NEWS AND VIEWS
Friday, 2 February 2007
The Right Conditions for the Under Dog Effect
Damage control is one thing the NSW Labor Government is getting plenty of practice at. This morning it was the turn of Water Utilities Minister David Campbell to deal with a Daily Telegraph story predicting two years of total chaos for residents in the path of pipelines to take water from a planned desalination plant to the rest of Sydney .
The Tele's story claimed that the plans to demolish houses and close roads was being kept secret ahead of the March election but Minister Campbell was given the brief to say that the concept plan was not going to be followed. Water from the desalination plant at Kurnell in southern Sydney to the inner western suburbs to link up with the city's main water tunnels would be following a different route. "No home will be acquired, no home will be abolished to construct this new piece of pipeline, this new piece of infrastructure, if indeed it is built," Mr Campbell said.
Given the decision to postpone road works to feed motorists in to the new Lane Cove toll road tunnel until after polling day, people might well be sceptical about Premier Morris Iemma's assertion that there is no "secret agenda." Credibility is no longer his government's strong suit although the polls still show him with a handy lead.
To an outside observer like me this NSW election is shaping up to be a perfect one for the underdog effect to operate in. People might not actually want a Liberal Government because they do not think much of them either, but they surely would like to teach Labor a lesson.
As Jeff Kennett discovered when he went to an election with a similar lead in the polls despite considerable dissatisfaction with his arrogant style, punishment can easily go too far.
Michelle Gets Passionate
During the 30 plus years I have known Michelle Grattan I have not found her to be a passionate person. Thorough, measured, controlled and accurate have been the hallmarks of her journalism and partisan politics does not intrude into the thoughtful reflections of her opinion pieces. I would not have a clue as to how she has voted over the years.
Which is what makes her recent writings on the detention of David Hicks at Guantanamo Bay so remarkable. As you can see for yourself in this morning's offering in The Age the Press Gallery veteran seems almost angry. Writing of "the government's mishandling of the affair" she declares that "everything reported back from Guantanamo is also another reminder, both by implication and from what we know of the obvious faults of the US military commissions, that Hicks will get the roughest of justice when he comes to trial."
What the impact of this verdict is on readers of The Age, I know not but its impact on the way other journalists report on Hicks will be considerable. Michelle Grattan is so well respected by her peers, and her entry into advocacy for a cause so rare, that others will be influenced to follow her line.
Gerard Henderson for one is well aware of that. In his Tuesday Sydney Morning Herald column Henderson remarked how last July the "normally reserved and considered journalist" had "abandoned her taciturn writing style and declared that 'John Howard is obsessive about David Hicks' and accused the Coalition of having 'lost perspective' on the issue. Grattan also gave credence to Mori's assertion that 'if Hicks was from a nice suburb in Sydney . or if he was a little cuter" he would not have been detained. The implication was that the Howard Government is not interested in ordinary-looking blokes from South Australia .' "
Well, the signs are that on this issue Michelle will continue to abandon her taciturn style and there must be some within the Coalition who are becoming uneasy about the extent to which the David Hicks team are winning the publicity battle.
Labor's Latest Third Party Endorsement
Federal Labor Leader Kevin Rudd clearly has a soul mate in South Australian Premier Mike Rann. In announcing yesterday that Sir Rod Eddington would chair a council of business advisers for a future Labor Government, Rudd is following down the path pioneered by Rann who gave Robert Champion de Crespigny the title of chair of his state's Economic Development Board and started inviting him to Cabinet meetings.
Speaking yesterday to the Business Council of Australia, the would-be Prime Minister suggested that the former boss of Ansett and British Airways and current News Corp director Eddington would have similar privileged access to decision making. "From time to time, I plan to bring members of the Council of Business Advisers into the cabinet room," Rudd said. He described the role of the Council as providing "a sounding board to improve the quality of policy making."
What he could have added is that Labor hopes giving a well respected businessman a fancy title will help make him look fit to govern. Third party endorsements are keenly sought after in election years.
Not that there is anything new about that. Back in 1983 Bob Hawke actually went so far as to have then business hot-shot Alan Jackson, then head of rubber products company BTR Hopkins, appear in a pre-recorded spot in his Peter Faiman produced policy speech.
Labor Improves on the Election Indicator
The Owl's federal election indicator, based on prices from the three major Australian internet bookmakers, has swung Labor's way a little over the summer holidays. With Federal Parliament to resume next week, Kevin Rudd's team is given a 46% chance of winning the election later this year. The Coalition, which back in December was rated a 61% chance, is now rated at 54%.
Recent Movements in the Election Indicator
The indicator adjusts the prices of Centrebet, Sportingbet and IASBet to take out the bookmakers' profit margin to give a percentage chance. If you want to have a bet, the best prices available this morning were $2.10 for a $1 on Labor at Sportingbet and $1.80 for the Coalition.