Some interesting figures in the latest Morgan Poll – a drop in
Coalition primary support of 2.5 points down to 39.5%, which is 6.9%
below their result in October last year, with Labor up three to 41.5%,
3.9% better than their election performance.

If the preferences of minor parties were allocated as they were at the
2004 Federal election, Morgan says the 2PP would be 47% for the
Coalition and 53% for the ALP – enough to get the bruvvers over the
line.

Boss fella Gary Morgan says, “The Coalition has lost support in the
wake of public debate over the Industrial Relations reforms. The Morgan
Poll released earlier this week showed that public opinion is still
strongly against the reforms and hasn’t changed since July, despite the
massive publicity and advertising by the Government.” Yeah – but an
election is two years away.

An election is two years away – and Morgan finds: “On the question of
who the electorate thinks will win the next Federal Election, the L-NP
leads the ALP by 41.5% (up 0.5%).” Just 23.5% of punters – a drop of
half a percentage point – think Labor will win the next election (11.5
per cent can’t say).

Polls are snapshots of a particular moment in time, not a prediction of what will happen at the next election. But…

Crikey floated the idea yesterday that the IR bills may represent a
tipping point for the Government. It’s not too far away from the next
election for that to happen. Paul Keating squandered the fruits of his
1993 win in less than six months, when he trashed promises galore with
a Budget that caused his treasurer to walk in disgust.

Government figures – publicly and privately – say the IR row is a lot
of hoo-ha. They compare it to the GST scare campaign. That’s plain
dumb. How many times do you hand over money and pay GST a week? The GST
became just another everyday part of life for most Australian within
weeks.

You start a new job or renegotiate a new contract much, much less
frequently. Work underpins our identities, not to mention our sense of
security. John Howard has won elections because of his pitch to that
security, to a feelgood factor – comfortable and relaxed.

It’s been “I’m all right, Jack.” That will disintegrate if the voters
who have swung behind Howard since 1996 see family and friends getting
ripped off under IR changes – and start to worry if they will be the
next losers.

But that’s exactly why John Howard has done what he’s done – dumped IR
proposals, but not the final legislation. He’s still got plenty of room
to move – or to listen, as he’d say. Going by the PM’s track record, he
should still be able to turn it into a political plus.

It will be shameless, yes – but subliminally it seems to be what the
punters expect. Look at that “who’s going to win the next election”
result again.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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