If there is one lesson from the electoral results of the last decade in Australia it is that voters need to be given a reason to change. When the policies of Labor and Liberal are those of tweedle dee and tweedle dum, the people stick with what they know.

Only massive incompetence, it seems, will stir the electorate into punishment mode and that hasn’t been present at a federal level since Paul Keating was dispatched and in a state since South Australia turned on the Liberals back in 2002.

At the last polls in Western Australia, the ACT, the Northern Territory, Tasmania, South Australia, Queensland and Victoria, finding meaningful policy differences between Labor and Liberal has been impossible. There have been no doctrinal differences and the devil we know has won clearly.

In NSW the Liberal-National opposition is trying to paint the government as corrupt enough to justify being thrown out but there is no accompanying positive reason for change. The outcome next year will depend on whether enough of the mud being thrown sticks.

For Kim Beazley, the return of his state colleagues should show him the difficulty there is in good economic times of relying on a government to self destruct. It just doesn’t happen. This makes the small target strategy completely inappropriate.

Industrial relations is a point of difference but it is yet to be seen whether the consequences of the Howard changes are as hurtful to the working people who’ve been voting Liberal as Labor hopes.

There is still a need for “a vision thing” to show that a Labor victory would mean something more than just giving a different group of boys and girls the jobs.

Peter Fray

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