Hats off to the SMH‘s Kerry-Anne Walsh for yesterday’s childcare story.
It’s fascinating to see such a close ally of the Prime Minister’s
speaking out on an issue. So fascinating, in fact, that observers are
wondering if Jackie Kelly is doing a bit of agenda setting for the PM.

is almost a talisman for John Howard. She was elected an MP when he was
elected PM, bettered her result at a by-election months later (ordered
by the Court of Disputed Returns when an idiot ALP couldn’t accept the
voters’ verdict) and has been comfortably returned at three subsequent
general elections. She’s served on the frontbench, been Howard’s
parliamentary secretary, but resigned to look after a young family.

As we have observed in Crikey before, John Howard has an acute
understanding of the problems of modern parenting that he has gained
from his staff. For all his conservatism on family issues, he realises
that things are different now. He genuinely cares about the people who
work for him, and no doubt wants to be able to help them, his own
children – and turn what he learns into a vote winning package.

David Leser’s Bronwyn Bishop biography contains a hilarious exchange
that illustrates the blinkeredness of the hard right of the NSW Liberal
Party. A childless NSW Liberal Party pol and his missus were told that
they weren’t a family – that they were waiting to have a family.

John Howard likes to win elections. He’s much more pragmatic. Hence
much speculation that Kelly was doing him a favour and floating some

Her suggestions, should the PM pick them up, would undermine Peter
Costello’s family friendly positioning last weekend. He knows it, too –
hence his comments on the subject this morning.

Kelly’s ideas would help position John Howard as the paterfamilias of
the nation – the solid, reliable figure who makes sure we’re all
relaxed and comfortable. The omni-present figure. The figure who’s
going nowhere.

PS Kelly did use the word “incentivise” yesterday. Trivia buffs will
know that that means she must have been briefed up by the PM.