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Moneyball, Turnbull And Why Having Your Face Slapped Is Popular

Ok, before I talk about Moneyball, I’d like you to do a little survey. Would you prefer:

  1. To have your face slapped
  2. To have some unspecified torture performed with a red hot poker.
  3. Boonja

We’ll get back to the survey later, but before I do, I’d like to talk about “Moneyball”, which was a book about a baseball coach, Billy Beane, as well as a film. Without going into all the differences between the book and the film, the book was a lot better at emphasising the difference between Beane’s approach and the conventional wisdom of the scouts. While the scouts looked at recruits and judged them on whether the recruit had what they considered the necessary attributes such as athletic ability and good techique, Beane prefered to actually look at their record. For Beane, a short fat guy who demonstrated a good batting average in the professional leagues was a better bet than some college player who’d yet to show any real ability. And yet, the less athletic choice with the proven record was cheaper. In terms of the AFL, it’d be like deciding to take a player who’d averaged twenty possessions in the actual league, instead of the number one draft pick.

Beane used statistics and made some bold choices. Naturally he was successful. I say, naturally, because people generally don’t write books about failures. I haven’t heard too many people suggesting that a book about Fremantle’s AFL coaches would be a great read.

Anyway, applying the “Moneyball” principle to politics is a rather interesting exercise. While the Canberra Press Gallery are arguing that, of course, they had to report about the possibility that Shorten would be challenged because he’s so unpopular compared to Turnbull, the simple fact remains, his batting average is actually a lot better the Mal the Magnificent.

Let’s take a step back and look at the respective records. Turnbull takes over leadership from Tony Abbott. He gets a bounce in the polls. He goes to an election a few months later in July 2016. Shorten, it’s generally thought, runs a better campaign. Malcolm loses seats. From memory, the only seat the Liberals won off Labor was Chisholm, where popular sitting member, Anna Burke didn’t stand. Shorten, on the other hand, won several seats off the Liberals.

From there, we have the countdown to the loss of thirty Newspolls in a row. When that happens, the narrative suddenly changes. It’s not the opinion polls that matter. It’s who’s preferred leader. That’s the thing. Malcolm is so much more popular than Bill. The public haven’t warmed to Bill. Various Murdoch news outlets start to tell us that Albanese would be a shoe-in, and with Super Saturday looming, it’ll be Shorten’s fault when Labor lose Longman…

Of course, some of you may prefer Albo. That’s not the issue. I’m just commenting on the determination of the press to raise leadership speculation based on the fact that Anthony made a speech where he said something that could have been interpreted as slightly different from the alleged Shorten class warfare. And then he didn’t make it clear when he was asked if he’d promise not to challenge, because he said that he was looking forward to being a Minister in a Shorten government. Strangely, nobody seems to be asking Dutton to rule out a challenge…

Interestingly, when Labor manage to win, it’s not important, we’re told. Government’s never win by-elections, and this was never about the leadership even though Malcolm said that it was. Well, no he wasn’t lying. It was about Shorten’s leadership and if you voted for the Liberals it was a slap in the face to Shorten, but voting against them is just what you people do in by-elections. As Alexander Downer said, “Must be new arrivals.”

Speaking of slaps to the face, I’m guessing that some of you may picked option one in the survey for the simple reason that you didn’t like the sound of the red hot poker and you had never heard of “boonja”. That’s the way it is with prefered Prime Minister. A lot of people choose the incumbent because they don’t like the alternative, while others do it because they’re unfamiliar with the other option. Even when Howard was winning as prefered leader, it never meant that he was “popular”. After all, there’s a difference between being perceived as competent and being popular. I mean, I may have an accountant who’s very good at their job but that doesn’t mean I want to have dinner with them. (Sorry to all the accounants reading this, I’m sure that you’re very interesting and please feel free to invite me over just to dazzle me with your many other interests! My point is theoretical and not refering to any accountants I’ve actually met at parties, book launches or rock concerts… Come to think of it, I’ve never met any accountants)

Perhaps we need to stop talking about Malcolm’s “popularity” and just like Ben Beane, look at the actual statistics. As leader, has Turnbull actually succeeded in winning a seat from a sitting Labor MP?

Now that would be a slap in the face…


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  1. Henry Rodrigues

    Turdball doesn’t just like his face slapped, he relishes a good boot up his arse too. He’s a masochist, he gets his kicks by being kicked.

  2. blair

    The MSM has lost all credibility and will never be trusted until they start reporting facts instead of regurgitating government press releases .
    Poor fella my country

  3. helvityni

    On Q&A the host Tony had a little dig at Shorten by asking Chalmers why Bill was missing one day in Longman.

    ” Taking his young daughter to school”, was Chalmers polite response.

    I wondered if Mal would have done better by staying away from Longman altogether.

    May I add that Chalmers is an excellent choice to represent Labor on any panel….

  4. Peter F

    Leaving all the publicity to Mal on the last day before the election was a brilliant move. There was nothing the MSM could say about Shorten which could match Turnbull’s finger wagging at an aged constituent who knew some relevant information.

  5. diannaart

    Beyond appalled by the MSM coverage of bi-election – why is the ABC the only media bullied about balance? Rhetorical question.

    However, I do believe Dutton certainly received his slap in the face, after his predictions of a Labor loss – a small amount of schadenfreude for that.

    Still wishing the LNP would just disappear up its own fundamentals.

    Having been slapped in the face (no doubt some will feel a little schadenfreude at my abuse), therefore, not choosing that option, and forget about the red-hot poker – I’m not a complete idiot (only marginally idiotic), guess I’ll take my chances with boonja.

  6. Keith

    I thought Chalmers did well, and made such a comment to my wife.
    Fifield really was not able to justify Fairfax being lost.
    Turnbull shot himself in the foot by making it a competition between Bill Shorten and himself.
    Happily the Australian’s polls have been shown to be wrong.

  7. Kaye Lee

    I agree about Chalmers. He is smart. He doesn’t avoid the question. He is across the policies and the evidence. He has a refreshing authenticity about him. I sure hope he doesn’t fall into repeating the advertising line for the day, something he strayed into when he repeated the line all of Labor are using – if Malcolm abandons the tax cuts for big business he must resign as that is his signature policy. It’s a facile line purely designed to wedge the Libs and maintain a political advantage rather than achieve a desirable outcome. They disappoint me when they do that.

  8. Jaquix

    The first time I ever saw Jim Chalmers speaking I thought he was leadership material. Is never ruffled, always polite, answers the question and no nonsense. He also works tirelessly as a Senator for Qld. Murray Watt same.

  9. Alpo

    What the Liberals will realise at the coming Federal election is that their usual assumption that the majority of Australians are stupid and can be easily conned into voting against their own interests by Merdoch and the MSM, is just not valid anymore… But the Liberals are conservative at heart, they take ages to admit that they have got it wrong, and change. So expect a very long Shorten ALP Federal Government starting in 2019.

    With regard to the myth of the “stellar” leader becoming PM (or Premier), I remind everybody that the dull Howard became PM, the essentially un-electable Abbott became PM… and what about the very uncharismatic Daniel Andrews (Vic), Annastacia Palaszczuk (Qld), Gladys Berejiklian (NSW), Mark McGowan (WA), the truly sad Steven Marshall (SA), etc.. becoming Premiers?

    The truth is that the fixation with Turnbull is totally artificial…. if the Libs abandon that fixation, what have they left to cheer themselves up?

  10. Kaye Lee


    Job creation…..even though they used to say that government didn’t create jobs, businesses did. But then we have to go through some mental gymnastics to try to work out why businesses are investing and creating record numbers of jobs if our headline tax rate is uncompetitive. Could it perchance be because the concessions we provide actually make the effective rate 10.7% which is highly competitive? Could it be because our lax taxation laws allow them to shift profits and avoid tax all together? Could it be because we provide a healthy educated workforce in a stable social, judicial and political environment?

    They have no coherent plan and, to quote the Liberals’ talking points, “no reason to be punching the air”.

  11. Stephegb

    It’s now or never, if a challenge to Turnbull is coming it will be this month because next month will not give an incumbant sufficient time to recover the poll drop that will inevitably ensue.
    Mind you there is the possibility that the challenger can’t work that one out and challenge anyway!

    I said it once before and I think it will come to pass this mob will hang on to their lurks and perks untill the very last. They do have the nouse to know that there is a very serious chance that a lot of them are going to lose their access to the trough.

    They may vote in a challenger but only if they think the challenger will reduce the drubbing. Shades of the Rudd Gillard Rudd thinking in 2013, me thinks.

    S G B

  12. diannaart

    Creating jobs … not so long ago – for a 60 year old – the government did create jobs, when it was responsible for providing those essential services such as energy, communication, public transport (both roads and actual transport). It created apprenticeships as well.

    Then both the LNP and Labor thought privatising everything would be “more efficient” – more efficient for private enterprise, especially when said privatised industries are still receiving subsidies in various forms (so they don’t appear to be so obviously subsidies). Transparent? Clearly a win for business and a loss for the average punter.

    … and let’s not forget the cliché because it’s true:

    Privatise profits, socialise losses.

  13. helvityni

    Thank you Alpo for being one of the few Labor supporters who believed that Labor can win these by-elections…

    Most commentators and commenters alike did not, and after while I did not even want to watch the news…the constant Kill the Lying Bill was childish/nasty, but I thought voters would be swayed by the MSM…and the Liberals…

  14. Florence Howarth

    Consumers create jobs. No buyers, no business. #auspol

  15. Henry Rodrigues

    Helvityni and all you other good people…………..I have seen Bill Shorten up close at a townhall meeting and heard him respond to the questions thrown at him, and I have since been a staunch supporter of his style and substance. That’s why it enrages me when I see and hear the so called journalists try to misrepresent him and denigrate his motives.The so called ‘independent’ ones like Katharine Murphy are probably the worst of the lot, because they try to couch their real feeling and end up looking hypocritical and devious.

  16. New England Cocky

    Well, the Liarbral Notional Party misgovernment have two beauties at the top; Muddles Turdball, held in place because he dances to the tune of Benito Dutton, the Monster for Xenophobia, Racism and Inhumane Policies and his crony in backward 19th century thinking Tony Abbott, former boat person refugee from a unreconstructed Europe seeking a better life in sunny Australia. Then there is the former sub-leader, the sometime representative of the National$ in New England where the women supporting adulterers support National$.

    What a wonderful bunch of practising Christians???

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