Kevin Rudd might be the volatile and temperamental man in private that some journalists have described but in public he continues to show a discipline and calmness that is admirable in a political leader. He has developed quickly into a campaigner of great skill with his delivery of firm understatements.

Prime Minister John Howard is finding him such a difficult target that he is no longer campaigning against the Federal Labor Party. Mr Howard and his colleagues are now out and about pretending that their opponents at the forthcoming election are eight State and Territory Labor Governments.

Narrowing the target by refusing to take the bait as the Coalition gets more and more outlandish with its vote-buying efforts has certainly proved effective for Labor. The favourable opinion polls show that Mr Rudd is striking the right note with his justification for supporting so many of the Government’s initiatives. The public clearly approves of an Opposition Leader prepared not to oppose things just because that is what Opposition Leaders traditionally do.

But there was a sign on Friday that Mr Rudd is prepared to broaden the areas of attack on the Government. Not that there was anything outlandish about his call for an independent judicial inquiry into the government’s handling of the terror case against Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef.

He remained cautious about the whole question of national security while outlining a series of inconsistent statements by Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews since the minister cancelled the junior doctor’s work visa last month:

Take this for example – on 27 July Mr Andrews says he would not release Dr Haneef from immigration detention, on 28 July he releases Dr Haneef from immigration detention.

I don’t know the basis for the change in that position.

On 28 July, Mr Andrews claimed that he had no objection to Haneef leaving Australia; on 29 July Mr Andrews claimed Haneef’s decision to leave actually heightened rather than lessened his suspicions.

And on 29 July, Mr Andrews claimed that Dr Haneef attempted to fly home to India, his baby having been born for a month at that stage, and later he admitted it had only been born six days previous.

All I’m saying is that these positions are difficult for us to understand, those most recent positions and statements by Mr Andrews.

These carefully chosen words should be just enough to salve the consciences of those people concerned about civil rights who were beginning to despair that Labor was taking me-tooism too far without making Mr Rudd into a soft-on-terrorism target.

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RICHARD FARMER writes: ”The Crikey Election Indicator translates prices from the Betfair betting exchange in to the probability of each side forming the government after the next Federal Electio …”
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