The Government’s remarkable run of bad luck in this campaign continues. Somewhere deep in the bowels of Liberal HQ, there must be a roomful of broken mirrors.
The Coalition needs a perfect final week to have any hope of clawing back enough support to hang on, assuming it can pick up WA seats. It is critical that there be no distractions, and that it stay focussed on some simple messages about the bribes it is offering the electorate and the perils of voting Labor. Yesterday it managed neither.
At least the Ballarat goldmine collapse didn’t turn into another Beaconsfield. Apart from the trivial matter of many lives being endangered, it would also have sucked all remaining interest (if there is any) out of the campaign. But in the scheme of things, that didn’t help much, because the AAT chose yesterday to dismiss an FOI appeal about the Government’s industrial relations documents.
The notion that Governments should be required to reveal Cabinet documents is perverse, but right now the Government’s reluctance to release the documents is a terrible look. The result was a simple, easily-conveyed story suggesting a cover-up, and Seven, and Labor, gleefully ran with it.
Then again, if you missed the FOI shenanigans, you might have heard that PM&C’s annual report came out, revealing the exact amount of advertising the Government has bought in the last 12 months – a mere $200m. Everyone knew the Government was wasting a lot of money promoting itself, but that’s a lot of cocaine for advertising and media executives. But this by no means exhausted the Coalition’s run of ill-fortune.
Former NSW Opposition leader Peter Debnam – now there’s a bloke who knows how to win elections – offered an unprompted opinion on climate change, contradicting the Prime Minister on Kyoto. On the very day Sydney’s Telegraph ran a front-page piece on Coalition disunity.
Not to mention a poll showing Joe Hockey struggling against Mike Bailey. Hockey was gifted North Sydney by the unexpected retirement of Ted Mack, so losing it out of the blue would not be entirely unfair. Even so, to be beaten by a TV weatherman suggests the electoral gods are feeling particularly vindictive toward Hockey.
It wasn’t all pure bad luck. The Prime Minister managed yet more self-inflicted damage. Declaring that WorkChoices would become “part of the furniture” if he won was clumsy, and there’s still a bit of time for that quote to pop up in Labor advertising.
Government strategists must be hoping they’ve used up their bad luck for the week and that they can get some clear air until Saturday morning. On present form, you’d have to doubt it. Expect Australia to lose the cricket, bushfires to break out across the eastern states and a slew of former leaders to emerge berating the Government. It’s been that sort of campaign for them.
Meanwhile, what is it with Kevin Rudd and schoolgirls? Whereas John Howard can only manage to bowl over old women in shopping centres, Rudd is inspiring boy-band levels of adoration among teenagers. The man gives hope to uber-nerds everywhere. Yesterday they were even fainting in his presence. When you’re hot, you’re hot. And, as the Coalition is discovering, when you’re not, you’re very definitely not.