Matt
Price has fun with the official Caucus Room Briefing in The Australian today and Kim Beazley’s “exhortation for everybody to be much nicer to each other”.

Michelle Grattan is a little kinder. “In a party
room talk yesterday which combined a conciliatory tone with firmness, he
declared that caucus’ task over the next 18 months was ‘not to be a cursed
caucus but to be a saviour caucus — and that’s about winning the next
election’, she writes.

Both have
a point. Look at the calendar, look at yesterday’s mixed polls – and you end up
with some rather interesting possibilities.

Yesterday’s
Newspoll was dismissed as a rogue effort – but generally in the House on the
Hill there was a curious non-reaction to its strong showing for Labor. Instead,
the focus was on the ACNielsen poll.

Both,
however, are within margin of error territory. It would be a fair call to say that
both parties have around 50% of the two party preferred vote at the
moment. And that’s got to offer hope for Labor if its IR campaign can bite.

We’re
midpoint between elections. The Prime Minister is right to be cautious. Labor’s
internal rumblings are still rolling on – reshuffle talk doesn’t help – but
they could quieten down. The Democrats are dying. The Greens just aren’t
cutting through.

Tempting
thought it is to make Kim Beazley gags, Labor simply cannot be
written off.

Of course,
their propensity to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory can’t be written
off, either – but so long as they focus on the main prize in 2007 then a win is
possible, and more probable than in any of the last three elections if IR goes
wrong.

Labor
need to sniff the air and smell government – not sniff the air and smell
internal tribal enemies.

Peter Fray

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