There was a pleasant blue backdrop and a hall brimming with the party faithful. The Treasurer made some jokes and all the superstars of Team Howard were there, laughing, clapping, and eventually being upstanding to kick along the Coalition’s campaign. But even with another $9.4 billion for voters, was it enough to shift momentum in the campaign back to Mr Howard?

We took the question to the Crikey Cabbie Panel.

Gerard Donaghy, Gold Coast. Howard never impresses and is hardly believable. I don’t think yesterday’s launch had the same affect as the tax package at the start of the campaign, but with over a week to go there’ll be more dropping out of Johnny’s picnic basket. The bloke’s desperate so it’ll be promise after promise from here on in. But it’s still give with the left and take with the right. You never end up any further in front, do you? But the feedback I’m getting is that the result is line ball at the moment, and actually it looks like he might get back up. It’s no certainty for Labor, that’s for sure. I think it’s still the financial hoodoo haunting Labor from times past, and ironically it’s the interest rate rise that’s reminding them what it was like. There’s a fear about interest rates and that’s what’s holding Howard in place. It’s as simple as that.

Bruce Tootell, Melbourne. No, it didn’t. I think John’s in trouble. The launch may get him some votes but it won’t turn the election around. He can’t just throw money at a problem. I’m actually a little bit worried. If I was John Howard I would say, “Kevin, I want you to tell me how you are going to run this economy. I’m going to give you all the air time you want, just tell me. We’ll even pay for your airtime.” The election can be turned around but I don’t think they’ve got the cleverness. Labor hasn’t got Mark Latham in charge anymore. Rudd’s a Tony Blair type and Tony Blair can win elections. The only way to win the election is to really put the heat on him, not personally, because nobody cares if he goes to a nightclub. They need to do it economically. They also need some very new fresh slogans. I don’t know how they haven’t used “The poor can’t give to the poor”. If you tell the Libs to ring Bruce the cab driver, I’ll tell them how they can win the election.

David Bradley, Sydney. In a word, no. People aren’t that stupid. You just can’t fool people that easily. He can have all the nice parties he likes, it doesn’t bring down the cost of living, it doesn’t bring down interest rates, and it doesn’t take away the feeling that maybe it’s just time for a change. It’s been a long time we’ve been hearing the same arguments trotted out at each election. If John wants to have a nice party that’s wonderful for him, but the least he could do is invite all the people who can’t afford to have nice parties anymore. If Howard wants to get the momentum back instead of having nice launch parties he could do something to lower the cost of living and perhaps start listening to people. I work around his electorate quite a bit and I keep meeting people who say “I’ve had enough.” When people in your own electorate aren’t real keen on you anymore, it’s not hard to wonder how the rest of the nation feels.

Con Vokalos, Adelaide. I think it did. A lot of people took notice of the education payouts. It sort of pricked their ears up a bit. They’re all saying they are going to have to sit down at some point and work out who is offering them more. From what I’ve been hearing, they were gone for all money but people are starting to listen to them now. Where a lot of them are spittin’ it a bit is with that new savings package for people who haven’t got a first home. People think they should have means tested it. They’re a bit more receptive to a means test on the school announcements. But there are no in betweens with this election. Some have switched off completely until they walk in to vote, and the rest are really listening. Yesterday’s announcement certainly made an impression, but I don’t know if it will be enough.

To read more from the Crikey Cabbie Panel, click here

Peter Fray

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