State of origin or state of disrepair?

The Australian has further analysis of Newspoll today which apparently shows that Labor support has slumped enough in Queensland and New South Wales to cost them the election. Dennis Shanahan puts this down to a "state of origin" effect with the sacking of Kevin Rudd being presumed to affect the Queensland vote and the elevation of Tony Abbott affecting the New South Wales vote. Interesting theory, but is it true?

Well, it's almost impossible to know, except that in our leadership poll I couldn't find any more mentions of sacking Kevin Rudd from Queensland than anywhere else, suggesting no home town effect. And when you look back at the last federal election you see that Queensland was the second worst state for Labor in terms of two-party preferred votes won, although it has the largest swing to Labor. But Queensland always tends to swing by large amounts when the government changes, and swung by an even larger margin to the Liberals in 1996.

It is not possible to check the home town effect for NSW the same way, because John Howard was a New South Welshman, and had been PM for quite some time, and when he won he won against Paul Keating, also from New South Wales. So there are no fingerprints of state identity on anything.

Here's an alternative theory.

Could it be that the differences between federal voting intentions in the states has to do with Labor state administrations and their relatively ramshackleness? West Australia replaced its Labor government about two years ago, while New South Wales and Queensland can't wait to do the same. South Australia just voted their's back in, and while John Brumby isn't the most popular he has been with Victorians he would probably still win an election.

It could also be the same reason that there doesn't appear to have been much of a Rudd effect in the first place. Labor has been unpopular in Queensland for a long while and has only been held in place by incompetent state oppositions. Last election could have been affected by that. As it could by long memories of Rudd's inglorious role as head of the Premier's Department.

And every time Julia Gillard talks about tactics and rule books she plays into this paradigm. It's the me first, mechanical, manipulative, headline-first approach of Labor in Queensland and New South Wales that sees them in so much strife.

Tony Abbott doesn't look like too much of a risk when you see what Anna Bligh or Kristina Kenneally can do (well, that's a little unfair to Kristina who carries the weight of all previous premiers since Carr).

I'm beginning to think my forecast of a Gillard win was premature.

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