John Howard
faced the most humiliating defeat of his ten years as Prime Minister this week
as the Senate looked set to reject the Migration Amendment Bill this week. The Bill has
now been pulled, stopping a particularly humiliating defeat – a self-inflicted
defeat.

The Bill was a
short term response. It wasn’t passed when it was topical. Pressure has gone
off the West
Papua
issue over the winter recess. It was unwise to bring it into the Parliament.

By risking a
defeat, the Prime Minister also risked looking out of touch – out of touch with
his own party and public opinion. Not good when you’ve just announced that
you’re staying on and aiming for a fifth election win.

This morning’s
ACNielsen polling isn’t that promising for the PM. The two party preferred vote puts Labor in front 53 to 47%.
Yet once again, events seem set to come to the Prime Minister’s aid.

The Nielsen
polling reflects domestic concerns – petrol prices in particular. The focus is
swinging back onto international issues.

Security is
the watchword of the day. In his press conference withdrawing the bill, John
Howard spoke of the “security” implications. He said that Labor is weak on
security.

He might take
a loss on this one measure – but he can’t say he hasn’t tried. And security
will continue to be at the centre of speculation over coming days. Will the
ceasefire in Lebanon take? Will it hold? How safe are our
airlines? What is Islamofascism’s next target?

Labor has
little to offer on petrol. And we all know who the punters trust on national
security. Even if he plays dirty to get his wins. The migration
defeat may yet be a security victory for John Howard.

Peter Fray

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