As a consequence of the publication this morning of the Newspoll in The Australian newspaper the Melbourne ABC personality John Faine rang me to talk about the marginal seats. However, he didn’t really do that. He began by asking me about the poll. Why was it so bad for Howard?
I told him that it has been quite obvious, ever since Kevin Rudd became leader, that Labor would win this election in a landslide. The landslide, of course, would include Maxine McKew winning Bennelong.
He asked me why and I said: “It is WorkChoices that has killed Howard”.
Faine asked me whether or not other issues were important, Iraq, climate change, interest rates etc. I said Howard could have won with a reduced majority carrying those but it is WorkChoices that has pushed him into defeat. He asked me to elaborate and I simply said what I have been saying all year, namely that Howard cheated six million Australians in October 2004. He did that because he knew that a vote for the Coalition was a vote for WorkChoices but he did not tell the rest of us. That is why no one believes anything Howard says these days.
Faine was taken aback, apologised to Liberal voters that he had invited me on his show but explained that I had a reputation for objectivity. I then said that the things I now say about Howard are substantially the things I said about Paul Keating twelve years ago.
I did, however, make one point. Twelve years ago I was not predicting the defeat of Paul Keating in Blaxland because Blaxland has always been a very safe Labor seat. By contrast Bennelong is so marginal it is actually the median seat on my current pendulum.
I told Faine that I think historians will rate Howard as a better Prime Minister than Paul Keating – though they will also rate Howard as the most dishonest, deceitful and cunning Prime Minister Australia ever had.
I said that Howard should have copied Bob Menzies, said to be Howard’s hero.
Menzies on two occasions, in 1951 and in 1959, gained control of the Senate and passed through the Senate in identical form the legislation rejected by the Senate in the previous term. If Howard had done that he would not now be in any trouble. He could have claimed a mandate and people would have believed him.
I acknowledged that Howard had a mandate for ten per cent of WorkChoices – in the form of legislation rejected by the Senate in his third term. If Howard had been honest (like Menzies) he would not now be in any trouble.
I said that Howard and Menzies are very different. Menzies was an honest conservative while Howard is a dishonest radical.
I also said that Howard could have been up there with Menzies in the history books if only he had shown the sense to retire in April last year, after completing ten years in the job. He should also have copied John Anderson, completing his term as a member while campaigning for his successor chosen by the Liberal Party as its candidate for Bennelong.
Faine told me the boards were lighting up so he bid me good bye.