Queensland and the Coalition will do everything in its power to pick up as many of those 10 Labor-held marginals as it can. Surely Labor will hold Brisbane?

Jack adds that ultimately, New South Wales is the real battleground in this election--- on his analysis NSW is where the election will be won and lost. He adds:

Essentially it will come down to a contest in 14 marginal seats (ignoring notional marginals like North Sydney and Hume). Of these, Labor holds Robertson, Macquarie, Bennelong, Eden-Monaro, Page and Greenway while the Coalition holds Paterson, Hughes, Cowper, Calare and Wentworth. Macarthur and Gilmore are Liberal-held seats that have become notional Labor in the 2009 redistribution.

His point is that if the Coalition don’t pick up nine or ten in Queensland, they just won’t be able to pick up enough seats in NSW to win. So it comes down to how much Labor can block the swing against it in Queensland.

Jack the Insider says that there will not be much change in SA and Victoria. The ALP may gain McEwan and it may lose Melbourne to the Greens. No change in SA.

What marginals will they be able to hold in Queensland? Suggestions in the comments say maybe Longman. Maybe Bonner. Maybe Brisbane.

Gary note your closing comment re Westies and MCCallum.
Same here in
Adelaide of course, they think, or beleive because they're told so by the outlets, that they are informed because they watch TDT and read the Advertiser.
They are like the folk watching the shadowpuppetry in Plato's cave; so cretinised thru habituation and reinforcement that they actually can't do better, short of something cathartic to encourage something oposite.
I know media studies has swung back to "complicity", but if the masses are complicit it's also because, like medieval peasants, their lives are so constrained by a toxic mixture of ignorance and our age's equivalent to a untested "theology" of class, knowledge and power, as to take their own simulacras as reality.
They are unconscious to the manufacture of their own consent.
When I was young my parents, god rest them, encouraged me to learn to read and visit the library, and did not encourage me in constant viewing of commercial tv, unlike so many of my generation.
I was patiently introduced to ABC tv and the employ of mental effort in thinking about issues raised, denied so many of my mates, who were never encouraged and consequently never had the capacity to understand the alternatives to commercial mass media.
But yes, the peasants are cunning, the ethnnological residues of centuries of survival have been handed down thru culture and they still understand dimly NOT to trust the system and negotiate hard on their own survival.

Paul Walter:

"They are unconscious to the manufacture of their own consent."

So are we all, Paul, surely?

Two things I've learnt the hard way, is first, that the overwhelming proportion of people don't much care for politics, and secondly, those who do, think that everything has to happen immediately. Which is not ever the case.

Re the Advertiser/TDT, the online polls by the media here in Adelaide show show 60% support for the Libs, whereas in the mainstream polling it's well under 50%.

The implication is that the MSM here is not reflective of the actual voter intention, which would not be the case if your "platonic victims" theory were right.

Labor, whatever happens elsewhere, won't lose in SA.

If Labor loses between 13 and 16 seats it will no longer have the numbers to govern in its own right and parliament will be hung. The loss of 17 or more seats would necessarily see Labor tossed out of office after just one term.

Opinion polls suggest Labor could lose up to 10 seats in Queensland and perhaps seven in New South Wales. It could gain a couple of seats elsewhere.

Watch out for low (f)lying push-polls, Nan...

If Labor get up this time it will be owing to the good election campaign run in Kevin 07 that gave them 17 seats breathing space. Not because of anything they did in this campaign or for much they did in the last 3 years.