The
prospect for another Howard v Beazley election will bore the pants off many
progressive and young voters. Having
lived through the same in 1998 and 2001 there are plenty of people who have
spent most of their adult life in a perpetual sense of deja vu about
politics.

The
perception that Kim Beazley is John Howard-lite was nailed forever by the Tampa
experience and his recent abandonment of an anti-uranium/nuclear policy has just driven this home.

For
voters looking for something different, minor parties will be their only choice.
If a voter wants something different out of politics, or some excitement, or
some change they are not going to vote for John Howard or Kim Beazley. They represent everything that is old in
politics. And while this might suit the
times some of the electorate (with Howard and Beazley acting as father figures), there is a decent swag of the
Australian population that wants some choice in their politics.

There
is also the possibility that some voters will baulk at so much power residing in
one person for so long. Not only will
Howard have wielded executive power for over 11 and half years come election
time, but he will have had the Senate for over two years as well.

As the
leading vote pullers amongst the minor parties at the moment, the Greens are the
obvious front runners to capitalise but they will have to make sure their fresh
round of candidates are up to the job and that they can successfully position
themselves as providing actual solutions to the emerging big global issue –
climate change.

Most
people are writing the Democrats off but the party ain’t over till the last
Senator is gone and anything is possible if there is a big non-major party vote. More likely is that the Senate will be a
battle between the Greens and the Christian right’s Family First. Meanwhile Labor’s Senate leader Chris Evans
is also reportedly crafting a strategy to get the Labor vote up in the Senate.

The
challenge remains: can the progressive forces in Australia ignite a second
election in 2007 to defeat the Coalition and Family First in the Senate? Can people be convinced that there are really
two polls going on and that their second vote for the Senate is just as
important. If so, it is possible that
the Coalition could be reduced below the critical 43% in at least two states
thereby removing their control of the Senate.

Even
voters happy with Howard on one level can easily be persuaded that having the
Senate in the hands of one man for so long is not a good thing.

Peter Fray

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