Labor would be home and dry in a federal election, according to the latest Morgan Poll.
Their primary support in early April is up five points to 43.5%, while
the Government’s vote is down by the same amount to 39% – 7.4% below
the last election. The two party preferred vote splits 54 to 46%. The
result is the Coalition’s worst showing this year – worrying as
WorkChoices starts to bite and Alexander Downer and Mark Vaile await a
call from Commissioner Cole.

But it ain’t all good news for Labor, or the Labor leader, anyway. Or this week’s Labor leader. A separate poll
finds that more than twice as many voters think John Howard would make
a better prime minister than Kimbo – 61 to 26%. While only 49% of
voters approved of the way Howard is handling his job, Beazley comes in
at just 29%. His disapproval rating is 62%.

That’s where poll number three comes in – preferred leaders. The dynamics for both sides are interesting. Morgan reports:

Prime Minister John Howard is the preferred Coalition
Leader for 36% of voters, followed by Treasurer Peter Costello with 17%
of voters, Parliamentary Secretary Malcolm Turnbull on 10% and Foreign
Minister Alexander Downer 9%. When Mr Howard is removed from
consideration as Coalition Leader Peter Costello’s support increases
12% to 29%, Alexander Downer’s support increases 6% to 15% and Malcolm
Turnbull’s support increases 2% to 12%.

That’s an
interesting result for the Foreign Minister – if he stays there – but
all eyes this morning are on a certain redhead. The findings also say:

Labor front-bencher Julia Gillard is preferred to lead the
Labor Party by 31% of voters more than current leader Kim Beazley with
20% and fellow front-bencher Kevin Rudd also on 20%, a special Roy
Morgan telephone survey finds. When Mr Beazley is removed as a
candidate for the leadership support for Ms Gillard rises 4% to 35% of
all voters, 11% more than support for Mr Rudd 24%.

Politics,
though, is more than a beauty contest. Policy matters, not just
figureheads and their photo-ops. David Barnett had a warning for Labor
in The Canberra Times earlier this week:

Beazley’s problem is not that Ms Gillard is nicer than he
is. If she gets the job, it will make no more difference than when
Simon Crean was in the saddle on a horse that was determined to go in
the wrong direction. For that’s the problem. The party that, under Bob
Hawke, went as far as it could along the path of globalisation, has
changed direction… It is just not getting the message, which was
delivered by Tony Blair when he was out here the other day… Tony Blair
said social divisions today were between societies that were open to
the world and those fearful of a changing world.

As
Barnett says, the Liberals were big on beauty contests in the eighties
and the first half of the nineties – but voters thought they were using
too much concealer.

The ugly fact is that Labor looks like a
party of reaction, even when things aren’t going the government’s way.
It needs an agenda of its own to freshen up, not a dye job.

Peter Fray

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