On the eve of Election 07, the major papers have taken the opportunity to endorse their favoured party.

All except The Age, which claims that “it is not our role to tell you who to vote for (in a post-deferential age, no one wants to be told who to vote for), or to endorse one party over another.” Age readers will apparently “consider the issues carefully and decide which party they wish to be in government.” The paper’s “fundamental responsibility is to subject whichever party forms government to continuous independant [sic] scrutiny and measure words against actions.”

Other papers have no such compunction or regard for the decision-making capacity of their readers in the post-deferential age (whatever that is) and have clearly named their preferred party.

The Canberra Times didn’t entirely cover their choice in glory, grudgingly endorsing the ALP in an editorial narrowly focused on health and education spending.

The biggest surprise is the strong support for Labor in the Murdoch press — a marked difference from 2004. The Australian, Daily Telegraph, Courier-Mail and The Mercury are all throwing their support behind Kevin Rudd. For the Tele and the Courier-Mail, it’s their proud boast that this is only the second time in their respective histories they have endorsed Labor at a Federal level. News Ltd stablemates the Herald-Sun and The Advertiser back the Coalition. Both acknowledge the significant mood for change, as well as Rudd’s steady hands and his softly softly approach, but ultimately conclude that the Coalition’s economic record and delivery of prosperity renders them deserving of a fifth term.

In Northern Tasmania, The Examiner favours returning the Coalition, acknowledging that, as marginal seats, Bass and Braddon will benefit from government spending initiatives regardless of tomorrow’s outcome.

Here’s a rundown of where the major papers stand (Our unscientific tally has it at pro-ALP: 7, pro-Coalition: 3 and Undecided: 1):

The Australian, pro-ALP, “Time to think about the future”: The Australian has been portrayed by many people as an unquestioning supporter of the Howard Government. The truth is we exposed the children overboard affair, we pursued the Government over AWB, we argued passionately for tax reform, to the annoyance of Mr Costello. We exposed the weakness of the case against terror suspect Mohamed Haneef and were vocal about Mr Costello’s ill-advised appointment of businessman Robert Gerard to the Reserve Bank board. The truth is we are not so interested in one side of politics or the other. We advocate a set of principles that have motivated us for 40 years: an open economy, markets, international engagement, reform of the federation and labour market deregulation. With the caveat of industrial relations, Mr Rudd shares many of our reform ideals. We believe it is a new century and that Australia deserves a leader who reflects Australia’s character and position in a rapidly changing world and fast-growing region.

The Age, Undecided, “Two directions. One decision”: The Liberal-National Coalition has broadly argued we should support a continuation of its current policies. The argument goes that Australia’s prosperity depends on this support, and that now is not the time to install novices, and that electing Kevin Rudd puts that prosperity at risk. The campaign, led by Prime Minister John Howard, has sought an answer to the question that has perplexed him all year: why do voters seem intent on throwing out the Coalition? Mr Howard could stage the most extraordinary escape from the annihilation he canvassed earlier this year and win a fifth term by the narrowest of margins. Or he could suffer the drubbing foreshadowed by today’s Age/Nielsen poll. But it is likely his time is almost over.

Herald-Sun, pro-Coalition, “Prosperity and Growth”:
There are too many risks and too many unknowns for us to endorse the Rudd team at this election. And this is a direct result of the way he and his party have campaigned over the past six weeks. At the outset, we cautioned the Labor leader that voters would need to have a much better idea of what he stood for and how a Rudd Government would impact on their lives if they were to earn the votes of Australians and, by extension, our endorsement.

Sydney Morning Herald, pro-ALP, “We can’t afford the luxury of a long goodbye”:
The Coalition has served Australia well with many necessary reforms, but those are now past. It makes no compelling case for re-election. Under its current leadership it appears unwilling to respond to the new and growing challenges Australia faces. We do not know how it would deal with them. We believe this country must, for now, look elsewhere for that response – to Kevin Rudd, and the Labor Party.

Daily Telegraph, pro-ALP, “The right man for the times, Kevin Rudd”:
The Daily Telegraph believes Kevin Rudd should be the next Prime Minister of Australia. We believe Australia has been lucky to have been led by John Howard for the past 11 years. But we now believe Mr Howard has reached his use-by date – if for no other reason than he almost believes it himself. Our three-year Federal terms are short enough without a candidate for Prime Minister making a vague promise to walk away at half-way through. The 18-month to two year construction Mr Howard has put on his departure is, bluntly, an insult to the voters’ collective intelligence.

Courier-Mail, pro-ALP, “We stand behind a man of our state and our times”:
Kevin Rudd started the year talking about the need for the Commonwealth government to act on climate change, education, broadband and our decaying urban infrastructure. And he ends it with the very strong possibility of taking government tomorrow against a Coalition that has only belatedly embraced those issues. He deserves the public’s support. And he has the support of The Courier-Mail, only the second endorsement we have given federal Labor since the newspaper was established 74 years ago. We do not do so because he is a Queenslander, although the prospect of having the nation’s leadership understanding this state and its needs and priorities is appealing.

The Advertiser, pro-Coalition, “It’s not time to change government”:
The Prime Minister may also be suffering from a public perception that after almost 12 years, he and his Government are tired and lack vision and that he is not long for office because Treasurer Peter Costello is lurking in the wings. The latter should not be an issue. Mr Costello’s economic credentials could not be more obvious and he also holds promise of being a more progressive and socially aware leader. Whether led by Mr Howard or Mr Costello, the Coalition should be returned to power.

Canberra Times, pro-ALP,  “Giving priority to health, education”: Neither the Coalition nor Labor have addressed the longterm health-care challenges facing Australia, nor offered new approaches to preventive health and managing primary and acute care in hospitals. Building a better health-care system is perhaps the biggest challenge for government. Rather than throwing ever greater amounts of money at parts of the problem, a comprehensive focus is required. On that basis, Labor is a better bet to deliver the reforms that voters expect.

The Mercury, pro-ALP, “Time for a change”:
Labor has earned its place in front in the home straight. It is a formidable force again. Mr Rudd set about a policy agenda from day one and has been unrelenting in pushing a message of new leadership but at the same time a safe pair of hands. He has so closely aligned himself with the Government on so many issues that the electorate can barely see daylight between them.

Launceston Examiner, pro-Coalition, “No compelling case for change”: Polling has consistently suggested a change of government is on the cards. If that is the case, Labor will not have won government because it presents a fundamental change, but because it has been at pains to present itself as safe and conservative: in many ways just like the Howard Government. While the electorate may opt for a change, there seem to be few genuinely strong reasons for it to happen.

Northern Territory News, pro-ALP “It’s time for a fresh start”: On policy, the difference between the major parties is slight. A vote for Mr Rudd would be a vote for a government with a tad more breadth. A vote for Mr Howard would be a vote for more of the same. And, let’s be honest, the same has been pretty good. Having said that, a vote for Mr Howard would, in effect, be a vote for Peter Costello. On balance, we endorse Mr Rudd and Labor – but, just like the Top End seat of Solomon, it’s marginal.

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Peter Fray
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