“Is it me?” asks a puzzled Prime Minister at yesterday’s out-of-season cabinet meeting. According to Dennis Shanahan — how does he get this stuff? — this question was greeted by a deafening silence.

Phillip Coorey of the SMH yesterday provided the facts:

More than a third of voters are cutting spending to keep a roof over their heads, but are more inclined to blame fellow home-owners, investors and developers than the Howard Government, the latest Herald/ACNielsen poll shows.

But even though the Government escapes complete blame for the financial pressure squeezing voters, there is no joy for the Coalition in the poll’s main findings. Labor maintains its crushing lead over the Government – 58 to 42%, two-party preferred. And it continues to trounce the Coalition in the primary vote, 49% to 39%.

Tony Abbott was reported yesterday as musing why “good government” had not paid off for the government.

George Megalogenis is the thinker who has uncovered the answer, or at least a good part of the answer. It is the “two speed economy” — the battlers are in western Sydney doing it tough with house prices still falling despite the boom in the resource states and slow recovery elsewhere.

A day or so ago, Jason Koutsoukis addressed the sensitive issue of the Prime Minister’s age, comparing the non-debate on that subject with the strong debate about whether Kevin Sheedy and Denis Pagan are getting past it in their jobs coaching Essendon and Carlton.

Koutsoukis also looks at the role of the PM’s new Chief-of-Staff, Tony Nutt:

This is the bottom line: if you cut yourself off from sources of information in the belief that you are protecting the Prime Minister, then when it comes time to make a decision you don’t have balanced information,” the ministerial chief-of-staff said.

There is no doubt about this. It is a very widely held opinion. Arthur was the voice of reason, and he’s gone. It’s hurting the Government and it’s hurting Howard.

Yet 16 weeks from the most likely polling day of November 10, a leadership change now seems unlikely. A year ago, the Liberals had the chance to reset the government, to clean out the stables, and do things a little differently, and they blew it. Miles behind in the opinion polls, a humiliating defeat staring him in the face, July 26 will not be the happiest of birthdays for John Howard.

The war on terror

On the face of it, the government’s treatment of Dr Haneef seems grossly unfair. “There’s more to this than meets the eye” is the line of the loyalists, including on ABC radio this morning Minister for Immigration Kevin Andrews.

Kevin Rudd will give total support on the government on this one, avoiding the risk of a giant wedge.

The Oz on its front page reveals a bit more, based on allegations from “AFP sources” who are not named.

“AFP sources said last night that Mr Andrews would have been shown information that was not tendered to the courts. They said police would have been free to show the minister information that they might not have been able to put before a judge”.

We are on the brink of a very slippery slope. The unsubstantiated allegations need to be tested in court post-haste.

Read more at Henry Thornton.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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