Some fascinating polling is coming up. No doubt the Prime
Minister is already poring over Mark Textor’s qualitative work as he
weighs up August 7. But what will Peter Garrett do for the
equation? That will be fascinating.

Garrett is supposedly a bright bloke, so it might just work. The
bruvvers are the bruvvers and will probably settle down. Yes,
they might bitch and carp and moan, but virtually all of them will be
there on polling day handing out the how-to-votes across Kingsford
Smith.

With Garrett preselected as Labor’s candidate, we could see a repeat of one of the key voting trends from the 1993 election.

PM had some fun at Garrett’s expense over Pine Gap last night:
“Today the would-be Labor MP revealed one issue on which he’s already
undergone a change of heart: the American-Australian joint surveillance
facility at Pine Gap,” host Mark Colvin began.

“Over the years the former Midnight Oil front man has sung a bit, and
campaigned a lot, for the closure of Pine Gap. Now he says he
supports ALP policy, which is to maintain the facility…” and with US
Forces playing in the background, Nick Grimm’s report began.

At the same time, however, Garrett was making it amply clear that he
intends to push for an apology to indigenous Australians and a new
policy to protect Tasmania’s old growth forests.

At the emergency meeting of the Kingsford Smith branches at the
Randwick Labor Club earlier in the week, Electrical Trades Union and
left heavy Peter Tighe pleaded with the locals to consider Garrett’s
nationwide appeal, his ability to win votes in places other than just
Sydney’s south.

“We need to select a candidate who will take Labor over the line,” he said.

The Australian Democrat vote vanished in 1993. With the GST as
the key issue and the bitter public acrimony between Paul Keating and
John Hewson, voters lined up behind the two main parties.

There’s already a similar atmosphere with Iraq and poisonous personal
politics – and if Garrett proves to be a credible candidate for the
ALP, the Greens could be the ones who end up getting squeezed.

Tighe recognised that with his comments, and he’s not alone.
Associate Professor Brian Costar from Monash University, best known for
his 1994 study of the federal Coalition “For Better or Worse”, told ABC
Rural Radio yesterday that Garrett’s profile may attract votes from
former city dwellers now living in coastal or regional areas, but said
he might not be so popular in the country.

“There are parts of regional Australia who don’t respond to what we
might call a ‘radical environmental agenda’, which Peter Garrett has
been associated with,” he said.

“Now you can bet your life that the Coalition campaign manager is going
to be crawling through, not so much the lyrics of his songs, but some
of the statements he’s made over the years; they’ll be seeking to both
embarrass Mr Garrett and more to the point, the Labor Party.”

Will Garrett draw back despairing Labor voters from the Greens?
Roll on the polls. Let’s see what happens. This is going to
be fascinating.

It could, after all, go very, very wrong for the ALP. Green
preferences will virtually all go straight back to Labor, anyway.
Peter Garrett could end up scaring soft swinging voters thinking of
taking a punt back into the arms of John Howard.

Peter Fray

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