September 29th 2007


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Articles from this issue:

FEDERAL ELECTION 2007: NCC policy initiatives on biofuels and Internet safety

EDITORIAL: Horse flu outbreak: time to face hard facts

CANBERRA OBSERVED: John Howard's risky succession strategy

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Will we learn from our quarantine debacle?

DEFENCE: Emerging nuclear challenges for Australia

NATIONAL SECURITY: Another triumph for the ABC or potential calamity?

EMPLOYMENT: Offshore assets most Australians never see

SCHOOLS: How much should we pay teachers who don't deliver?

LIFE ISSUES: 'Rosita', poster-child for pro-abortion lobby

UNITED STATES: Questions over Republican nomination

OPINION: Disgrace of the West's 'cognitive dissonance'

AS THE WORLD TURNS: libertarianism, lesbian's twins, Chinese toys, anti-Americanism

Kevin Rudd's motherhood statements (letter)

Kevinism or a Ruddism? (letter)

Facility with languages (letter)

Australia needs American help with defence (letter)

BOOKS: THE DAWKINS DELUSION? by Alister McGrath

BOOKS: FAITH THROUGH REASON, by Janne Haaland Matláry

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CANBERRA OBSERVED:
John Howard's risky succession strategy




News Weekly, September 29, 2007
The Government will now go to the polls with a Prime Minister and a Prime-Minister-in-waiting.

The recent crisis inside the Howard Cabinet has had at least one beneficial effect, having been an acknowledgement by the Government of the stark reality that defeat is both probably and possibly imminent.

For months most of the Government, and in particular senior ministers, have been staring at poll results with incredulity asking themselves how the voters could be turning against them when all the economic indicators are so positive.

After all, the Howard Government has delivered low unemployment, low inflation, a booming economy and rising wealth.

However, the Government has refused to acknowledge its strategic error in inflicting WorkChoices on the community with little consultation, and in asking for a titanic life-and-death battle against the ACTU and the union movement.

Poll woes

Explanations for the Government's poll woes have included the novelty of Kevin Rudd, the voters wanting a competitive race, general voter boredom, and voters wanting to give the government a kick along.

Months ago, John Howard tried to warn MPs of the possibility of "annihilation" as a means of shaking them out of their complacency.

But there still had persisted a widespread belief that the PM would be able to do what he had done for the past four elections and lead the Coalition to victory.

On the backbench in particular there was a strong belief that Mr Howard was their best chance of winning a fifth term.

In the meantime, polls showed voters continuing to flock to Kevin Rudd. His strategy of imitating the Government on almost everything appeared devastatingly successful.

For months the polls have been sending the same message - the Government was on the nose and heading for defeat.

For most senior Government figures it was a case of their understanding the polls intellectually but emotionally still refusing to believe them.

But just prior to the recent APEC meeting in Sydney, The Australian newspaper's Newspoll dropped a bombshell that the Government was now 18 points behind the Opposition on a two-party preferred vote.

The devastating poll prompted some hard thinking by Cabinet ministers who held a conclave of sorts at the Grand Quay Hotel on September 6.

Those at the Quay Grand Hotel meeting included Alexander Downer, Philip Ruddock, Brendan Nelson, Julie Bishop, Joe Hockey, Ian Macfarlane, Kevin Andrews and Chris Ellison.

At the meeting the future of both the Government and Mr Howard's prime ministership were considered and the views taken back to the PM via Mr Downer.

Accounts of what happened at the meeting and subsequent meetings with the PM vary.

Some versions leaked to the media reported that a majority wanted the PM gone; other versions were more equivocal.

Certainly, the very act of leaking the meeting did damage to the Government, and the whole event has left deep and lasting bitterness inside the Cabinet.

It precipitated Mr Howard having to stare down a nascent and perhaps non-existent challenge, to declare his determination to remain as PM, but to hand over the leadership "well into" his fifth term.

The Government will now go to the polls with a Prime Minister and a Prime-Minister-in-waiting.

How this will go down with voters is unclear, and it has already prompted Labor to ask why the PM should not go now if he does intend to quit, perhaps within a year of victory.

However, the messy affair has cleared the leadership question, which has been a long-running sore in the government, once and for all.

There is to be a smooth transition from Mr Howard to Peter Costello, breaking a recent tradition of Labor premiers promising to serve for three years and quitting soon after winning government.

It has also galvanised the Government for the final battle.

It is now clear that Mr Rudd's Labor Party is favourite to win the election, and the Howard Government must focus every ounce of its energies on that problem, rather than on self-indulgent internal squabbles, if it does not want to spend a decade in the wilderness.




























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