“John Howard’s personal standing
is at its lowest level since before he turned back the Tampa four years
ago, as he staggers under the weight of industrial relations reform and
counter-terrorism laws,” The Australian
reports today. The PM’s approval rating has dropped two points to 41
per cent, Fifty per cent of voters are dissatisfied with him.

the same time, however, the Government’s primary vote has recovered,
rising from 37 per cent to 41 per cent – compared to Labor’s drop to 39
per cent.

What’s the message? Louise Dodson talks in The Sydney Morning Herald
today about “talented Liberal backbenchers who are anything but stoic
about remaining on the backbench and are becoming frustrated
increasingly with what they see as the dramatically different treatment
meted out by John Howard to Nationals and Liberals. The view is that if
you are a National Party MP, all you have to do to be promoted is turn
up for work. If you are a Liberal, you could toil for years without
getting to the front bench.

This frustration is driving much
of the continued talk in government circles of an imminent ministerial
reshuffle. Not to mention the fact that a number of senior ministers
would also like a change of job, Peter Costello topping the list.” Not
to mention all those people in the Gallery who would like a new PM to
write about.

A better analysis for today might come from Steve Lewis in The Australian:

Australia is entering a period of great uncertainty and potential
unrest, John Howard has
ditched his 1996 election mantra, ‘For all of us’. Decisions taken to
revolutionise the workplace and toughen up the counter-terrorism effort
have opened up a political fault line. All of a sudden, parliamentary
question times resemble a Punch and Judy show.

Far from being
relaxed and comfortable, the Prime Minister wants us poised on red
alert. He remains a popular leader of a Government that has been in
power close to a decade. But there are worrying signs of stubbornness
emerging from the prime ministerial throne and questions are being
asked about political judgment…

Howard’s great strength as
Prime Minister has been his ability to reflect the aspirations and
values of middle Australia… He’s in for the fight of his life now,
though, over his industrial package.

The PM is taking a big
gamble with laws that will revolutionise industrial relations. In doing
so, he has thrown Beazley a lifeline to resurrect his stumbling
leadership. This is legislation that will divide Australia like little

Industrial relations is likely to be the defining issue
at the next election. Beazley is fired up and determined to exploit a
populist revolt against the IR reforms. Community angst about the
workplace changes has helped Howard’s dissatisfaction rating hit a
four-year high, according to the latest Newspoll.

Both leaders know they are in the fight of their political lives.

has the advantage of a workers’ market and the likelihood the reforms
will prove a slow burn rather than having an immediate effect on
workplace civility. Beazley’s trump card is an electorate decidedly
nervous about these changes. The Government’s $50 million advertising
blitz has plainly backfired…

Beazley has come up with a nifty
line on the IR changes: “It’s one man’s tired old dream, and it’s
turning into a living nightmare for Australian workers and their

It is a calculated pitch to retrieve the hordes of
previously rusted-on Labor supporters who have transferred their
allegiance to the Coalition. Now it’s Beazley’s turn to argue that
Labor will govern for all of us.

A very good analysis – except
for one thing. Beazley finds it hard sticking to the line. Will he drop
it again and go down in the vortex of verbosity?