“Dejected NSW Liberals have begun an unofficial post-mortem on what they fear will be a big election defeat next week,” reports The Sydney Morning Herald  today. “Fingers are pointed at the choice of leader, factional powerbrokers, the party’s depleted coffers and the long-term failure to put new talent into safe seats.”

Has the brute power of incumbency in Australian politics come to this – a post-mortem ten days before the death? Where a palpably incompetent Government (and equally incompetent Opposition) go through the motions of an election campaign whose outcome is so predictable that the likely loser starts its hand-wringing almost two weeks before the voters tick their boxes?

OK, but here’s a more relevant question for the Howard Government: how powerful is incumbency when your Opposition isn’t incompetent? Yesterday, in an ABC radio interview, federal Treasurer Peter Costello indirectly answered that question and — as Christian Kerr points out in Crikey today — gave federal Labor advance notice of a key Government line for the federal poll when he said: “If you read the polls Labor is doing well and if the polls were right you would have eight Labor State and Territory governments and the risk of a Federal Labor Government”.

Throw the dirt, question the Opposition’s “judgement” and constantly raise the spectre of every Australian government being of Labor hue — is that a cocktail which will appeal to the taste buds of an increasingly prosperous electorate who seem to be growing sick and tired of politicians being little more than politicians?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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