What a difference a day makes! Dennis Shanahan writing in The Australian on Saturday:

Malcolm Turnbull has blind-sided the Government over the $42 billion stimulus package and left Kevin Rudd politically flat-footed and frustrated.

In a week in which both leaders have made the biggest gambles of their political careers and set the battlelines for the next election, the Liberal leader’s surprise Senate blockade has given the Opposition an early advantage.

This is the first time the Rudd Labor Government has appeared politically rattled, and it’s all because of Turnbull’s unpredictability.

Strategists within both the Labor and Liberal camps yesterday detected a much more sympathetic reaction than expected to Turnbull’s decision to block the payments and $950 bonuses to millions of Australians.

Straw polls, talkback radio reaction and internet surveys suggested the initial reaction to the Coalition blockade during the global financial crisis was actually going Turnbull’s way.

Dennis Shanahan writing in The Australian today:

The Rudd Government’s economic management and $12 billion cash giveaway have been strongly endorsed and have given Labor the same big boost it got before the pre-Christmas $10 billion cash splash.

According to the latest Newspoll survey, taken exclusively for The Australian at the weekend, primary vote support for Labor jumped five percentage points to 48 per cent — the same as in December — after the $42 billion economic stimulus package was announced last week.

A large majority of those surveyed, 63 per cent, also think the Rudd Government is doing a good job managing the economy during the global financial crisis and only 33 per cent think the Coalition would do a better job.

Labor’s primary vote jumped from 43 per cent to 48 per cent and the Coalition’s fell from 39per cent to 36 per cent.

On a two-party-preferred basis, Labor leads the Coalition 58 per cent to 42 per cent — close to its record margin just after winning the election.

After deciding to oppose the Government’s economic stimulus package in the Senate, Malcolm Turnbull has seen his personal support as Opposition Leader drop to a new low.

Israel goes to the polls. In the Israel election to be held tomorrow Benjamin Netanyahu is clearly favoured on the Crikey Election Indicator to emerge as Prime Minister. Not that the former Prime Minister’s Likud Party has much chance, if any, of winning in its own right. The aftermath of the actual voting will be haggling with a multitude of minor parties to form a workable coalition. What the pollsters are saying is that Likud and Kadima, led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, are in a neck-and-neck race to be the Knesset’s largest party with Likud probably marginally in front.

The big surprise of the actual campaign has been the emergence of the Yisrael Beiteinu party which appears likely to win more seats than Labor. The most likely of the major parties for Yisrael Beiteinu to support is Likud.

The Crikey Indicator has Netanyahu as a 79% chance of becoming Prime Minister to Livni’s 18% and Labor’s Ehud Barak 3%

The forecasters unfortunately were right. The boffins can not be blamed for failing to warn us about the acute fire danger at the weekend. Living in a house in the ACT’s Duffy it was with some trepidation that I listened on Thursday and Friday to the predictions that the emerging conditions in Victoria had a frightening similarity to the high temperatures, low humidity, potential winds and dry undergrowth that preceded the devastation of this Canberra suburb. These maps from the Bureau of Meteorology illustrate how the potential for disaster grew.

For over a week there was a vast part of Victoria (coloured brown on the map above) where maximum temperatures were an average of more than eight degrees hotter than normal. Then came another spell of gradually hotter days so that by Saturday virtually the whole of Victoria was 12 degrees or more hotter than the summer average.

Full marks to Malcolm Turnbull. It is a natural tendency for politicians to want to be seen to be doing something at a time of crisis. It is part and parcel of their business but there are times when the urge must be restrained and for Malcolm Turnbull the tragedy of the Victorian bushfires was one of them. If he had gone tearing off to get pictures on the television of him looking sympathetic he would have looked just like a grand standing politician but he showed the wisdom to stay at home and let Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister do what the leader of a country should do at a time such as this.

Peter Fray

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