Christian Kerr writes:


“The Howard
Government presented itself as the safe choice at the most recent election,
while Mark Latham was the danger man,” Peter Hartcher writes in The SMH today.
“The balance of risk has been changing, and this week it moved strikingly.
Labor has positioned itself as a less threatening party, and the Government has
started to look distinctly more dangerous to the interests of ordinary
Australians.”

Good timing. The
front page of The Daily Telegraph tells Sydneysiders that “family bills rocketed by a whopping $4200 in Sydney in the past
year.” It claims, “the enormous jump in the annual cost of living was driven by
petrol, food, insurance, childcare,” as well as Wednesday’s interest rate rise.

“The increase
illustrates the human impact of the controversial rate rise, and shows the
pressure the Howard Government is under to ease the burden with genuine tax cuts
in next week’s Budget,” the story says. The editorial says the increase is “well in excess of “official” inflation figures
quoted by the Federal Government”.

And they’re
thinking similarly back at The Herald. “Consumers coping with higher mortgage
repayments and record petrol prices will soon be hit at the supermarket
checkout,” John Garnaut, Louise Dodson and Bridie Smith report.
And they add, “Some economists say government largesse contributed to this
week’s rate rise.”

The brave new
world of WorkChoices adds a terrible underlying sense of uncertainty to all of
this. The horror stories keep coming – and keep getting a run. Will it bite?

Peter Hartcher
reminds us: “This is a country where the electorate has been moved to change the
government only four times since 1949. We are a politically cautious people.
Risk is anathema and security is all. On Wednesday Kim Beazley publicly took
Labor into the post-ideological world. He did it in rhetoric… And he did it in
policy…”

Hartcher talks
about exorcising the ghost of Latham. But no one’s taking this to its logical
conclusion. Another bright, fresh leader of the opposition with plenty of
radical ideas also spectacularly crashed, burned and still lies there, wrecked,
as a terrible warning – John Hewson. And another young opposition leader just
didn’t measure up – Alexander Downer.

For more than half
a century, our prime ministers have all had substantial parliamentary careers
before they took the top job. Even Menzies bungled his first stint in the job.

Kim Beazley can
offer security, stability and experience – a 26 year veteran of the parliament,
a former defence minister, finance minister and deputy PM. Julia Gillard and
Kevin Rudd might be polling better, but they have only been in parliament since
1998. How’s eight years in opposition measure up to Beazley’s record? It’s an
interesting comparison.

But it’s a big job for the big fella. New polling from Roy Morgan
says in late April primary support for the Government rose 1.5 points
to 40 per cent. The Labor primary vote was down three points to 39 per
cent – but still 1.4 per cent higher than their showing at the 2004
federal election.

The two party preferred vote split Labor’s favour – 51.5 to 49.5 per
cent. However, Beazley still has perception issues to deal with. Morgan
reports “On the important question of who the electorate thinks will
win the next Federal election, 63.5 per cent (up 1.5 per cent) think
the L-NP will win, 24.5 per cent (down two per cent) think the ALP will
win and 12 per cent (up 0.5 per cent) can’t say.