The momentum of this election seems to be sliding away from Prime Minister John Howard. Friday and the weekend saw quite ordinary performances from the Coalition and Labor were clear winners on our Daily Verdict calculations.
|Day 12 – Friday 26 October|
|Day 13 – Saturday 27 October|
|Day 14 – Sunday 28 October|
Of the 15 days during which Crikey has rated the respective campaigns, Labor has won nine to six for the Government. The only saving grace for the Howard team is that interest in politics remains low among members of the public and this has limited the damage of things like the weekend slip-ups which delivered Labor its daily wins.
What is not such good news is the news hiatus which is sure to surround the whole political campaign as the Melbourne Cup approaches. From Friday onwards the only race that will interest Australians will be the one at Flemington. And when that event is over it will be back to interest rates on the front pages as the Reserve Bank delivers its verdict on Wednesday week.
As the last few days have shown, the economy is no longer the strong point that the Government had hoped. All the recent speculation about a sixth rates rise has given Labor wonderful ammunition to shoot down the reputation of Messrs Howard and Peter Costello as being superior economic managers. The discovery of an interview where the Prime Minister did say before the last election that interest rates would be kept at a 30-year low was real bonus material for his opponents.
Whether the Reserve directly ruins the Coalition campaign by acting to put rates up next week or it is left to the commentators to say that the Bank squibbed it and a rate rise is inevitable in December will matter little. The gap between Coalition and Labor on the question by the pollsters of which party is the better economic manager will surely narrow.
In the meantime the stories about the Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull being rebuffed in his attempt to get Cabinet to sign the Kyoto protocol have the campaign debate well and truly back on the environmental grounds where Labor is clearly seen as more responsible than its opponent.
I am sure that Crikey readers were not surprised by the weekend stories on this subject because my colleague Christian Kerr was across the tensions that clearly exist within the Government almost two weeks ago when he wrote:
Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull says signing Kyoto would be “worth three per cent” for the Coalition vote. Crikey understands Turnbull says Australia is very close to meeting its Kyoto targets anyway. But Crikey also understands that Turnbull says “that f—king c—t” (his description of his boss, John Howard) won’t ink the treaty for fear of offending President Bush.
If he glances at The Daily Verdict then Mr Turnbull is unlikely to change his mind. Things have not got better since the campaign proper began and the slide is being measured in the betting markets as well as this graph comparing the Verdict with the course of the Crikey Election Indicator based on the betting market at Betfair shows.