Today Samuel discusses the election campaign with 2GB political correspondent James Goodwin. James, like many press gallery journalists, has spent the last five and a half weeks following the various political leaders around the country.
Samuel and James discuss the performance of the leaders, the likely outcome of the election, and how disruptive an election campaign is for a press gallery journalist.
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As this episode is an interview and therefore not scripted, the transcript follows.
Samuel Gordon-Stewart: Welcome to Editorial Echoes for November 22, 2007. I’m Samuel Gordon-Stewart and joining me from somewhere on the campaign trail is Radio 2GB, political correspondent James Goodwin. James, welcome to the program.
James Goodwin: Thank you.
Samuel Gordon-Stewart: Now you’re obviously very busy covering the campaign so I thank you for sparing a few minutes for us. Where have we found you today?
Samuel Gordon-Stewart: Well today, I’m following Mr Rudd but we haven’t done any events, any campaigning just yet but yesterday, I was … I spent the day with John Howard. As we do on the campaign, we tend to alternate between the different leaders but yesterday, I was with Mr Howard in Sydney. He’s had quite a busy day. He’s certainly ramping up the campaigning in the final days of this campaign. He was in Sydney to start off with. He went to have a coffee with some workers just on George Street in the Sydney CBD. He spoke to the business owner. He sat down and had a cappuccino and then quite oddly decided that he’d walk back to his parliamentary office … back to his government offices.
Samuel Gordon-Stewart: Really?
James Goodwin: So he walked down along Pitt Street and up George Street, down Martin Place and then back to Phillip Street, down towards Circular Quay where the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices are. So it was one of those moments where only in Australia can the Prime Minister just go for a walk and much to the amazement of many of the workers along that they were just seeing … did a double take, who was that and he was quite friendly and shaking hands with people and chatting with people as he waited to cross the road. But then it was off to quite a formal speech where he laid out his key priorities for the first 100 days if he is elected to government. The economy, keeping unemployment low was his key priorities. That’s quite a dig at Mr Rudd who didn’t mention the economy in his first five priorities. I mean he was interviewed by a newspaper a couple of days ago.
Samuel Gordon-Stewart: So I do have to ask the question. Did the Chaser team turn up for Mr Howard’s little walk?
James Goodwin: Certainly not yesterday. The Chaser has tried to turn up a number of times for the morning walks, the ones that Mr Howard does about 6:00/6:30 in the morning. Security was very tight yesterday and it’s been fairly tight throughout most of the campaign. The Chaser do try to make an appearance but they usually will have a bit of a go but they know their limits as well. If they see that security is particularly tight or if that the journalists … it’s a very serious issue for the day, they usually respect our job as well. So …
Samuel Gordon-Stewart: That’s good.
James Goodwin: … they know when to give up.
Samuel Gordon-Stewart: Okay, that’s good. So you’ve spent some time with both leaders. What’s your … what’s been your impression of the campaign so far? Do you think either leader or any of the leaders for that matter have done better than other ones in terms of presenting themself?
James Goodwin: I think early on in the campaigning, Mr Rudd was presenting himself to the public in a better light. He was just doing a lot more campaigning. It was very busy being with him. You were on a bus, you were on a plane, you were in a different motel every night and he’d do a number of events during the day. The Prime Minister in contrast would largely just do one event for the day and then an opportunity for the journalists to ask him questions, so that was certainly a difference. I think Mr Rudd did a lot of ground work early on and that may serve him quite well but the Prime Minister is certainly now decided to “up” his campaign momentum and he’s doing a number of events during the one day. So I think that’s where Mr Rudd got off to a good start by doing that, just getting out there and meeting a lot of people in a lot of different places and if we think back to it, there was another … (chuckle) that was quite a while ago now but the Prime Minister virtually spent the first week of the campaign still in Canberra. He did announce the good … a very large tax relief package. That went down well for the Prime Minister. It did take … it did perhaps sure up some votes with that sort of announcement but Mr Rudd has certainly been out there campaigning and meeting more people and that’s been what the difference has been between the two parties.
But they certainly just have different strong suits. Mr Howard has been campaigning on the economy and keeping unemployment low. The interest rate issue has been bubbling away and despite having another interest rate rise within the campaign, the first time that’s ever happened, he still maintains the line that interest rates would certainly be higher under a Labor Government and just being out on the road with people and listening to the people that they were meeting in shopping centres but certainly one of the main concerns for anyone that has a mortgage is they do fear whether they actually had a mortgage during the last government, they certainly fear having very high interest rates.
Samuel Gordon-Stewart: Right. So amongst the journalists and I suppose also amongst the public that you’ve seen, do you think there’s been a consensus as to who is going to win the election or who people will rather vote for?
James Goodwin: It’s still a little bit close to call and I know we’re only a couple of days out from the election but it is very close. I don’t quite believe that the polls are … as the opinion polls give … I believe that it’s still very tight. It’s not perhaps the 10% that we’re seeing in most of the opinion polls, that the gap will be much tighter than that, that people on election day may decide different things to what they’ve been thinking if they’ve been opinion polled. So I’m not sure, I can’t really speak on my colleagues’ behalf but there’s been a lot of discussion that possibly Mr Rudd will scrape over the line but possibly only by a couple of seats. He does have to win 16 seats. It will be difficult for him and it looks like Queensland will be one of those key states. Both of them just don’t spend a lot of time in Queensland. Mr Rudd, it’s his home state. He needs to pick up a number of seats and that will be one of the clenches for him if he’s going to win this election.
Samuel Gordon-Stewart: Okay. Just finally, obviously the campaign has seen you ferried all over the country. It’s probably been quite tiring for you. Are you looking forward to Sunday when it’s all over?
James Goodwin: Yeah but Sunday, it won’t be all over for me, particularly if Mr Rudd is elected. I’m sure he’ll be straight on the campaigning, getting into the mode of being the Prime Minister. So (chuckle) yes, I would like a day off. I’m up to day 40 something. I did get to go home one day of the campaign but that was the day of the debate, so I didn’t really spend much time there. It certainly wasn’t a day off. I am looking forward to having some time off but it’s been a lot of fun. Just not knowing, having this magical mystery tour is a lot of fun.
Samuel Gordon-Stewart: Yeah, I suppose a lot of people in the public probably don’t appreciate the amount of work that everyone in the press gallery does following all of the leaders around throughout the debate. It’s obviously a very big interruption to your life.
James Goodwin: It is. I’m sure there’s a lot of bills stacking up in my mailbox …
Samuel Gordon-Stewart: (Chuckle). I hope not.
James Goodwin: … and those sort of issues. Yeah, I hope not as well but yeah, all those sorts of factors and packing for six weeks is an interesting task and never knowing when you’re able to do a load of washing and those sorts of thing.
Samuel Gordon-Stewart: Yeah. Alright James, well thank you very much for your time. It’s been great talking to you.
James Goodwin: Thank you.
Samuel Gordon-Stewart: Thank you. James Goodwin, political correspondent for Radio 2GB, 873 on the Sydney AM dial and on the web at 2GB.com. This has been Editorial Echoes for November 22, 2007. As usual, the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org for any feedback. I’m Samuel Gordon-Stewart, enjoy your day and until tomorrow. Tada.
Transcript produced by Coralie Faulkner, Audio.net.au