Newspoll and ACNielsen are out today with two very different interpretations.

“Voters have turned on the Coalition and John Howard, denting his campaign to sell the Government’s industrial relations revolution and tougher anti-terror laws,” Steve Lewis writes in The Australian about the Newspoll. Labor would have been returned to power in a landslide if an election had been held last weekend, as the Prime Minister’s approval rating slumped to its lowest level in four years.

In the Sydney Morning Herald, however, David Humphriestalks up the terror laws as a plus for the Government.

But everyone can agree on one thing: the Bomber is bombing. The Australian reports: “A strong recovery in Labor’s primary vote – to 40%, according to an exclusive Newspoll – has not translated into gains for Kim Beazley, who continues to struggle for voter approval. The Labor leader’s satisfaction rating remains in the doldrums, at 31%, while one in two voters remains unhappy with Mr Beazley’s performance.” And the headline on Louise Dodson’s piece in the SMH, “Bomber’s nosedive lets Coalition off the hook,” says it all.

The PM is plummeting, but Beazley is bumping along the bottom. And Gerard Henderson spells out a very harsh reality for the Labor Party today. “The principal reason why federal Labor remains in opposition is that the Howard Government is led by a highly competent prime minister at a time of relative economic prosperity and genuine concern about security,” he writes.

Yes, there’s IR overkill. That may well be a spin too far, even for John Howard. There’s the inflation warning in the Oz today. But if you listen very carefully, there in the background is Mark Latham quoting that wonderful Alice in Wonderland line he deployed so devastatingly in the Diaries about Kim Beazley: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

Peter Fray

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