NEWS AND VIEWS
Tuesday, 6 February 2007
New View of Old Process
To get in the mood for an election year it is appropriate that William Hogarth’s famous painting Canvassing for Votes has just gone on public view. To save you the trouble of visiting London’s Tate Britain gallery you will find the four paintings in Hogarth’s Election Series on the Owl website. In Canvassing for Votes, the landlady of the Royal Oak is counting her 'treat' money and images of bribery abound.
The Next Round of Leadership Speculation
We will all know to start taking opinion polls showing Labor comfortably in front seriously when the next round of Liberal leadership speculation begins. The subject has been off the agenda since Peter Costello accepted that John Howard would not be retiring but there is no one like a back bencher fearful of losing to bring it back again.
For the moment, Liberals in marginal seats continue to believe in the invincibility of their great election winner. A Newspoll like today’s putting Labor in front 56 to 44 in terms of the two party preferred vote eight months before the scheduled polling day is not enough to dent their confidence. But let there be three or four more in a row showing similar figures and the speculation about changing Howard for Costello will surely begin. Watch for it.
Just as backbench Liberals do not believe the polls, neither do their Labor counterparts. The idea that Howard is some kind of super campaigner is as ingrained in the opposition as it is in the government. While there is a greater sense of anticipation in the Labor troops as they parliamentary year begins there is no sign yet of the smugness which would help Howard begin a revival in his fortunes.
Peter Costello, meanwhile, has had a quiet summer break with few appearances in the media. He has accepted not just that Kevin Rudd will have a honeymoon period but that Malcolm Turnbull will as well. The Treasurer will wisely continue to sit back and wait to see how his short and long term opponents for the top job handle the task of removing the Labor lead.
A Temporary Greens Decline?
The surge in support for Labor as measured by the Newspoll out this morning has been at the expense not just of the Coalition but of the Greens as well. Newspoll has Labor’s primary vote at 47% - up nine percentage points on its effort at the last election. The combined vote for the Coalition Liberal and National parties given as 38% is down nine percentage points on the election figure. A fall of three percentage points for the Greens to 5% coincides in the same improvement for other minor parties and independents. If preferences are distributed in the same way as happened at the 2004 election, Labor ends up with a two party preferred vote of 56% to the Coalition’s 44%.
The Greens will be disappointed at the signs of a decline in their support (back in November Newspoll put them as high as 9%) as Labor embraces climate change as a key weakness in the government’s position and presumably attracts back some people who had deserted it on environmental grounds. They should not, however, begin to panic. Some unseasonal weather, a drought and the release of major reports on climate change have pushed the environment to the top of the agenda but John Howard was probably right yesterday when he doubted whether that combination would still be the major influence come election day.
Liberal and Labor will eventually get down to contesting support on the basis of their economic management skills leaving the Greens with the opportunity to stress that the environment is their issue. By year’s end the hypocrisy of the Labor position on uranium will be fully exposed. A party which supports an expansion of uranium mining while refusing to use the dreaded stuff at home will be in stark contrast to Greens who take the moral view that what is bad for one is bad for all. Peter Garrett will have difficulty explaining how his conscience allows him to support a party with such a warped principle.
Garrett and Kevin Rudd will both have the same troubles with forest policy as their predecessors. Greens Leader Bob Brown knows that trees always have been and always will be the key issue when it comes to gaining support. He will exploit the old growth forests of Tasmania with all his skills as Labor flounders around trying to reconcile being against chopping down trees with protecting the jobs of workers in forests and in a planned Tamar Valley pulp mill.
Not Refugees – Just People Seeking Refuge
Further to the short piece in yesterday’s email, the next time a boat load of Papuans arrives off the north Australian coast, Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews will have a perfect answer for denying them access. He will just have to apply the definition given this week by an Indonesian official commenting about some 2000 people who have left their homes near the Yamo river and are now facing starvation. According to Yamo district head Philipus Tabuni, as reported in the Jakarta Post those fleeing were not classified as refugees, but only as people seeking refuge!