The Sphere of Influence, Laurie Oakes,
pulls no punches in his comments on the PM’s pain over the pulling of the
Migration Amendment bill in The Bulletin this week:

Howard should
have known that he could not bully the rebel group into submission on the
asylum-seeker issue this time… Only hubris can explain the prime minister’s
decision to press ahead with a bill he knew would deeply divide the coalition
and bring grief to the government. It was a grievous lapse of judgment. The
government had enough problems to deal with – soaring petrol prices, rising
interest rates, deep public concern about new industrial relations laws,
leadership tension – without adding an unnecessary crisis to the list.

The only
explanation is that Howard has started to believe his own “beloved leader”
and “man of steel” publicity. The damage he suffered from the humiliating
withdrawal of the bill from the Senate was self-inflicted.

The issue –
surprise! surprise! – began with Howard breaking a deal. Last year, he reached
an agreement with Georgiou and the others to soften the tough treatment of
asylum-seekers. Peter Costello, of course, could have told the backbenchers how
much faith to put in a Howard undertaking…

Tough stuff. It’s designed to rankle. To
get right under the PM’s skin.

Is the Sphere turning? So soon after Park Street got
what it wanted in the package of media laws?

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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