Here’s something to think about over the Easter break – the John Howard game plan.
The hints have been dropped. Everybody read about the spending
packages and the tax cuts last Saturday and the journos asked all the right questions on the Sunday morning TV shows.

What didn’t get so much of a run, though, was the way that Liberal
Federal Director Brian Loughnane took the wraps off some key attack
lines when he spoke to the New South Wales Libs on the Saturday.

He went in hard. He said that Iron Bark is “indisputably the
least experienced person to run for the prime ministership since the
Second World War.

“Every other contender for the serious job of running the country in
the last 60 years has at least been a minister in a previous government, or came from a distinguished career outside politics,”
Loughnane insisted.

“But Mr Latham has never had a full-time job outside politics.”

These sorts of attacks are a vital part of the game plan, too.
They deserve more attention – and we should be looking how the whole
thing fits together.

Spending on roads, universities, R&D, mums and bubs, all sorts of
defence goodies that will make lovely photo-ops – and a nice big
schools package, we understand – has either been announced or is as
good as announced.

These are all biggies requiring expenditure locked in over several
years. Throw in tax cuts and there will be nothing left in the piggybank for Iron Bark to trump the Government with.

Well thought out expenditure could actually do wonders. Peter
Costello has built up a war chest that the Government could use on
laudable projects – but instead it will probably just all get blown in
a bid by the PM to keep him out of the top job a little longer.

Still, it won’t be completely blatant.

Economic management is one of the strongest cards the Government has to
play, so the spending will at least be nicely dollied-up.

Look at the Labor state administrations (there’s more on the mess that
is the Carr mini-Budget further on in the Sealed Section). Every state and territory is ruled by Labor – but voters know that in
this day and age that their prosperity relies on the guys and gals with their lands on the big macro levers in Canberra.

Think of what the Libs could do if they roll economic management up
with attacks on Iron Bark’s character, his days as mayor of the morass
that was Liverpool Council, his policy making on the run, the
Whitlam links – he is Whitlam’s protégé, after all – and then go to
work on his IR agenda.

Nasty stuff!

PS This schools package is interesting us more and more and deserves a bit more of a look.

Brendan Nelson has done a pretty good job keeping the unis quiet. Our
friends in Canberra say he’s been using the time that’s given him to
look at some of the systems the Catholic education sector uses – and
how these might be applied across the board to help all but the posher
private schools. They say he’s picked up quite a few useful hints.

If Nelson wants to give more money to private schools, all he needs to
do is point to the flow from state schools to the private sector and
hand over the readies – with the proviso that they promise to
follow good system of benchmarking and make performance figures public.
Nelson can then say the Government is simply following
voters’ wishes while making sure the funds are properly accounted for.

Nelson seems to know just how much parents will scrimp and save to give
their kids a private education – even in the very middle of Iron Bark’s heartland.

He knows that this issue could win a lot of votes for his party and cause a lot of tensions in the ALP.

If he comes up with the right package, it won’t just go a long way to
getting the Libs back in for a fourth term. He’ll also have
staked a big claim to the deputy leader’s job when Howard finally goes.

Big stakes for the Government, big stakes for Nelson – and something to watch

Peter Fray

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