Keeping on with petrol. A quick look at this morning’s Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment is all the encouragement Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson will need to keep hammering away at the horrors of high petrol prices. The index now stands at 79 when a figure of 100 indicates as many people optimistic as pessimistic. This is the lowest level since 1992 and Westpac economist Bill Evans says there is historical evidence to support petrol prices as the key explanation behind this recent fall in sentiment. Over the last three months, while official interest rates have been stable, the Index has fallen by 9.6%. That has coincided with a 15.3% rise in petrol prices. There is a recent precedent. Between July and October 2005, also a period of stable interest rates, the Index fell by 8.7% while petrol prices rose by 15.8%.

US08: The favourite quits. Senator Jim Webb was the most fancied Democrat to be Barack Obama’s running mate in November but this week he quit the contest. Webb, who served as secretary of the Navy under President Reagan and is a decorated former Marine, said he told Obama last week: “Under no circumstances will I be a candidate for vice president.”

That decision has brought Hillary Clinton back in to favouritism although the race for the vice presidential nomination is generally considered by the pundits to be wide open.

Naturally doing some destabilising in NSW. It is hardly surprising that the state branch of the ALP is campaigning against the Iemma government. Not to do so would mean accepting irrelevance. The men that State Treasurer Michael Costa verbally attacked so vigorously yesterday are naturally trying to assert the right of the broad Labor Party to influence the policy position of the Parliamentary Labor Party. That has been a basic tenet of the Labor Party in its 110 years of existence. Yesterday Treasurer Costa wrote to the Party machine withdrawing from attending a party fundraising function. “I cannot in good conscience at this time attend an event, under the auspices of NSW ALP head office,” Mr Costa wrote. “The NSW ALP head office machine, it appears with the acquiescence of its general secretary Karl Bitar and his mentors and supporters, has embarked on an unprecedented and underhanded campaign to destabilise the recently elected NSW Government and its Premier.” All that “unprecedented and underhanded campaign” really is about is reminding members of the State Parliamentary Party that the Party which put them in their seats overwhelmingly opposes the sale of the state owned electricity assets that Premier Morris Iemma and Mr Costa are determined to go ahead with. This morning Mr Iemma’s spinners were trying to put their man in the light of chastising his Treasurer and trying to keep the peace in the Party but this is not an issue that can be resolved by uttering platitudes. Either the privatisation plans must go or there really will be some destabilising going on — something like denying re-endorsement to any MP who sticks with Messrs Iemma and Costa and votes for privatisation.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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