Commonwealth Election 2007

Research Paper Index

Research Paper no. 30 2007–08

Commonwealth Election 2007 (reissued 10 September 2009)

Scott Bennett Politics and Public Administration Section
Stephen Barber Statistics and Mapping Section
8 May 2008

Executive summary

This paper follows a similar format to the Parliamentary Library studies of the 1998, 2001 and 2004 Commonwealth elections. The paper is divided into two parts.

Part One is written by Scott Bennett of the Politics and Public Administration Section.

It is written as:

  • a journal of record
  • a discussion of the election campaign and
  • a discussion of the election outcome.

Appendices give:

  • the election timetable
  • names of the departing Members of the House of Representatives and Senators
  • details of the new members of each house and
  • details of the number of women in the two chambers, including comparisons with the previous three parliaments.

Part Two comprises a comprehensive set of statistics compiled by Stephen Barber of the Statistics and Mapping Section.

Tables contain:

  • national, state and regional vote summaries
  • details concerning electoral divisions
  • two-party preferred figures and
  • the party strengths in the two houses of the Commonwealth Parliament.

Two appendices complete this section of the research paper.

  • the first shows the classification for each electoral division for the various classifications used in the paper and
  • the second gives figures for Senate and House of Representatives elections held from 1946 to 2007.


Executive summary

Part One: The Election

The background to the election

Changes to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918
Aid for blind and visually-impaired voters
Remote Australian Defence Force voting
When would it be?

The election begins
The House of Representatives the battle for government
The Challengers

Beazley is dropped
A new type of Labor campaign

The incumbents
The Government s claim to be re-elected
Coalition negativism
Had the campaign been called earlier
The diminution of the significance of policy

The media and the election

A perplexed media narrowing the gap
Playing the media game differently
The use of new media

The House of Representatives result

States and Territories
Local contests

The Senate in whose hands?

The setting
Senate results

Some factors in the election outcome

The economy
The Green vote
Regional sentiment

The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918
The next election
Further reading
Appendix 1: 2007 election timetable
Appendix 2: The passing parade

Part Two: Statistical tables

Symbols and abbreviations
Table 1: House of Representatives: National summary
Table 2: House of Representatives: State summary
Table 3: House of Representatives: Regional summary
Table 4: House of Representatives: Party status summary
Table 5: House of Representatives: Socio-economic status summary
Table 6a: House of Representatives: Electoral division summary
Table 6b: House of Representatives: Electoral division summary
Table 7: House of Representatives: Electoral division detail
Table 8: House of Representatives: Two-party preferred vote: State summary
Table 9: House of Representatives: Two-party preferred vote: Regional summary
Table 10: House of Representatives: Two-party preferred vote: Party status summary
Table 11: House of Representatives: Two-party preferred vote: Socio-economic status summary
Table 12: House of Representatives: Two-party preferred vote: Electoral division summary
Table 13: House of Representatives: Electoral pendulum
Table 14: House of Representatives: Electoral divisions ranked by two-party preferred swing to ALP
Table 15: Senate: National summary
Table 16: Senate: State summary
Table 17: Senate: Composition from 1 July 2008
Table 18: Senate: Candidate details
Table 19: Comparison of House of Representatives and Senate votes by division
Appendix 1: Electoral division classification
Appendix 2a: House of Representatives: Elections 1946 2007
Appendix 2b: Senate: Elections 1946 2007


This paper follows a similar format to the Parliamentary Library studies of the 1998, 2001 and 2004 Commonwealth elections.[1]

The paper is divided into two parts.

Part One is:

  • a journal of record
  • a discussion of the election campaign and
  • a discussion of the election outcome.

Part Two comprises a comprehensive set of statistics. These include

  • vote summaries
  • electoral division details
  • two-party preferred figures and
  • the party strengths in the new Parliament.

The paper also includes comparative figures for all Senate and House of Representatives elections held from 1946 to 2007.

An appendix lists the departing Members of the House of Representatives and Senators, together with their replacements.

Part One: The Election

The background to the election


There had been redistributions in the Australian Capital Territory, NSW and Queensland since the 2004 election.

As seven years had passed since the previous ACT redistribution, there was a legislative requirement that one be held in the two electorates that are located in the national capital. At its completion, it was clear that there had been minimal change to party prospects, with the Australian Labor Party holding a comfortable two-party preferred margin in each electorate.[2]

By contrast, there were apparent winners and losers in the redistribution for NSW brought about by the reduction of the number of the state s electorates to 49 (from 50). The Federation electorate of Gwydir,[3] held for the Nationals by former Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, was the electorate to be abolished, causing much alteration to nearby electorates. Calare, for example, held between 1996 and 2007 by independent MP, Peter Andren[4], became nominally a Nationals electorate (10.0 per cent margin). In a ripple-on effect, the neighbouring Liberal electorate of Macquarie shifted to the nominal Labor list (0.5 per cent), while Greenway became much safer for the Liberal sitting member whose margin increased to 11.4 per cent.[5] Elsewhere, other electorates, such as Bennelong, held by Prime Minister, John Howard (4.1 per cent), and Wentworth, held by the Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull (2.5 per cent), became more marginal, while the Labor electorate of Parramatta became a nominal Liberal electorate (0.9 per cent).

The continuing rapid population growth of Queensland increased that state s representation by one to 29, requiring the state s fifth redistribution since 1990.[6] The new electorate of Flynn extended like a mutant sausage [7] from Gladstone on the coast to Winton in the west, and included Longreach, Emerald and Gayndah in the south-east section. Nominally, it was a Nationals gain, with a two-party preferred margin of 7.7 per cent. In the south, the near-Brisbane Liberal electorates of Moreton (2.8 per cent margin), Blair (5.7 per cent) and Longman (6.7 per cent) were all made more marginal.

In national terms, the three redistributions made the Coalition Government s chances of holding on to office a little less certain, with the Opposition s national two-party preferred swing target reduced from five per cent to 4.8 per cent. As always, the key question was from where any votes that might be gained by the challenging party would come. It seemed that a swing spread across the nation might be necessary, for the 16 most vulnerable Coalition [8] electorates (not including Macquarie) were to be found in NSW (five), South Australia (three), Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania (two each) and Victoria and the Northern Territory (one each). To be sure of victory, Labor probably needed to improve its standing in Queensland, where it had won just six of 28 electorates in 2004, for another poor showing in the state would severely limit the party s chances.

Changes to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918

Several changes had been made to electoral legislation since the previous election. The alteration which caused most consternation to the Opposition involved changes relating to enrolment. Previously, once a writ had been issued for an election, people seeking to enrol had seven days in which to do so. Changes legislated in 2006 included a reduction of this period to 8 pm on the third working day after the writ s issuance. Controversially, however, the only people who could make use of this were those whose 18th birthdays fell in the period between the issuing of the writ and polling day, or those who became Australian citizens in that period. For the vast majority of new enrolments, the deadline was to be 8 pm on the day the writ was issued. With younger voters said to be strongly supportive of the Labor Opposition, this was interpreted by many critics as an attempt to deny enrolment to these voters.[9] The Government justified the change by claiming that it would reduce the chance of enrolment fraud. Liberal Senator Eric Abetz also argued that it would remove the incredible pressure that was placed on the Australian Electoral Commission as it sought to check and assess the veracity of enrolment claims in such a short time.[10]

Aid for blind and visually-impaired voters

For the first time, blind and visually-impaired voters were able to vote confidentially in a Commonwealth election. This was due to the introduction of electronically-assisted voting machines in 29 of the 150 electorates. Machines told the voter the candidates names, with voters registering their vote by means of a telephone-style key pad. Voters could practise with the machine before they recorded their vote and electoral officials were on hand to assist where needed.

Remote Australian Defence Force voting

The election also saw the trialling of remote electronic voting for Australian Defence Force personnel in Afghanistan, Iraq, the So lomon Islands and Timor-Leste. The trial used secure satellite and ground-based communication and information technology to transmit encrypted electronic voting data to the Australian Electoral Commission.

When would it be?

Every House of Representatives may continue for no more than three years from the date of the first meeting of the House after an election.[11] However, some Prime Ministers have delayed the date sufficiently for there to be more than three years between elections. Prior to 2007, there had been 12 such occasions, one of which was Prime Minister John Howard s choice of 10 November 2001, which was three years, one month and seven days after the 1998 date. In 2007, there was much speculation as to the date to be chosen. With October or November seeming to be the most likely month, it was probable that the 2007 date would be the seventh occasion when there was a period greater than three years between election dates.

The last date the Prime Minister could choose was 19 January 2008. From mid-September, the election date became an issue in the media as Howard refused to nominate a date though he was quite adamant that it would not be in January. All the while he continued to travel the country announcing many policies and funding arrangements for projects, a large proportion of which were in marginal electorates. As he explained, from his perspective there was a practical need to make many announcements before the election announcement:

If I announce something now and the election is held X number of weeks after I ve made the announcement, the bureaucracy can implement that decision because it s not been made during the caretaker period.[12]

There was some risk for the Government in this strategy. On the one hand, it meant that government largesse could continue to be spread, with the hope that the opinion polls would begin to show increased support. On the other hand, there was some danger in antagonising voters. Certainly there were some vocal critics, ranging from former Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie, who spoke of the impression of a government that was unwilling to face the voters, to the head of Woolworths, who was concerned about December sales who called on Mr Howard to give his sector an election-free December.[13] Some were upset by the late spreading of largesse, with an Australian headline referring to the Prime Minister s obscene waste , while a writer in the Advertiser criticised this multibillion-dollar swindle .[14] On the third anniversary of the 2004 election, Labor s Anthony Albanese chose to ignore the constitutional position that allows a gap of more than three years between elections. He noted that the three years were up since the people last voted and implied that the Prime Minister was afraid to face the people.[15]

The election date issue spawned a series of press articles on the need to change the constitutional arrangements to fixed terms, as is now the case in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and the ACT. The Labor and Australian Democrat leaders both stated that this change should be made. Coincidentally, Sir Menzies Campbell of the British Liberal Democrats made a similar call in the United Kingdom after the debacle of the British election that never was in September-October 2007, when Prime Minister Gordon Brown had led the British public to expect an early election.[16] Eventually, the ALP Opposition leader promised that a Labor Government would hold a referendum giving voters the chance to vote for four-year, fixed parliamentary terms simultaneously with the election scheduled for 2010.[17]

The election begins

The Prime Minister visited Government House on Sunday 14 October to advise the Governor-General that the election date would be Saturday 24 November 2007. This meant that there would be an official campaign period of 41 days, mirroring the length of the 2004 campaign. The 2007 election would thus be three years, one month and 15 days after the 2004 election date. Mr Howard s announcement stated that the rolls would close on 22 October, but Australian Electoral Commission checks established that there was a full-day official public holiday for the Flinders Island Show on that day. This necessitated the close of rolls deadline be moved to the following day, 23 October (for the election timetable, see Appendix 1).[18]

Despite speculation about the election date, the 2007 election campaign effectively had begun at the moment of Kevin Rudd s elevation to the Labor leadership on 4 December 2006 and ended 11 months and 20 days later on polling day. As Rudd and his team began to produce policies, the Government moved to respond to these and to announce its own policies, many months before there was any likelihood of the Prime Minister announcing the election date. As the months passed, many observers complained about a contest seemingly without end, with the hope that it would soon reach its climax. On 16 October 2007, Canberra Times cartoonist, Geoff Pryor, gave his view of what became known as the never-ending campaign ; what one journalist called the strangest, longest-running play in the land.[19]

Geoff Pryor, Canberra Times, 16 October 2007

Geoff Pryor, Canberra Times, 16 October 2007

The House of Representatives the battle for government

As always, in the House of Representatives contest the major party opponents had different electoral aims in their battle to retain or win office. With 76 of the 150 electorates needed to take control of the House, the Coalition could only afford to lose 11 seats. By contrast, the ALP was required to win 16 electorates to lift its total to the minimum target number. There was speculation that in a close contest, either side might need to reach an arrangement with the two independents, both of whom were likely to retain their seats. However, the likelihood of Bob Katter (Kennedy, Qld) or Tony Windsor (New England, NSW) coming into calculations seemed to be quite low, for it was likely that the winning party would be able to govern without having to rely on the independents.

An interesting feature of the speculation about the election outcome was the emphasis that many observers put on the probable importance of local campaigns. Writing soon after Kevin Rudd s election as party leader, academics Peter van Onselen and Peter Senior stated that as elections were won in individual seats not on national results , analysis of marginal electorates led them to believe that it was difficult to see Rudd getting over the line .[20] In the months following, the same view was expressed by a number of journalists. Paul Kelly referred, for example, to a seat-by-seat campaign being conducted by the Coalition, the consequence of which was that the election is not a foregone conclusion . Andrew Fraser and John Lyons spoke of discontent with the Howard Government. But they did not find sufficient anger for the landslide swing of 16 electorates [that] Labor needs . Sue Neales claimed that in an era of personality politics, name recognition is everything . Most strikingly, and counter-intuitively, Jennifer Hewett wrote of there being different levels of support nationally and locally and that the fight on the ground has been much more evenly matched than the national campaign.[21] Many in fact predicted that it would be the efforts by local candidates that would ensure the Coalition s return to office. For instance, the MP for Longman, Mal Brough, Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, was often spoken of as being certain of re-election, a claim that seemed to be influenced by general media support of his role in the intervention in indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. In regard to the view that for every marginal electorate held by the Government, so Labor s task became harder, Peter Brent of believed that it was all caused by federal election-watchers determined to construct that nail-biting finish .[22] It certainly ignores the research by David Charnock of Curtin University:

The overall extent to which voting variations are attributable to the divisional level shows none of the consistent patterns of change that would point to increasing local candidate effects or personal vote effects. Party brand continues to be dominant [23]

The Challengers

Beazley is dropped

Kim Beazley had replaced Mark Latham as the Labor leader in late January 2005. Despite the general media view that this doomed Labor to at least one more term of opposition after the forthcoming 2007 election, opinion polls suggested there was a gradual improvement in the party s electoral position in the months that followed. In the 47 Newspolls that were conducted during Beazley s second leadership term (January 2005 December 2006), Labor s two-party preferred vote exceeded the Coalition s on 23 occasions, with the parties tied at 50 per cent on four occasions. In the six months before Beazley was challenged by Kevin Rudd, Labor s two-party preferred vote exceeded the Coalition s on ten of 14 occasions, with the parties tied on two occasions.[24]

On the other hand, Labor s first preference figures during this period were invariably poor, with the party struggling to lift its vote over 40 per cent, and the party usually sitting about five percentage points behind the Government. For the entire period of the second Beazley term the Coalition s average first preference vote was 42.8 per cent, with the Labor Party well behind on 38.9 per cent. This was a reminder that the party had averaged only 38.6 per cent in the previous four Commonwealth elections and was seemingly mired at a sub-40 per cent level. Despite some press encouragement that a vote of 40 per cent could win government for Labor, previous elections suggested that it would need at least 43 per cent to be considered a reasonably strong contender.[25] For much of the period this modest target was not reached. However, during the last six months of 2006 the gap narrowed, with Labor s vote rising to 40.1 per cent, just 1.6 per cent behind the Coalition. It was some comfort for Beazley that he seemed to be improving his party s standing, though it did little to change journalists expectations concerning Labor s likely defeat at the next election.

This slight improvement in Labor s public support was not matched by voters views when they were asked to nominate their preferred Prime Minister . Invariably John Howard s approval rating topped 50 per cent and sat at about double the rating for his opponent. In addition, on what was generally regarded as the key policy indicator economic management the Coalition invariably was comfortably ahead. Labor thus had recovered quite well from its disappointing 2004 election performance, but it was by no means certain that the party could mount a strong enough challenge in the election that was due some time in the second half of 2007.[26]

Although Beazley expressed confidence about Labor s chances at the next election, press speculation in the last half of 2006 began to focus on the question of whether he would be replaced as leader. For some time there was a stand-off in the party between the Beazley supporters, who proclaimed that their man would not be moving, and dissidents, who doubted that the leader who had taken them to defeat in 1998 and 2001 was ever likely to lead Labor to government. There were even signs that unhappy party members were prepared to undermine Beazley by suggesting that the state of his health was a relevant leadership issue.[27] Labor s shadow minister for foreign affairs, international security and trade, Kevin Rudd, seemed the most likely replacement, with some pushing a replacement leadership team of him and Julia Gillard, the party s health spokesperson.

On 17 November, Beazley took a door-stop interview opportunity, intending to express his sympathy for the death of the wife of entertainer, Rove McManus, but referred to US White House staffer, Karl Rove, by mistake. A not-unsympathetic journalist observed that barely had the stumble occurred, than it was quickly being employed to good use by Beazley s opponents in the Labor Caucus.[28] Other journalists were more critical, with a Sydney Morning Herald writer reminding readers that in the previous few months Beazley had confused the governor of the Reserve Bank with the Minister for Industry who shared the same name, and had referred to Michelle Leslie, just-released from jail in Bali, as Michelle Lee.[29] For the next two weeks, the press carried much debate and speculation about Beazley s future.

On 30 November, Tony Abbott claimed that the Labor leader was being beset by ambitious careerists who will neither mount a challenge nor rule one out .[30] On the following day, Rudd challenged. Three days later he replaced Beazley as leader, with Gillard as his deputy. The West Australian regretted the dropping of a man it believed to be well known and well liked , and while conceding politics to be notoriously unpredictable , stated that it was hard to escape the conclusion that, in effect, Labor yesterday conceded the next election. [31]

A new type of Labor campaign

Throwing over the past

Kevin Rudd expressed his intention to pursue a quite different approach to government from the traditional ways of Labor Party leaders. Most noteworthy was his announcement that he would be selecting his own front bench and, therefore, his Cabinet colleagues, in the event of Labor coming to power.[32] Despite some unhappiness expressed in the wider labour movement, he had thus effectively ignored the pretensions of the Labor Party factions labelled the totalitarian monster by one observer.[33] Rudd (Right) and Gillard (Left) also announced that they would not attend meetings of their respective factions and that selection or non-selection for the party s frontbench would not be either a matter of reward or punishment. In doing so, Rudd, effectively gave himself leadership powers equal to those enjoyed by a Liberal Party leader. At a stroke, an old criticism of the party made by its conservative opponents was pushed aside.

If that were not remarkable enough, Rudd worked to make irrelevant the long-standing claim that Labor was a socialist party. In the first decade after Federation Prime Minister George Reid warned Australians about the dangers of the Socialist Tiger . Since then, Labor members had to battle their opponents claims that socialism posed some type of threat to Australian society. The early intra-party struggle over the Socialisation Objective had provided ready-made ammunition for the party s opponents. By contrast, when stating that Australians needed to know the values for which Labor stood, Rudd emphasised that socialism isn t one of them :

We believe radically in equality of opportunity, that is that every kid from every working family has a decent start in life. We believe in solidarity, which means that, if you run into one of life s brick walls, that there should be a decent and humane helping hand extended to you to pick you up and bring you back rather than just be cast on the dung heap of the market I think it s far better therefore we construct our future vision for the party around those principles, rather than some 19th-century arcane view of doctrinaire socialism.

To make it quite clear where he stood, personally, Rudd also asserted:

I am not a socialist. I have never been a socialist and I never will be a socialist. [34]

As if to emphasise Rudd s difference , a regular photo opportunity, that was unusual in the Australian political landscape, came to be that of Rudd and his wife leaving their local church after Sunday morning worship. This was a Queensland-appropriate image according to the Australian s George Megalogenis. According to another journalist, people on the right of politics were interested in Rudd s unapologetic Christianity and his critique of Howard from a conservative standpoint. Such matters have not been a normal feature of the Australian political landscape.[35]

Thus did the new Labor leader work to throw over much of his party s heritage, giving it a new image and at the same time make himself more powerful than any previous leader. Remarkably, there was no obvious opposition to him from other party members. The silence in his party seemed to suggest that victory in 2007 was rather more important to Rudd s colleagues than any defence of the old party ways.

Labor s me-tooism and avoidance of the wedge

When asked, Australian electors will often express frustration at the negativism of election battles and especially the apparent inability of the two major parties to agree on any issue. Everything offered by one party is likely to be scorned by the other. The 2007 election was notable for a significant reduction of such campaigning at least on the Labor side.

A recurring problem for Labor over the years has been the way in which it has been portrayed as dangerous by its conservative party opponents. Whether it was its support for communism in the 1940s and 1950s, its close links with dangerous trade unions, or its policies that threatened established parts of society such as private schools, the ALP has had difficulty in persuading voters that it posed no threat to Australian society. At the same time, Labor has been accused of being its own worst enemy , in being prepared to push policies that were clearly out of step with the views of many Australians. Perhaps the most famous of these was its determined opposition in the 1966 Commonwealth election to Australia s participation in the Vietnam War, which was cited as an example of the party being soft on communism and which helped produce its lowest vote for over thirty years.[36]

Coalition politicians have been adept at using such issues to put doubts into the minds of many voters. In recent times, such a tactic has become known as wedging .[37] The siphoning-off of so-called Howard s battlers in the Howard era has been said to have been largely due to successful wedging of the party by the Coalition on many social issues. A 2004 election example was the way in which Labor s support for environmental issues was used against it in the Tasmanian electorate of Bass in relation to the issue of logging.

What was particularly noteworthy in the 2007 election was the large number of occasions on which the Opposition leader expressed himself as essentially supportive of the Government s position on an issue. The term me-tooism was not new in Australian political parlance, but it received a great deal of use during the campaign, as bemused journalists marvelled at how often Rudd would agree with and occasionally praise a Howard Government policy. This tactic began soon after Rudd s election as leader, with an early example being the decision to respond to the carbon emissions environmental problem in a fashion similar to the Government. This received praise in an editorial, though the editorial writer noted that Labor was criticised by some as participating in an exercise in me-tooism , foreshadowing what became a common aspect of the campaign.[38] From then on there was a steady increase in the number of occasions where Labor accepted the Government s main stance on an issue. The range of examples was wide, involving policy proposals/decisions such as the Commonwealth takeover of water resources, the retention of the positive aspects of WorkChoices, support for Howard s move to override Queensland laws on the forced amalgamation of local government councils, declaration of his party s support for the three controversial Tasmanian issues of the Tamar pulp mill, the takeover of the Mersey Hospital and the Regional Forests Agreement, retention of the private school funding model and protection of the private health insurance rebate. In effect, Rudd was signalling that his party was moderate and of the mainstream and, hence, not a threat to the continued stability of the nation and its economy. Gradually there emerged a general, if occasionally grudging, acceptance of the me-too tactic s usefulness in helping Labor avoid the dangers of being wedged on any major issues. Paul Kelly summed up the tactic:

Me-tooism is about tactical decisions and strategic redesign that goes to party identity. For 11 years Howard has beaten Labor on values and now Rudd, with his grasp of conservative Australia, is denying this attack. Howard thrives when Labor fights him on cultural, economic and class issues, and these are the battles that Rudd refuses to fight.

It highlights the significance of the Rudd phenomenon. Rudd seeks to consign to history most of the old Labor radicalism based on class, along with much of the recent Labor progressivism that fought Howard over values. Rudd wants to change the atmospherics of politics and escape the old tribalisms.

The title of Kelly s article summed up what was turning out to be an increasingly frustrating campaign for the Government: No room for a wedge .[39]

Labor s cautious, conservative, me-too style of campaigning therefore was probably the single most remarkable feature of the Labor campaign, not least because it ran the risk of opening up the leader and his party to claims of having no ideas of their own. It also could have upset Labor s long-term supporters who might have resented an apparent throwing-over of the party s traditions. It also seemed to be letting off the Government lightly in regard to such headline-catching issues as the Australian Wheat Board corruption claims, the treatment of long-time Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks, and the incarceration and cancelling of the visa of Dr Mohamed Haneef, who had been accused of having links with British bomb plots.[40] Despite this, the party s effort was tightly controlled, generally avoiding the temptation to lash out at opponents. An intriguing 2007 election question will remain: what might have been the outcome had Labor s campaigning taken a more normal, largely negative, stance vis-a-vis government policies and performance?

The incumbents

The Government s claim to be re-elected

Essentially, the Howard Government based its campaign on four factors:

  • It made much of its safe hands in regard to the economy and national security, asking voters whether it was worth risking a booming economy and the high international regard that were the consequence of 11 years of outstanding leadership. A key assumption behind this aspect of the Coalition s campaign was that voters do not turn away from a government when the economy is doing well. Party strategists put a great reliance on the fact that polls continually put the Coalition ahead of Labor as the best economic managers. Liberal backbencher Don Randall warned that if people returned a Labor government, they will lose their houses. People are betting their houses at this election .[41]
  • Associated with this were the continuing benefits to be gained from the experience and strong leadership of the Prime Minister. Although there were some Liberals who wondered if Howard should have resigned in favour of Treasurer Costello in 2006 (see below), many more in his party considered him central to the Liberals chances, citing his outstanding record in office since the Coalition came to power in March 1996. Randall summed up such views:

Howard is by far and away the best prime minister Australia has had in history. There is no one like him. You ve got to stay with what has been tested and works.[42]

  • Working with Howard was the very experienced leadership team, featuring Treasurer Peter Costello, Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile, Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer and Health Minister Tony Abbott. Many Liberals pointed to the absence, as they saw it, of any sound reason for the voters to throw over this experience. Abbott, for instance, described the Howard Government as possessing, the best leadership team that Australia has ever had .[43]
  • Finally, there was a faith that voters were appreciative of the handout of government funds, referred to above, that were distributed in the form of payments to local communities. The 2007 election seemed to produce a marked increase in this type of campaigning that had been a fundamental part of the Coalition s 2004 campaign.[44] The examples were various, with many promises dealing with matters beyond the direct powers of the Commonwealth Government, such as when the Liberal candidate in Parramatta promised to crack down on hoons .[45] Coalition pledges made in the so-called bellwether electorate of Eden-Monaro (NSW),[46] illustrated the extent of such local community promises. The Eden-Monaro list included a traffic strategy for Queanbeyan, funds for a Cooma skate park and refurbishment of its swimming pool, overhaul of Braidwood s sewerage system, help for autistic children, funding for a charity working with the socially isolated, assistance to a local timber mill, improvement of camping facilities for Bungendore Showground, upgrading of roads in the Tumut area and the restoration of environmental flows in the Snowy River. There was confidence among many Liberals that such gifts to local communities would aid the party, as they were believed to have done in previous elections. The possible undermining of the federal system of government was a matter for some future time.

Coalition negativism

It is a commonplace that a party s tactics in an election campaign need to be a blend of positive and negative messages. A party s strategy will often attempt to plant doubts about its opponents in voters minds early in the campaign, after which there will be a focus on a more positive, uplifting vision of the future to match the proclaimed benefits of the party s own policies. A matter of wonder for some observers in 2007, however, was that although the Coalition campaign did give such a blend, the dominant impression was a message of fear rather than one of hope. Peter Beattie noted that, although there was much of a positive nature that came from the Coalition, the overall impression was largely one of negativism.[47] Retiring Liberal MP, Bruce Baird, who had contested many state and Commonwealth elections, called for a more positive pitch in his party s advertising campaign. He advised his party to talk more of the benefits of promised tax cuts rather than spending so much time on the dangers of a Labor government. The Prime Minister s former chief of staff, Arthur Sinodinos, stated that it was important that the Coalition put out a positive agenda .[48] Despite this, the Coalition parties clearly put much focus on the damage that would be done to Australia were Labor to win office for, as the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Joe Hockey, put it, the Liberals fear campaign was based on fact .[49]

Coalition negativism was linked to a number of factors:

Wall-to-wall Labor

A constant theme of the Government s message was that if Labor won Commonwealth office, the country would have the disaster of wall-to-wall Labor governments .[50] The problem with this argument in 2007 was that all of the state and territory Labor governments had been in place for at least two terms and none seemed to have lost much popular support. Four (Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania) had been comfortably re-elected in 2006. The NSW Government had been re-elected as recently as March 2007. With such a level of support for the ALP, voters might not accept that wall-to-wall Labor governments would be the disaster that was implied by Liberal advertisements.

The union threat

The second threat that received much publicity was that of the rampant unionism that was likely to hit the country if the restraining hand of the Coalition Government were removed. Publicity was given to controversies involving various union leaders, notably Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy (CFMEU) Assistant Secretary Joe McDonald in Western Australia.[51] Television advertisements constantly asserted that as 70 per cent of a Rudd Cabinet would be former union officials, it would be in thrall to the union movement. This, according to a Liberal candidate, would put Australia in a position where the union bosses dictate similar to the way Hitler did during the world war about how we should live our life .[52] Queensland Nationals MP, Bruce Scott, warned his constituents in Maranoa that the actions of the Queensland state government,

sends a clear message to all Queenslanders about how the unions will dominate and dictate to any future Federal Labor Government.[53]

Some of this anti-union rhetoric produced echoes of past Australian elections. In an intriguing flashback to an earlier political time when the red menace featured strongly in Australian elections, the word communist was heard at least twice in the campaign. Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile likened Labor s proclaimed education revolution to something you d hear in a communist country ,[54] while the Treasurer pointed out that when deputy Labor leader Julia Gillard had been a student, she had been affiliated with communists .[55] Education Minister, Julie Bishop, apparently believed that themes emerging in school curriculum [were] straight from Chairman Mao .[56] A variation came in a pamphlet from former minister, Bronwyn Bishop, which was delivered to voters in her electorate of Mackellar. The pamphlet warned:

Our youth have never experienced a socialist government with its continuous barrage of laws, rules and regulations, the never-ending interference of government and unions in our lives and the soul-destroying unemployment as our living standard drops ... It would be sad to have the old failed socialist, union-driven government influencing our youth. [57]

All of which were reminders of Coalition anti-socialist warnings of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. It is difficult to know how this approach affected voters perceptions of the Labor Party, but one journalist lampooned the Coalition s effort, noting that Howard s men were warning,

that socialists and unionists are coming, pikes raised, torches aflame. They are everywhere. I look under my bed, just in case.[58]

Would the anti-union attack affect votes? One writer has suggested that while it is possible that some voters were scared enough to stay with the Coalition, polls suggest that this did not apply to most. This may have been due to the prominence of some unionists in activities that were positive for their image. This included the work of Greg Combet, candidate for Charlton, in support of asbestos campaigner Bernie Banton, or Bill Shorten, candidate for Maribyrnong, working in the aftermath of the Beaconsfield mine collapse. In addition, polling suggested that many Australians, particularly younger voters, simply do not understand the point of attacking unions.[59]

Ironically, it has been claimed that the anti-union legislative activity by the Howard Government weakened its own case against unions, in that it had effectively outlawed self-harm by unions . It is also likely that their ability to frighten people also diminished as a consequence of such legislation.[60] If there was any political outcome from the Government s efforts in 2007, it is possible that it ensured that the Opposition would work to distance itself from unionism during the campaign, as when Kevin Rudd insisted that McDonald be expelled from the party. Keen to keep the issue alive, the Prime Minister thereupon challenged Labor to return donations given the party by the CFMEU.[61]

The Green-Labor menace

A theme expressed by conservative parties in recent Australian elections has been the threat to society posed by the Australian Greens.[62] The 2007 election produced similar warnings from the Government, notably from the Minister for Finance and Administration, Senator Nick Minchin. Apart from the claim that if the Greens controlled the balance of power in the Senate the upper house would be mired in chaos , he warned that a preference deal between the Greens and Labor would impose a frightening reality on a Labor Government. Inevitably, Labor would be held to ransom so as to implement what Minchin described as the Greens dangerous policy agenda :

This is the first time in Australian history that a radical left-wing party like the Greens have been poised to gain such an unprecedented level of power in the Senate.[63]

Coalition warnings were echoed by Family First Senator, Steve Fielding, who labelled the Greens anti-family and anti-small business , and warned that they sought to open drug shooting galleries , give free heroin to addicts and remove all criminal sanctions for drug users.[64]

[65] Although this suggested an immaturity, the fifty-year-old Queensland politician had a varied working experience before entering the House of Representatives. As well as work in the diplomatic service, he had been chief of staff to a Premier, director-general of a Cabinet office and a consultant with KPMG. Despite this, the Coalition chose to attack the Labor leader as inexperienced . To the Treasurer, Rudd was a lightweight , the Foreign Affairs Minister described him as a phoney , the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations called him mad , the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister saw him as union-controlled and the Minister for Health called him vicious and Machiavellian . The Prime Minister suggested that his opponent was a man whose core beliefs are obscure and unknown to the Australian public and perhaps to himself .[66]

How does one explain this unusually high level of criticism directed at an Australian party leader? Coalition research, leaked to a journalist, indicates that this was planned by those responsible for Coalition campaign tactics. Crosby Textor research noted that with Rudd leading Howard as preferred Prime Minister in the opinion polls there was a need for the Coalition to do two things. First, it should draw attention to the relative strengths of the opposing team, and, secondly, it should concentration on highlighting Rudd s inexperience and influences unions, Left factions and state premiers .[67]

Although this campaign tactic was said to be based on survey research, the Australian editorialised that the Government had made at least two major, though interrelated, miscalculations in its campaign. Firstly, it had presumed that the 2007 campaign was simply a rematch of the 2004 campaign , when the Labor Party under the leadership of Mark Latham was far more divided. Secondly, the Government had misread Rudd since his accession to the leadership, a misreading that was based on its failure to recognise that Rudd was a very different opponent from Mr Latham .[68] Four days later, the same newspaper suggested that a serious flaw in the Coalition s effort was that it chose to overlook the fact that Rudd actually had more real-world experience than the Prime Minister himself.[69] Such a comment perhaps indicated that the Coalition attack on the Labor leader had not succeeded.

An obsession with Gillard?

The Coalition parties were not only distracted by Labor s leader; its deputy leader, Julia Gillard, caused them some angst as well. In May 2006 Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan spoke of Gillard, then shadow minister for health, as ignorant of what life s about , due to the fact that she had chosen to remain deliberately barren . It was a comment that produced much criticism of Heffernan and his party. The Senator later explained his view by noting that a leader has to understand a community and that one of the great understandings in any community is family, and the relationship between mum, dads [sic] and a bucket of nappies . Lacking this, Gillard was unqualified for leadership.[70] The criticism of Heffernan did not see an end to the campaign against Gillard, however. Tony Abbott pointed to her obsession with politics for the whole of her adult life . He claimed that average people would look askance at such a political animal . Abbott, in fact, echoed the communist claims about Labor referred to above, when he produced a word from Soviet Union times in describing Gillard as a political apparatchik .[71] It is probable that in attacking a female politician in this fashion, the Liberal MPs were more likely to draw criticism of their own words than of the object of their criticism. It seemed to be an unnecessary diversion from the task of retaining office.

Had the campaign been called earlier

In a political system which grants the Prime Minister the power to nominate election day, the incumbent is expected to use this power to his or her party s advantage. Should Prime Minister Howard have called the election earlier? It was reported that some Liberals were dismayed by his appalling misjudgement in the choice of election date. Why, it was asked, did he not call an election before the date when the Reserve Bank board would be considering the September quarter s consumer price index figure, with its possible sixth increase in interest rates since the 2004 election? Apparently there were Labor strategists who were equally puzzled.[72] The probable answer to the question is that Howard presumably saw his government as being hurt if he called an early election and hurt if he did not. If he went early, he would avoid a possible interest rate rise, but would be confronted by opinion polls still indicating strong preference for his opponents. By contrast, going late might see a favourable shift in the opinion polls, only to have the negative impact of an interest rate jump. Whichever he chose, the Government s chances were likely to be lessened.

Another view of the choice of election date was that of a journalist, who wondered whether Howard had let Rudd get too far ahead to be able to run him down in the straight .[73] Such a view suggests that the Prime Minister had a greater control over public opinion than the polls were showing. They had put Labor well ahead from the accession of Rudd (see below), and there had been nothing that the Prime Minister could do to lessen this lead.

The diminution of the significance of policy

The 2007 Commonwealth election was therefore one in which policy matters, and the differences between the parties, seemed to play a lesser role than is often the case. This is not to suggest that there were no obvious differences between the opponents, but it is difficult to describe the announcement of any particular policy or policies as important in explaining the result of the election. While this is sometimes a factor in a campaign run by the government of the day when the decision is made to stand on its record as with the Coalition in 1980 it is unusual for a government s opponents. Such a party usually feels the need to sell itself to the electorate, often earning criticism for negativism in its determination to appear different from its opponent, as suggested earlier in this paper. The traditional approach leaves little room for a party leader to praise an opponent, even when there are aspects of policy with which there is general agreement. As University of Sydney academic, Rod Tiffen, notes, The logic of inter-party conflict often leads to an exaggeration of policy differences , where the appearance of polarisation is constant. [74]

Another question for Australian election-watchers is whether Labor s campaign style, with its dampening of the importance of policy, will be a model for future Australian elections.

The media and the election

Polls indicate changing trends media forecasts vary

Tiffin predicted accurately that many in the media would base their coverage of the 2007 contest on the assumption that the early gap between the parties would narrow, was narrowing, and finally, had closed, even if Labor were to remain in a position to win a comfortable victory. Tiffin claimed that this was

partly because the media have an interest in building the sense of an exciting contest, partly because the current polls are so deviant from recent patterns that many believe they must narrow perhaps partly reflecting wishful thinking by some in the media.[75]

Media commentators through the election period reflected on changing voting preferences identified in the findings of various polls. The importance of poll results was suggested by Dennis Shanahan:

The Coalition has fought back after John Howard s dramatic undertaking to retire as prime minister during the next term and can now make a fight of the election Labor still has a clear election-winning lead on a two-party preferred basis of 55 per cent to the Coalition s 45, and Kevin Rudd is well clear of Mr Howard as preferred prime minister.[76]

Early predictions that if the economy was healthy, the government was very likely to retain office[77] were moderated as polls indicated that the Coalition would lose the election. The picture was not completely clear, however, with the parties polling quite differently on a range of issues, as Dennis Shanahan further noted:

The Coalition has stretched its commanding lead over Labor on the key vote-changing issues of the economy and national security. And although Labor continues to hold a comfortable lead over the Government on social issues such as education and health, the Coalition appears to have negated the union movement's multi-million-dollar anti-Work Choices advertising campaign.[78]

As it unfolded, therefore, the progress of the 2007 election campaign proved to be judged on many specific issues including the economy, industrial relations, social issues such as education and health, Medicare, water planning, education and the environment.

Two days before polling day commentators noted that Labor had worked successfully on many policy issues:

months of strict discipline and superb political tactics have diverted and frustrated the Coalition.[79]

Making predictions had proved difficult through the campaign. It seemed that some observers had some difficulty in dealing with contradictory trends. Brad Norington, of the Australian, observed:

What appears to be upsetting the commentators is that the polls have not followed their past course over the last nine months before the election by shifting in the Coalition s favour. Uncertain, they have become more polarised about how the Coalition should mount a rescue operation.[80]

For Robert Macklin in the Canberra Times, it all signalled the disturbing transformation of media figures into participants in the game .[81]

Playing the media game differently

One interesting feature of the Rudd campaign was the strategy of using popular, well-frequented media in preference to the established media news outlets Nine s Sunday , interviews with Laurie Oakes, or the Ten Network s Rove programme for example. Figures prepared by Media Monitors indicated that Rudd strongly favoured top 40 -style FM stations, such as Nova FM, and Fox FM. This put some journalists off-side, notably Barrie Cassidy, who was clearly frustrated by the Labor leader s failure to appear on the ABC Sunday programme, Insiders . A week before polling day he complained that:

The strategy is to avoid as many as possible of the longer, considered interviews that he can Compare that to [John] Howard's approach; he will always do those interviews. Perhaps it is a sign of his maturity and Kevin Rudd s lack of experience.[82]

To another journalist, however, the Opposition leader s tactics were sound. Rudd was able in this way to reach many Australians who might not normally be within reach of politicians through the mainstream news media.[83]

The use of new media

Early in the campaign there was much interest in the Prime Minister s use of YouTube for the announcement of policy, with speculation that the use of such new media might be an important feature of the election. However, in the aftermath of the election some Liberal Party members were of the view that Howard s use of YouTube may have actually hurt the party, due to the stilted way it was used.[84] In fact, relatively little was heard of this as the campaign progressed and it is impossible to estimate if it had any effect at all. Certainly, there was far less apparent use than in the US presidential election primary contests being fought at the same time as the Australian campaign.

There was some speculation that the difficulty for the parties was their tendency to use the Internet as if it was an extension of television, with the same static, apparently inflexible, performance by the politician that is so familiar to television viewers.[85] There was also a tendency for politicians to post material online, but not to allow or tolerate feedback from readers of the material. Professor Jim Macnamara of University of Technology Sydney (UTS) reported that Malcolm Turnbull was the only Commonwealth MP to provide a modern level of interactivity, being prepared to tolerate negative responses and to engage in dialogue with critics.[86] In addition, there was little or no effort to copy the overseas experience that tends to make humour a major feature of political advertising. This does not mean that humour was absent, but it was the material put online by lobby groups, rather than the parties, that attempted a humorous take on the election contest. An example was GetUp ridiculing the Government s efforts in regard to climate change: We re making a commitment not to make any commitment [on climate change] , or Creating an ad campaign to make the government look cleaner? I can do that! [87]

The Australian Centre for Public Communication at UTS reported that most candidates either did not use the Internet at all, or else used it in a very limited way. Within four days of polling day, one-third of Commonwealth MPs had not created a personal website, 90 per cent did not have a MySpace page and only a handful (6.6 per cent) had a blog. Fewer than six per cent had a Facebook site, a podcast or had posted a least one video on YouTube.[88] It was also noted that the most successful and innovative postings were those of bloggers and election commentators, such as Antony Green of the ABC.[89] All of which suggests that use of the Net by politicians has some distance to go before it is a major influence on electoral outcomes in Australia.

One interesting report that showed the potential difficulties for politicians who were used to certain types of media, concerned the Liberal member for Corangamite, Stewart McArthur. The MP complained about an incorrect profile about himself which had been posted on the MySpace site by people he labelled anonymous keyboard cowards . McArthur wrote to the Australian Electoral Commission to complain that there was no official authorisation for what was written, as required by electoral law:

The Internet can provide positive opportunities for direct political communication between the public and their representatives but site operators must exercise a duty of care.[90]

McArthur s Labor opponent wondered if the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 actually covered issues involving new media.[91]

The House of Representatives result

Significant aspects of the result included:

  • The Labor Party won office with a total of 83 of the 150 House of Representatives seats, an increase of 23 on its 2004 total. It lost two seats, both in Western Australia. Despite a first preference gain of 5.7 per cent, the party s national vote of 43.4 per cent was 1.5 per cent lower than its vote in the 1993 election under the leadership of Paul Keating, and was ahead of only its 1990 victory as the party s second-lowest winning vote since Federation. It was Labor s first vote above 40 per cent in four elections.
  • In winning, Labor had achieved the wall-to-wall Labor governments referred to earlier, for the first time. In the days before the two territories had gained self-government, between May 1969 and June 1970 the Liberal and Country Parties shared in different governments in all six states and at the Commonwealth level.
  • The Liberal Party s total of 55 seats was 19 less than it won in 2004, with its first preference vote of 36.3 per cent being a drop of 4.2 per cent. Overall, though, the vote was just below its average vote of 37.3 per cent during 1996 2004. In only two elections since 1975 have the Liberals topped 40 per cent (1975, 2004).
  • With a vote of 5.5 per cent and only ten seats won, a nett fall of two seats, the Nationals House of Representatives position is now the party s weakest since 1943. The last four elections have seen their vote positioned in the narrow range of 5.3 5.9 per cent. Although their vote rose marginally in their flagship state of Queensland (+0.3 per cent), their vote of 10.1 per cent in that state was well behind their best-ever vote of 31.7 per cent achieved in 1984.
  • Several ministers lost their seats, including Prime Minister John Howard (Bennelong, NSW), Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough (Longman, Qld), Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads, Jim Lloyd (Robertson, NSW), and Special Minister of State, Gary Nairn (Eden-Monaro, NSW).
  • The Prime Minister s loss of his seat was the second occasion when such an event has occurred. In 1929, Prime Minister Bruce (Nationalist) lost his seat of Flinders to the prominent trade unionist, Ted Holloway.
  • Other office-holders to lose their seats included Assistant Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Teresa Gambaro (Petrie, Qld), and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services, De-Anne Kelly (Dawson, Qld).
  • On 3 December 2007, Kevin Rudd (Griffith, Qld) became the 10th Australian Labor Party leader to become Prime Minister. He was the third Queenslander to assume the office after Andrew Fisher (ALP, 1908 09, 1910 13, 1914 15) and Frank Forde (ALP, 1945).
  • On the same day, Labor s Deputy Leader, Julia Gillard (Lalor, Vic), became Australia s first female Deputy Prime Minister.

States and Territories

Seats changed hands in all jurisdictions except the ACT. Only in Tasmania did Labor s first preference vote fall (-1.8 per cent).

In NSW seven seats were lost to Labor by the Liberal Party and one was lost by the Nationals. Labor s 28 of the state s 49 seats is a return to the type of share it enjoyed in the Hawke-Keating years. The Labor first preference vote (44.1 per cent) was its best return since 1993, though 4.2 per cent lower than in that year. The Liberal vote of 32.6 per cent was close to its average of all elections since 1990 (32.5 per cent), while the Nationals vote fell by 1.3 per cent. The Liberal Party s 15 seats was its lowest return since 1993, while the Nationals five seats was that party s poorest-ever return. The Green vote fell slightly (-0.2 per cent).

Labor s vote of 44.7 per cent in Victoria was its highest since 1993. Two seats were won from the Liberal Party and its 21 seats were its highest tally since 1987. The Liberal vote (38.1 per cent) fell by 5.2 per cent only in South Australia was its fall greater and its 14 seats were, not surprisingly, its lowest return since 1987. For the last four elections the Nationals vote has been below four per cent. As in New South Wales, the Greens would have been disappointed with a minimal rise in their vote (+0.7 per cent).

The Liberal Queensland strength that emerged with the first Howard victory, and had been sustained since, largely dissipated, with seven seats lost to Labor. With the loss of the seat of Dawson, the Nationals return of three seats is the rural party s lowest since the 1946 election. Labor s modest vote was only 42.9 per cent, yet this gave the party its largest vote increase in any jurisdiction (8.1 per cent), was its highest vote in the state since 1987, and its first vote above 40 per cent in five elections. In winning 15 seats it equalled its 1990 tally, though there were five more Queensland House of Representatives seats being contested than in that year. To retain office at the next election, Labor probably has most to gain in this state, where three of the five most marginal Coalition seats are to be found. The Green vote of 5.6 per cent (+0.6 per cent) was the party s poorest effort anywhere in Australia.

As indicated in the polls before and during the campaign, Western Australia proved to be much tougher for Labor than all other states. Labor s 36.8 per cent (+2.1 per cent) was its poorest performance, being six per cent behind its next highest vote, in Tasmania. Labor regained Hasluck, which it held between 2001 and 2004, with the help of Green preferences, but lost Cowan and Swan, both held since 1998. Despite the Greens winning a healthy 8.9 per cent, the Liberal Party s hold on most of its seats was sufficiently strong for the Green vote to be less of a factor in this state than in most.

Labor s vote in South Australia rose to 43.2 per cent (+6.4 per cent), exceeding 40 per cent for the first time since the 1987 election. It now holds a majority of the state s 11 seats and leads the Liberal vote for the first time since the same election. The Liberal vote fell by 5.6 per cent, though is only 1.4 per cent below that for the ALP. It is, however, the lowest vote by the party since the 1974 election and it holds its smallest proportion of South Australian seats since 1987. The Green vote rose by 1.5 per cent.

Both major parties votes fell in Tasmania, with Labor s 42.8 per cent being its poorest effort since 1990. The Liberal s 38.2 per cent was a fall of 3.8 per cent. One might speculate that the Tamar pulp mill issue hurt both, for the Green vote climbed 3.6 per cent to 13.5 per cent, the party s highest state vote on record, eclipsing the 9.9 per cent gained in the state in the previous election. In Bass, the electorate wherein the mill was to be located, the Green vote reached 15.3 per cent, a climb of 7.2 per cent.

In each of the two ACT seats Labor received 51.1 per cent, 17.9 per cent ahead of the Liberals average figure. The most notable result was the Green vote of 13.2 per cent (+2.4 per cent) which, with the high vote in 2004, was presumably a consequence of the strong Senate campaigns run by the Greens in both years (see below).

The Greens played an important role in the Northern Territory, where a strong showing in Solomon (9.1 per cent) helped the Labor Party win the seat by fewer than 200 votes. Labor s territory-wide vote was its highest since 1998. The Country Liberal Party vote fell by 2.8 per cent.

Local contests

Bennelong (NSW)

In 2007, the electorate of Bennelong was very different from when it was won by John Howard in 1974. On the one hand, redistributions over the years had gradually made it less safe for the Liberal Party. In the 1970s, such well-to-do suburbs as Hunters Hill, Wollstonecraft and Crows Nest, were an integral part of the electorate, but over the years Bennelong s boundaries had been moved north and west to include voters far less supportive of the Prime Minister. The 2005 06 redistribution continued the shift, with psephologist Malcolm Mackerras suggesting as early as July 2006 that Howard might not be able to retain the electorate.[92] A second significant change was that Bennelong had become one of 25 electorates in which at least one-quarter of the population spoke a non-English language at home. Labor held 24 of these electorates. Today, of all Bennelong residents, 42 per cent have English as a second language.[93] None of this seemed likely to help the Prime Minister s chances, something the ALP appreciated with its nomination of prominent journalist, Maxine McKew as its candidate. McKew campaigned hard for many months, and an indication of the pressure Howard was under was the regularity of his campaign appearances in the electorate. He even held a community forum to invite voters questions.

In the event, the result was close, but decisive. The Liberal vote fell by 4.1 per cent, while Labor s vote rose by 16.2 per cent.[94] Although Howard was ahead of McKew on first preferences, and still led after the penultimate count, 75.4 per cent of Green preferences pushed McKew ahead by 2434 votes (two-party preferred margin 2.8 per cent).

Bonner, Bowman and Moreton (all Qld)

In March 2007, the offices of the Liberal members for Bonner (Ross Vasta), Bowman (Andrew Laming) and Moreton (Gary Hardgrave) were entered by Australian Federal Police in relation to alleged misuse of their electorate allowances. The offices of a printing firm and a graphic artist were also entered. The MPs denied any wrongdoing but, unfortunately for the three men, the issue took quite a time to be settled. After a six-month investigation by the Australian Federal Police, it was announced in September that Hardgrave and Vasta were cleared of any suspicion in the matter. Several weeks later Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions announced that there was insufficient evidence for a reasonable chance of securing a conviction against Laming. Irrespective of this, journalists speculated that these three seats might well be lost, with these events playing a significant part in such an outcome.

Vasta (-2.2 per cent, first preferences) and Hardgrave (-5.4 per cent) were defeated in the election; Laming (-4.3 per cent) was returned by 64 votes, after the distribution of preferences. The average first preference figure for the three was 43.5 per cent, or an average fall of -3.9 per cent. By contrast, the Liberal statewide first preference vote was 34.4 per cent, which represented a fall of 5.0 per cent, with some candidates experiencing a double digit fall. With their party doing so poorly across Queensland, it is difficult to claim that the electorate allowances issue was a key factor in the defeat of these two MPs, particularly as Hardgrave had the extra burden of an unhelpful redistribution that had given him a narrow margin of less than three per cent.

Boothby (SA)

The Labor Party s 2007 campaign featured an unusual number of what the press called celebrity candidates: Bill Shorten in Maribyrnong, Major Mike Kelly in Eden-Monaro and Greg Combet in Charlton, for example. In the southern Adelaide seat of Boothby, Labor nominated Nicole Cornes, Sunday Mail columnist, described in the press as glamorous , and wife of a South Australian football legend . Cornes was quoted as saying that she had voted for John Howard in the past , but that it was time for a change. She also stated that when you read in the newspapers about what is going on in the world you start to form opinions . To Kevin Rudd, Cornes was South Australian through and through , as well as being bright and articulate .[95]

Unfortunately for Cornes and her party, she began to have campaign problems, many of her own making. The detail-challenged candidate confused Labor s industrial relations policy with WorkChoices, she refused an ABC interview because she was not prepared for anything heavy , and when questioned on her party s industrial relations policy responded: What is it that people don t get? Is it specific policy details? We can all go to a website and do that. She received front-page coverage when she turned heads with her revealing dress worn to the farewell Government House dinner for the Governor and polls suggested that many female voters did not respond well to her. In addition, some Labor Party members were said to be unhappy with her preselection, due to her having attacked Labor values in her newspaper column. As Cornes joint campaign manager noted, she was an easy target .[96]

Cornes did not win the seat, and Labor s first preference vote fell by 1.7 per cent, trailing 12 per cent behind the sitting member s effort. Boothby was the only South Australian seat where there was a drop in Labor s first preference vote.

Corangamite (Vic)

Many electorates can change over time, so that they become safer or more marginal for a particular party as in the case of Bennelong. This can be brought about by redistribution of boundaries; it can also be affected by population changes within the existing boundaries. In the case of Corangamite, originally a wholly-rural seat held by conservative parties for all but five years since Federation, change came about largely as a consequence of the physical growth of Geelong, combined with the arrival of sea-changers on the Bellarine Peninsula.

The Liberal sitting member, Stewart McArthur, won Corangamite in 1984, and in the five elections 1984 96 averaged a first preference vote of 51.5 per cent. In the elections of 1998 2004 this fell to 48.5 per cent, though the 2004 contest saw him winning on first preferences once again. By the time of the 2007 election Corangamite was being described as a mortgage belt seat, ripe for plucking by the Labor Party, which signified its hopes by the announcement of a marked increase in proposed campaign spending in the electorate. Despite McArthur criticising his challenger, Darren Cheeseman, as a Ballarat-residing union official rather than a local, Labor gained enough first preferences (41.9 per cent) to be within three per cent of the sitting member, and be able to win narrowly on the back of Green preferences. Cheeseman is the first ALP member for Corangamite since 1931. McArthur blamed the media for the result, claiming that it did not give Kevin Rudd the same harsh treatment it handed out to the Prime Minister.[97]

Corio (Vic)

In Victoria various Labor candidates lost pre-selection to prominent party newcomers. Gavan O Connor, sitting member for Corio since 1993, lost pre-selection to ACTU assistant secretary, Richard Marles, Australian Workers Union secretary, Bill Shorten, defeated Bob Sercombe, member for Maribyrnong since 1996 and Ann Corcoran, sitting member for Isaacs since 2000, was defeated by prominent Melbourne lawyer, Mark Dreyfus.

Unlike Sercombe and Corcoran, who publicly accepted their loss of pre-selection, O Connor attacked what he described as Labor s rampant branch-stacking, rorting of democratic process, illicit fund-raising, money laundering and grubby backyard deals and nominated as an independent candidate. Labor s margin was 5.7 per cent and was therefore close enough to concern the party, though publicly it expressed confidence that the seat would be retained. More concerning was the Liberal Party s use of these events to illustrate the danger of unions exerting undue influence over Labor.[98] In the event, Labor fears of the possible harm done to the party s chances of retaining a seat it had held since 1967, were off the mark. In fact, O Connor s main impact seems to have been to strip votes from the Liberals rather than the ALP. He received 12.7 per cent of the vote, with Labor s vote falling by only 1.2 per cent to 45.5 per cent, and the Liberal vote tumbling by 10.7 per cent to just 29.6 per cent. Labor retained Corio with ease, aided by 52 per cent of O Connor s preferences.

Forde (Qld)

In 1996, the Liberals Kay Elson won Forde, in a semi-rural area south of Brisbane, with a first preference vote of 40.8 per cent. After having her vote increase in each following election to reach 54.8 per cent in 2004, the undefeated 60 year-old chose not to re-contest in 2007. With the help of a redistribution, Elson had left her seat in good shape, for the ALP would need to achieve an 11.5 per cent two-party preferred swing to win seat.

The Liberal candidate, Wendy Creighton, not only faced the Labor Party s Brett Raguse, but also a Nationals candidate, Hajnal Ban none of Elson s victories had involved a three-cornered contest. All was apparently not well with Creighton s campaign efforts, for there were soon reports of local Liberals being so dismayed by their candidate that they were said to have abandoned her and to be focussing their efforts on assisting her Nationals opponent. There were suggestions that this followed instructions from the Liberal Party s national headquarters.[99] Creighton s eventual vote of 34 per cent was a drop of 19.1 per cent in Liberal first preferences, but the combined Coalition first preference vote still topped that for the ALP by 1.8 per cent. However, Creighton was unable to lever a Liberal win, with Labor scoring a large two-party preferred swing of 14.4 per cent which included a leakage of Nationals preferences of 28.4 per cent.

Greenway and Macquarie (both NSW)

In the 2005 06 redistribution of NSW electorates there was some local unhappiness at various changes. One was the Redistribution Committee s proposal to push Macquarie past its traditional Blue Mountains border so as to place west of the Great Dividing Range towns like Lithgow, Oberon and Bathurst into what had been a Blue Mountains seat. There also was dismay that the five historic Macquarie towns of Richmond, Windsor, Pitt Town, Wilberforce and Castlereagh were all being moved east into the seat of Greenway. Objections to the proposed changes to Macquarie were not accepted by the Redistribution Committee. The outcome was that Macquarie seemed far less safe for its Liberal sitting member and Greenway much safer for its Liberal MP.

The outcome in the two seats was as generally predicted. Despite a 5.1 per cent loss of Liberal votes, Louise Markus was re-elected for Greenway on first preferences; in 2004 her first preference vote had been less than 44 per cent. In the previous election, Kerry Bartlett had won Macquarie with over 53 per cent of first preferences. In 2007, the Liberal first preference vote in Bartlett s redistributed electorate rose by 4.9 per cent, but was still only 37.8 per cent. Bartlett lost to former NSW Attorney-General, Bob Debus, by more than 12 000 votes after the distribution of preferences. Clearly, the redistribution had altered the political makeup of these two electorates.

Lindsay (NSW)

A few days before the election it was revealed that the husband of the retiring Liberal MP for Lindsay (NSW), Jackie Kelly, together with the husband of the new Liberal candidate, had distributed a document purporting to come from a fictitious body, the Islamic Australia Foundation . The document asked recipients to vote ALP and thanked Labor for its support to forgive our Muslim brothers who have been unjustly sentenced to death for the Bali bombing . It also thanked the party for its support over the building of a controversial mosque in the area. The press was critical of these events that later became subject to court proceedings.[100]

Lindsay duly was lost to Labor which enjoyed a first preference swing of 11.7 per cent, one of the largest in the state. This may have been partly due to the retirement of the popular sitting member, Jackie Kelly, combined with the fact that the electorate was vulnerable due to the high level of exposure of many of its residents to financial stress.[101] However, it seems likely that these last-minute events sealed the loss of the seat by the Liberal Party and played a part in giving the Labor Party its first vote in excess of 50 per cent in Lindsay since 1993. It was a remarkable instance of a party losing momentary control over a local campaign in a way that may have sealed the defeat of its candidate.

Longman (Qld)

The electorate of Longman, centring on the Caboolture and Bribie Island region of Queensland, had been held for the Liberals by Mal Brough since 1996. He had retained the seat in 2004 with a 51.9 first preference vote, but the seat had been made less secure in the 2006 redistribution, giving it a two-party preferred margin of 6.7 per cent. In 2007 despite Brough being opposed by Jon Sullivan, a Queensland MLA between 1989 and 1998, the media consensus was that the sitting member s chances of re-election were good. Brough clearly was not so certain, for there was speculation that he might seek to push Peter Slipper out of the nearby electorate of Fairfax.[102]

In the event, Brough s public standing seemed to be irrelevant to the result, for he lost Longman after a first preference drop of 7.3 per cent and a two-party preferred shift of -10.3 per cent. However, Longman was just one of a number of Liberal seats in the immediate north and west of Brisbane which were held by seemingly-competent sitting members and in which the party vote fell quite substantially.[103] The figures in Table 1 suggest that Brough was swept out by circumstances in which his personal standing was largely irrelevant.

Table 1: Liberal votes in near-Brisbane electorates


First preferences (%)


2PP (%)
































Source: Australian Electoral Commission

McEwen (Vic)

The result in McEwen fluctuated during the counting. After leading on first preferences by 5.3 per cent, the Liberal sitting member, Minister for Small Business and Tourism Fran Bailey, lost by seven votes after the distribution of preferences. Bailey s party challenged the result and after a recount she was confirmed as the winner by 12 votes. However, Labor s national secretary claimed that the Australian Electoral Commission had wrongly excluded votes that the Labor Party had believed to be valid.

On 29 January 2008 it was announced that the defeated Labor candidate, Rob Mitchell, had filed a petition with the High Court as the Court of Disputed Returns, challenging the final result. The plaintiff was concerned with the way in which 643 ballot papers had been treated during the count. On 21 February 2008, Crennan J of the High Court decided that in the first instance the issue should be remitted to the Federal Court of Australia. Crennan noted the difficult matter in which neither the plaintive nor the defendant might have access to the 643 ballot papers that were in dispute. At the time of writing the Federal Court of Australia has set down 1 May 2008 as the day for a directions hearing of the matter.[104]

Wentworth (NSW)

In 2004, Malcolm Turnbull won Liberal pre-selection for Wentworth from the sitting member, Peter King, who then contested the election as an independent. Turnbull took the seat with a first preference vote of 41.8 per cent and a majority of King s preferences. The 2005 06 NSW redistribution seemed to have made the seat much more marginal than it had been, giving Turnbull a margin prior to the 2007 election of barely 2.5 per cent.

In 2007, the sitting member had ten opponents, including an apparently stronger Labor opponent in George Newhouse, Mayor of Waverley, a prominent member of the local Jewish community. The contest was confused by a number of potentially-important factors. Wentworth was said to have a strong environmental community and the vocal Australian Green campaign was supported by prominent businessman turned environmentalist, Geoff Cousins. The major party candidates were both aware of the relatively large gay community in the electorate, many of whom had been residents in the adjacent seat of Sydney prior to the redistribution. Newhouse was opposed by his former partner, who nominated as an independent, but more significantly, there were suggestions that he had not resigned from several government appointments at the time of his nomination as a candidate. His nomination was therefore possibly invalid. Newhouse handled questions on the issue very awkwardly and without much conviction. In the end, despite a fall in the Liberal vote across the nation, Turnbull won on first preferences with 50.4 per cent, only 1.7 per cent fewer than King s vote in the 2001 election.

The Senate in whose hands?

The setting

After the 2004 election, the Coalition s 39 Senate seats gave it control over the upper house, the first time this had been achieved since 1981. However, the nett loss of a single seat in 2007 would see this relinquished. As the election drew closer, polls suggested that a fall in support for the Coalition, combined with the strong likelihood that in Tasmania, at least, Labor and the Greens would win four of that state s seats, would strip control from the Coalition.

By contrast, Labor had no realistic chance of gaining control of the Senate. If it were to win government, the best Senate result that it could achieve was three seats from each state and one from each territory. The party would not achieve the statewide vote of 57.1 per cent needed to win four of a state s six seats, let alone the two-thirds vote to win both of a territory s two seats. Consequently, the best that an incoming Labor Government could hope for was to hold 34 seats in the post July-2008 Senate five short of an absolute majority. Even this seemed unlikely, however, for polls suggested that the party might have difficulty in winning three seats in Western Australia.

There is a certain predictability to Senate contests, but in 2007 several developments made the contest and outcome more interesting than usual.

In South Australia, the unexpected nomination of poker machine opponent, Nick Xenophon, produced speculation about a likely increase in the minor party vote in that state. Xenophon had won a Legislative Council seat in 1997 and had easily been re-elected in 2006 on a 20.5 per cent group vote. With the Australian Greens optimistic of winning a seat, the Australian Democrats clinging on to their Senate membership in the state that had been kindest to them and Family First hopeful of performing well, it seemed that the battle for each of the major parties would be to manage to win a third seat.

In Victoria, Australian Democrats leader, Senator Lyn Allison, seemed likely to be defeated. By contrast, the Australian Greens were confident that their ticket, headed by Richard di Natale, twice narrowly beaten for a Legislative Assembly seat, would be successful. It was felt that the Greens statewide vote of ten per cent in the 2006 state election would be the base upon which the state s first Green senator would be elected. However, it seemed unlikely that both the Australian Democrats and the Greens would win a seat.

In 2004 Family First had surprised by winning its only Senate seat in Victoria and the party was keen to repeat the feat. Although this seemed improbable, Family First preferences might be very important in the final result.

In Queensland, the Coalition had unexpectedly won four seats in 2004, thanks to the strong effort of the separate Liberal ticket.[105] With a joint Coalition ticket being run in 2007 it was very unlikely that this could be repeated, even if a healthy parcel of preferences was to be gained from the other parties. At the same time, the Greens optimism about winning the party s first Queensland Senate seat was strong. A possible wild card was the nomination of former One Nation leader, Pauline Hanson as leader of Pauline s United Australia Party , the official abbreviation of which Pauline .

The position in the ACT was also of great interest. Territory senators take up their seats immediately the Parliament resumes after an election, unlike state senators whose terms begin on 1 July following the election. Advertisements calling on voters to Save Our Senate began to appear in Canberra. Greens leader Bob Brown, Democrats leader Lyn Allison and ACT Labor senator Kate Lundy called on voters to support one of their candidates in order to remove control of the upper house from the Coalition from the beginning of the new parliament: it s time to restore the balance in our house of review . This unusual joint call was aided by the grassroots political movement GetUp, which apparently paid for the advertisements.[106] If the Liberals lost the seat, it was likely to be won by former Greens MLA, Kerrie Tucker. She had led a Green Senate ticket in 2004, which gained 16.4 per cent of the vote, or virtually half a quota.

Senate results

The major parties won 18 Senate seats each which meant that the Coalition will lose control of the upper house after 1 July 2008. Despite the large number of minor party candidates, and the success of four of these in winning seats, the major party share of the vote (80.3 per cent) remained remarkably stable, showing a fall of just 0.2 per cent.

Labor s 40.3 per cent was its highest national Senate vote since 1993, and the only time the party has topped 40 per cent in the past five elections. Its performance was only moderate, however, for in each of Western Australia and South Australia it failed to win three seats.

The Coalition vote of 39.9 per cent was its fifth-lowest since 1949, and only its second sub-40 per cent return since the election of 1984. It failed to win three seats in South Australia and Tasmania.

The Australian Greens won their first seat in South Australia and that, together with a seat won in each of Western Australia and Tasmania, gave the party five seats in the new Senate, it highest-ever figure. Victoria and Queensland are the states yet to send a Green to the national upper house. Nick Xenophon won a South Australian seat. He and Bob Brown, both won their seats on the first count, a relatively unusual outcome for minor party candidates. The failure of the Labor and Liberal Parties each to win a third seat in South Australia was only the second time that both major teams have failed to win a third seat in a particular state; the first occasion had been in Queensland in 1998.

Since the ACT and the Northern Territory gained two senators in 1974, the Labor and major non-Labor party have always shared each territory s two seats. This continued in the 2007 election, for the Save Our Senate campaign, referred to above, failed to strip Liberal Senator Gary Humphries of his ACT seat. The ACT Greens gained a respectable 21.5 per cent of first preferences (+5.1 per cent), but both major party candidates achieved the quota of 33.3 per cent on the first count.

The Australian Democrat national vote was 1.3 per cent, with its highest state return being 1.9 per cent in Queensland. No candidate was elected. Andrew Murray (WA) and Natasha Stott Despoja (SA) had announced they would not recontest; Lyn Allison (Vic) and Andrew Bartlett (Qld) were both defeated. As no party member had been elected in 2004, this means that the party will have no presence in the parliament for the first time since gaining two Senate places in the 1977 election.

After the new Senate members have taken their seats on 1 July 2008, the Coalition parties will have 37 seats, Labor will have 32, the Australian Greens tally will be five, Family First will have one and there will be one independent. The Government will therefore need the support of all non-Coalition senators to be certain of the passage of legislation.

Some factors in the election outcome


John Howard (and Peter Costello)

Speculation about the Liberal leadership was an awkward burden that the Coalition Government carried through most of the final Howard term. Journalists asked the Prime Minister many times about his future, to which he would respond along the lines of: I will remain leader of the Liberal Party as long as my party wants me to and it s in the party s best interests that I do so .[107] In July 2006, it was reported that in 1994 a former Howard Government Minister had witnessed a leadership deal between Peter Costello and Howard. Costello was said to have agreed that he would not contest the leadership at that time were Howard to nominate once more, but was said to have been guaranteed a chance to lead the Liberals when the older man retired halfway through his second term.[108] Although the Prime Minister later denied that any such deal had been struck, there was enough press speculation throughout his final term for the issue to become an unfortunate distraction from the battle to retain office.

With opinion polls in mid-July 2007 indicating a marked drop in the Government s standing, the press reported that Howard had confronted his Cabinet colleagues with the question, Is it me? with the implied question of whether or not he should remain in office. Two months later the public learned of soundings having been taken by the Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer, in September 2007, on the question of whether or not Howard should remain in office. When Downer reported that a majority of Cabinet preferred that he step aside for Costello, the Prime Minister chose to remain, reportedly after discussions with his family. On 12 September, Howard told radio 2GB that at a Liberal party meeting there had been absolutely no evidence of any desire on the part of the party for any change in the current leadership team .[109] Despite this, the Prime Minister unexpectedly announced on the ABC s 7.30 Report on the same day, that he would be retiring during the next term if his government was re-elected:

what I m saying to the Australian people is I want to be re-elected, there are a lot of things I want to do for them. But well into my term, I would come to the conclusion that it would be in the best interests of everybody if I retired, and in those circumstances, I would expect Peter to take over, but that would be a matter for the Party. Now, that is the honest truth, and I think most of your viewers believe it would be the case.

With Howard thus remaining in his position for the election, there was now much more of an effort made by the Liberal Party to present a picture of a united leadership team. When the Party s website altered its front page by replacing a photograph of Howard with one of Howard and Costello, it caused one journalist to speak of there being a genuine two-faced Liberal leader, the Howard-Costello model .[110] In addition, journalists noted the awkward relationship of the two men when participating in a joint television interview, reminiscent of that given by Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Paul Keating at a time of similar leadership tensions. Daily Telegraph cartoonist, Warren Brown, pictured two dolls for sale: Prime Minister. Elect one get one free .[111] It was all an unnecessary distraction, which cannot have helped the Government s re-election chances, particularly as it produced headlines suggesting that the leadership team was anything but united. Many in the Coalition were dismayed when the eye-catching headline, Pass baton to Costello , headed an Australian piece by Janet Albrechtsen, one of the most significant of Howard-supporting journalists.[112]

The failure of the Prime Minister to leave office before the election has been described by his successor as a powerful factor in the Coalition s defeat: Eleven-and-a-half years in the modern era is an eternity to the everyday Australian .[113] Liberal Senator Helen Coonan believed the boss stayed too long .[114]

What might have been the electoral situation had Costello become Liberal Party leader and hence, Prime Minister?[115] Although the replacement of Sir Charles Court by Ray O Connor as Western Australian Premier in 1982, and Mike Ahern as Queensland Premier by Russell Cooper in 1989 did not result in the retention of government at the next election in each state, it was argued at the time that such moves gave their parties a greater chance than if no change had been made. The Costello case may have been the same. However, many of his colleagues were opposed to such a leadership change, primarily it seems, because they feared for their seats. In a Newspoll conducted in April 2006, Costello had barely headed Kim Beazley when respondents were asked who would make the better Prime Minister. In 2007, about one-third of respondents claimed they would be less likely to vote for the Coalition were Costello to replace Howard as Prime Minister. It was findings such as these that Liberal MPs who supported the Prime Minister were said to have used when opposing leadership change within the party. According to such partisans, it seemed clear that the Government s best chance of re-election rested with Howard.[116]

There were at least two factors that could suggest that a change of leadership might have lessened the leadership problem for the Government. Costello was recognised favourably for his work as Treasurer and were he to have become Prime Minister, his standing in the polls would probably have improved at least in the short term. This is because a person in the job is likely to produce more favourable responses than if he is not. Kevin Rudd s perceived suitability to serve as Leader of the Opposition jumped immediately he replaced Beazley, as had Mark Latham s. The same might well have occurred for Costello. Alexander Downer appeared to concede this point when he was quoted as saying that appointment of the Treasurer to the Prime Ministership, must at least give us chance [of retaining office] .[117] The second change of leadership factor related to the failure of Howard to make any impact once Rudd had become leader. It was argued by Costello supporters that their man could have broken the impasse and helped reduce Labor s lead.

The Howard/Costello issue will remain one of the intriguing what if questions of Australian politics of the early 21st century. It certainly allowed Labor to grab ownership of the future , as noted by Labor s National Secretary, Tim Gartrell.[118] The retirement of the Prime Minister would have lessened, if not removed, this advantage.

Kevin Rudd

The replacement of Kim Beazley with a relatively unknown leader, seemed to be the event that pushed Labor into the winning position that it held until polling day. This suggests that many voters had been looking for a non-Beazley alternative to the Prime Minister. Newspoll figures indicate how marked and sudden public acceptance of the change proved to be. The final poll of the Beazley term (24 26/11/2006) had the Coalition leading in first preferences, 41-39 per cent; the first poll of the Rudd term (8 12/1/2007) had the Coalition trailing 39 46 per cent. Table 2 provides these figures in more depth, comparing the average of the final ten Newspolls of the Beazley period with the first ten polls of the Rudd leadership:

Table 2: Party standings before and after the election of Kevin Rudd as leader (Newspoll)


First preference vote

Two-party preferred vote






28 30 July to
24 26 November 2006





8 12 December 2006 to
11 13 May 2007





Source: Newspoll

In addition, Rudd was ahead of Howard on the preferred Prime Minister measure by mid-March. The accession of Rudd therefore made it seem much more likely that the Government could be defeated. But could the Opposition remain united and error-free for the 10 11 months that remained before the election was likely to be held? Sol Lebovic of Newspoll spoke of many voters, who had actually parked their vote with Labor for the time being while they decided to watch its performance on the way to the election. Lebovic believed that the campaign would indicate whether or not such voters were satisfied by what they saw and heard.[119]

In fact, the final result was a confirmation of what had been clear from the advent of Rudd s term as Labor leader, namely that enough swinging voters seemed to have been satisfied by the change, and remained so.[120] Table 3 suggests that enough of Lebovic s parked voters remained with the challenger throughout the campaign to see Labor home, though the gap apparently had narrowed marginally by polling day. In fact, Newspoll findings suggested that perhaps as many as 53 per cent of voters had decided over half a year in advance how they would vote and followed through on 24 November.[121] This suggests that many voters had been looking to shift their support from the Howard Government well before Kevin Rudd was chosen Labor leader. It also suggests that Labor s campaign, which so often saw Rudd avoiding the typical we re right and they re wrong stance of the past, was an important part of his party s victory.

Table 3: Party standings December 2006 November 2007 (Newspoll)


First preference vote

Two-party preferred vote






Entire period





Last poll prior to election announcement





First poll after election announcement





Election 2007





Source: Newspoll

The 2007 election was therefore significant for its lack of volatility in the polls and its general air of predictability despite the views of those observers who seemed to believe that the gap between the parties would eventually disappear.

The economy

Interest rates

There are two economies that can be relevant to election outcomes. As noted earlier in this paper, when asked about the big picture the national economy and the macroeconomic issues the Coalition invariably was preferred in polling returns. When looking below the national level, however, the picture seemed to be different at the local/personal level for, as has been since noted, the Opposition picked up a number of seats from the Government where mortgages mattered . Here, it has been suggested, people in outer metropolitan areas, who had supported the Prime Minister in his 2004 promise to keep interest rates low, responded strongly against the rise in rates since that election, with the mid-campaign rise on 7 November biting hard.[122] It was always likely to be difficult for the Government to cope with the rise, but the issue lingered longer than it would have preferred. With headlines talking of Howard and Costello having apologised to those Australians who had been hit with the mortgage rise, the Prime Minister kept the issue alive by stating that his use of the word sorry was a expression of regret, but did not mean that he was apologising for the rise. Media comment was not kind to the Coalition.[123] The Age s veteran reporter, Michelle Grattan, believed the interest rate affair would hurt the Government, for:

the extra mortgage payment burden will add to the disillusionment of voters already sick of Howard. Rudd s line about the PM deceiving people in 2004 will resonate with many people, regardless of Howard s protestations about precisely what he promised.

Grattan went on to wonder whether:

this may be one election too many for the Government line that Coalition policies would always keep rates lower than Labor policies.[124]


At the Australasian Political Science Association conference in late September 2007, one of the authors of this research paper was struck by the apparent unanimity of the assembled political science academics that WorkChoices and the introduction of Australian Workplace Agreements (AWA) had been a crucial mistake for the Howard Government. Opinion polls no doubt underpinned the academics views. In an October 2005 Newspoll, 40 per cent of respondents said WorkChoices was somewhat bad or very bad ; by April 2006, this had climbed to 48 per cent. Even 22 per cent of Coalition voters labelled the legislation as bad . Perhaps most significantly, of people earning in excess of $70 000, 43 per cent registered their dislike. This was presumably because this workplace legislation impacted in particular on younger workers it brought wage issues into the homes of relatively well-to-do Australians. All of which was presumably reinforced by difficulties with the legislation faced both by managers and workers. The later introduction of a new fairness test , itself an acknowledgement that the original legislation was hurting wage earners, did not restore Coalition support. In fact, 16 per cent of those earning in excess of $70 000 claimed it made them less likely to vote for the Coalition at the next election.[125] Many other critics agreed with the political scientists. The legislation had been the result of a prime ministerial rush of blood according to one critical journalist:

when Howard attacked overtime, penalty rates and shift allowances, he turned IR from an economic issue into a cultural issue.

It was a move that threatened to strip people of conditions and benefits that were part of their way of life: penalty rates for working the midnight shift; overtime to pay for a holiday or family pizza on a Friday night; weekend allowances to compensate for not getting to the kids sport WorkChoices was a flawed policy and Howard, normally sensitive to the aspirations of the Howard battlers, was blinded by his own ideological conviction.[126]

This suggests that the union campaign which ran its first advertisements as early as 15 June 2005 and which spent $21m in financial year 2006 07 alone, probably hurt the Government.

WorkChoices, of itself, may not have caused the destruction of the Government, but it was probably a major factor in its fall. This legislation would not have been passed in the form that it had, if the Government had failed to gain control of the Senate in the 2004 election. Professor Judith Brett of La Trobe University has claimed that in pushing for the passage of the legislation, Howard handed the middle ground to Labor .[127] In post-election comments about the election, the Senate, and WorkChoices, Liberal MP, Andrew Robb, called the Howard Government s control of the Senate as a poisoned chalice .[128] Liberal Federal Director, Brian Loughnane, acknowledged significant public concern over the legislation,[129] while columnist, Andrew Bolt, described WorkChoices as Howard s suicide note .[130] For a writer in Local Government FOCUS: ideology overtook common sense .[131]

Government baggage

The reasons why some voters reject a government at election time are various, and it is probably more likely to be a collection of factors rather than a single issue that turns people away or discourages voters from shifting their vote to a particular government. The longer a government remains in office, the more that it is likely to antagonise or frustrate members of the public. The Howard Government s experience was no different, and although on some controversial issues its opponent was inclined to present a me-too face to the voters, it is likely that some issues, in addition to those that have already been referred to above, played a part in its election defeat. Among the most publicised were:

  • the presence of troops supporting the anti-terrorist battle in Iraq and Afghanistan and the loss of two soldiers in action in the latter
  • the case of the Guantanamo Bay detainee, David Hicks, brought home prior to the election in an effort to defuse the issue of his treatment by US officials
  • claims of corruption in the Australian Wheat Board, of which the Government apparently had no knowledge
  • the military-style intervention into certain Northern Territory indigenous communities by the Commonwealth Government
  • the apparent reluctance of the Government and in particular Prime Minister Howard to accept the need to confront the issue of climate change, and
  • the treatment of Indian doctor, Mohamed Haneef, accused of having links with British bomb plots.

According to opinion poll findings, all of these were issues that concerned many Australians and were likely to cause their votes to shift.

The Green vote

As referred to above, the Labor Party s first preference vote (43.4 per cent) was not high, being the party s second-lowest winning vote since Federation. As a consequence, preferences played an important role, for only half the seats were decided on first preferences.

Although the Australian Green vote for the lower house was lower than the party hoped for, it played a significant role due to the relatively low vote achieved by the Labor Party. Across the nation, 79.7 per cent of Green preferences went to Labor (the highest being 82.9 per cent in Victoria), and these votes were important in pushing the ALP two-party preferred vote to 52.7 per cent, Labor s highest figure since 1993. In seats such as Richmond (NSW), Leichhardt (Qld) and Franklin (Tas), it was the final parcel of preferences from the Greens that confirmed the Labor candidate s first preference lead enjoyed from the first count. In some seats, however, the Labor candidate was trailing the Coalition candidate after the penultimate count, and it was Green preferences that clinched the seat finally for the Rudd team. Such seats included Bennelong, Page and Robertson (all NSW), Corangamite and Deakin (Vic), Hasluck (WA) and Bass and Braddon (both Tas). In Bass, Labor s Jodie Campbell saw her party s first preference share fall by two per cent to 37.2 per cent and she was still six per cent behind the sitting member with only the Green preferences to be distributed. Ultimately, 74.1 per cent of those preferences pushed her to 51 per cent of the two-party preferred vote. Although Labor would have won the national election without such a generous allocation of Green preferences, the fact that they received them made their final seat tally healthier than it probably would otherwise have been.

Regional sentiment

A final note on regional attitudes may be relevant to this result. There are elections when a state seems to have produced a result that might have been affected by local matters Labor s dismal performance in Tasmania in the 1983 election is a well-known example. We can still wonder if the impressive 57.6 per cent gained by the United Australia Party in Tasmania in 1931, that was 12.2 per cent higher than the Nationalist vote in 1929, might have been influenced by Tasmanians pleasure in having a Tasmanian as the party s leader. Labor s largest vote in 1943 was in Western Australia, home of party leader, John Curtin. In 2007, Labor s greatest jump in votes occurred in Queensland (+8.1 per cent). Although it can be argued that the party had performed so poorly in the state in 2001 that this was simply a catch-up effort, might it also have been helped by some voters reaction to having a Queenslander as a party leader and hence, a possible Prime Minister? Such a possibility is unlikely to be a factor in the two largest states, but in the four others, who knows what local pride might do to some voters preferences?[132]

The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918

Provisional votes

Provisional votes generally are believed to favour Labor candidates over their opponents. In 2007 rejected provisional votes outnumbered the final margin of votes in the seats of Bowman, Dickson, Herbert and McEwen. A case can be made that the marked increase in the proportion of provisional votes that were removed from the count helped save the seats of the Coalition members who held these seats.[133] The increase in provisional vote rejection in 2007 was striking:

Table 4: Rejected provisional votes 2001 2007


Provisional votes issued

Provisional votes admitted to count

Rejected (%)













Source: Australian Electoral Commission

Possible amendments

Two possible alterations to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 may well be soon on the Parliament s schedule:

  • The marked reduction in the time available for new voters to enrol after the calling of an election may well be reversed, and
  • Pauline Hanson s receipt of $213 095 of electoral funding based on receiving 4.2 per cent of the Queensland Senate vote was likely to be be an issue for early discussion by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.

The next election

As soon as one election result is known, analysts political, media, academic begin wondering about the election that is to follow. Although the Rudd Labor Government has a healthy majority in the House of Representatives, its vote margin over the Coalition parties is not large. Its opponents might see more of an opportunity to turn around the result at the first opportunity than observers currently believe is likely.[134] One factor they may well consider is that since 1949 four of the incoming governments have suffered a fall in their first preference vote at the next election. All five have seen a fall in their two-party preferred vote:

Table 5: The first election after coming to power

Winning Election

Next election

First preference swing (govt)

Two-party swing (govt)





















Source: Australian Electoral Commission

Further reading

The Age, The Rudd Revolution. The story of Election 07, charting Labor's long march and the end of the Howard era , 27 November 2007.

Brett, Judith, Exit Right. The Unravelling of John Howard , Quarterly Essay, 28, 2007.

Keenan, Elizabeth, Australia s New Order , Time, 3 December 2007.

MacCallum, Mungo, Poll Dancing. The Story of the 2007 Election, Black, Melbourne, 2007.

Megalogenis, George, Why we cast out Libs , Weekend Australian, 3 4 May 2008.

Saville, Margot, The Battle for Bennelong. The adventures of Maxine McKew, aged 50something, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2007.

Stuart, Nicholas, What Goes Up. Behind the 2007 election, Scribe, Melbourne, 2007.

Williams, Paul D., The 2007 Australian Federal Election: The Story of Labor s Return from the Electoral Wilderness , Australian Journal of Politics and History, vol. 54, no. 1, March 2008, pp. 104 25.


[1]. Scott Bennett, Andrew Kopras and Gerard Newman, Federal Elections 1998 , Research Paper, no. 9, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 1998 99; Scott Bennett, Gerard Newman and Andrew Kopras, Commonwealth Election 2001 , Research Paper, no. 11, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2001 02; Scott Bennett, Gerard Newman and Andrew Kopras, Commonwealth Election 2004 , Research Brief, no. 13, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2004 05.

[2]. This, and other estimates, is based on two-party preferred votes in the 2004 Commonwealth election.

[3]. Federation seats are those whose names have been in use since the first Commonwealth elections. With the disappearance of Gwydir, there are now just 38 of the original 63 names still in use.

[4]. Andren resigned Calare on 17 October 2007. He died on 3 November.

[5]. Scott Bennett, Save Country Seats : the NSW redistribution 2005 06 , Research Brief, no. 8, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2006 07; Stephen Barber, Electoral pendulum 2007 , Research Paper, no. 8, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2007 08.

[6]. Queensland s tally of House of Representatives seats rose from 24 to 29 in the period 1990 2007. A 30th seat is likely to be added during the 42nd Parliament.

[7]. Paul Williams, Moving the party goalposts , Courier Mail, 30 September 2006.

[8]. This includes Parramatta, held by the ALP.

[9]. Brian Costar, Integrity of electoral system not in doubt , Canberra Times, 8 December 2005.

[10]. Abetz quoted by Senator Mason (Lib), Senate, Debates, 16 June 2006, p. 16.

[11]. Constitution, s. 28.

[12]. Michelle Grattan, Misha Schubert and Katherine Murphy, Poll delay means work continues , Age, 11 October 2007.

[13]. Peter Beattie, If only you had done it my way , Courier Mail, 24 November 2007; Jessica Irvine, Woolies wants election-free December , Sydney Morning Herald, 5 October 2007.

[14]. Mike Steketee, Vote now to end the PM s obscene waste , Australian, 11 October 2007; Steve Lewis, PM s $2bn ad blitz , Advertiser, 5 October 2007.

[15]. Breakfast with Fran Kelly , ABC Radio National, 9 October 2007.

[16]. Menzies Campbell, It needs to be fixed , Guardian, 8 October 2007.

[17]. Phillip Coorey, Vote on fixed term pledged , Sydney Morning Herald, 11 October 2007.

[18]. Adam Gartrell, Peter Veness and Max Blenkin, Error in roll closing date , Mercury, 15 October 2007.

[19]. Tony Wright, A man among the men , Age, 18 October 2007.

[20]. Peter van Onselen and Philip Senior, Poll popularity is not enough to win elections , Age, 13 February 2007.

[21]. Paul Kelly, The pitch , Weekend Australian, 17 18 November 2007; Andrew Fraser and John Lyons, One happy Howard voter and counting , Weekend Australian, 10 11 November 2007; Sue Neales, Parties take a back seat as names to fore , Mercury, 10 November 2007; Jennifer Hewett, Tireless Rudd drags ALP into striking distance , Weekend Australian, 17 18 November 2007.

[22]. Peter Brent, Marginals factor is marginal , Australian Financial Review, 26 September 2007.

[23]. David Charnock, Plus a change ? Institutional, Political and Social Influences on Local Spatial Variations in Australian Federal Voting , Australian Journal of Political Science, vol. 42, no. 4, December 2007, p. 602.

[24]. Newspoll,, accessed on 11 February 2008.

[25]. Michael Costello, An art to reading the polls , Australian, 26 May 2006; Bennett, Newman and Kopras, Commonwealth Election 2004 , op. cit., pp. 11 12.

[26]. Paul D. Williams, The 2007 Australian Federal Election: The Story of Labor s Return from the Electoral Wilderness , Australian Journal of Politics and History, vol. 54, no. 1, March 2008, p. 107.

[27]. Cynthia Banham and Andrew Clennell, Knives are not out for Beazley, say Labor MPs after Rove gaffe , Sydney Morning Herald, 20 November 2006.

[28]. Matt Price, Cynical ploy rebounds on Bomber , Weekend Australian, 18 19 November 2006.

[29]. Stephanie Peatling, Wrong Rove: Beazley s tribute mix-up , Sydney Morning Herald, 18 November 2006.

[30]. Misha Schubert, Leadership in twilight zone , Age, 1 December 2006.

[31]. Labor has all but conceded the next election , editorial, West Australian, 5 December 2006.

[32]. Mungo MacCallum, Poll Dancing. The Story of the 2007 Election, Black, Melbourne, 2007, p. 234.

[33]. ibid, p. 14.

[34]. Michael Gordon and Michelle Grattan, Rudd rejects socialism , Age, 14 December 2006.

[35]. George Megalogenis, Rudd prepares for the battle of Queensland , Australian, 14 April 2007; Peter Hartcher, Bipolar nation. How to win the 2007 election , Quarterly Essay, 25, 2007,
pp. 3 4.

[36]. Tom Frame, The Life and Death of Harold Holt, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2005, p. 167.

[37]. That is where an issue is raised that Labor feels obliged to support, even though it drives a wedge between the party and a significant part of its electoral support.

[38]. Carbon reality check , editorial, Australian, 27 February 2007.

[39]. Paul Kelly, No room for a wedge , Australian, 3 November 2007.

[40]. Caroline Overington, Kickback: inside the Australian Wheat Board scandal, Allen & Unwn, 2007; Leigh Sales, Detainee 002: the case of David Hicks, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2007.

[41]. Patricia Karvelas, Tuckey warned not to mention the L-word , Australian, 10 September 2007.

[42]. ibid.

[43]. Liberal MPs want Howard to stay on: Abbott , 6 August 2007,,/news/national/hes-in-his-prime-ministers/2007/08/06/1186252612964.html, accessed 16 January 2008.

[44]. Scott Bennett, The politics of the Australian federal system , Research Brief, no. 4, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2006 07, p. 15.

[45]. David McLennan, Reshuffle has seat in the balance , Canberra Times, 21 November 2007.

[46]. Eden-Monaro had been won by the election-winning party in all elections since 1972.

[47]. Beattie, op. cit.

[48]. Michelle Grattan, Lib ads must focus on positives: Baird , Age, 30 October 2007.

[49]. Michelle Grattan, Hockey s job vow is hard to take seriously , Age, 6 November 2007.

[50]. See, for example, Liberal advertisement, Herald Sun, 22 November 2007.

[51]. Chistopher Bantick, Weak Rudd bluffed by union bully boys , Daily Telegraph, 24 October 2007.

[52]. Angelo Kakouros, candidate for Corio, quoted Rick Wallace, Offending the voters: both sides show how , Australian, 17 October 2007.

[53]. Bruce Scott MP, Stanthorpe Border Post, 25 September 2007.

[54]. Tony Wright, All that s left now is the smell of mothballs , Age, 13 November 2007.

[55]. Andrew Fraser, PM lines up rookie Rudd in prize fight , Canberra Times, 18 October 2007.

[56]. Elizabeth Bellamy, Minister retreats on Mao remark , Canberra Times, 7 October 2006.

[57]. Phillip Coorey, A party losing its youthful appeal resorts to hysteria , Sydney Morning Herald, 22 November 2007.

[58]. Warwick McFadyen, Notes from the armchair , in The Age in association with the University of Melbourne, The Rudd revolution, supplement in Age, 27 November 2007, p. 35.

[59]. Michael Bachelard, The Liberals did themselves in with the union scare campaign , Age, 28 November 2007.

[60]. ibid.

[61]. Paul Murray, Nick Butterly and Daniel Emerson, PM challenges Rudd to return union donations , West Australian, 30 October 2007.

[62]. See for example, Bennett, Newman and Kopras, Commonwealth Election 2004 , op. cit., pp. 27 8.

[63]. Michelle Grattan, The small fry start swim upstream , Age, 29 October 2007; Ross Peake, Brown flags Labor preference deal , Canberra Times, 29 October 2007.

[64]. Steve Fielding, Pro-drugs, anti-business party poses a danger , Weekend Australian,
19 20 May 2007.

[65]. Bob Hawke had been an MP for 874 days, Stanley Bruce for 1735 days and Rudd 3348 days at the time of swearing in as Prime Minister. Edmund Barton, John Watson, Andrew Fisher and Joe Lyons had served as state MPs for some time before being elected to the Commonwealth Parliament.

[66]. Peter Costello quoted in Matthew Franklin and Patricia Karvelas, PM unveils his exit strategy , Australian, 13 September 2007; Alexander Downer quoted in Phillip Coorey, Howard s rally call: we can win , Sydney Morning Herald, 19 September 2007; Joe Hockey quoted in Malcolm Farr, Rudd s red-tape trap , Daily Telegraph, 19 April 2007; Tony Smith, From the blue corner: Conservative claim a con , Sunday Age, 28 October 2007; Tony Abbott quoted in They said it , Canberra Times, 17 November 2007; John Howard quoted in Michelle Grattan and Katharine Murphy, Howard splurges another $9bn , Age, 13 November 2007.

[67]. Crosby Textor material by quoted George Megalogenis, Pendulum of a kind , Weekend Australian, 15 16 December 2007.

[68]. Howard almost out of time , editorial, Weekend Australian, 17 18 November 2007; Determined Rudd is on message , editorial, Australian, 21 November 2007.

[69]. Determined Rudd , Australian, op. cit.

[70]. Greg Bearup, Hard man of the Hill , Age 27 May 2006; John Lyons, Excellent Adventure , Bulletin, 8 May 2007, p. 28.

[71]. Steve Lewis, Family feud , Daily Telegraph, 6 October 2007; apparatchik was a colloquial term in the USSR for an agent of the governmental or party apparatus ( apparat ) during the rule of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

[72]. Shaun Carney, The Long March , in The Rudd Revolution, op. cit, p. 9; Laurie Oakes, Coalition s interesting times , Bulletin, 20 November 2007.

[73]. Malcolm Colless, PM still has a chance, but this race looks all but run , Australian, 6 November 2007.

[74]. Rodney Tiffen, News and Power, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1989, p. 128.

[75]. Rodney Tiffen, Polls and elections: a primer for the perplexed , Australian Policy Online, 2007 Election Backgrounder,, accessed 5 May 2008; see also Andrew Clark, The clouds roll in , Australian Financial Review, 21 October 2006.

[76]. Howard gets back into the fight , Australian, 18 September 2007.

[77]. See for example, James McConvill, Why John Howard will win next year s federal election , Age, 5 October 2006.

[78]. PM s stock rises on IR, economy , Australian, 17 October 2007.

[79]. Dennis Shanahan, It s time for him to take no chances , Australian, 22 November 2007.

[80]. Brad Norington, Print warriors turning on themselves , Australian, 24 October 2007.

[81]. Robert Macklin, Our new media: the journalist as political player , Canberra Times, 10 November 2007; see also Laura Tingle, quoted on ABC 4 Corners , 12 November 2007.

[82]. Samantha Maiden, Spurned TV host urges Rudd war ,, 17 November 2007,,23599,22771423-5012863,00.html, accessed 7 April 2008.

[83]. Matthew Franklin, Rudd grabs air supremacy , Australian, 25 October 2007.

[84]. Josh Gordon, Libs look to net to get party restarted , Sunday Age, 6 April 2008.

[85]. See for example, Liberal Party of Australia,, posted on 14 October 2008, accessed on 1 February 2008.

[86]. Internet not yet a force for pollies , AAP News, 1 February 2008.

[87]. GetUpAustralia,, posted on 24 September 2008, accessed on 1 February 2008.

[88]. Internet not yet a force for pollies , op.cit. For an overview of the Internet and the election, see Edgar Crook, The 2007 Australian Federal Election on the Internet , National Library of Australia,, accessed on 4 February 2008.

[89]. Jason Wilson, Barry Saunders and Axel Bruns, Club Bloggery pt 8: scoring the e-election ,, accessed on 4 February 2008.

[90]. Rachel Rodger, McArthur continues fight with MySpace , Colac Herald, 20 August 2007.

[91]. Jeff Whalley, Internet stand-off , Geelong Advertiser, 21 August 2007.

[92]. Margot Saville, The Battle for Bennelong. The Adventures of Maxine McKew, aged 50something, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2007, pp. 34 5; Malcolm Mackerras, New federal boundaries will weaken Howard s grip, Canberra Times, 25 July 2006.

[93]. Dean Jaensch, Post-election analysis uncovers new truths , Advertiser, 23 January 2008.

[94]. In 2004 the Labor vote was unusually low due to the nomination for the Greens of prominent Iraq war opponent, Andrew Wilkie.

[95]. Brad Crouch, Labor finds its secret weapon , Sunday Mail, 29 April 2007.

[96]. John Wiseman, Candidate confused on party policy, but no one s perfect , Australian, 28 September 2007; Nic dressed to kill female vote , Advertiser, 17 July 2007; Mark Kenny, Women voters shun Cornes , Advertiser, 26 September 2007; Jamie Walker and Andrew Faulkner, No fair go for Boothby loser , Australian, 25 February 2008.

[97]. Tough losing to an out-of-towner , Herald Sun, 26 November 2007.

[98]. Paul Austin, In Victoria, a safe seat just ain t what it used to be , Age, 22 October 2007.

[99]. Michael McKenna, Libs lose faith and turn to Nats , Australian, 21 November 2007.

[100]. Nicholas Stuart, What Goes Up. Behind the 2007 election, Scribe Publications, Melbourne, 2007, Prologue.

[101]. Mark Davis, Hip pocket could swing western voters , Sydney Morning Herald, 2 October 2007.

[102]. Paul Williams, Moving the party goalposts , Courier Mail, 30 September 2006.

[103]. The seats of Longman, Petrie and Blair were lost; Dickson, Fisher and Fairfax were narrowly retained. To the south of the capital, Forde was also lost, but in this case, referred to above, there were different circumstances, including the retirement of the sitting member.

[104]. The closest result in any House of Representatives contest has been Nationalist MP Edwin Kerby s one vote margin in Ballarat (Vic) in 1919. In 1903, Robert Blackwood (Free Trade) led in Riverina (NSW) by five votes. Both results were voided, causing by-elections to be held, with Kerby and Blackwood both being defeated. The closest margin allowed to stand was that of seven votes, when John Lynch (ALP) was victorious in Werriwa (NSW) in 1914. A 1939 by-election in Griffith (Qld) saw William Conelan (ALP) win by eight votes. In more recent times, Ian Viner (Lib) won Stirling (WA) by 12 votes in 1974, and Chris Gallus (Lib) won Hawker (SA) by 14 votes in 1990.

[105]. Bennett, Newman and Kopras, Commonwealth Election 2004 , op. cit., p. 29.

[106]. Jason Koutsoukis, Three parties unite to save our Senate , Age, 28 October 2007.

[107]. For example, see Malcolm Farr, PM not ready to give up job , Mercury, 17 May 2006, Kerry-Anne Walsh, In full truth, it s yadda yadda yadda to the nth degree , Sun-Herald, 16 July 2006.

[108]. Wayne Errington and Peter Van Onselen, John Winston Howard, Melbourne University Press, 2007, pp. 384 7.

[109]. Australian PM plans to retire after elections , USA Today, 12 September 2007,, accessed on 14 February 2008.

[110]. Alan Ramsey, PM bowled over by the bright side of life , Sydney Morning Herald, 15 September 2007.

[111]. Prime Minister. Elect one get one free , cartoon, Daily Telegraph, 14 September 2007.

[112]. Janet Albrechtsen, Pass baton to Costello , Australian, 7 September 2007.

[113]. Andrew Fraser, Howard s end was overdue: Nelson , Canberra Times, 29 January 2008.

[114]. Coonan quoted in Samantha Maiden, Leader ignored advice of insiders , Australian, 26 November 2007.

[115]. See, for example, Dennis Shanahan, Pleas for PM to quit fell on deaf ears , Australian, 1 December 2007; Glenn Milne, High farce as tired PM neutered cabinet , Australian, 10 December 2007.

[116]. Paul Kelly, The defeat , op. cit.

[117]. ibid.

[118]. John Lyons, ALP s Operation Target Costello , Australian, 23 November 2007.

[119]. Sol Lebovic, History shows folly of writing off Howard , Australian, 19 September 2007.

[120]. Williams, op. cit., p. 104.

[121]. Matthew Franklin, ALP plan defeated Howard backlash , Australian, 4 December 2007.

[122]. Tim Colebatch, Landslide marks election where regional vote-buying never mattered less , Age, 1 December 2007.

[123]. For example, Gerard McManus and John Ferguson, PM sorry , Herald Sun, 8 November 2007; Clinton Porteous, When sorry is not an apology , Courier Mail, 9 November 2007.

[124]. Michelle Grattan, The rise then come in spinner , Age, 8 November 2007.

[125]. Newspoll,, accessed on 5 May 2008.

[126]. Gerard McManus, The PM who fell to pride , Herald Sun, 29 November 2007.

[127]. Judith Brett, Exit Right. The Unravelling of John Howard , Quarterly Essay, 28, 2007, p. 76.

[128]. Sandra O Malley and Susanna Dunkerley, We went too far, Libs reformer says of WorkChoices , Canberra Times, 14 December 2007.

[129]. Loughnane quoted in Leo Shanahan, Selling of WorkChoices tops blame list , Age, 26 November 2007.

[130]. Andrew Bolt, Libs on a long, hard road , Herald Sun, 26 November 2007.

[131]. Rod Brown, The Coalition implodes , Local Government FOCUS, December 2007, p. 4.

[132]. George Megalogenis, Rudd prepares for the battle of Queensland , Weekend Australian,
14 15 April 2007; Chris Hammer, State of disarray , Bulletin, 5 June 2007.

[133]. Andrew Fraser, Howard s electoral rules could save Lib MPs , Canberra Times, 12 December 2007.

[134]. Williams, op. cit., p. 120.