The news of the Draper dalliance and a lukewarm polls in the wake of
the Budget have got the pundits wondering if all those calls for an
August 7 election were simple crazy-brave. Naaaah! As the old saying
goes, when ya gotta go, ya gotta go. And why not go on August 7?
Have a look at the calendar. You don’t need to be a Foxtel
Digital salesman to realise that all the weekends after the seventh to
October are chock full of sport action.

Then there’s another major event Crikey types keep an eye out for right
at the beginning of November – the US Presidential election.

God knows what might come out of Iraq between now and then – and John
Howard won’t want to risk being sucked under if George W Bush goes
down. That means that after November 2 is out.

And while he might have liked his photo ops on the White House lawns in
the past, the Prime Minister may well want to distance himself from his
great and powerful friend in the immediate weeks before the
Presidential Election. In August, three months before the US of A
votes, it’ll be easy for Howard to say anything could happen. At
an October election, if Dubya’s polling poorly it will be hard for
Howard to escape contagion.

That’s election date. Then there’s the Budget itself.

We observed last week how it’s the sequel to A Fistful of Dollars – For
A Few Dollars More. So the polls haven’t bounced the way
Government strategists hoped they would. So what? The
Budget wasn’t even 10 days ago. The goodies are yet to come – and
they will be piling up in enough households in enough marginals for the
Government to risk August 7.

But talking of risk, we also observed how this is a profligate
Budget. More than four billion dollars is going to be dumped into
the economy in a matter of weeks in the most inflationary Budget since
the early days of Gough. And – you’ll love this, nostalgia buffs
– OPEC ain’t exactly helping keep a lid on things, either.

Poor Ian Macfarlane. What is the Reserve Bank Governor to
do? He has already ruled out a rise in interest rates before the
election – but higher interest rates seem an inevitable consequence of
the Budget. So there’s another reason to get an election over
early by going on August 7.

Finally, while Labor seems to have done surprisingly well in the post
Budget polls, the ALP itself is providing plenty of good reason for the
Government to go early.

The sooner John Howard calls an election, the sooner Labor will have to
have some concrete policies (more on this below). Bob Hogg’s
opinion piece in the Fin Review – that Howard will call an earlier
election to push Labor on this point, irrespective of the polls – looks
better and better each day. It mightn’t have improved their
primary vote, but no-one can argue that the Government doesn’t have a
plan.

Iron Bark can do OK as long as he stays above the fray and sticks to
the vision thing, but his Shadow Treasurer, Simon Crean, is not exactly
noted for his skills in getting the message across – or his skills at
getting the message, full stop.

It’s August 7.

Peter Fray

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