John Howard has today unveiled his biggest election weapon – incumbency.

It doesn’t matter what Kevin Rudd puts on the table – education, water, whatever. If he wants to, the PM can trump it.

He holds the purse strings. He’s got the policy advisers. He’s got the public servants. He can pull out programs like today’s.

Not, of course, that he’d ever play catch-up politics. Perish the thought. In reports on the water initiatives you’ll find lines like “Top government sources say the PM has been driving the plan for the past two or three months.”

It might be spin, but it’s probably the truth. Oppositions have to run guerrilla campaigns. Governments, though, have all the big artillery pieces – ready to trundle up to the front when need arises.

Labor might have been able to scrape up around a million dollars to plug Rudd’s education ideas, but all Government needs to do is come up with some initiatives – and then it can run ads of its own. A public information service.

And there’s plenty of scope for it to act. The states’ ill-considered challenge to the WorkChoices laws have opened the door for massive interference from Canberra.

If Rudd raises an issue, John Howard can step in with a solution – and blame the Labor Party in the states for creating or exacerbating the problem.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey