Liberal leadership obsession. It is only since I started getting up early to do Crikey’s breakfast wrap of the daily papers, and really studying all the things that are written about politics, that I have realised just how leadership obsessed journalism has become.

Stories out of Canberra about whether Peter will or Peter won’t, whether Brendan will survive or Brendan will be sacked, are far and away the mainstay of the reporting from Canberra. At a quick count there have been 60 stories on this theme in the last month in the major papers and that is only counting those in the Murdoch tabloids as one!

And what have all these words told us? Journalists do not have the faintest clue whether Peter Costello is coming or going. The finding has bemused me enough to make me promise to do some proper evaluation over the weekend to find out just what proportion of so-called political journalism is pointless prediction. I expect to find that meaningless stories about whether interest rates will go up come a close second to those on Costello.

Another election coming. Canberra’s very own toy parliament wound up last night so our inflated town councilors can prepare themselves for the ACT election in October. I am sure that the prospect of being forced to the polling booth is filling most locals with dread but I dutifully thought I should listen this morning to the weekly Chief Minister’s talkback program on local ABC radio to get myself into the mood. And what did I hear?

The first question was about the untidy state of some parkland at the edge of a main rod and I was impressed that Labor’s John Stanhope was in full command of all the detail about the disorder being the natural state for bush land in this area.

Then it was on to the state of a particular piece of footpath which again our top man knew all about as he reeled off the figures of planned footpath expenditure over the next four year budget cycle. It is things like this that make compulsory voting so necessary. Without the compulsion hardly a soul would vote.

The convention bounce. Monday night’s speech at the Democratic Party National Convention by Michelle Obama, and Tuesday night’s speech by Hillary Clinton appear to have worked as the campaign managers would have hoped. The Gallup daily tracking poll today shows what the pollster calls the typical convention “bounce” it has observed in most party conventions in recent decades. Democratic candidate Barack Obama has gained ground and now leads Republican John McCain among registered voters by a 48% to 42% margin.

Because there is a lag of sorts involved in the daily tracking with interviewing conducted in most parts of the country before that evening’s high-focus speeches have taken place, the reception given to yesterday’s speeches by former President Bill Clinton and vice presidential candidate Joe Biden is not yet clear. And the really significant speech will be today’s of the candidate himself. 

Calling in the fraud squad. Having your Coalition partner investigated by the Fraud Squad is not exactly the campaign strategy New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark would want as she languishes well behind in the opinion polls but it is what she is confronting today. The New Zealand Herald reports that the Serious Fraud Office yesterday announced an investigation into the fate of donations to New Zealand First, a move Mr Peters described as “ridiculous in the extreme”.

Embarrassing Peter. Much fun poked this morning at the singer of anti-nuclear songs who as Environmental Minister approved the extension of a South Australian uranium mine. The journos just loved it but Peter Garrett’s day may come with the scrapping of the Tasmanian pulp mill without him having to do anything. The Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett this morning repeated a promise to cut off all support for the project if it has not got finance by November 30th when a sovereign risk agreement expires. Gunns has told the Australian Stock Exchange it is not sure if the pulp mill will proceed.

Peter Fray

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