Matt Price might have been a little too
honest with his mention of polling this morning:

This opinion
poll caper is a stupendously fraught and imprecise science, never more so than
when punters old enough to know a good deal better appear determined to behave
like a bunch of defiant kindergarten children.

The industrial
relations debate, bubbling away for more than a year, has suddenly turned white
hot after Kim Beazley sought virtue in simplicity and decided to scrap AWAs
holus-bolus. There’s been no end of uproar, condemnation and justification
since, which means when the phone rings there are only two acceptable, logical
responses to the nice man from Newspoll…

We’ve had two polls in two days. Yesterday,
AC Nielsen put Labor in front of the Coalition 51 to 49%. Today,
Newspoll puts the Coalition ahead of Labor 51 to 49. In other words, both are
in margin of error territory. So much for the polls.

IR will clearly be the main battleground
over the parliamentary recess. And Kim Beazley was upbeat in his briefing to
Caucus this morning. He praised his party’s efforts on the issue, and talked
about how he was relishing the fight over industrial relations. He told them
that he wasn’t that concerned by what the opinion pages had to say – but was
interested in how the letters to the editor seemed to be agreeing with Labor’s
messages on the Government’s WorkChoices package.

Beazley talked about how Caucus has seen
off three attempts to wedge them – over nuclear power, immigration and civil
unions – saying the party’s unity showed its readiness for government.

The Prime Minister was cautious when he
talked to the troops. He said that, at best, the Coalition was even money for
the next election – but he claimed that Labor have made two serious tactical
errors in the workplaces war by promising to completely abolish AWAs and in misleading
the public with their case studies of alleged losers under the new arrangements.

Still, he says the Government faces the
fight of their lives at the next election.

It’s 10 days since Kim Beazley made his
announcements on IR. We should keep issues of time in mind here.

This morning, Beazley stressed the
importance of keeping up the IR fight through the recess – and observed how
when parliament returns in early August, an election will be 12 months away.

Then might be a good time to take a proper
look at the polls.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey