While the Labor Party has sensibly followed the safe course of basically agreeing with Prime Minister John Howard on the need for immediate and decisive action in the Northern Territory to try and stop child abuse, Greens and Democrats have equally wisely chosen to quickly make their opposition to the proposals known.

For the two minor parties the issue could well be a political life saver as they have a chance of luring back the Howard haters who have voted for them in the past but who more recently had moved to supporting the Rudd-led Labor.

Not that Labor will worry too much about support lost in this fashion. The first task for Mr Rudd is to be appealing to the mainstream of Australia; narrowing the differences between his policies and those of Mr Howard limits the chances of being, in the currently popular political vernacular, wedged.

Saying anything against measures to protect children against dirty pedophiles would be extremely risky for a party after 50% support. It would surely lose more centralist votes to the Coalition than would be gained from the minority of people concerned about the civil liberties threatened by the Howard approach.

For the minor parties the equation is quite different. They will lose virtually no votes by taking the left leaning, principled stand and stand to gain from Labor and from small l Liberals.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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