Today’s Newspoll should quieten down the ALP after last week’s AC Nielsen
effort and Werriwa got them a little overexcited.

Michael Costello definitely needed a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lay down after his effort in The Australian on Friday in the wake of Nielsen.”All the elements are in place for something
to happen that you don’t see very often in politics. That something is a change
in the fundamental story-line about a government on the basis of which the
media and the public interpret political events,” he wrote. Really? All on the
back of one poll, two and a half years out from an election?

And “Labor holds safe Labor” seat wasn’t much of a story. Werriwa is a
federation seat – and Labor has held it for all but 11 years since 1901.
It would have held it for two years longer if John Lynch, the Labor MP at the
time of the 1916 conscription split, hadn’t gone over to the Nationalists with
Billy Hughes.

Today’s Newspoll
puts Labor’s primary vote on a dismal 36% – lower than it recorded at
the October 2004 election. “The Coalition maintains a commanding lead
at 47% of the primary vote, the poll says, and has improved its
preferred vote to 54% – ALP 46 – up two points,” Steve Lewis reports in
The Oz. “Indeed, the Newspoll suggests the government would have increased its
already strong tally of seats if an election had been held last weekend.”

John Howard is way ahead as preferred prime minister, on 54% to 30 for
Kim Beazley. The only small silver lining is satisfaction with Beazley’s
performance, up to 49% compared with the 34 Mark Latham scored in
December and January.

“Consumers may be nervous about the future of interest rates but this has not
translated into a voter backlash against the government,” Lewis observed.

He could also add that opinion polls this far out from an election are largely
meaningless – and that the interest rate rise is scarcely a trashing of
election promises on the scale the 1993 Budget that marked the beginning of the
end for the Keating government.

Interest rates are set by the Reserve Bank. The government has – surprise,
surprise – plausible denial. And Labor has a long, long way to go.