The advice Prime Minister John Howard has got from his advisory team down in the Liberal Party’s Melbourne headquarters is readily apparent: smile dammit, smile.

The grumpy old man wallowing in the past during the first two weeks of this very long election campaign has been positively beaming this week. With high fives on the morning walk and cuddles for teddy bears he looks anything but the man headed for an inglorious defeat. The turn around really is amazing. Suddenly all the pictures start looking better and for the nth time let me repeat that it is the pictures that matter not the words.

Who, watching the clips on the television news for example, knows what the pollies are talking about when they keep referring to Kyoto? Thomas Hunter writing in this morning’s early edition of Crikey was right to draw attention to this report in the Daily Telegraph:

A straw poll by The Daily Telegraph has found many don’t know what the Kyoto Protocol is. In the limited poll yesterday, 38 per cent thought the Kyoto Protocol was a treaty ending WWII. And in a disturbing finding, 14 per cent thought Kyoto was a Japanese banquet dish.

Yet on and on they went yesterday and again this morning – John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull, Bob Brown et al – earnestly arguing about the significance of something which very few people understand and then, to make matters even more confusing, they tossed in a reference every now and again to Bali.

Goodness knows, I’m sure many listeners thought, what Bali has got to do with global warming. Perhaps the politicians suddenly changed the subject to the fate of the Bali bombers or those Australian drug mules. The message that might have come across from all the words and the accompanying commentary on them by journalists was that underneath all the criticism of one another there was emerging another one of those “Me Too” issues.

Labor leader Rudd and his now silent environmental spokesman Peter Garrett, the Prime Minister assured us, had now changed their position on that banquet dish to be exactly the same as his. And in the true spirit of policy togetherness Mr Howard showed he was just as capable of adopting a Rudd-Garrett policy as they were of joining him by suggesting that there might be merit in a 20% renewable energy target by 2020 whatever that might actually mean.

Peter Costello and Wayne Swan showed another version of “me-tooism” at the National Press Club yesterday when there were not many things they appeared to disagree on. Both the Treasurer and the would-be Treasurer are in to giving tax cuts when they can. Both favour spending a little more on health and education while doing nothing to promote inflation. Only on the role of wages did they differ. For Treasurer Costello the balance in industrial relations is now right with Mr Swan getting the worm to nod in agreement when he said that the anti-worker sentiment of the Government had gone too far and that Mr Costello as Prime Minister would take it even further.

Given that “me too” was the order of the day it will not surprise anyone that Crikey’s The Daily Verdict was again a close run thing.

Coalition ALP
Television 2.21 2.51
Newspapers 0.07 0.09
Radio 0.30 0.18
Internet 0.28 0.23
TOTAL 2.86 3.01

In the end the narrow win for Labor was more the work of the worm than anything the Opposition contributed itself. The ups and downs of that line across the screen are just more interesting than listening to grown men talk about the end of World War II.

You will find details of the way the Daily Verdict is compiled, with the help of raw material provided by our friends at Media Monitors, on the Crikey website.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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