The day has come — politics heads Julia Gillard is a wizard. She has managed to achieve something I thought impossible — she has put a political story into top spot on the most read list of the very low-brow website. There it was at lunchtime today: “Sit down you mincing poodle — Gillard“. Our thanks should also go to SA Liberal MP Christopher Pyne for his contribution in provoking the Deputy Prime Minister into this exchange in the House of Representatives yesterday: “I must admit that I did want to see the member for Warringah (Tony Abbott) making a comeback. In a choice between macho and mincing, I would have gone for macho myself. And obviously the Leader of the Opposition (Malcolm Turnbull), faced with the choice of a doberman or poodle, has gone for the poodle. ”

Holding each other hostage. Circumstances of the world financial crisis have forced China and the USA into being an unlikely pair of allies as the American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton does a little pleading for the world’s biggest authoritarian regime to keep supporting the land of the free while Chinese President Hu Jintao ponders the losses on existing loans should it fail to do so. The world power structure is certainly changing and if you are inclined to believe those pundits who say the only way the United States has of getting out of its financial hole is to eventually inflate its debts to a manageable level then start watching China very closely.

At the moment, the concern in China is to protect its foreign exchange assets now held in US Treasury bills, but surely at some moment the concern will switch to whether good money is not actually being thrown after bad. If American inflation is the final solution to all those years of living beyond its means then those Treasury bills will eventually be repaid by dollars with a purchasing power a mere fraction of today’s. This decision about what to do with currency reserves surely puts great influence in the hands of a group of very undemocratic rulers.

A strange kind of warming. Dennis Shanahan, the man with the extraordinary ability to find a pro-Liberal angle in any opinion poll, must be giving tuition to his Queensland colleague Sean Parnell. This morning in The Australian Parnell had the Liberal National Party over the summer break regaining ground lost to Labor, “with voters still warming to the idea of Lawrence Springborg becoming premier.” It was not until 133 words into the story that readers were told that the Newspoll actually had Labor comfortably ahead with 53% of the two party preferred vote to the LNP’s 47. As to the leader voters were said to be warming to, Opposition Leader Springborg trailed Premier Anna Bligh as preferred Premier 31% to 48%.

Newspolls since the last state election:

Going early the biggest risk. I have never heard of a politician who called an early election after being told by the party pollster that the opponent was likely to win — although I do recall Bob Hawke going to the polls once despite being told that he was starting behind but with a lot of signs pointing to him doing well enough in a four weeks campaign to finish in front.

I doubt that Anna Bligh is in that gambling category of leader with her decision to seek a mandate in her own right six months before it was necessary. She, I fancy, has been told she is comfortably enough in front to withstand the kind of backlash that struck State Labor in Western Australia when Alan Carpenter went early.

Nevertheless that WA experience will be a worrying factor for Labor as the campaign progresses. Premier Bligh will need to be convincing as she makes the case that the troubled economic times to come require a government that can be devoted to doing whatever is necessary to help the people of the state without worrying about its own electoral survival. If I was her I would be saying something like:

I know people do not like governments going to the polls sooner than necessary. I am well aware that my decision to do so could well cost Labor votes. But there is one thing more important than what is best for the interests of my party. The important thing is to do what is in the best interests of Queensland. And the best interest of Queenslanders is that in six months time, when the impact of the world financial crisis really begin to bite, there is a government in office that is free to concentrate on what will be difficult decisions without the distraction of fighting an election at the same time. So I have taken this decision to hold the election on March 21 so that the people of Queensland can choose who they believe is best suited to be the stable government they will need in the troubled times that are ahead.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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