IR worries, plunging polls, bureaucratic
capture, the lacklustre performance of a mediocre ministry and a backbench that
seems to have largely forgotten that politics is all about ideas are all
fuelling speculation of a federal reshuffle – and leadership talk.

Our rumour from last week gets trotted out
by Mark Metherell and David Humphries in the Sydney Morning

The Government’s
plunge in the polls has fuelled speculation that the Prime Minister, John
Howard, will reshuffle his front bench before Christmas – a move that would
affect the leadership plans of the Treasurer, Peter Costello.

Mr Costello is
expected to reveal in the first half of next year whether he will press his
claim for the leadership.

The Herald‘s polling, however, only leaves
bitter dregs for Dollar Sweetie. The latest
Herald Poll, although gloomy for the Government, contains more comfort for Mr
Howard than Mr Costello.

Voters have
turned against the Government, giving Labor a 16 percentage-point lead in
two-party preferred terms. But most still see Mr Howard as preferred Liberal
leader – and it is a view shared by many Coalition backbenchers, particularly
in tight political times.

The poll shows
that despite the erosion in support for the Government, more than two-thirds of
people believe Mr Howard will serve a full term as Prime Minister, and believe
the Liberals would be best to stick with him as leader.

And we’ve barely even seen the start of a
campaign from the ALP reminding us that Peter Costello made his name as an IR