It’s not the narrowing, but nor is it annihilation. It is an election in Australia.

The weekend Galaxy poll of the marginals isn’t perfect, but offers a plausible assessment of what we may see on Saturday. It shows swings in both directions, with Labor possibly losing Cowan in the West. It reminds us that the opposition vote may be tied up in safe seats, pointing back to the massive 10 per cent swing to Labor in Wayne Swan’s own electorate shown in an early Galaxy poll. It shows the five per cent plus margins that protects the Liberals’ more vulnerable seats in Victoria may be enough to save them.

Of course, its only polling – polling that was begun more than a week before the results were published – so it may be wrong. But it looks honest. Honest and plausible.

We seem set for a change of government this weekend. Whatever happens, though, we should be honest about the reasons why. We should offer plausible explanations.

There has been the weakness and the crassness of the Coalition campaign. Their sporadic slogan of “Go for growth” offers the perfect illustration of just how bad it has been.

“Go for growth” manages to capture everything that has gone wrong for the Coalition in three short words. It relates to the big picture, not individual circumstance – just like the political pitch that has failed the Coalition all year.

“Go for growth” fails the pig picture test. It is a narrow, impersonal statement. It even fails on economic grounds. It clashes with the causes and implications of the interest rate rise that has overshadowed the campaign. The promises to individuals have looked excessive and smacked of desperation.

John Howard won the last two elections because of security, because of national and economic security. Then he miscalculated, possibly fatally, with WorkChoices. He removed both job and income security in the eyes of too many voters. Then along came the interest rate rises, compounding his error.

Some political propagandists are already trying to tell us that a Howard defeat this weekend will herald a more altruistic Australia.

That’s garbage. Former Howard supporters are now swinging behind Rudd as the believe he is better equipped to preserve prosperity.

Rudd promises national security. He promises economic security. He adds another level of security to all this, too – political security. He won’t be going at some ill-defined juncture in his term. He goes out of his way to portray himself as a safe pair of hands. He has promised minimum change, but he packages it all up well with talk of “a positive vision for the nation’s future”.

The propagandists are talking tripe about this, too. Left ideologues who prefer policy purity to power and demand agendas Australian voters persistently reject have been even keener to denounce Rudd for me-tooism that John Howard.

Those who jump on Rudd’s promise to ratify Kyoto as a sign of a new era are either deliberately ignoring or do not realise that the environment played an important symbolic role the last time a federal Coalition government was defeated. The Franklin dam was stopped a quarter of a century ago but we are still debating Kyoto – and the Tasmanian wilderness.

Australians don’t mind altruistic gesture, but they prefer high wages and cheap credit and the McMansions, plasmas, private school educations and four wheel drives they bring.

What’s a honest and plausible forecast for next weekend?

Kevin Rudd seems set to win because he has convinced a crucial demographic to that he’ll let them keep what they’ve got – and maybe get some more.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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