Well it’s been building up inside of me
For oh I don’t know how long
I don’t know why
But I keep thinking
Something’s bound to go wrong

But she looks in my eyes
And makes me realise
And she says “Don’t worry baby”
Don’t worry baby
Don’t worry baby
Everything will turn out all right

There. I’ve wanted to quote Brian Wilson in political analysis for donkeys’. Today’s Newspoll and AC Nielsen efforts upsetting the Coalition have got the commentariat talking. But it’s been building up over the last fortnight.

Today’s results are being put down to fears over industrial relations changes. Michael Costello may not be the most objective commentator, but his column last Friday spelled it out:

Howard’s industrial relations proposals could undermine the
central message he gave to Australians in the lead-up to the 1996
election when he said he wanted Australians to be “relaxed and
comfortable.” His potent message at the 2004 election was “trust me” –
that is: I am the steady, reliable hand who will bring security from
our enemies, and stability and security to your personal and economic
life. Howard’s industrial relations proposals threaten the relaxation,
comfort and security of millions of employees and have every chance of
endangering the trust people have in him.

Costello referred back to positive polls for Labor’s tax approach – one buried in the Daily Telegraph and another conducted for Meet the Press. The following day, Morgan released an “election too close to call” poll, too.

will everything turn out right for Labor? It’s largely up to them.
There are more than 100 weeks – and God only knows how many opinion
polls – until the next election.

According to Nielsen “60% of Australians who are aware of the plans oppose them, including 23% of Coalition supporters.”

union advertising campaign seems to have had an impact. If industrial
relations reforms unsettles the blue collar voters who put, and have
kept, John Howard in power, can Labor find the case studies, put the
postage, printing and stationery resources it has available in its
Senators’ offices to use and devise direct mail strategies to target
these people and win them back?

Labor’s reforms in the eighties
– then Paul Keating’s cultural agenda – unsettled these voters, so they
voted Liberal. IR reform may prove a step too far for John Howard.

Will Kim Beazley end up singing this Beach Boys line: “And after all I’ve done to you/How can it be/You still believe in me”?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey