“We regret to
inform that the Government’s post Budget bounce has once again been postponed.
Please check again in a fortnight; we apologise for any inconvenience.” That’s
how Mumble Politics covered yesterday’s Newspoll.

The Prime
Minister was forced to reassure his colleagues at a sometimes-fiery party room
meeting yesterday. He told the
troops that the full impact of the Budget had not yet been felt, while
acknowledging that petrol prices, the interest rate rise and the “depiction” –
note the semantics – of the workplace relations changes were all causing

He offered his
traditional mid-term warning against complacency, saying that Labor could win
the next election. “The longer we are in office, the more
people take prosperity for granted”, he said. The Treasurer offered a gee-up of his own,
stressing the importance of selling the Budget.

There is genuine surprise amongst Government
MPs at their poor poll performance – and almost a sense of anger that the
punters aren’t more grateful for their Budget goodies. That’s a worrying sign. The Howard
Government may have made an art form of handouts – but its backbench needs to
remember that power is the voters’ gift.