Happy Easter From The Red And The Blue

IT’S EASTER time, and tonight I simply want to wish all readers of The Red And The Blue a happy Easter; this is a time of peace and celebration, and I trust all readers will enjoy it with family and friends, wherever they are.

It’s another opportunity for me to thank everyone for their support, and ask that you all continue to do so; there’s a great conversation here (I like to think we strip away the BS to some extent) and I hope you all enjoy what we publish here as much as we do.

I understand many readers do not practice a religion, or do not share the Christian faith; to those readers I also wish well at this time, and hope they are able to enjoy the activities that so typify this time of year.

Especially those with children, as they delight in the Easter Bunny and the gifts he brings.

To those in other cultures and from non-Christian faiths, we send our best wishes too, and we look forward to resuming the conversation with everyone in the next day or two.

Happy Easter, Prime Minister: More Signs Of The Belting Ahead

NOT that she’d appreciate it, but the Easter Bunny has left its little presents for Julia Gillard this weekend; a marginal seats poll by JWS Research shows Labor losing 24 seats, whilst Newspoll has tipped a bucket on Labor’s hopes in Queensland. And after that…there’s a nasty little surprise in store, too.

First, here’s the good news for the ALP: the JWS Research survey, of 54 marginal seats on both sides of the political spectrum held by margins of 5.9% or less, involved a total survey sample of 4,070 people, or an average of 75 per electorate.

The good news for Labor is that on a seat-by-seat basis, 75 voters is hardly a representative sample, and could not be regarded as a reliable indicator of a prospective result in an individual electorate.

That’s the end of the good news for the ALP though; the flipside of what I have just said is that 4,070 interviews is an excellent overall sample, and certainly much higher than most of the regular weekly and fortnightly polls everyone who operates in political circles spends so much time analysing and number-crunching over.

In other words, as an indicative marginal seats poll in its own right, the JWS Research survey is pretty good statistically, and should be regarded as a very credible indicator of voter movement across the 54-seat bloc it is reporting on.

And from there, it’s all downhill where the Labor Party is concerned.

JWS Research has Labor on an aggregate primary vote, across the seats it sampled, of just 32.2%, as opposed to the Coalition on 52.1%.

After preferences, this equates to 59.4% for the Coalition and 40.6% for Labor, and an overall swing against the ALP of 9.3% since the 2010 election.

This follows an earlier poll conducted by the same company in January, at which time its findings were a 4.8% swing against Labor and the loss of 18 seats.

And the current JWS Research report notes, correctly, that a swing against Labor of that magnitude, were it to occur at this year’s election, would see the ALP reduced to just 32 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives.

These movements broadly reflect the trend against Labor that all of the other reputable polls have been picking up since late January; importantly, the extent of the Coalition lead in those other polls has most recently widened, and so a finding of such a high swing against Labor here — whilst not necessarily in terms of the exact numbers — is nonetheless, in trend terms, completely consistent.

The upshot of this latest JWS Research poll is that Labor would lose every seat it holds on margins below 6%, and almost as many again that are nominally safer than that; remembering that election swings are seldom uniform, such findings, if replicated on polling day, would see huge swings in some seats, and some unexpected names fall.

Indeed, JWS Research does note that the swing it has identified is concentrated most heavily in Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia, and regional areas in general. Even so, it scores off net gains to the Coalition of ten seats in NSW, seven (of Labor’s eight) in Queensland, three in Victoria, and all three of the seats Labor currently holds in WA — as an overall minimum.

Such a result would wipe the ALP out completely in WA and the Northern Territory; I believe it would do so in Queensland too, where based on these numbers Kevin Rudd’s seat of Griffith (held by 8.5%) would seem unlikely to withstand the tidal wave.

And, by extension, it would leave Labor as a parliamentary rump, based mainly on electorates in Melbourne’s west and north, with a handful of seats in SA and NSW to round out its (heavily depleted) party room in the lower house.

JWS Research also asked the approval questions of the two party leaders.

It found approval for Julia Gillard running at 25%, with 48% disapproving of her performance; by contrast, 38% of JWS Research’s respondents approved of Tony Abbott’s performance as opposition leader, with 41% disapproving.

On the question of who was preferred as Prime Minister, Abbott led Gillard, 37% to 28%.

Again, these numbers mirror the trends that have been picked up in the other major opinion polls; this simply reinforces the point highlighted by other surveys that Gillard really is on her way to a hiding.

All of this comes as a Newspoll of state voting intentions in Queensland was published in The Weekend Australian this morning; it showed voter support for the LNP recovering to post a 62-38 lead over the ALP — or within one percentage point of the state election result that annihilated the Bligh government just over a year ago.

Significantly, that Newspoll also showed personal approval of Campbell Newman climbing, his disapproval numbers falling away, and a lead over opposition leader Annastacia Palaszczuk as preferred Premier of 53% to 21% — just two points shy of his best result on this measure, a 55-21 lead in the July-September Queensland Newspoll last year.

So much, therefore, for Queensland being Labor’s great white hope; ALP figures have believed — delusionally, in my view — that they stood to win an additional six seats in Queensland off the back of perceived voter fury at the state’s conservative government.

There is, however, nothing in the Newspoll figures to substantiate such a belief.

And this in turn follows the recent leadership change in the Liberal Party in Victoria; an early published poll just a few days after the change showed new Premier Denis Napthine cutting into state Labor’s lead on voting intentions.

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence since then to suggest Napthine is not only performing well, but that he is being extremely well-received by a Victorian electorate that I have opined previously does not want to re-install Labor in Spring Street if the conservative alternative is regarded as feasible.

I think Dr Napthine has been a breath of fresh air, and has revitalised Victoria’s state Liberal government; the next round of state polling — much more reflective of public sentiment, given the passage of time — should be very interesting indeed.

The Liberal government of Barry O’Farrell in NSW — according to reputable polling in that state — has suffered a swing of 1% to Labor in two years from its record-breaking election win in 2011, and would seem to pose no risk to the capacity of Liberals and Nationals to seize electorates at the coming federal election.

The bottom line here is that conservative state governments (in Victoria and Queensland especially) were meant, in Labor Party consideration, to potentially yield up 10 seats to offset gains elsewhere; the reality is that Labor is unlikely to win a seat from the Coalition anywhere in Australia, and there is nothing in these most recent polls to suggest otherwise.

Once again, we’re talking about a basket of quality opinion polling results that point Labor in one direction: six feet below ground.

But as bad as all these numbers are for Labor, and as disastrous a portent they herald, there is something all of them have missed.

It’s called Tasmania.

None of these polls even sample in Tasmania regularly; some never do so at all.

Yet the small quantity of polling that has been done in the Apple Isle — combined with private polling undertaken by both the Liberal Party and Labor (and I understand the two largely validate each other’s findings) — suggests the Liberals are in line to win at least three, and perhaps all five, of the seats up for grabs there.

Nobody disputes there is a massive swing against the ALP brewing in Tasmania; the only variables seem to be its overall scope, and whether or not it is uniform.

I’m reliably told the swing is currently running at 11%, and that is enough — more than enough, depending on where the votes fall — to bag the Liberals five more seats above and beyond what the published polls are already scoring off to them.

(For perspective, John Howard’s biggest election win in 1996 saw Labor retain three of the five Tasmanian electorates).

So Tasmania rounds out Gillard’s basket of Easter goodies with a little sting in the tail; yet in light of Labor’s performance since 2010, and especially after its shenanigans of last week, none of this should come as much of a surprise to anybody.

It’s going to take something very special from Labor — or a political mistake by the Liberals unprecedented in Australian political history — to stop the Coalition recording a monumental win in September now, it seems.

And with an economically literate electorate increasingly aware of the mechanics of governance to have to navigate, Labor won’t get much joy from promising to shovel buckets of money — borrowed from China — to fund elaborate election bribes that its track record suggests would never be delivered on anyway.

Happy Easter, Prime Minister.


BREAKING: “State Of War:” North Korea Ratchets Up Rhetoric To Boiling Point

NORTH Korea this morning announced that a “state of war” now exists between itself and South Korea, and that it will deal with each inter-Korea issue “accordingly;” whilst the latest rhetorical flourish is consistent with talk and no action, it raises the atmospherics of the standoff to boiling point.

Clearly, we have followed this issue quite closely; and whilst I restate — again — my belief that the bluff and bluster from North Korea will come to nothing in terms of military conflict, it would equally be unsurprising if it did.

Declaring that the “longstanding situation of the Korean peninsula being neither at peace nor at war is finally over,” through a statement posted on the KCNA website I provided a link to last night, the DPRK declared that all matters between North and South Korea will now be dealt with “according to wartime protocol.”

The statement went on to warn that any military “provocations” from South Korea and/or the United States would result “in a full-scale conflict and a nuclear war.”

And since we last discussed the situation on the Korean peninsula at length, Russia has now weighed in, predictably echoing the posturing from China, which advocates a general cooling of tensions on all sides but failing to either admonish nor reprimand the DPRK for wilfully escalating tensions in the first place.

It bears remembering that North Korea has, on numerous occasions withdrawn from the armistice that brought the Korean War to a ceasefire, cut its links with the South, and/or decreed that a state of war exists between North and South.

The problem however is that the rhetoric on this occasion has gone far further than it ever has and, ominously, there are specific and explicit threats of nuclear strikes against defined targets being thrown around by the DPRK like confetti.

Despite the bluster and the sinister rhetoric, the real risk is that North Korea is painting itself into a corner, with nowhere else to go except into battle; and even if its threats of nuclear apocalypse prove meaningless (as is overwhelmingly probable), even a minor confrontation with the South risks developing into a wider and messier conflagration.

For the interest of readers, I include a link to another excellent article providing more analysis of the situation here; this is from the New York Times.

We will — as ever — keep a close eye on this as it continues to develop.

Interesting Links On The North Korea Situation

JUST to follow up on the articles I have posted on the escalating tensions between North Korea and its “hated enemies” — the USA, the South Korean government, and Japan — I’m posting a couple of links tonight which readers may find of interest.

Whilst acknowledging the dangers — and not least given North Korea and its incendiary rhetoric have gone far further than the usual empty bluster it engages in — I still think the most likely outcome of the rising crisis on the Korean peninsula is that nothing will happen.

Even so, any country or regime promising “all out nuclear war” on anyone — especially when it’s three of our biggest trading partners in Japan, South Korea and the USA, the latter also being the owner of thousands of multi-megaton nuclear weapons — needs to be taken seriously to the extent they are monitored, their words and actions analysed, and contingencies prepared for even if such preparations are never acted upon.

It is for these reasons that I have written the occasional article on the present flare-up between the DPRK and everyone else — even if the latest round of belligerent bluster proves to be nothing more, I think it’s important to cover it, given we talk about events in other parts of the world too.

With this in mind, I wanted to share a good article from the BBC World News agency, which you can access here; this article also has some links to other material of interest about North Korea, its threats, and reaction and analysis — including from the South.

I note that it also links to an obituary for dead DPRK leader Kim Jong-Il, father of present leader Kim Jong-Un; it may amuse/interest/perplex/disgust readers to know that one of the favourite articles I have written and published in this column over the past two years was my own obituary for Kim Jong-Il; you can access that article here.

(And knowing I get quite a bit of traffic from readers in South Korea, I hope our friends in the South enjoy it too — the guy caused you enough trouble over the years).

Finally, for those who have either not heard of it or never been able to find it, I wanted to share a link to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) website — the official North Korean “bulletin board” for posting propaganda, threats and seriously weird stuff for the benefit of the outside world. You can access that little gem here.

The site is hosted by an internet server in Japan, which is no real surprise given the internet is really the preserve of the ruling elite in North Korea — even if Japan is a starring member of the DPRK’s murderous hit list.

Somehow, the mangled English the translations feature really add something; as readers will see, much of the ranting that is published on this site has a distinctly surreal feel about it anyway, but the broken sentences and words mismatched to their intended meaning take the experience to another level altogether.

I trust readers will find the material included in these links to be of interest and — whilst not detracting from the potential gravity of the situation on the Korean Peninsula at present — some amusement as well.


Why UK Labour MP David Miliband’s Resignation Should Alarm The ALP

BRITISH Labour lost one of its brightest MPs yesterday, with David Miliband — brother of Labour leader Ed Miliband — quitting the House of Commons to take up a post running a charity in New York. For the ALP, soon to return to opposition, it carries a message that should ring alarm bells.

It’s a salutary lesson in why elected MPs should elect their own parliamentary leader.

In 2010 — after 13 years in office, its reputation for economic management in ruins, and saddled with a deeply unpopular Prime Minister in Gordon Brown — the British Labour Party lost an election for the first time since 1992.

The Conservative Party didn’t win, mind; a poor campaign by its leader, David Cameron, saw it finish with 306 of the 650 seats* in the House of Commons, and 18 seats short of a majority was forced into coalition with the centrist Liberal Democrats.

But whilst the Tories didn’t win outright, Labour certainly lost; down almost 100 seats on its 2005 result, it returned to opposition: and the first item of business was a new leader.

The Labour Party in Britain, since the contest in 1994 that made Tony Blair opposition leader after the death of John Smith, has used an electoral college in determining its leadership: the parliamentary Labour Party, the rank-and-file membership, and the affiliated trade unions are all entitled to vote, and each of these three blocs are weighted so the votes from each are worth exactly a third of the total.

In 2010, five candidates stood for the Labour leadership to replace the outgoing Brown, and the two leading contenders throughout the four-ballot process were David Miliband, who was Foreign minister in the previous government, and his younger brother, Ed.

Whilst Labour conducts its leadership ballots using preferential voting (the “alternative vote,” as it is known in the UK), David Miliband was the preferred choice of both the parliamentary party and the membership throughout the process, whilst his younger brother — from the Labour Left — was the clear choice of the affiliated unions.

And so it came to pass: in the final round — head to head — the combined votes of the parliamentary party and the membership saw David leading Ed, 37% to 30%, but the left-wing Ed was the unions’ candidate, and an emphatic showing there pushed Ed over the line — narrowly — to become Labour leader.

In the three years since, Ed Miliband has rated very poorly with the British public; and despite the fact Labour leads the Conservatives in voting intention, the lead is soft: generally less than ten points ahead in Britain’s first past the post voting system, the Labour lead is nothing like the 20 and 30-point mid-term leads that have generally pointed toward a change of government in the UK in recent times.

And there is a further consideration here; the broad Left-Right split in voting intention, as measured by reputable polls, is no better for Labour than at the 2010 election; indeed, were the Tories not losing support to the anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), it is dubious as to whether Labour would even have a lead at all.

(As an aside, a firm change in Conservative Party policy or a change in its leadership could well knock UKIP on the head, but that is a discussion for another time).

The point is that Labour is saddled with an unpopular leader, who is arguably not the best prospect to lead the Party, and the defeated David Miliband is now leaving the Parliament, in part to help give his younger brother clear air and to ensure his leadership isn’t subjected to destabilising speculation, innuendo or undue plotting.

Is this starting to sound familiar?

The Conservative Party, too, moved to a system where the rank and file are the final arbiters in deciding the leadership of its parliamentary wing about ten years ago; theoretically, MPs go through however many rounds of balloting needed to produce two final candidates who are then voted upon by the membership.

The requirement for a ballot of the membership was circumvented in 2005, when the Conservative Party — trailing desperately in the polls, and likely to go backward under then-leader Iain Duncan Smith — closed ranks around a single candidate, former Home Secretary Michael Howard, who was declared to be unanimously elected.

But at the other two ballots that have occurred under these rules (and had the matter been decided purely by MPs), it is arguable that IDS would not/should not have become Tory leader in 2001, and with the benefit of hindsight, David Cameron was probably the wrong choice in 2005 as well.

The point is that by opening decisions on the parliamentary leadership to the membership, or to a bloc of trade unions, or other affiliated blocs, there is great potential for parties to find themselves led by individuals that may enjoy popularity in sections of the party, or are beholden to a particular faction, but are the wrong footsoldiers to send out to the electorate from a purely political standpoint.

And it’s directly relevant to the ALP — especially in the current climate.

In the wake of the nonsense Labor got up to last week, culminating in an uncontested leadership ballot and a great deal of egg on the party’s collective face, some elements in the ALP have openly pondered reforming its leadership ballots to move to an electoral college system.

It’s unclear as to precisely what form such a change would take, whether an electoral college along the lines of British Labour, or a membership vote on final candidates as the Conservative Party does, or whether the matter would be determined by the membership altogether.

But I contend that whichever way you look at these options, they are all vastly inferior to allowing MPs to decide among themselves who should lead them.

Certainly, party room decisions on both sides of the spectrum have produced some truly shocking leadership figures in recent times.

But there are Australian precedents too; the Australian Democrats (remember them?) used to determine their leadership by a vote of the membership; the process threw up some reasonably good people, like Janine Haines and Meg Lees, but it also produced some absolute shockers (John Coulter and Janet Powell, take a bow).

It also produced a leader in the form of Natasha Stott Despoya: popular with the rank and file, telegenic and articulate, she was nonetheless far too left-wing for the wider body of Democrats support in the electorate to stomach, and led the party into virtual oblivion at the 2004 election.

Would Paul Keating, reviled but respected, have ever become Prime Minister if an electoral college was used by the ALP in the 1990s? Could John Howard have ever become Liberal leader a second time, after earning the moniker “Mr 18%” during the first? Would Tony Abbott be nearing a thumping election win at all if forced to face the highly popular but politically less-adept Malcolm Turnbull in a membership vote?

The position of leader within a political party is precisely that: a political one; and with no disrespect to the rank and file membership of any party, the decision on who should lead ought to be made by the elected parliamentary representatives that the rank and file have endorsed in the first place.

And whilst it is arguable the rank and file would have supported Kevin Rudd had last week’s mischief included them, the reality is that the unions, given a bloc vote, would have fallen in solidly behind Gillard anyway, buttressed in their support by that of a majority of Labor’s MPs.

Rudd would have been beaten anyway.

And changing the mechanisms by which leaders are elected (usually to support a given agenda at a given time, rather than as the result of any long-term strategic, political or positively reformist notions) offers even greater potential to throw up “leaders” who might tick the boxes for those who install them, but who singularly and utterly fail to connect to the intended audience: the wider electorate.

In British politics, the Conservative Party is a leadership change away from fixing its politics, reclaiming most of the votes it has lost to UKIP, and eliminating Labour’s lead in the polls.

Labour, meantime, is stuck with an unpopular leader who may be incapable of sealing the deal at an election, and this week has seen its best long-term prospect simply walk away.

The Conservative Party may or may not find the cojones to replace David Cameron, but if it does — and if that change is managed prudently — then British Labour may yet find that the 2015 election is no foregone conclusion.

Here in Australia, Labor types would be well-served in observing the situation and heeding its import: after this year’s election, the likely candidates for its leadership are Bill Shorten and Greg Combet; neither passes muster on an objective analysis of their broad appeal electorally, but if the matter is opened up to the membership and (especially) the unions, Combet will prevail by a mile.

Under such a scenario, Labor really would dwell in the worst of all worlds; a parliamentary rump led by an inoffensive but unappealing trade unionist, and little prospect of redeeming itself from such a self-inflicted would in the short to medium term.

The ALP is going to have a tough enough time over the next five to ten years without indulging in jingoistic, trendy “reforms” to justify such an injurious course of action.

If the ALP wants to engage in meaningful reform, it should be looking at ways to slash the internal influence of its union allies, or to cut formal ties with them altogether — not instituting additional methods of further entrenching their reach.

But screwing around with discredited mechanisms for conducting leadership ballots will only be of interest to its insiders, vested interests, and the faceless hacks who already control Labor, and who would view such a change as a simple way to exert even more control — even if it further alienated the party as a whole from the general public.

*In practice, the total is 646 seats; four Sinn Fein MPs from Northern Ireland invariably refuse to take up their seats at Westminster, making “a majority” 324 seats, not 326.

Pyongyang: We’ll Nuke South Korea, Japan, Guam, Hawaii And Mainland USA

BELLICOSE miscreant state North Korea has ordered its “strategic” rocket forces and long-range missiles readied for war; it comes amid a long period of belligerent rhetoric from the DPRK, and threats to inflict nuclear strikes on a growing list of targets. The real threat, however, may be China.

One simmering issue we’ve kept an eye on over the past couple of months — and which was pushed into the background to some extent by the nonsense the Australian Labor Party has been up to — is the perennial problem of North Korea and its recent, and increasingly strident, threats of nuclear war against the USA.

I wanted to make comment on the matter tonight, coming as it does after news today that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has ordered what seems to be his country’s nuclear and conventional rocket forces to what the Americans call Def Con 2, or one step short of a state of active warfare.

Apparently the move is in response to a fly-by of nuclear-capable US bombers that took place today as part of joint US-South Korean military drills that are being staged off the South Korean Coast, and which are scheduled to continue until 11 April.

Whilst South Korea’s defense ministry said it saw no sign of imminent military action by North Korea, the development continues a deeply disturbing trend on the part of the North to escalate tensions in its “confrontation” with the United States.

As I have said before in this column, one of the great dangers — and unknowns — when talking about North Korea is the extent of its grip on reality; for example, it seems genuinely persuaded of the view that armed with a handful of relatively low-yield nuclear weapons it is a superpower in its own right, and the military equal of the USA.

Over the past month or so, too, it has been developing and adding to a list of countries and targets that are supposedly in line for an atomic strike: first it was Washington, then South Korea, and then a few weeks ago, Japan; as part of today’s call to arms, Guam and Hawaii are now on the list, and as I have said before, its threat to hit mainland America is most likely made with Los Angeles in mind, owing to its relative proximity across the Pacific.

It is true that most military experts do not believe North Korea possesses the ICBM capability to hit the US mainland — yet — and there is dispute over whether or not it has mastered the miniaturisation technology required to allow it to fit warheads to its MRBMs and short-range missiles, which also calls into question its ability to hit Guam or Hawaii.

Yet the DPRK’s local enemies, real or perceived — South Korea and what it calls the “puppet regime” that governs it, and Japan — are probably right to be worried; and even if the North lacks the long-range missile capabilities to lob one at LA, it could just as feasibly pack a warhead in a shipping container, and sail it somewhere in the US where it wasn’t expected — and detonate it in a port.

One of the biggest worries with this situation is that having endlessly ratcheted up the level of tension and hostility in his own ranks, Kim risks an errant commander taking matters into his own hands, and start shooting if some incident occurs; unlike established nuclear-armed states like Russia or China, the DPRK is not known for advanced control systems and other measures to safeguard against accidental, unauthorised or rogue launches.

But the greatest worry of all could turn out to be China, the North’s only (and steadfast) ally; the British newspaper The Guardian is carrying an article in which the Chinese seem to be doing what they do best, which is to protect the DPRK and to attempt to manipulate Western responses to allow the North to continue its reckless behaviour unchecked.

The Chinese Foreign Minister quoted in the article said that

“Actions such as strengthening anti-missile [defences] will intensify antagonism and will not be beneficial to finding a solution for the problem…China hopes the [USA] will proceed on the basis of peace and stability, adopt a responsible attitude and act prudently.”

And this is the problem with China when it comes to North Korea or, indeed, to the myriad of territorial disputes it is itself engaged in with other neighbouring countries around the South China Sea rim, and Japan.

Under the cover of seemingly peaceful rhetoric, the message to the US is clear, emphatic, and unmistakable: if you’re thinking about responding to anything the North does — don’t.

It’s a problem because even China doesn’t really know exactly what its volatile, fractious ally might do; and as I have pointed out, the potential for a war to start as the result of a miscalculation or misinterpreted event is real, high, and growing.

If the DPRK were to follow through on its threat to hit any or all of the targets it has bandied around with an atomic bomb, it is virtually certain that American nuclear retaliation against Pyongyang would be immediate, and overwhelming.

In that eventuality, the Chinese would most likely show their hand — one way or the other.

It’s one thing to lecture the US — whether in defence of its errant ally or not — in rhetoric preaching peace, but oozing confrontational and menacing undertones.

The Chinese game of military poker it plays, especially with the US, is no benign exercise.

It would be another matter altogether to be faced with a nuclear conflict on its doorstep, even if in response to aggression from the DPRK, and to sit back and do nothing after its posturing and its prescriptive diplomacy, and especially in light of its wilful militarisation and expansionist outlook — in the Asia-Pacific region at least.

Were such a conflict to occur, all bets would be off as to how China might respond.

And in turn, it’s why North Korea’s behaviour is so dangerous.

It might play well to ordinary North Koreans — the few with TVs or radios, that is, or electricity to power them — but the machinations of Kim Jong-Un are tantamount to poking Uncle Sam in the eye with a bloody big stick; push it too far, and he might — to use the US vernacular — “kick their ass.”

As ever, we’ll keep an eye on this, and hope China finds some way to bring the belligerent brat on its doorstep to heel.

Portents Of A Labor Slaughter: Coalition Leads Newspoll 58-42

THE CHICKENS would appear to be headed home to roost following an undisciplined and self-indulgent display of anarchy by the ALP; the latest Newspoll shows its primary vote collapsing to just 30%, and Labor now trails the Coalition 42-58 after preferences. The poll heralds an electoral slaughter.

Labor would appear to have paid a heavy price for its slovenly conduct and wilful toying with the Prime Ministership; readers will know my belief that last fortnight’s 52-48 result in Newspoll was rogue, but the new numbers tonight move solidly in the other direction.

First things first: some numbers, and some comment.

Newspoll, for tomorrow’s issue of The Australian,  finds Labor on 30% of the primary vote (-4% on a fortnight ago), the Liberals and Nationals on a historically high 50% (+6%), Communists Greens on 10% (-1%), and “Others” down a point to 10%.

On the two-party measure, this sees the Coalition with a whopping 58-42 lead after preferences are allocated, based on the pattern of preference flows at the 2010 election.

The first comment is the obvious one; the self-indulgent little game that was played out last week has achieved nothing, and has merely resulted in sending Labor’s numbers back toward the record depths they plumbed early last year.

My quick calculations have Labor winning 38 of the 150 House of Representatives seats on an 8% swing to the Liberals, which is what this poll represents.

For a bit of perspective, the ALP won 36 seats in 1975, the election that produced the biggest election win in Australian history for Malcolm Fraser — and that was 36 in a House of 127 seats, so were Labor to win 38 in the current House of 150 it would actually be an even greater defeat.

(As an aside, this Newspoll has the Coalition on 50% of the primary vote: the last political party to achieve a 50% primary vote or better at an election was the Liberal Party, again in 1975 under Malcolm Fraser — this should give readers some indication of just how significant that figure is these days, with votes fracturing off to minor parties on either side of the spectrum).

Newspoll finds Tony Abbott now a firm choice on the “preferred PM” measure, recording 43% support (+5%) to Gillard on 35% (-7%).

And his personal approval continues to record the incremental but unmistakable climb into the realm of respectability that has been underway since the New Year; 39% (+3%) of Newspoll respondents now approve of the job he is doing as opposition leader, whilst 50% (-5%) disapprove — a far cry from the -30% approval numbers he was recording as recently as November.

By contrast, Gillard continues to lose friends, and at an increasing rate; just 26% (-6%) now say they approve of Gillard’s performance as Prime Minister, as opposed to 65% (+8%) who say they don’t.

Now that the bubble of Gillard’s relentless attacks on Abbott as a sexist and a misogynist has well and truly burst, I think the steady increase in his numbers is simply the consequence of voters taking a second look at him.

As we discussed yesterday, the ruse of Gillard’s attacks was once and for all detonated (for the benefit of anyone who still believed it) by her hypocritical fawning all over Kyle Sandilands (and his sizeable radio audience).

Certainly, Abbott’s excellent performance on 60 Minutes a week ago hasn’t hurt him.

And as for Gillard, I would simply observe that with Rudd now seemingly discounted from a return to the Prime Ministership — at least during this period of Labor government — the abysmal personal result for Gillard in this poll is more reflective of her actual standing with voters in isolation from the withdrawal of Rudd from any considerations of leadership.

I would wager, though, that a few Labor types probably regret savaging Rudd a year ago; they’re stuck with Gillard now, and she is about to lead them over the cliff.

I have already heard suggestions tonight that these numbers are a temporary blip, and that as the dust settles on the Labor leadership ruckus its poll ratings will recover.

I’m not convinced.

Certainly, we will have to wait to see what Nielsen and Galaxy next find (and in the case of Galaxy, its next poll is likely to be a better indicator than the one rushed out on Friday, although even that had Labor ten points down on the Coalition after preferences).

I simply think that the ALP has pushed its luck far too far, and once too often; last week’s leadership stoush was a debacle on any measure, and a downright embarrassment given there wasn’t even a contest after the months of intrigue and infighting.

Rudd — or at least, the forces around him — can take their share of the responsibility; in words Gough Whitlam once used to (wrongly) describe Malcolm Fraser, they were willing to wound, but afraid to strike.

Gillard is no innocent in this equation; there are reasons she is one of the least popular people to ever serve as Prime Minister, and they don’t all derive from Kevin Rudd, her knifing of Kevin Rudd, or the mischief Rudd’s people have been up to behind the scenes.

Her reputation (such as it is) for honesty, integrity, and consistently standing for something are reflected in these numbers from Newspoll; her acumen as a manager, political strategist and tactician has long since been shown to be non-existent, and that too is reflected in these numbers.

But the bigger problem is Labor itself; run by spivs and apparatchiks and union thugs, its greatest aspiration these days seems to be a bit too clever for its own good; spin and stunts and slogans — bookended by leadership intrigues, allegations of criminal misconduct, and allegedly corrupt figures from its long-term state government in NSW — all conspire toward a culture and an agenda that bears no relevance to the lives of the ordinary folk Labor expects to vote for it.

This government has accrued a deserved reputation for mismanagement, waste, and poor execution of its agenda, and that is no surprise when it is remembered that it is formed by a party almost completely obsessed with itself, and to the detriment of the electorate is purports to represent.

Julia Gillard can beg for forgiveness, or describe her embarrassment at last week’s events, or make whatever form of platitudinous explanations she sees fit; it’s just my call, but I think voters are totally fed up with Gillard and Labor, and this Newspoll is ample answer to the misadventure the ALP indulged itself with last week.

It heralds an electoral slaughter, although discussion in this column and elsewhere is hardly a new phenomenon when it comes to Labor’s dire prospects.

Yet it is also a simple case of the chickens coming home to roost or, to intersperse the metaphors, of the old adage that as you sow, so too shall you reap.

Labor has been working toward the electoral cataclysm that awaits it for a number of years now; the time to pull a rabbit from the hat is pretty much gone, and in the absence of a miracle and based on these numbers, Labor is set to be absolutely massacred.