Winners and losers from tax changes. It is axiomatic that if Australia really does get the “root and branch” changes to the tax system that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is promising, there will be losers as well as winners. And, such is the way of politics, those that lose from the process will be more likely to express their anger than those that gain will be to demonstrate their gratitude. That is the reason that so often in the past politicians have baulked at making dramatic changes. The courage John Howard showed by introducing a goods and services tax was exceptional; winning the election after doing so was even more so. The big tax change of the Hawke-Keating years – introduction of a capital gains tax – was in a different category because there were many more winners than losers. Prime Minister Rudd is yet to give us any clues as to who he thinks the winners and losers might be from his changes.

Cruel ABC listeners. They are a cruel lot, those who listen to ABC radio. There was Louise Adler of Melbourne University Press, just finished an interview about publishing Peter Costello’s political memoirs, and in came the calls: “Will the book have a spine?”, asked one. And these suggestions for the title: “All tip and no iceberg”, “I did it his way” and “Malvern Star”.

A little diversion. Holding a plebiscite on whether Australia should move to become a republic and the form of that republican structure if it should, would be a sound move for the Labor Government at the next federal election. Foreseeing the future 30 months from now is a difficult task but economic conditions are unlikely to be as benign for the Rudd Government when polling day comes as they were during the Coalition decade. A little diversion might be just what is needed and holding out the promise of a republic will keep the true believers believing.

A terrible start. The Newspoll out today sent me scurrying through my records to look at how defeated parties have fared in past opinion polls four or five months or so after their losing election. The picture is hardly a pretty one for the Coalition as the combined Liberal and National primary vote of 34 per cent is by far the lowest I can find going back to 1961.

Election Poll Date Opposition Gap
30-Nov-61 9-Feb-62 52 7
26-Nov-63 26-Jun-64 43 -9
25-Oct-66 4-Feb-67 38 -17
13-Dec-75 Mar-76 42 -9
10-Dec-77 May-78 37 -11
18-Oct-80 Mar-81 45 -2
5-Mar-83 Jul-83 39 -16
1-Dec-84 Apr-85 41 -11
11-Jul-87 Nov-87 44 -1
24-Mar-90 Jul-90 45 7
13-Mar-93 Jul-93 45 2
2-Mar-96 28-Jul-96 38 -11
3-Oct-98 31-Jan-99 40 -6
10-Nov-01 24-Feb-02 40 -2
9-Oct-04 23-Jan-05 37 -9
24-Nov-07 20-Apr-08 34 -17

The present 17 point gap between the Labor primary vote and that for the Coalition is also the equal highest for the post election periods I have records for. Only back in 1967 after the crushing defeat of October 1977 was a Labor Opposition as far behind as that although the Coalition came close after the Bob Hawke ascendancy in 1983 when the gap reached 16 points.

Malcolm’s full support. No wonder, with figures like those above, to hear Malcolm Turnbull calling this morning for Brendan Nelson to be given “a fair go”. No Liberal in his right mind would want to take over when it is clearly not just the leader on the nose but the image of the whole party which is being rejected. “Brendan has the support of the party room,” the Shadow Treasurer told ABC radio from New York. “He has to be given a fair go. He hasn’t been leader for very long, but you know, he is working very hard. Nobody said these were easy days for an Opposition.”

Voting for McCain. It’s enough to make a man want to vote Republican! The following appears this morning on the website of the correspondent covering the US election for The Economist:

Two aspects of Mr McCain’s biography appeal immensely to voters. First, he is a hero. Second, he behaved disgracefully when he was young. He caroused, dated strippers, crashed planes and got into fights. Once, when a girl invited him to meet her family, he arrived so drunk that he fell through the screen door of her parents’ house. He comes from a long line of men with white uniforms but colourful characters. His father, a hard-drinking admiral whose beautiful wife had an identical twin sister, was sometimes asked how he could tell the two ladies apart. “That’s their problem,” he’d reply.

The Daily Reality Check

A lobbyist fellow on ABC radio calling it nothing more than a PR stunt and that was that. The 2020 summit disappeared without any other trace. Oh it was on the websites alright. Scores of individual stories with learned commentary about the significance of the big weekend out in Canberra. It’s just that no one was very interested in reading them. The big story of the day was the Sydney girl who has bewitched the Harry Potter movie star with Peter Costello the favourite pollie. He made one top five with news of a forthcoming political memoir and another as featuring well in an opinion poll as a prospective Liberal Party leader.

The Pick of this Morning’s Political Coverage

Peter Fray

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