Crikey took the tape recorder to the streets of Bennelong to find out what the Prime Minister’s constituents think about his performance since the last election on a range of issues, and what they think about Labor leader Kevin Rudd. Over to them.

Economic performance

Hany, 41, IT: I have to give John Howard credit on the economy. He’s kept it stable. But I can’t give him full credit because Australia is part of a global economy. It’s not hard to do well when the whole world is booming, but you still have to know what you’re doing.

Tim, 39, real estate: We’re in the lowest debt we’ve been in for many year. The country is in good shape. The money that Keating and the Labor Party spent just seemed to get us in debt and the poor old Liberal party has to get us out of it.

Bryan, 70, self-funded retiree: I rate the PM’s economic record poorly because the cost of living is going up so fast. And also because cheap imported goods are putting local businesses out of work.

Joe, 57, former electrician: Considering what Labor did with interest rates, I’d say Howard has managed the economy really well. John Howard is a long way ahead on the economy.

Iraq

Miriam, 24, student: I don’t agree with Australia being in Iraq. The decision to go was wrong. I think the troops should come home. I base that on one simple question: has there been improvement by having Australian troops there? No. The situation seems to be getting worse. We definitely shouldn’t send any more troops.

Mark, 51, limousine industry: It’s not an easy issue, but I’m not convinced it will win or lose an election. People are still more concerned about how the economy is running than Iraq.

Linda, 48, mother of three and businesswoman: He did the right thing by going there. I was behind it from the start, but whether we need to be there in an ongoing sense is another matter.

Bryan: We should never have gone to Iraq in the first place. What was Howard doing? Trying to impress his mates in the US if you ask me. There were no WMD, and John Howard was never involved in 9/11. It was the wrong target, and now we’ve created a civil war.

David Hicks

Joe: He should remain in America. I have no sympathy for him. My biggest concern is that if Hicks comes home he’ll get off. He needs to face the charges and if that means staying over there I’m all for that.

Ronald, 51, industry unknown: I don’t have a problem with terrorists being locked up for years at a time but I think it’s time Howard started to show some compassion, even if it’s just for the cameras. You think he would have learned after all the bad press about detention centres.

Brad, 45, chartered accountant: He has a right to be heard, but the guy brought it on himself, holding a gun against the yanks or whatever he was supposed to have done.

Krista, 38, retail: The fact that he’s been locked up for so long concerns me. It reflects poorly on the government, but he was involved in advanced training, so it’s not as though he’s an innocent person. But five years is too long. He should be brought back to Australia.

Water/Climate change

Sonia, 33, mother of two: Too little too late. Government at all levels have been procrastinating too long. It’s not something that can be swept under the carpet any longer. This should have been addressed a long time ago.

Jay, 29, construction: In not signing Kyoto Australia hasn’t been committed enough. We have certainly foregone any right we might have had to lecture countries like China about the environment.

Steven, 41, industry unknown: The fact that the ($10bn) water plan was never put to cabinet worries me. Looks like the idea was made up in a hurry or was a just a political statement.

Brad: [The Murray-Darling Basin plan] sounds like a good idea but I think we’ve got more issues at a state level. I think issues with Warragamba and other water-saving issues in Sydney are more pressing than anything at a federal level.

Joe: He’s treading cautiously as he should. There’s no proof that climate change is caused by mere mankind. Scientists are still arguing about it. If Howard wants to make a real difference he need to target big countries like China. His reaction has been responsible, whereas I think if Rudd was the prime minister we’d get a knee-jerk reaction.

Julie, 55, industry unknown: Howard has been extremely slow to react. I think he’s being lead by the mining industry, although there’s no quick answer. I’m on the fence about nuclear, so wouldn’t be opposed to it if someone could assure me it was safe.

Voting intentions.

Raymond, 36, food wholesaler: I’ll be basing my decision on economic management purely on a comparison of economic records. The Libs have been far from faultless but I have close to zero confidence in Labor. I don’t trust Labor at all. I do prefer Rudd to his predecessors, but it’s not enough to sway me. He’s narrowed the gap but not enough. Maybe he’ll be closer by the next election.

Linda: His policies on super and the unfair dismissal laws gave our business some leeway. I’ll vote for him on those grounds alone.

Mark: Although I probably lean towards Labor in my heart of hearts, I’ll vote Liberal based on the government’s track record. A mate of mine actually sits on the front bench of the Labor Party but I think you have to go for the proven performers

Anthony, 46, industry unknown: I’ll be voting on the economy, and Howard has done nothing wrong by me there. I’d be a mug to give the vote to Rudd.

Peter Fray

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