Depression In The Coalition Ranks Seals Their Fate
Howard And Friends had Mark Latham on the defence for most of the 2004 election. Every time he announced new policy, or held a press conference, he spent valuable time answering questions about a host of orchestrated lies and accusations that flowed like a river from Howard's team.
Kevin Rudd is very successfully laying out the issues that Howard is then forced to comment on, or react to. Now it's Howard's turn to constantly be on the defence. And he's not very good at it.
He looks sulky, he sounds whiny, and has the presence and demeanour of a man already in opposition.
Witness his reaction yesterday to Kevin Rudd's remarkably effective campaign launch speech.
Howard seemed shocked that Rudd had the gall to declare The Reckless Spending Must Stop :
You can almost imagine Howard choking on his cup of tea and shouting "Son Of A Bitch!" at that.
Mr Rudd savaged Mr Howard as a selfish big-spender, prepared to risk inflation and land Australian families with higher interest rates to buy his way back into office.
...the Opposition Leader put economic conservatism at the centre of his political case for power, offering $2.3 billion in new promises and contrasting the spending with Mr Howard's "irresponsible spending spree" of $8.5 billion of pledges at his campaign launch on Monday.
"Mr Howard spent nearly $10 billion on Monday trying to buy his way out political trouble," Mr Rudd said.
"Unlike Mr Howard, I will not place in jeopardy households already struggling with mortgages.
"I don't stand before you with a bagful of irresponsible promises that could put upward pressure on inflation ... I am saying loud and clear that this sort of reckless spending must stop."
Howard knows Rudd outspun him, and did it with gusto, and it's clear Howard is furious that most of the media brought the line that Rudd proved he was an "economic conservative" by announcing spending of 1/4 to 1/3 of that announced by Howard on Monday.
Howard is a defeated man, and acting like he has already lost will now finish him off :
Most of the Howard team has given up trying to win the election by praising the man who has ruled their roost for 11 years. Their coasting to defeat, and barely putting up a fight. Most of the senior Howard ministers are probably too busy lining up their new jobs, outside of politics. Leave it to Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce to cut to the core of what's now happening inside the Coalition. Depression is spreading like a flu virus through their ranks :
The Prime Minister, campaigning in Townsville, said economic conservatism should be judged by the "aggregate of your behaviour - it's not just how you behave in an election campaign".
"Mr Rudd is being deceitful in his cost comparisons," he said.
"He wants the public to compare the cost of the announcements he has made in his launch with the cost of the announcements we made in our launch as if they are the only announcements that have been made by either side ... It's the total cost of commitments that matters."
He described Mr Rudd as an "arsonist claiming responsibility as a firefighter", saying the Opposition Leader would in fact hurt the economy with his plans to rip up Work Choices.
"On the score of economic credibility, Mr Rudd went missing today," Mr Howard said.Maybe so, but few noticed. The headlines and lead news stories were virtually all in Rudd's favour. Another set of nails were banged enthusiastically into Howard's coffin.
Joyce is right. Most of the punters don't want to read about it. They just want to government to do it, fix the problems, and shut the hell up.
Coalition MPs are getting depressed and frustrated over their parties' poor performance in opinion polls, which are uniformly pointing to a Labor landslide, Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce has said.
Senator Joyce last night said the Coalition's election campaign might be faring better if it had made a big infrastructure announcement to capture public imagination.
“There is a sense of depression about it. If the polls are the reality we're not going to lose, we're going to get annihilated,” Senator Joyce told Sky News.
He blamed the trend on voter ambivalence about a change of government. “It's frustrating for us, obviously.
“I see it like you're in a perfectly good marriage that's been going for 11 and a half years - would you get divorced just to see what it was like?”
“We're working on the premise that there are a lot of people out there who are still making up their minds.”
He expressed some admiration for Labor leader Kevin Rudd's campaign strategy - which has been derided as a "me-too" plan to win office.
“Mr Rudd has done a very good job of neutralising any form of division between the two parties.”
The Queensland senator said the Coalition may have erred by focusing much of its attention on the economy, health and education.
“These are dry topics which people really have to really read through the paper to understand. It's a hard thing to sell in a pub on a Friday night.”
Howard and the Coalition are not announcing Big Vision strategies. As others have noted, we are a wealthy nation, with huge surpluses, so where are the grand infrastructure projects that make jaws drop and get people excited about the future?
Howard seems only to be patching up holes in health and education, which leads many to ask, cynically : "Why now? He's been there for 11 years. If he has to spend so much to fix the problems, what's he been doing all the years to let education and health fall into such disarray?" Blaming state governments simply isn't cutting through.
Rudd has effectively echoed a lot of the Friday night pub talk that Joyce is talking about, hitting on themes like these :
"Howard only cares now because he's about to lose"
"Howard had years to fix all this stuff and he didn't do it"
"Howard's been there long enough. It's time for something new."
"I'm really sick of hearing Howard and Costello and Downer waffling on and on about how awesome a job they've done, but now they tell us how much there is to fix up."
Let's hope the action in this election campaign picks up next week. If not, it won't be an orderly change of government. It will be a thoroughly boring change of government.