Turnabout on turning back. The reason for not having a p0licy too early in the election game is well known. If people like what you say in opposition, the other team will pinch it. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has meticulously followed this small target strategy for nigh on three years. The emphasis very much has been on what the government is doing or not doing.

It seemed a safe enough way to prepare for eventual victory. Certainly the opinion polls seemed to indicate so. Ah, but that “not doing bit” with its carping criticism of the government for not doing enough to stop the arrival of those boat people actually was a policy. Little by little Labor under Julia Gillard moved back closer to the Liberal mantra of “what the Howard government did”. And then along came Kevin Rudd with his pre-emptive strike of shipping all arrivals off to Papua New Guinea.

Policy was not only pinched but trumped. As the Coalition now has realised, claims that it would turn back the boats is not enough. Hence the turnaround on turning back. Now the Abbott team is desperately playing catch up.

If it weren’t all so terribly unedifying it would be fun watching the biter getting bitten.

Paying the toll. I’m not waiting any longer for an official announcement. The election campaign is clearly on, so I’m starting my daily skimming of the election news in the papers whether PM Kevin Rudd is ready or not.

And an impressive start for us this morning by The Age with this page-one pointer:

Now there is more than a tad of hypocrisy about Labor criticising opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison for having his travel expenses paid for by a benefactor. Rudd in a former life as a not-so-humble backbencher had a trip or two courtesy of some Taiwanese friends, and Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon knows a thing or two about freebie study trips as well. But the piece by Jonathan Swan and Bianca Hall does raise a question worth keeping in mind: why do companies like Toll Holdings, which has multimillion-dollar contracts to help handle asylum seekers, see helping fund politicians as a national duty?

Elsewhere, the Sydney Daily Terror’s junior attack dog Gemma Jones has clearly been learning well from the paper’s master of the art Simon Benson. She is an easy winner of today’s media bias report with this entry:

An honourable mention goes to the Terror’s “editor at large” John Lehmann for his contribution of a glowing report on a comprehensive “action plan” released by those paragons of fairness at the Business Council of Australia:

Further honourable mentions:

High stakes test for the nation — Paul Kelly argues in The Australian that Rudd’s PNG policy can succeed only if it is never fully implemented.

Rudd flies in Team Obama. The Sydney Morning Herald’s Mark Kenny on how Rudd has called in three US campaign heavyweights to help defeat Abbott.

Mini-budget will be a big test for Treasurer Chris Bowen — Jessica Irvine in the Murdoch tabloids starts with an old Irish joke before arguing that this time, we can believe the updated numbers to be released this week are “really Treasury’s because we are so close to the election. According to the Charter of Budget Honesty, Treasury must, within 10 days of the election writs being issued, release its own opinion of the nation’s finances. And it would not be a good look for Rudd and Bowen to have too big a gap between this mini-budget and Treasury’s pre-election statement.”

Those darned protesters. Political parties go to extreme lengths to keep secret the movements of their leaders during a campaign lest prior announcement of an itinerary brings out the protesters to ruin a planned photo opportunity. Yesterday it might have been only a singele person with a sign, but disrupt Tony Abbott’s procession he did.

Kevin Rudd was able to move on unmolested as he played a Coodabeen Champion, putting his autograph on a kid’s cricket bat.

The daily indicator. The Crikey Election Indicator for July 31 — Labor 28.4% Coalition 71.6%. Change on day — Labor -0.2 pts. Change last 30 days — Labor +4.8 pts.

News and views noted along the way.

Peter Fray

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