“Brendan Nelson’s best friend so far has been Kevin Rudd,” the Sydney Morning Herald’s Phil Coorey writes today.

“While the Opposition Leader grapples with the varying views and renegades within the Coalition’s depleted ranks, outwardly, at least, he receives nothing but love from the Prime Minister.”

Nelson might actually have got quite a boost this week. Rather than being swept away by a wave of latte, he may have been carried to dry land.

We shouldn’t forget that the Coalition received 47.30 per cent of the two party preferred vote on 24 November. We shouldn’t also forget that people who were happy to respond to Liberal dog-whistles in 2001 and 2004 found WorkChoices, in Rudd’s own immortal phrase, a bridge too far, and changed back to the ALP.

It would be odd if even one of these voters was amongst the people who turned their back on Brendan Nelson as he gave his apology on Wednesday morning.

ABC Radio in Melbourne this morning has been excited by a report in a regional Victorian newspaper that the opposition leader quoted the words of a local member of the stolen generations without permission.

Nelson’s people say the material is publicly available in Many Voices oral history documents at the National Library of Australia and in print. Crikey was unable to establish at the time of going to press if explicit permission to use the material was granted.

While it might not be in the spirit of reconciliation to say so, this is a story for the latte set, anyway.

Many more Melbournians — and people across the country who swung back to Labor at the last election — will be angrier at the Herald Sun’s report that Victorian man Neville Austin is planning to launch Victoria’s first Stolen Generation claim, and that 30 to 40 more people will follow him.

The Rudd Government knows this, too. That’s why they are seeking to move so quickly to repeal WorkChoices. And it’s part of the thinking behind yesterday’s populist stunt on MPs pay.

It’s too early to know what issues will decide the next election. But this week’s wave of latte won’t swamp the opposition leader. For a while it might even float his boat.

Nelson will want the support, too. The latest Roy Morgan poll of federal voting intention puts Labor’s primary support on 54%, up 5% from the previous face to face Morgan Poll and Coalition support on 33%, down three points.

Peter Fray

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