The Howard Government is desperate. Fancy running yet another attack ad off the back of Peter Garrett’s throwaway line to Steve Price last week. It will not change a vote.

I know they don’t like The Worm in John Howard’s office, but they should take notice of where The Worm tracks when politicians talk about positive policies.

The ALP is running a very positive campaign and the voters are responding well. Kevin Rudd is looking like the Prime Minister already. He’s setting the agenda, even in the campaign environment. Unheard of for an opposition leader.

My recollection of Kevin Rudd’s first few days as opposition leader had TV pictures of Peter Garrett stapled to Rudd’s hip. The polls responded accordingly for Rudd and the ALP. Garrett has been one of the key circuit breakers for the ALP with blue collar blokes and the ALP’s now dominant position with younger Australian voters.

Kevin Rudd spent most of last week stapled to Peter Garrett’s hip again as they announced a string of very good environmental and climate change policies. The polls will no doubt again work for the ALP on that front.

Since joining the ALP, Peter Garrett has been the hardest working man in show business. No politician is in more demand to help ALP candidates, attend branch meetings, fundraisers, corporate events etc. Today’s Captains of Industry were yesterday’s Oil’s fans. Garrett works his guts out, with very few resources.

Despite the sell out accusations, Garrett has worked busily and professionally within the ALP to get policies like the 2020 MRET through the Shadow Cabinet — to the point where the CFMEU is quite supportive of the ambitious MRET target on behalf of its coal mining members. Unlike the hysteria we hear from Howard about the coal industry collapsing.

Garrett has made a stuff up or two. He’s only human. But he is still a powerful brand for the ALP. Like Malcolm Turnbull would be effective for the Coalition, if he hadn’t been told to go to ground after his Kyoto blunder.

John Howard, Peter Costello and Malcolm Turnbull, as well as Bob Brown have made huge concerted attacks on Peter Garrett to try to dent his credibility. From the time he announced his bid for ALP pre-selection to the pathetic efforts from the Steve Price incident last week.

Ironically the only losers from that strategy will be the Coalition and the Greens. Look down the TV barrel at Rudd and Garrett and you see energy, intelligence and enthusiasm. Their body language tells voters they want the job of running the country. Look at Howard and Costello and you see two mean spirited, negative, tired old campaigners.

This week Garrett will debate Turnbull at the National Press Club. Garrett is rated a better prospective Environment Minister than Turnbull by a factor of 3 to 1 according to Climate Institute polling. That’s after three years of strident personal attacks against Garrett by the Government. You’d reckon they’d have worked out it’s not biting by now.

Let’s hope Malcolm doesn’t do a Tony Abbott and forget to show.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey