Monday, 5 December 2016

Like to know what's in Grange? Most years Penfolds has to break the law to tell you

Grange. Australia's most famous wine. The red that put our country on the world's quality wine map. Yet most years Penfolds has to break the law to tell people what's in it.
If you think that sounds like madness, well, yes, it is. Yet Wine Australia, the federal government body that controls how wine is labelled and promoted does, outlaw telling the truth about Grange and many other wines blended from different regions.
This is the idiotic bureaucratic regulation that defines the offence:

(Click to enlarge)
And the section of the Australian Grape and Wine Authority Act 2013 that the regulation refers to:

The problem arises because the grapes that end up in Grange regularly come from more than three regions as the company website explains.

So Penfolds is in breach of the law with this reference in its tasting note for the 2010 Grange:
VINEYARD REGION Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale, Magill Estate
Oh no! Five GIs mentioned when you are only allowed three.

I wonder if and when the regulatory bulldogs of Wine Australia will threaten Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago with jail like they have the proprietors of that little Baross winemaker

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Tweeter-in-chief rewrites the media’s rule book

Tweeter-in-chief rewrites the media’s rule book: "Politicians should campaign in poetry and govern in prose, goes the adage. But Donald Trump has changed little in his shift from campaigner to president-in-waiting. He remains more polemic than poetic and is holding tight to his favourite tool for spreading bombast: Twitter. This week, it was as if the tweeter-in-chief was back on the campaign trail, the master communicator with smartphone in hand, setting the news agenda for a frustrated press forced into soul-searching over how to cover him. He used the messaging app to suggest that flag burners be thrown in jail; to moot scrapping the US-Cuba detente; to complain of fraud in an election he won; and to promote a gloating campaign-style rally where he mocked his vanquished opponents. “It’s genius and it’s frightening. It’s communications without the advantage of the frontal lobe. There’s no inhibition,” says Richard Levick, chairman of Levick, a veteran Washington communications guru who has advised multiple governments."

'via Blog this'

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Even expert forecasters often treat a strong possibility as though it is a certainty.

Why forecasters failed to predict Trump’s victory: Tim Harford in London's Financial Times

"The truth is that once Trump had secured the nomination, a Trump presidency was always a strong possibility. The betting markets seemed to recognise this, offering odds of three-to-one a week or so before the poll. Three-to-one shots happen all the time — or at least, about a quarter of the time. A defeat for Hillary Clinton may be far more consequential than a defeat for Manchester City and, therefore, far more shocking but it shouldn’t be any more surprising. Favourites do not always win."
"... we have to keep an open mind that more than one outcome is possible. Too many people equated “Clinton is the favourite” with “Clinton will win”. That’s an obvious error, but it’s common. Even expert forecasters often treat a strong possibility as though it is a certainty. This tendency is one reason that dart-throwing chimps give the experts a run for their money. The chimps make lots of forecasting errors too, but at least they don’t systematically overrate their chances."

'via Blog this'

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Keeping it in the family: Donald Trump and the New Jerey connection

Family comes first. That's one thing we now know about president elect Donald Trump.
This report by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow s a bottler as she tells of the Trump son in laws' revenge.
Watch it here.

Monday, 14 November 2016

What is the name of the Sparkling Wine from East of Paris - up around Epernay?

By David Farmer

I returned to Tasmania in 1970 after 5 years overseas and was by then very interested in wine. Enough to find out what was happening in Tasmania, so father, who knew everyone set up a meeting with the Department of Agriculture in Launceston.
I was told viticulture had no future as it was far too cold but a 'crack-pot' was planting a vineyard at Pipers Brook and the location was worth going to see. I did not meet the 'crack-pot' Andrew Pirie but I did meet his brother David who was propagating vine cuttings. I also went to the La Provence vineyard.
So naturally I have followed with great interest the growth of the Tasmanian wine industry.
The early to late 1980s were ........... years and over a six year period I led the pack that producers two award winners of the professional class of the Australian Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de ........... (C.I.V.C.), Chris Shanahan (1983) and Adrian Marsden Smedley (1986).
Thus I know a lot about sparkling wines and ..........., enough to tell you that the cheap French cooperative ........... which have been flooding the local market are not worth your money. These are the ones with oddly familiar but made up names and have the initials CM on the label.
Tasmania is the place where you should be looking and Wine Australia says: House of Arras, Delamere and Pirie. These are wines of breed and complexity: age-worthy wines that take the classic ........... blend…..that makes them unique……The wines are sough-after (sic)... and offer a value quotient that puts equivalent quality ........... or ........... in the shade.
As readers know this site is censored by Wine Australia and since what I have told you is advertising copy not wine writing, the words which will offend you must be dotted out and this is true even when I quote Wine Australia.
I thank customers who have sent in emails of support and report that this stupidity continues. Alas I have a fear Wine Australia want to dilute your interests as a consumer.
If you would like your views on this absurd censorship to be known by the federal government that supposedly control Wine Australia then click the Send Email bottom on the top right and let the relevant minister know.
And email with the censored name i.n the headline and you could win a $50 win voucher from David Farmer's business.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

James Halliday as Wine Australia would censor him

The repressive attack on freedom of speech by Wine Australia has not yet reached the level of stopping wine journalists giving sensible information to consumers. But should a wine maker or retailer dare to quote the words of James Halliday, the country's most famous wine writer, they would face two years in jail.
To give you an idea of just how ridiculously draconian Wine Australia's censorship powers are, we reproduce below how a recent Halliday column would need to be censored to conform with Wine Australia's law.
And if you think you know what the blacked out words are, enter Censored by Wine Australia's competition by sending your guess at what the illegal words are to: 

There are $50 wine voucher that can be redeemed at for correct and/or witty entries.
Click on the column to enlarge it.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Wine Australia chairman's company breaking own law that carries a two year jail term

They might proudly call it Méthode Tasmanoise but the Hill-Smith family, who purchased Jansz in 1997, seem quite keen to stress a French connection. You will notice, for one thing, that their sparkling is made by the Méthode Tasmanoise rather than the Tasmanian method. But that's a minor dipping of the lid to proper champagne compared with other French references on the Jansz website.  References like this:
In 1986, esteemed Champagne house - Louis Roederer partnered with the owners of Heemskerk Wines to produce Tasmania’s first premium vintage sparkling wine. They saw the similarities between the climate here and the famous wine region of their homeland.
And this:
It could be argued we’re completely mad growing grapes in the wild and unforgivingly cold Tasmanian environment. But there’s méthode to our madness.
The climatic conditions of the Jansz vineyard rival the famed French wine region of Champagne. In fact, it was originally with French contribution that Jansz became Tasmania’s first sparkling made using the traditional Méthode Champenoise.
Today we call it, Méthode Tasmanoise. It’s the essence of a partnership between the environment and our winemaker. Just as the cool Tasmanian climate creates spectacular beauty in nature, it is also instrumental in the creation of art in bottles.
All that's quite accurate and reasonable in my opinion but that's no defence under the draconian laws administered by Wine Australia. The Hill-Smith family, whose wines usually carry the Yalumba label, have clearly breached what Rachel Triggs, Wine Australia's Legal Counsel, describes in this way:

Under the AGWA Act and Regulations, it is an offence to sell, import or export a wine with a false description and presentation, or with a misleading description and presentation (sections 40C and 40E respectively). This extends to advertising on a website and would extend to the use of third party material, such as articles by wine critics, used to present and describe your wine and subsequently to promote and sell your wine.
It is important to clarify the differences between ‘false’ and ‘misleading’ use, as the interaction between these two elements is often misunderstood. The AGWA Act clearly states that the description and presentation of wine is misleading if it includes a registered geographical indication and the wine is misleading as to the country, region or locality in which the wine originated. It is often argued that certain unauthorised use of a GI “could not possibly mislead anyone” and, therefore, should be permitted. The description “A Barossa version of a Cote-Rotie”, for example, makes it absolutely clear that the wine is from the Barossa, not from the GI protected for France.
However, the Act provides an addition level of protection where the use of a GI is false for the purposes of the Act. This places a blanket prohibition over the use of a registered GI in relation to a wine that did not originate in that GI, regardless of whether the use is misleading as to the origin of the wine (with some small exceptions).
Such exceptions include pre-existing trade mark rights, terms used as part of an individual’s name or winery address, and common English words. ...
This situation was clearly explained when the Act was introduced to Parliament, notwithstanding the example used was ‘Chablis’, rather than ‘Cote-Rotie’. A description such as ‘Australian Chablis, Product of Australia’ could not possibly mislead a reasonable person as to the true origin of the wine but is false use of the Chablis GI and constitutes an offence under our Act.
Penalties of up to two years’ imprisonment apply in relation to false or misleading statements or (or in addition to) $21,600 for an individual, and five times that for a company. Cancellation/suspension of export licences may also apply where the wine is being exported and any interested party, including AGWA, may make an application for an injunction restraining a person or a company from selling a wine that uses a GI contrary to the legislation.
If you want to read all of Ms Triggs's opinion you will find it HERE

This breach of the law should be highly embarrassing to Wine Australia's chairman Brian Walsh. As the Corporation's website notes, "Brian boasts a 24 year career at Yalumba, spanning roles of Chief Winemaker, Director of Production and Director of Strategy & Business Development as well as 20 years working in winemaking and management positions in McLaren Vale."

It suggests to me that Mr Walsh is unaware of the law he is charged with administering. He should be urging the federal Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce to change the Act so that consumers can be given information that helps them make sensible wine buying choices.

Murdoch's Fox Network gets Trump for President prediction correct

The US entertainment newspaper Variety reports this morning how Rupert Murdoch's Fox Network 16 years ago predicted the election of Donald Trump as President
In an unnervingly prescient episode of the iconic Fox show from March 19, 2000, Bart was transported to the future when Donald Trump’s presidency had just come to an end.
In the episode “Bart to the Future” from Season 11 of the show, a Native American oracle gives Bart visions of the future when he is an adult wearing flip flops, a Hawaiian shirt and sporting a pony tail.
It turns out that his sister Lisa has become “the first straight female president” who has inherited “quite a budget crunch from President Trump,” and Bart visits her at the White House. Lisa’s aide, Secretary Milhouse Van Houten, explains that Trump has left the country “broke.”
Dan Greaney, who wrote the episode, revealed in an interview in March that the episode was meant to be a “warning to America.”
“And that just seemed like the logical last stop before hitting bottom. It was pitched because it was consistent with the vision of America going insane,” Greaney said.
See for yourself below.

(Go to the 6.00 mark)

Was it all Hillary's own work?

I have not checked the figures but it looks sensible explanation to me.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The Presidential election result: H.L.Mencken saw it coming

I give up. I do not understand people. I spent the day listening in disbelief as the votes were counted.

How can this be? 

Perhaps H.L. Mencken got it right when he wrote:

“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

A US Presidential election prediction - Clinton 332 electoral college votes to Trump's 206

When it comes to predicting election results I'm still a wisdom of crowds man although with so many media pundits now following the betting markets there is growing evidence of people trying to influence things purely because they have more money than the markets can comfortably cope with. That's why when it comes to this US presidential election I'm using the Iowa Electronic Market as my guide to what the true wisdom is. That's because the IEM, run by the College of Business at the University of Iowa, has a lot of participants but with sensible limits on how much any participant can invest.
As I am writing this at 10pm Canberra time the Iowa consensus is that Clinton will end up with 53.7 per cent of the two party (Democrat plus Republican) vote to Trump's 46.3 per cent. That predicts that Clinton will do 1.7 points better than Obama did in 2012 and have a comfortable win.
Comfortable but not enough to do better than Obama when it comes to the number of electoral college votes. On the IEM prediction of the national vote, if it turns out overall to be uniform, the electoral college result would be identical to 2012 - Clinton 232 to Trump on 206.
I'll go with the pluses in some states being cancelled out by the minuses in others so 332 to 206 is my fearless prediction.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

US election note: Going a brighter shade of orange

We May Have Unlocked the Mystery of Trump's Orange Skin | Mother Jones:

Why is Donald Trump so orange? This has been one of the mysteries of the 2016 presidential campaign. The internet is full of speculation, but the consensus is that Trump is an aficionado of bad spray tans or the tanning booth. (The white goggle lines are a dead giveaway.) He hasn't always been this shade. Fifteen years ago, Trump's pallor was almost normal. But something changed about 10 years ago and the internet hasn't fully explained why. There might be a strong clue: Trump's longtime friendship with the former CEO of a tanning company.
'via Blog this'

Win free wine in the Wine Australia censorship contest

The federal government body Wine Australia has decreed that the website cannot use certain words when trying to give consumers an honest opinion of a wine's merit. Thus thick black lines have started appearing on the small Barossa winery's tasting descriptions.

Harem 'Fatima' Barossa Grenache Mataro 2012

Ben got a lot of pleasure from taking the initial building blocks and assembling them on the tasting bench to make the final 'Fatima' blend. The 'Layla' style of Grenache appeals to me and I am thrilled with the result, whereas the 'Fatima' is a deep rich,                              style which will last.

Grenache no doubt dates back to the 1830s and was much liked in the days of making fortified wines as it gives heavy crops with high sugar. Smart wine makers have been playing with the rich heritage of old vines left over from this time and at last the winemaking artistry has clicked with the vines awaiting discovery. The model is the famous wines of the                                                                           , and those now made in McLaren Vale and the Barossa, equal or surpass these wines. 
This censorship madness sees Wine Australia threatening a two year jail term for the South Australian winemaker/retailer if he continues to use words on his website like those blacked out in the examples above. The offending words are not misleading about where the wine comes from or mentioned on a wine's label. The Wine Australia bureaucrats argue that the very mention of specified words on a website or in a printed description of a wine is illegal under legislation to ratify an agreement between Australia and the European Union.

So what are the words behind the blacked out sections? The Owl has five $50 vouchers you can use at to give away for answers in his Wine Australia Censorship Contest.

Email your entries to The Owl will reward entries based on accuracy, wit and wisdom.

Please report Peta Credlin sightings

In the Sunday Telegraph column of Peta Credlin this morning were these words of wisdom:
When people say to me “there’s no way Trump can happen here”, I tell them they need to go for a drive outside their leafy suburb, find a pub, sit down in the front bar and just listen.
The Owl is keen to get evidence that the columnist practices what she preaches. Please send photos of Ms Credlin on a bar stool.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Wine Australia wants to censor small Barossa winery from giving consumers an honest opinion

Wine Australia is threatening to have a South Australian winemaker/retailer sent to jail for two years if he continues to use words like these on his website:
'This Tasmanian sparkling wine represents far better value than most champagnes.'
The offending word is champagne even though it is not mentioned on the label. The wine bureaucrats argue that the very mention of the word on a website or in a printed description of a wine is illegal under legislation to ratify an agreement between Australia and the European Union.

By David Farmer

All wineries keep records which allows a check that wineries are doing the right thing and one role of Wine Australia is be the inspector or auditor.
It is unexpected that they also have another role which is to control the use of particular terms and phrases which are grouped under a banner called geographical indicators often shortened to GIs.
The Wine Australia email specifically mentions; Rioja, Champagne, Cote du Rhone (including Rhone), and Cote Rotie, terms I have used in my selling descriptions.
It goes on to mention that usage is also restricted for Australian regions.
For 35 years I have been aware that the French are very protective of the use of wine terms to which they feel they have ownership. This first flared up in the late 1970s when local wineries labelled light red styles as Beaujolais.
At the time the business Farmer Bros. was a big importer of French Beaujolais and of course sold the local 'Beaujolais' wines as well. I watched the buying habits of customers with great interest.
I can report customers never had a doubt as to which Beaujolais was French and which Australian. This observation has edged me closer to the school of marketing which says; all publicity is good publicity.
Another example is that in recent years the French have been aggressive in protecting use of the word Champagne.
As the exports of Australian wines began to grow part of the agreement to gain entry to the European Union was to phase out the usage of common European wine terms on Australian labels. In other words the European are wanting to protect what it believes is its intellectual property.
At some time later this trade legislation has been strengthened to restrict not only the use on labels but how these terms can be used in the media.
The Australian Grape and Wine Authority or AGWA which operates under the name Wine Australia, came into being on Tuesday, July 1, 2014 following the merger of Wine Australia Corporation and the Grape and Wine Research Development Corporation.
My suspicion is that at this time a blanket ban was placed into the legislation controlling the use in advertising, as distinct from wine writing, of the large number of agreed geographical terms or GIs.
Over the next few weeks we took advice from a number of sources and replied as follows.
Wine Australia replied on 16th September.
We took the approach of letting them tell us explicitly what the problem was and it came in this form.
This email interested brother Richard and he sent the following thought to a colleague on the 27th August:
The draconian nature of trade agreements between Australia and other countries is well illustrated by recent actions of the federal government body Wine Australia.
Wine Australia is threatening to have a South Australian winemaker/retailer sent to jail for two years if he continues to use words like these on his website:
'This Tasmanian sparkling wine represents far better value than most champagnes.'
The offending word is champagne even though it is not mentioned on the label. The wine bureaucrats argue that the very mention of the word on a website or in a printed description of a wine is illegal under legislation to ratify an agreement between Australia and the European Union..

Censored by Wine Australia - Surprise Email from Wine Australia Creates Concerns

Wine Australia is threatening to have a South Australian winemaker/retailer sent to jail for two years if he continues to use words like these on his website:
'This Tasmanian sparkling wine represents far better value than most champagnes.'
The offending word is champagne even though it is not mentioned on the label. The wine bureaucrats argue that the very mention of the word on a website or in a printed description of a wine is illegal under legislation to ratify an agreement between Australia and the European Union.

By David Farmer

If I have learnt one thing after 41 years of selling wine it is that wine is easy to make but very hard to sell.
For over four decades I have gone about my business of copy writing which sets out reasons why the wine being described has appeal.
Since I have a vast fund of knowledge it is useful for customers to know what I think about each wine.
On the 17th August, 2016 an email from the legislative body Wine Australia and tagged 'high importance' was sent to myself and my wine making colleague Benjamin Parker.
This email is not about the wine in the bottle matching what is on the label or ‘label integrity’ but something else which says there are rules about what you can say in advertisements about a wine.
Not whether comments are misleading but that certain terms may not be used in advertising copy and that some of the place names I use are controlled or not allowed.
I sent a copy to my brother, Richard Farmer, a man with vast experience in so many areas.


Is this to be taken seriously? eg at times I may mention in copy references to French DOC regions and Australian regions.

He replied thus:

I will have a look at the legislation that establishes Wine Australia and get back to you. In the meantime have a look at other websites - eg First Choice and Dan Murphy - and see if they are doing the same thing as you when it comes to comparisons and locations.
And a day later added.

I will have a look at some of Halliday's writing. This is a real free speech issue. We can have some fun about bureaucrats going mad.

It seems that after selling wine for 41 years, Wine Australia is telling me to change how I sell wine, when I thought their job would be to help in selling more.
This email from the Wine Australia is quite disturbing since it implies censorship and believing this will interest Glug customers I will keep you posted.

Did George Negus feed Cathy Freeman his Band Aid?

The case of the vanished Band Aid has puzzled the army of viewers of last night's Silvia's Italian Kitchen on ABC television.

George Negus, the celebrity television political journalist and would-be-Italian, had a starring role preparing the salad.

That's the deft hand of George (above) wielding the knife in a scene from the show. Note the flesh coloured Band Aid on his finger.

And that's George shortly afterwards cutting into the cauliflower. The Band Aid is not to be seen.

Where did it end up? On the plate of fellow guest Cathy Freeman? Or down the throat of Emma Alberici?

Clearly Negus the chef was not made aware of the sensible safety advice elsewhere on the ABC website.

Food safety is a big issue whether you’re in a commercial kitchen or whipping up a meal at home. Temperature control, cross contamination, reheating are all concerns in a modern cooking environment.
What do bandaids have to do with Food Safety … and why Simon is wearing bright blue ones in this week’s program?
The answer is quite simple. A brightly coloured (and waterproof) bandaid is preferable to a transparent one in a kitchen environment in case it works loose and comes off. No-one wants to find and unwanted extra in their dinner!

Thursday, 3 November 2016

The Election Polls That Matter - Little data not big

The Election Polls That Matter - The New York Times:
"The best campaigns don’t bother with national polls — I’ve come to hate public polling, period. In the 2012 race we focused on a “golden report,” which included 62,000 simulations to determine Mr. Obama’s chances of winning battleground states. It included state tracking polls and nightly calls from volunteers, but no national tracking polls

... “Big data” is a buzzword, but that concept is outdated. Campaigns have entered the era of “little data.” Huge data sets are often less helpful in understanding an electorate than one or two key data points — for instance, what issue is most important to a particular undecided voter.

With “little data,” campaigns can have direct, highly personalized conversations with voters both on- and offline, like an ad on a voter’s Facebook page addressing an issue the voter is passionate about. In 2016, we see that online political engagement rates (especially for young voters) are at a historic high.

This is why campaigns no longer pay much attention to public polls, which often use conversations with just a few hundred people to make predictions about the entire electorate. Getting a truly representative sample has become ever more difficult because of the growing percentage of households with only cellphones, the number of voters who prefer to speak a language other than English, and the difficulty in contacting younger voters, who generally don’t have landlines.

Smart campaigns can use “little data” to solve these problems. They look at public data sets that list each registered voter’s name, address, party registration and election participation history. By analyzing these voter files, they develop an accurate idea of the makeup of the electorate.."

'via Blog this'

The bureaucratic hypocrisy of Wine Australia - do as we say not as our directors do

Wine Australia is a federal government body supposedly under the control of the Minister for Agriculture and his Assistant Minister.  It is charged with regulating and promoting the local wine industry. The current aims of Wine Australia seem to be kowtowing to the French and supporting local producers who claim to be the fine wine people. The result of both aims is to prevent consumers being given an accurate assessment of the real merits of both imported and local wines.
Wine Australia is trying to prevent anyone who sells wine from giving advice about wines from one region compared with wines from another.
It is currently threatening my brother David Farmer, who runs a small winery in the Barossa, with a two year jail term because he dared to suggest, for example, that a Wrattonbury cabernet might be as good as one from Coonawrra. You will find the details on David's website HERE.
Meanwhile, a member of the Wine Australia board, is committing exactly the same so-called offence.
Mr Edouard Peter, the Wine Australia board director who is the majority shareholder of Dural Wines that controls Kaesler Wines with headquarters, like glug, in the Barossa, has his company defying the same laws that sees the directors of glug are being threatened with the full force of the law and facing a two year jail terrm.

Tut, tut. The reference to Graves is in defiance of Wine Australia's "geographical indications" law.
Go to jail. Go directly to jail and pay a tens of thousands in fines while you do so.
And cop another sentence for daring to mention Bordeaux in this description.
And while Wine Australia is on its Big Brother vendetta it better begin the prosecution of that other board member Brian Croser. Brian, poor fellow, has dared to use a prohibited word in promoting one of his products.
The mists of Mersault indeed. The slammer for you Brian.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Labor should let a Coalition government govern

And now for something completely different. That's what the re-installed Bill Shorten should embrace. Instead of following the traditional path of obstructionism, let the Coalition government govern.
Accept that the Liberal-National Coalition has won an election and let their major policies pass through the parliament. Forget about whether Labor can marshal a majority in the Senate to obstruct and delay. Make the minor parties and independents an irrelevance. Just state your objection as forcibly as possible to government plans and promise to undo them when you win the next election. And in the mean time let them become law.
Leave it to the people decide the next time they go to the polls whether the conservative way was the right way. Don't let the Turnbull team hide behind a defence that it was a Labor opposition and/or a hostile Senate that prevented it from solving the nation's problems.
A daring strategy but I think a winning one.

My tweet of the week

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

The rise and rise of the non-major parties

The steady decline of the major political parties in Australia shows no signs of ending.
This graph is from the ABC's website this morning:
Click to enlarge
Liberals should be thinking about adding someone else to their Coalition alongside the National Party.
And the Labor lot should stop complaining about the Greens. With their vote in the mid-30s Labor shoulf accept that it will not be winning anything in its own right.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Predicting the election result: They'll all sink or swim together

No one among the media pundits is prepared to be different. From what I have seen, every last one of them reckons Malcolm Turnbull is going to be a winner. There's safety in being one of the herd. If Turnbull doesn't stay Prime Minister then at least the experts will be able to say "we all went down together".
But let me dare to be different. I don't have one of those shrinking jobs in journalism to worry about. Being wrong has no potential monetary loss for me. I can dare to venture that the circumstances have never been better for what I call the underdog effect in electoral politics.
When there's an overwhelming consensus among opinion leaders and the public that there is a near certain winner, those members of the public are prone to act in a perverse fashion - especially when they don't particularly like the short priced favourite. It's as if they want to curb potential future arrogance by not allowing the victory to be too large and wake up the next morning surprised that so many acted in the same fashion. Think Campbell Newman in Queensland and Jeff Kennett in Victoria you'll get the picture.
Hence a Bill Shorten win will not surprise me and I have adjusted my gambling on the result accordingly. Should the pundits and the betting market prove correct I will get out all square and if the outsider gets up there will be a nice little win.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

The power of a ratings downgrade - the UK example

A peripheral issue in the Australian election campaign is the danger of a downgrade by those dreaded ratings agencies. Listen to some of the political talk and you would think that the danger of the Australian government losing its triple A status would send us to debtors prison because of higher interest rate.
I was intrigued this morning to look at what has happened in the UK since the post-Brexit downgrading of its credit rating. From London's Financial Times:

A decline in rates across the range!
From memory the same pattern of a government being able to borrow at a cheaper rate following a downgrading occurred in the United States.
The power of the ratings agencies indeed.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Opinion poll of the week

The NT News does it again.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

The political speculator's diary: Punters losing faith in the pollsters - the Brexit...

Believe the opinion polls and the punters would have the choices in the UK's Brexit referendum at even money take your pick. For several weeks now there has been nothing between stay and leave in the measurements of public opinion. If anything, leave is ever so slightly in front. But over at the Betfair betting exchange the stay option is the clear favourite.

The punters, probably influenced by the media pundits, clearly have no faith in the predictive power of polls. The memory of how wrong the polls were before the last British general election must be strong.
From my far away distance it just seems strange to me.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

The political speculator's diary: Strange gap between polls and betting markets

The political speculator's diary: Strange gap between polls and betting markets: An interesting tweet this morning showing how the betting odds on the federal election have been fluctuating. Probability of a Coalit...

Monday, 13 June 2016

Xenophon threatens massive retaliation against any Lib-Lab deal against him

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Labor is heaving a sigh of relief after Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement that the Liberals will put the Greens below Labor everywhere.

In particular, the embattled Labor MP for Batman, David Feeney, under serious threat from the Greens, has been given extra life support, although it remains to be seen on July 2 whether he will survive politically. The Liberals' action gives the ALP an incentive to put extra resources into the area.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale said he was still “very confident” about Batman, arguing voters would be “outraged” at the Liberal-Labor deal.

Victorian Liberal president Michael Kroger had been keeping the ALP on tenterhooks with the prospect the Greens might get Liberal preferences in inner-city seats in Melbourne.

But directing preferences to the Greens would have sat badly with Turnbull’s oft-repeated message that a vote for the Greens or other minor players is a vote for instability. It would also have gone down very poorly with many in the conservative wing of the Liberal Party.

Turnbull said he had made a call against preferencing the Greens in the national interest. “The big risk at this election is that we would end up with an unstable, chaotic, minority Labor-Greens-independent government as we had before.”

Labor has been worried about the Green threat in several seats – Batman and Wills in Melbourne and to a lesser extent, the NSW seats of Grayndler, held by frontbencher Anthony Albanese and Sydney, occupied by deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek.

ABC electoral analyst Antony Green told The Conversation: “In those inner-city seats the Liberal preferences will probably flow about 70% to Labor. So the Greens would have to outpoll Labor significantly on primaries to have a chance to win.” But Green did add that “if Batman is as bad [for Labor] as people say” the Greens could still have a prospect there.

The decision about preferences brought a furious response from Di Natale. He accused Bill Shorten of telling “appalling lies” in Labor’s earlier claims of a Liberal-Green deal on preferences. Di Natale said he had called Shorten and left a message telling him to take down billboards and any other material suggesting such a deal. Shorten should also apologise, he said.

Sunday’s preference announcement from Turnbull comes ahead of the opening of pre-poll voting on Tuesday.

Labor will preference the Liberals ahead of the Nationals in the three-cornered contests in Murray in Victoria and the Western Australian seats of O'Connor and Durack. Green said Labor’s past record in controlling preferences in seats of this type was poor, largely because it didn’t campaign much in them.

Turnbull declined to be drawn on the Liberals' position in relation to the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT). The NXT is polling 22% in South Australia, according to an analysis published by The Australian on May 30 of Newspoll figures from the previous two months.

In a pre-emptive attack, Xenophon told Sky he feared the major parties were about to “get into bed with each other” to exclude his party, despite it being in the political centre.

The NXT needs Labor preferences to have a chance of taking the Adelaide Hills Liberal seat of Mayo from former minister Jamie Briggs.

A ReachTEL poll in the SA Liberal seat of Grey taken last Thursday produced a surprising result, suggesting a win for the NXT candidate.

Xenophon said that NXT intended to run open tickets but if the Liberals and Labor preferenced against him “one option might be [for NXT] to preference against incumbents” of whichever party. That could cause huge problems in marginal seats on both sides where NXT came third on first preferences.

Labor has had talks with Xenophon. But it is frustrated that while he seeks preferences he also wants to run an open ticket himself. Sources said the ALP at this stage had done no preference deal with either the Liberals or Xenophon in SA and is having an open ticket for the start of pre-polling.

Social Services Minister Christian Porter told Sky on Sunday night that those who voted for a Xenophon candidate for the House of Representatives would be “wasting” their vote.

The Greens and the NXT had in common that they could not get productive outcomes for their electorates, Porter said. Neither the national interest nor local electorate interests would be served by having Green or Xenophon members in the lower house, he said.

Green says that if Xenophon carried out his threat against sitting members “he would cause havoc”, making South Australia even harder to read than now.

As if he isn’t causing plenty of havoc already.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

What a difference a boundary change makes

That it pays to live in the right electoral parish was made delightfully clear today to the commuters to Canberra from across the ACT border in Murrumbateman and Yass. After years of pleas for federal help in upgrading the Barton Highway being ignored by politicians, the pump is now well and truly primed. Both Labor and the Coalition are promising the millions necessary.
And the reason for the change of heart is easy to understand. For years the Barton Highway led to the electorate of Hume which the Coalition could not lose and Labor not win. Now the Commonwealth Electoral Commission has changed the boundaries. The oad now leads to Eden Monaro - one of the nation's traditional marginal seats.
Democracy is a wonderful thing if you live in the right place.

And yet another Green's promise they will never be in a position to deliver

Promises are easy to make when you will never be in a government that has to keep them

When it comes to promises it must be great to be Green

A Green version of all care but no responsibility - promises you will never be in a position to fulfil

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Election policies - much ado about nothing

I'm not sure which is more annoying: attempts to analyse opinion polls showing markedly different results or pontifications about the future impact of policies that will never pass through the Senate. The Saturday papers are full of both of them.
I'll settle once again for quoting Paul Kelly. He gives this common sense advice in The Australian this morning:
As the campaign advances, it becomes doubtful whether Turnbull, if he wins, will be able to legislate in the form he has proposed the corporate tax cuts that are the centrepiece of his election and the heart of his pitch for growth and jobs.
Labor, unsurprisingly, refuses to concede any policy mandate for a Turnbull victory. Nor do the Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team or most of the independents. The mandate theory, once applying to an elected government’s program, has been corrupted to mean every party and independent has a mandate against the government.
This year’s policy contest may prove a charade, with politicians and media debating each other into exhaustion for an agenda that is never fully realised.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Scomo goes off. Lock up your super

The Treasurer decales war.

Thoughts from a real insider - the Mark Textor column

It's unusual to find a real insider giving some thoughts on an election campaign but this year we have one. Mark Textor, a researcher into the views of the public for the Liberal Party, is providing a weekly column for the Business Insider website and his latest gives some interesting views on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Now I would not expect pollster Textor to provide us with anything critical of his Liberal paymaster's leader but intelligent readers who make allowance for that will surely learn something.
The Turnbull Textor writes of knowing for 30 years does not seem much different than the one I knew and worked with under Kerry Packer the same number of years ago. I agree with the conclusion of today's Business Insider  piece:
Ultimately Malcolm’s and the Government’s success will be determined on how effectively he and they embrace his long established values and focuses his considerable talent on making our economy stronger and growing jobs with tax and other incentives, not by fulfilling the projected fantasies of the chattering elites on left or right. But he requires at least three clear years to do that and in financial terms if he is loaned a vote his past successes suggest that he will pay this loan back to people with considerable interest.
Read the whole proper insider's thing and make up your own mind.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Wasted words of analysis on the campaign trail

A couple of reminders this morning that most of the learned analysis of competing policy ideas during this election campaign is a waste of words.
First up this from Paul Kelly writing in The Australian:

And as if on cue Senator Nick Xenophon, asked on the ABC's AM if he would support the Coalition's proposed tax cuts, expressed his reservations. Government spending to preserve manufacturing jobs, he argued, would be a better use of scarce resources.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Australian election debate: I missed the worm

The worm probably would not have moved much from its neutral 50:50 position but I missed it nevertheless. Tonight's debate between leaders Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten was a rather bland and predictable affair. A little audience measurement in the style of the Nine Network's worm as used in previous years might have brightened things up a little.
For my part I learned little except that the incumbent and the challenger are respectful opponents. No shades of Trumpism in our campaign.
And as for a winner I suppose Bill Shorten gets the nod for no other reason than Opposition Leaders benefit more from mistake-free exposure on television than Prime Ministers.
That was the reason I was so adamantly against any leaders debate back in 1987 when I had a say in such matters. Perhaps after tonight's boredom there will be others who, for a different reason, will agree with me.

Friday, 27 May 2016

The media's poll hysteria just keeps getting worse

So what did the shock poll result actually show? Labor in front 52 to 48.
And what's the normal error in polls this far from election day. Around 3.5 to 4 percentage points. (See When Should You Start Worrying About the Polls?)
So the exclusive result is Labor probably somewhere between 48 and 56.
The betting market, meanwhile, has the Coalition at $1.33 and Labor at $3.70

When Should You Start Worrying About the Polls?

When Should You Start Worrying About the Polls? - The New York Times:

Click to enlarge

"The chart above shows how much the polling average at each point of the election cycle has differed from the final result. Each gray line represents a presidential election since 1980. The bright green line represents the average difference. At this point – 167 days before the election – a simple polling average has differed from the final result by about nine percentage points. We expect this average to become more meaningful by the week, until the national party conventions temporarily make it less so, as shown in the bump about 100 days before the election. The average difference begins to flatten about two months before the election. The day before the voting, an unadjusted polling average has been about 3.5 points off the final result."

'via Blog this'

The same phenomenon can be observed in Australia. The further away from election day an opinion poll is taken the less reliable a guide to what the actual result will be.
On this blog I only have historical data for Newspoll but by my rough calculation the 50:50 result of the recently published polls will end up some 3.5 to 4 percentage points wrong when the real poll takes place.
Only with a week or so to go will I be taking much notice of what the opinion pollsters excite the media with.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

A proper perspective on those election opinion polls

Data obtained from Emeritus Professor Murray Goot of Macquarie University, show that in the UK, from the dissolution of parliament to election day there was a remarkable 3.5 polls per day published and force fed to voters. The same analysis shows that in Australia in 2013, despite having a significantly smaller voting population, there was an equally remarkable 3.2 polls per day from the proroguing of Parliament to election day.
Whilst this number includes some state polling and a flurry of marginal seat polls published towards the end of the campaign, the frequency is still remarkable.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Michelle Grattan's campaign diary on a Liberal miscalculation

The Liberals may have miscalculated Turnbull's electoral appeal

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Finally, Clive Palmer has formally put a full stop to his personal political career, announcing on Monday he won’t be running for the Senate.

Palmer United Party (PUP) will still field Senate candidates, including its sole senator, Dio Wang. But if he or any other PUP candidate fluked a Senate seat, it would surely be unlikely Palmer would have influence with them.

The bizarre Palmer experiment appears to be well and truly over. The former member for Fairfax spent a fortune to win a slice of national political power, and then spectacularly lost that power. He won’t be missed. The Palmer story has morphed into one about the financial havoc he has wrought.

But the PUP vote, especially in the vital state of Queensland where in 2013 the new party polled some 11% of the House of Representatives vote and nearly 10% in the Senate (winning a Senate seat), will be keenly sought. ABC electoral analyst Antony Green says in 2013 PUP garnered votes from Labor and from the Greens in Queensland but “there is not research on who the Palmer voters were” and on July 2 this vote “will be up for grabs”.

Where the vote will go now PUP is discredited is one of many uncertainties at the start of the campaign’s third week.

Saturday’s Fairfax Ipsos poll (51-49% in the Coalition’s favour) and Monday’s Newspoll (49-51% against the Coalition) show a neck-and-neck race in the broad polls. When they toppled Tony Abbott in September Liberal MPs probably expected they would be a good deal better placed now than represented by these figures.

A couple of things may be going on here.

Government strategists suggest the national polls mask a rather different back story. The Coalition is doing better in the marginal seats, they say, where its economic message is getting across well. It’s the marginals in which elections are won and lost and what’s happening there is of prime concern to the parties.

The Liberals may be “spinning” or telling the truth – it is hard to know. Public polling done in marginals is usually very hit and miss when tested against the later outcomes.

But worrying for the Coalition, based on Malcolm Turnbull’s tumbling personal ratings in recent months, is that the Liberals may have miscalculated what would be Turnbull’s electoral appeal when they installed him in September.

It wouldn’t be the first time that a party over-estimated what a leadership change would bring in terms of votes. Polling analyst John Stirton says “leaders tend to be more popular in exile than in office”, citing the Andrew Peacock/John Howard opposition experience through the 1980s.

In 1989 the Liberals dumped Howard for Peacock, looking for an electoral transformation. Peacock performed less well than they hoped and could not match Bob Hawke at the 1990 election.

In 2010 Labor had a panic attack, fuelled by frustration with Kevin Rudd’s style, and dumped him for Julia Gillard who, in part because she was undermined by Rudd, ended up in minority government after that year’s election.

And before that, in 2008, the Liberals had been persuaded by Turnbull’s high popularity ratings, so much better than those of then-opposition leader Brendan Nelson, only to see those figures fall after he became leader.

A number of factors can be identified as to why Turnbull currently is not fulfilling what his backers saw as his promise.

He’s had to, or has chosen to, compromise on the policy positions with which he was identified. He has lived with Tony Abbott’s “direct action” on climate and same-sex marriage plebiscite.

It has confused some voters who want to get a fix on him and what he stands for, and alienated others who were convinced they had that fix and now find he’s not just slid away but embraced some positions – such as a hard line on people on Nauru and Manus Island – that they thought he would eschew.

“I want the old Malcolm back,” lamented a questioner on the ABC’s Q&A on Monday night.

This is part of a wider phenomenon of disappointed expectations. People anticipated Turnbull would deliver a lot more. Some of the expectations arose just because he was Turnbull, with all the hype that brought.

In other cases, for example on tax reform, he raised the prospect of big things and then stepped back. A man whom some saw as rather extraordinary – in a good way – came to look dishearteningly ordinary.

Turnbull’s style, so attractive to aficionados, may also be less suited to a campaign in these times than the more down-to-earth approach of Bill Shorten. Turnbull often talks in grandiose terms; Shorten, with his mantras about education and health, may be closer to people’s immediate concerns. Shorten appears at home on the campaign trial; Turnbull, less so. The suburban shopping centres don’t look like Turnbull’s natural habitat.

And a campaign helps elevate an opposition leader, especially if he is performing competently.

So as Turnbull’s net approval has fallen and Shorten’s has risen, they have come to the point where they have a shared distinction – they are equally disapproved of. Each has a net approval rating of minus 12.

Even though he may look the less comfortable campaigner, Turnbull retains a substantial advantage in this long race. He is defending a mountain of seats while Shorten has the considerably harder task of wresting them away. In addition he has a large, albeit eroding, margin as preferred prime minister.

And for Liberals who might be looking rather bleakly at those national polls, they can always contemplate where they’d be if it were Abbott confronting Shorten.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Peter Brent - a twitterer with the courage of his ...

The political speculator's diary: Peter Brent - a twitterer with the courage of his ...: I don't know why Peter Brent's mumble blog no longer appears on the website of The Australian . Perhaps his commentary was too interesting

Money keeps coming for the Coalition to win Australian election

The political speculator's diary: Money keeps coming for the Coalition to win Austra...: I look at the signals of a weakening economy show by ABS figures on low wages growth and the decline in the number of hours being worked. I ...

Thursday, 19 May 2016

The political speculator's diary: An alternative view to mine on the UK leaving the ...

The political speculator's diary: An alternative view to mine on the UK leaving the ...: For a different perspective to mine on the prospective outcome of the UK referendum on whether to leave or stay in the European Union:  Why...

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Education for political journalists: spend time sitting behind the one way mirror

Reading, watching and listening to journalists today as they reacted to Peter Dutton's comments on the literacy and numeracy of prospective asylum seekers reminded me of one of the most dispiriting periods of my time in politics. I was allowed to sit behind the one way mirror as a skilled researcher chatted with several groups of swinging voters about what they thought of the issues of the day and what influenced their views.
For 30 years I had practised my journalistic craft and imagined that my words of wisdom influenced what my readers thought. How ego pricking it was to hear ordinary and often intelligent Australians explain how they turned the page when they saw a headline about electoral politics. Words of wisdom they might have been but influence they had not.
And it was not just newspapers that the voters generally ignored. Talking heads on television fared no better. The words of last night's news were not remembered with just an occasional memory of the subject matter suggested by the background pictures. And as for radio? When it comes to influence, politicians should forget it. The minority that were not normally listening to music chose the talking host who best suited an existing prejudice.
My verdict, based on this experience, is that Immigration and Border Force Minister Dutton's comments will have absolutely no influence on what happens on 2 July. Voting intentions are not influenced by the daily reactions of journalists desperate for something different to write or say. They are the result of an osmosis - a subtle, gradual absorption of views that, unfortunately for political pundits, are difficult to determine.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

A Green Ignored. Why is it so?

I went today to a National Press Club lunch, a rare thing for me, and heard one of the better political speeches of my experience. Greens Leader Senator Richard Di Natale came close to convincing me that I should abandon the habits of a life time and vote for someone other than Labor.
Be that as it may. A matter of little consequence in the scheme of things. But what did surprise me was the absence of coverage of Senator di Natale's address on tonight's television news.
I despair that a thoughtful and considered addressing of the policies Australia needs was so totally ignored by the television media

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The comic cuts of The Canberra Times

Life must be frustrating for the intelligent person who writes editorials for The Canberra Times. In this new media world without sub-editors the practice is to cut from the bottom when the words are too many for the available space. The result is to leave newspaper readers hanging without the editorial's relevant conclusion.
The example from today's edition compared to the full version as published on the paper's website:

As printed
The website version with the missing conclusion

A classic example of what happens when you get rid of sub editors who actually read things before cutting them to fit the available space. The Canberra Times editorial this morning just left off the conclusion thus making the whole thing irrelevant.

Here's another example I posted on my Facebook site earlier this month: