The surge in support for Labor as measured by the Newspoll out this morning has been at the expense not just of the Coalition but of the Greens as well.

Newspoll has Labor’s primary vote at 47% – up nine percentage points on its effort at the last election. The combined vote for the Coalition Liberal and National parties given as 38% is down nine percentage points on the election figure.

A fall of three percentage points for the Greens to 5% coincides in the same improvement for other minor parties and independents. If preferences are distributed in the same way as happened at the 2004 election, Labor ends up with a two party preferred vote of 56% to the Coalition’s 44%.

The Greens will be disappointed at the signs of a decline in their support (back in November Newspoll put them as high as 9%) as Labor embraces climate change as a key weakness in the government’s position and presumably attracts back some people who had deserted it on environmental grounds. They should not, however, begin to panic.

Some unseasonal weather, a drought and the release of major reports on climate change have pushed the environment to the top of the agenda but John Howard was probably right yesterday when he doubted whether that combination would still be the major influence come election day.

Liberal and Labor will eventually get down to contesting support on the basis of their economic management skills leaving the Greens with the opportunity to stress that the environment is their issue.

By year’s end the hypocrisy of the Labor position on uranium will be fully exposed. A party which supports an expansion of uranium mining while refusing to use the dreaded stuff at home will be in stark contrast to Greens who take the moral view that what is bad for one is bad for all. Peter Garrett will have difficulty explaining how his conscience allows him to support a party with such a warped principle.

Garrett and Kevin Rudd will both have the same troubles with forest policy as their predecessors. Greens Leader Bob Brown knows that trees always have been and always will be the key issue when it comes to gaining support.

He will exploit the old growth forests of Tasmania with all his skills as Labor flounders around trying to reconcile being against chopping down trees while protecting the jobs of workers in forests and in a planned Tamar Valley pulp mill.

Peter Fray

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