Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

Why Tassie?

Posted by Possum Comitatus on October 10, 2007

Of all the seats in all the regions in all the States in the country, why is Howard spending his time and your money in Tasmania, where there’s only 2 Coalition held marginals to defend?

A few reasons come to mind – the most obvious one being that with Tasmania, the government can try and buy a whole State for the price it would take to buy just a single Sydney marginal, especially with the high expectations of government pork in those more demanding urban climes. The metro mainland marginals demand nothing less than the whole pig, but Tassie seems to be content with just the accompaniments – the apple in the mouth of the beast for the appropriately named Apple Isle.

But there would be a lot more to it than that – we probably need to get in touch with our inner Crosby Textor to make real sense of it.

The government hasn’t had any real movement in the polls to them, pretty much anywhere, since June/July where they (superficially at least) possibly gained a point or two in the TPP stakes.

Personally I put this down to the polling overshoot washing out of the system, where the bandwagon effect behind Rudd finally peaked, and where that 5-7% of fickle newsvoters and members of the voting herd made a correction back to behaving in their usual, electorally schizophrenic way – similar to the way newstraders behave with a bull run on a stock price….. but I digress.

So with the ALP TPP vote in the Tassie marginals apparently dropping recently from low 60s to merely high 50’s, that whiff of movement to the Coalition, however tenuous, is jumped on. When you are suffering the wrong side of a polling famine, the smallest morsel becomes a feast.

If we use the OzTrack 33 research to see what Rudd did to Tasmania and to see how things were looking for the Coalition in June down there, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. Rudd came along and did this to Tassie on the issue positioning front (it’s a thumbnail):


Contributing to compositional voter movement away from the Coalition of this:


That big shift in the 50-64 age group is a killer. That’s usually one of the strongest Coalition age demographics, but with Braddon having 26% of its eligible voters being in that group and Bass having 23.9% of its eligible voters being in that age group (2006 census), the Coalition would lose those two marginal seats on that age group swing alone.

So with this hint of recent polling movement in Tassie, Howard pounces to see if it can be given some momentum by throwing pork around the place. This tells us a few things:

Firstly, that the Coalition is as desperate as the polls suggest they should be. Normally when the vote moves from reflecting a complete savaging to just a mild annihilation, life goes on without much fanfare – gaps that large are usually written off and resources allocated elsewhere. The problem is, “elsewhere” is just as bad. The fact that mild annihilation is looked upon as a great opportunity to maybe reduce it further to just a veritable wipe out speaks volumes about the tenuous electoral position the Coalition find themselves in.

Secondly, it provides hope with the potential for further uses. If Tassie can be moved back to something resembling 54/46 in Labors favour (however short term that may be from the porkbarrelling), that result can then be used to boost the morale of the party, its members and its donors on the mainland.

With the only good news story for the Coalition at the moment being that if the election reflects the polls, a large proportion of the survivors will get a shadow cabinet position doesn’t exactly make for a generally happy, enthusiastic mood. But with ‘evidence’ that an 8-10 point turnaround can be done because “we did it in Tassie” , in these days of dismal polling, that’s literally manna from heaven in the morale stakes. We can already see this playing out with the Tasmanian polling being spun to journos as something more than it really is.

Thirdly, if the Coalition can actually hold onto their Tassie marginals, that forces the ALP to rely on getting seats further up the pendulum. With 8+% swings being the norm at the moment, the power of that becomes pretty irrelevant, but if…. but IF the government can narrow the polls during the campaign AND hold the Tassie marginals, then maybe, just maybe it will be important. Managing defeat is about maximising the possibilities.

Finally, and arguably most importantly, the governments recent actions in Tasmania tell us that the old strategy has been dumped. We can see the basic, generic strategy that was recommended in June:


But suddenly, health is being aggressively pursued in Tasmania as an issue, even though it risks raising the prominence of health to such a point where it becomes an influential vote driver for a greater number of people. That would, in turn, force those people to make a direct comparison between the Coalition and the ALP over health and that is a high risk to take when the ALP brand is so well positioned, both currently and historically on the issue. The Mersey Hospital policy being a bit of a farce doesn’t exactly help the Coalition here either.

But while there is a large downside risk here for the Coalition, there is also the possibility that this intense Tasmanian activity will raise the PMs personal standing, which CT believes is a fundamentally important driver of the vote. Key vote influencers like Preferred PM, National Interest, Important Issues and Strong Leadership are all affected by the PMs personal standing. If you can buy a better personal standing, you make a down payment on a whole swag of other vote drivers as a result.

And I think that what is happening in Tasmania as the new strategy is being reflected elsewhere. The last ditch effort to go for broke, attack the strong ALP issues even though it’s been counterproductive before, and to raise the PMs personal standing are all starting to play out more and more in the mainland campaign. Desperate stuff – but when the alternative is worse, it’s really all they’ve got.

On something completely unrelated, David H sent me this appalling picture he snapped in Sydney:


Just what’s the world coming to I ask you?

….. and put that Yellow Pages down Christopher Pearson.

And for something different, I might throw the odd song in as a little doovywhatsit at the bottom of posts for the disturbingly large number of people that seem to listen to my Music to Blog By. Todays number is Crushcrushcrush by the excellent Paramore from their new album Riot (which is probably the best album of this genre I’ve heard for about 5 years). If you like it, dont be a tight arse and go and buy the CD 😉


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26 Responses to “Why Tassie?”

  1. David Hooke said


    Couldn’t the investment in Tassie have higher returns in the Senate than the same investment in the mainland? If the coalition are going to lose, aren’t they better off shoring up senate results, allowing them to mess up government for labor and hence expedite their return to power? Maybe this is another example of “rounding up the wagons”.


  2. Possum Comitatus said

    I wonder if the things that drive the Senate vote are the same as the things which drive the Reps vote?

    I can understand the governments whole “Dont Risk Rudd” approach in terms of the Senate, it attempts to give the voters a reason to hedge their bets.If they are going to vote ALP, then having the Coalition control the Senate acts as a bulwark against the danger of an ALP government.But the porkbarreling thing I’m really at a loss with in terms of the Senate.Maybe porkbarrelling does work with the Senate that way – which really would be disturbing!

  3. Bushfire Bill said

    Of course:

    “…that’s literally manna from heaven in the morale stakes…”

    should read,

    “…that’s metaphorically manna from heaven in the morale stakes…”

    Manna was a form of bread, of the edible ariety. All Howard will be eating is crow.

    But then, I’m being pedantic.

  4. ando said

    Again, Possum, your analyses are right on the money. Thanks.
    I hope you are a multi-millionaire, have some good Tongan mates – or both.
    Coz you might just need to be neutralised – I can see offers/coercion coming your way from the dark side.
    Hold firm. The free world needs you.

  5. seajay said

    Maybe it’s just because the rodent has such fond memories of his reception in Northern Tasmania in 2004 and he believes the propaganda that it was the news images of that event that turned the whole election. We’ve already had the ‘waving to the grateful Mersey hospital staff’ clip repeated ad nauseum so he might be hoping for more. They are a kind but simple folk in Tassie, easily swayed by coloured beads and bright shiny things.

  6. steve_e said

    From the last CT slide, Interest rates is an issue that is seen as a Coalition strength.

    If the RBA, as has been suggested, increases rates in November, then the delay in calling the Election date to the latest possible Saturday (expected to be 08/12) is a roll of the dice. It may well come up — CRAPS.

  7. Rate Analyst said

    That’s a very dangerous strategy – I work in the markets and there’s an RBA meeting on 5 Dec too.

    I don’t believe that there’s much chance of a Nov rise – maybe 25% at most. However, I think Dec is much more likely.

    If the RBA goes in Nov there’s a real chance of a 2-for-1 and we get Nov and Dec. Wouldn’t that be a nice little way to lead in to an election….

  8. fred said

    All very plausible and even probable BUT I like my own totally unverifiable theory as to why Howard is concentrating on Tassie.
    The man is a fortress under siege on all sides, alone and scared, so he visits the scene of his past glory when he got Tassie loggers to dump on Latham. Superstitious almost.
    I’m stuck by the parallel with the “Final Days” of Tricky Dicky who ended up reading about his past exploits and hoping that all the troubles would just go away, unable to comprehend just how deep in shit he really was.
    And if you do insist on at least a minimum of evidence try this:
    where a SENIOR Liberal MINISTER has described Howard as “a PM who won’t accept reality”.

    Just remember….. sometimes the political is personal.

  9. PJay said

    Possum. For text flow purposes. Please. Put. A. Space. After. Your. Full. Stops. Thanks. (Space). Also worth 1% in TPP terms.

  10. Possum Comitatus said

    Sorry about that PJay – is that any better?

  11. Tomasso said

    Could be even simpler. Maybe Tassie is the least worst place to be (for a rodent with personal vanities trying to look like his judgement day is not at hand). These guys have to do something, and that has to look like it’s succeeding. Maybe he would look worse everywhere else.


  12. Bushfire Bill said

    Apart from my brilliant analysis of why Howard is extending the Phoney Campaign (he wants to give more money to his media and mining mates) there is also the possibility that he is using the lead-up period to issue as many policies as possible, knowing Rudd is holding off until the official campaign.

    It may be a case of “getting in firstest with the mostest”?

  13. Enemy Combatant said

    Possum you are correct on two counts:

    1) Contacting one’s inner Crosby-Textor is indeed a richly rewarding psephological experience.

    2) El Rodente is so desperate he’d hump the hair on a barber shop floor if he thought there were a few voters in it. We may deduce this because when one flashes him a map of Tasmania, he behaves like a serial root artist.

    But he doesn’t seem to have scored.

    The shifty little weasel has had zippo effect on board odds. ALP candidates in Bass and Braddon are still hovvering in the $1.25 to $1.28 range for a buck down. Both Libs are at $3.55 (5 bookie average).
    I’ll be surprised if Ratty’s Quixotic quest to Van Dieman’s Land has done Team Rodent much good. Pretty soon they’ll be barring pork-bearing Tories from barber shops nationwide.

  14. Paul said

    Interesting, I was wondering why I am hearing so much about places I’ve never heard of in the apple isle, I’ll have to visit someday.

    I want to meet, and buy a beer for the hospital worker who dropped the ‘I wouldn’t have saved the mersey” bomb on the rodent on the tv news the other night.

    Can Howard afford to recall parliment? Will Rudd get traction on the ‘waste of taxpayer’s’ money stance? At least I’ll know by sunday.

  15. PJay said

    Can’t tell yet Possum. No full stops in that sentence – I do trust you though!

    What I don’t get (PM’s behavior) is the 7.30 Report begging thing of a couple of weeks ago. Still cannot fathom how anyone could humiliate themselves so comprehensively. Has any polly ever begged the electorate before JH?

    Even stranger is… he begged for mercy one day then spat poison at the Opposition in Parliament the next. Asks for compassion but shows no restraint what-so-ever. Split personality? Perhaps JH is having a nervous breakdown? Very sad if this is the case.

  16. Martin said

    the simple fact is Johnny doesn’t have a concession speech in him – my money’s on a “health-induced” resignation speech some time before the election…

  17. Avidwatcher said

    John Howard was interviewed via phone on ABC north coast local radio (NSW ) this morning for approx. 10 minutes whilst he was grounded at Melbourne airport. He was asked about several major local issues that he had obviously had little idea about. Howard repeated every question back to the interviewer – probably a stalling technique – to give an adviser time to scribble answers for Howard’s response. It sounded like he was 100 and was not sure of anything… even when asked at the end of the interview who was he meeting with today..he slowly repeated that question back and then said community members. The interview was patchy with long pauses throughout…it sounded bad. Perhaps he likes Tasmania because things are a slower and more gentler pace on the apple isle.

  18. Martin said

    let’s turn our toughts again to that “Liberal stronghold”, the Brisbane electorate of Ryan…

    …this article in today’s Australian proves the Libs are in real strife in Ryan…and woudn’t this deal be verging on official corruption?


  19. JuliaC said

    I think the vote in Tassie is unpredictable. There is considerable opposition to the pulp mill over all sections of society. Gunns are seen as bullies and Lennon as their stooge. Voters too are very familiar with assigning their preferences because of the Hare Clark system which should make the senate vote interesting.

    Gunns are just going to chew up all the forests & in a few years time when they can’t compete they will be heavying the Tasmanian government for more access to old growth forest which the taxpayers of Tasmania sell to them for a pittance. All to save 200 jobs.
    The Mersey hospital buy-out really didn’t work for Johnnie at all. He might have influenced a few votes in Devonport but lost more in Burnie & Launceston where the hospitals need upgrading. He completely misread the politics of Tasmania. This week he has been in Tasmania trying to buy them back.

    I’m a labor voter but I am hoping that Dick Adams gets a scare in Lyons (probably vainly). His behaviour in the last election was treacherous and he was never called to account.

    Despite most people thinking we in Tassie have fallen to the bottom of the earth I heard some good gossip that both Johnnie & Janet were ringing around the Reserve Board members before the last Board meeting.

  20. Why Tassie?

    A local’s take on Tasmania at this stage in th election cycle:

    I agree with the thrust of the Possum’s arguments here.

    In general, I don’t think government “pork barreling” for roads, hospitals and whatever will have much effect on Tasmanians’ voting intentions, for the following reasons:
    – most of the promises are being matched by Labor;
    – indications are that voters have made up their mind already and have largely “switched off” so will just see these promises as more political “noise”.
    – Tasmania has become, over the past decade, increasingly Labor in its voting patterns.

    Like Possum, I do feel John Howard is concentrating on Tasmania in an attempt to “kick-start” his campaign. He had success in Tasmania in 2004 (images of forestry workers cheering him in Launceston) and may feel he can “strike a chord” more easily with Tasmanians. (Tasmania may be trending Labor, but it is the socially and economically conservative brand, which is more likely to appeal to Howard’s values on these issues.) Howard is looking for some momentum from somewhere – the polls, Kevin Rudd blunders, grateful voters – anywhere. The polls have remained stubbornly fixed Labor’s way, his attempts to make Rudd stumble (a la Latham) have failed, so he is left trying to get some definable bloc of voters behind him.

    Howard is waiting for some “kicker” to give him some momentum, then hopefully (for him) try and turn the voters during the campaign. The problem is that he is running out of time waiting … Howard’s record as a campaigner I discuss here: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=6471

    Labor have been treading on egg shells all year hoping a “Latham” or “Tampa” moment does not happen to suddenly tip the voters back on to Howard. Their fear and paranoia are palpable (and quite entertaining to observe); but the chances of anything like that happening appear remote.

    The chart in the Crosby Textor report that shows how the various age groups in Tas/NT have swung against the government is the killer for Howard. Look at the 50-64 year olds: they have moved 25% towards Labor! The Liberals are losing their core voters in Tasmania and across the country, which is supported by the national swing being greater in safe Liberal seats. The conservatives are losing their heartland. I intend to write on this after the election by tracking conservative primary votes and seats across the country over the past 20 years.

    I agree with Sue Neales (Mercury journo) that the pulp mill approval decision has cemented Ferguson’s loss in Bass. You can see my detailed reasoning here: http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/weblog/article/what-will-happen-to-bass/

    From here, it looks almost certain that Tasmania will return all 5 Rep seats to Labor. (Sportingbet, is offering $1.50 about a Labor clean sweep in Tasmania, which equates to a 61% probability after accounting for the bookie’s “vigourish”. Pretty good odds, really. http://www.sportingbet.com.au/uipub/sport.aspx?l1id=34&l2id=189195)

    With regard to the Senate, I make the following observations:

    Any thought that the Greens can win two seats is (almost) fanciful. It just won’t happen.

    What will happen is that Labor and the Libs have a certain two seats each, the Greens (ie. Bob Brown) have an (almost) certain seat, which leaves the sixth seat up for grabs. My view is that the Libs will probably hold this seat. For Labor to win it means Labor and the Greens together have to get four quotas and the Libs two. I just can’t see the left of politics getting the four quotas, even with the current “Rudd slide”. Of course, anything can happen with the preference deals, and I stay right out of trying to sort them out. I’ll just stick to my hunch that four quotas won’t go the left’s way, whichever way you look at it. But a I had a conversation with Prof Richard Herr from the UTas School of government this morning (Richard is my PhD supervisor) and he thinks the opposite. His view is that Labor only need to get a fraction over 3.5 quotas, and he sees that as probable if the current swing to Labor holds, for them to clinch the sixth seat. Anyway, it is going to be close!

  21. John V K said

    Your analysis is outstanding again. People always tend to forget history.
    John Howard whether you hug him or hate him has been the Leader in capitals.

    Which is strange because he hasn’t really got a persona as such. Just a stuck in sort of a guy. Rudd has stolen his everyman mantle. Common sense and pragmatism, is the leadership style not rhetoric.

    I can’t understand the target of Tassie on issues, because the Gunns thing just demonstrated a two bob each way attitude. Not at all like the past success last election.

    Poss. I have a scientific theory on why they are stategically having a go at Tassie and it’s a cunning theory, so cunning it could have been written by a fox who hold the chair of cunning at Oxford (Balck adder fan).

    They are stuffed everywhere, they are in a big hole and everything they do just deepens it, with their motives questioned. So they try to micro manage anything else, because they can’t control the big issue, Work choices, it is country wide. The one issue effects their actions on everything else. They have absolutely no confidence it’s all bluster.

    My dad was dutch, so I guess we are watching a dike about to burst and they haven’t got enough fingers to stick in cracks yards wide.

    Looks like the company car is being serviced Andrew Landeryous got the first election candidate booklet. http://andrewlanderyou.blogspot.com/2007/10/ready-set-liberal-mp-fires-first-shot.html

    Guess where? Tassie. Maybe its a teaser.

  22. PJay said

    Science may not be needed here, John V K. Consider the analysis that JH is losing his marbles.

    May simply be that Australians are being punished:

    “If you won’t vote for me then you’ll just have to wait until I am good and ready to leave. How dare you consider anyone else – look at all I have done for you over the past 11 years. If you don’t vote for me then you are not good or kind. You deserve what you get from Labor.”.

  23. John V K said

    I have no evidence whatsoever but I tend to agree PJay.

    This is not the same man and I was Howard supporter until Telstra and Work choices and other things. He was in control for long and hard years, his leadership was vice like and strong. But there has been no purpose. He is caught in a web of lies and deceit and doesn’t know what to do except play mind games and waiting games.

    The back down on work choices was half arsed and stupid. The Murray Darling was a stunt, he ignore the public service which if it is wroking with an incumbent government is a very strong incumbent asset.

    The Libs didn’t have the guts to take him down and tackle the real issues that are killing them now.

    Rudd’s (and his back room strategists) mistake this week, may shave a point but not much it was dampened really quickly and Howard can’t capitalise that I can see.

  24. Eric said

    Tasmania is one of the few states with a high chance for the Coalition to be held to 2 senate seats, and maybe that “4th seat from the left” is the most important marginal seat of them all.

    SA joins this category now with Xenophon standing.

  25. NL said

    On a completely different note, those Possum Busters wouldn’t happen to live in Sydney’s Northern Beaches?
    We play in a indoor soccer comp with a bunch of guys called “Possum Busters” and the ute they drive had that exact sign on the side!

    You’ll be glad to know they got thumped by most teams in the comp!

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