Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
ABC weatherman may stand as an ALP candidate; Prime Minister warns Coalition MPs of a possible election defeat.

Download WordDownload Word



This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Parliamentary Library.


It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in any other w ay. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.


For the purposes of quoting verbatim from a transcript, it is advisable to verify the transcript against the broadcast.



7.30 report


Tues day 22 May 2007

ABC weatherman may stand as an ALP candidate; Prime Minister warns Coalition MPs of a possible election defeat


KERRY O'BRIEN: And tonight we also look at the significance of the Prime Minister's startling briefing to his parliamentary colleagues in their party room today. That his government faces disaster at the election, that his own leadership has become a weakness as well as a strength for the Coalition. He also confessed there were no rabbits ready to pull from his hat. 


This was not an expression of confidence today from one of the most successful political leaders in Australian history. 


Mr Howard's message came as Labor continued its attack on the government's big spending ad campaigns. 


And as Political Editor Michael Brissenden reports, Labor's momentum has attracted another surprise recruit. 


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Yes, we promised never to use it again, but somehow today the Labor theme tune does seem apt. Indeed, there finally has been a change in the weather. 


The rains have come, the winter has arrived and the ABC's Sydney weatherman Mike Bailey has announced he has become the Labor Party's latest star recruit. 


(excerpt from ABC's weather report) 


MIKE BAILEY: …rising around the state's main centres. 


(end excerpt) 


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Mike Bailey's new front will be moving over the electorate of North Sydney, whenever the election is called, up against Joe Hockey. 


JOE HOCKEY, WORKPLACE RELATIONS MINISTER: It is cold. Anyone from the ABC here? 


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: As Bob Dylan, a much better songwriter once said, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. But it will take quite a breeze to blow Mr Hockey over. 


Still, he like everyone else in the government in the moment is not about to underestimate his opponent. 


JOE HOCKEY: We still love our ABC, despite extreme provocation. Okay, do you have any questions? You lead with questions. 




JOE HOCKEY: No. Nervous about? 


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Coming up against… 


JOE HOCKEY: Mike Bailey? No look, North Sydney has always been a seat that I've treated as marginal. I don't take it for granted, never have, never will. 


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: And neither should he, even those he is probably pretty safe, the Government as a whole is looking far less secure. Today, the Prime Minister delivered the most pessimistic assessment of the Government's position yet to his party room. 


And there was a concession for the first time that he may be part of the problem. The polls he said suggest that the Government wouldn't just lose, it would be annihilated. Labor is enjoying its highest two-party preferred figures since 1996. The explanation he said was that while things were generally good, the Government had been in power for more than 11 years, and while that had been stable, the three most visible figures: meaning himself, Peter Costello and Alexander Downer, had held the same positions since 1996. 


This was he said, both a strength and a weakness, an analysis that shocked quite a few in the party room. Some close to the Treasurer found it particularly interesting having argued strongly for the shuffling of positions about this time last year. But loyalists like Tony Abbott warn of rushing to any overblown interpretations. 


TONY ABBOTT, FEDERAL HEALTH MINISTER: I don't think that's what he was saying. I think what he's saying is that people can take things for granted. People can assume if Howard, Costello and Downer have been managing things so well for 11 years that anyone can do it. 


Well, I'm afraid anyone can't do it. Australia has been incredibly lucky to have those three great figures at the helm for 11 years, and just imagine … just imagine replacing Howard, Costello and Downer with Rudd, Swan and McClelland. That's the fate in store for Australia if polls don't change. 


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Well precisely, that is what the electorate is contemplating and they seem to keep doing it despite a good Budget and an avalanche of Government ads. IR (industrial relations) this week, $50 million worth of climate change related ads to come and plenty more as well. There are so many ads that according to Harold Mitchell, the biggest media buyer in the country, the Government is struggling to find room to place them. 


HAROLD MITCHELL, MEDIA BUYER: Well as there are a number underway now, you've probably seen the one with health… 




HAROLD MITCHELL: …the one we talked about, the one with the umbrellas and others. 


REPORTER: There's a superannuation one going. 


HAROLD MITCHELL: We're finding television time is very tight and advertising for Government, for Federal Government tends to come at the last minute now. 


REPORTER: So, is … are they not managing to find their spots for the advertising they want? 


HAROLD MITCHELL: It's a great difficulty. 


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The Government has been somewhat reluctant to release just how much all this is costing. But thanks to the rather heated Senate estimates process now underway, we do know that the figure for the 18 campaigns currently running is around $111 million. Obviously, there will be more to come. 


SENATOR JOHN FAULKNER, LABOR BACKBENCHER: This says it all about the Government's priorities. National security advertising, $4.8 million of ad placements over 16 months, workplace relations, trying to dig yourself out of a political hole, $4.1 million of placements over six days. 


SENATOR NICK MINCHIN, FINANCE MINISTER: Well, that's just your pejorative reflection upon Government advertising. 


JOHN FAULKNER: It is my reflection. 


NICK MINCHIN: It is your pejorative reflection. 


JOHN FAULKNER: It is my reflection on… 


NICK MINCHIN: Workplace relations affects most Australians… 


JOHN FAULKNER: A most disgraceful… 


NICK MINCHIN: They're entitled to information that changes in the law made by their Government. 


JOHN FAULKNER: It's a disgraceful advertising campaign. 


NICK MINCHIN: Oh, rubbish. 


JOHN FAULKNER: It is my reflection. 


NICK MINCHIN: What absolute rubbish. Workplace relations affects every single Australian and they're entitled to know changes to the law and we properly advertised for those changes. 


MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: How many average weekly wages is $4.1 billion. 


NICK MINCHIN: Oh look, don't give me any hypocrisy, Senator. 


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Hypocrisy? Surely not. "Where", the Prime Minister asked, "was the thunderous denunciation from Labor when the New South Wales Party ran ads during every ad break in the cricket before the last New South Wales election?" 


JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely ludicrous ads from the New South Wales Government that were pure puffery, they provided no information and it was ultimately revealed that the cost of the advertising campaign exceeded the cost of the plan. 


SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The deputy leader has asked her question. 


JOHN HOWARD: …it was advertising of course. I remember how much that was denounced by the leader of the Opposition when he joined Morris Iemma for the last campaign rally in western Sydney and said what a great premier Morris Iemma would make. You are total hypocrites on this subject. 


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: In contrast, he says his government's campaign is one of pure fact, not PR (public relations). Just as well it's not designed to influence the voters because so far it's pretty obvious it's not working. As the Prime Minister said in his party room address, the public are attracted to Kevin Rudd. He told his colleagues he had no rabbit to pull out of a hat, and warned them not to expect the polls to turn around in the next few months. Part of the problem, he says, is that the economy is doing so well that the voters think a change would be without risk. They are still a small group, but some insiders are muttering that the Government should have been thinking about change itself when it had the chance this time last year. 


KERRY O'BRIEN: Political Editor Michael Brissenden.