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Do or die election for Beazley

WA goes into Australia’s first federal election campaign this century with 21 seats at stake – 15 in the House of Represen-tatives and six in the Senate.

For the second time, Western Australian Kim Beazley seeks Australia’s top political job.

If he loses he’s unlikely to get another chance. For him it’s a political do or die encounter.

Mr Beazley entered this campaign as underdog for several reasons.

Firstly, he’s never quite been able to convincingly demon-strate to voters that he is, beyond doubt, the man for the job.

Secondly, he and his advisers have failed to find an original issue or package of issues to propel him into the public’s imagination.

Thirdly, he’s made several elementary bungles – quibbling about the GST rather than accepting it as a fait accompli, for instance, and slip-ups like his daughter’s hospital experience.

Fourthly, the murderous attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and America’s bombardment of Afghanistan, have prompted widespread apprehension and a patriotic spirit that’s benefited Mr Howard more than Mr Beazley.

And lastly there’s that crucial advice Liberal Party national president Shane Stone gave Mr Howard and Treasurer Peter Costello some time ago that voters were perceiving them as “mean and tricky”.

Of these five, Mr Stone’s advice was by far the most significant, for the Howard-Costello team for too long seemed aloof and self-indulgent, thinking they and only they knew what was right for all.

Mr Stone, maybe in the nick of time, stopped the two in their stride. But it’s to their credit that, after getting over the initial shock of being told they too were fallible, they lifted their game.

Although the recent federal budget was formulated in the best tradition of all pre-election budgets, with lots of vote buying items, it was right for many deserving people, something that probably wouldn’t have occurred if the duo hadn’t been straightened out by Mr Stone.

That said, let’s consider these Howard pluses, but from Mr Beazley’s standpoint.

Too often in televised interviews Mr Beazley answers questions in the style of a commentator rather than decisive politician. This has left many swinging voters uncon-vinced. He ought to tailor his answers more carefully.

Beazley Labor and its advisers should look into the mirror on their failure to find original, cost-effective, and far-sighted reforming policies.

There are hundreds of so-called “think-tanks” worldwide. All have web sites with an abundance of policy and research and position papers, discussion forums and other easy-to-scan information.

Why hasn’t Mr Beazley’s chief-of-staff, if he has one, ensured such sites were scoured for information, policy hints, and inspiration?

Beazley’s Labor, quite frankly, seems even more bereft of really new ideas than the National Party, which is saying something. His refusal to

leave the GST alone remains

Mr Beazley’s fault, so he’s paying the political price

of stranding himself without

a clear-cut taxation message.

Taxation continues to be Labor’s Achilles heel, because Labor remains a party that promotes big government. Forever tempted by redistri-butionist notions, its MPs aren’t familiar with thinking hard and originally about taxation.

Mr Beazley’s health faux pas can be put down to the response of a concerned father under pre-election pressure.

As far as the patriotic wave making Mr Howard look decisive is concerned, Mr Beazley is unlucky, for he’s as patriotic and concerned about Australia as any Liberal, perhaps more so. Why this sentiment misses him remains something of a mystery.

This may be because Labor for so long had a strident anti-American faction, which most Aussies disliked, so Labor’s leader is now being by-passed by so many voters.

However, Mr Beazley was never part of this ideologically motivated leftist anti-American wing, so it’s quite unfair that he’s paying a poll price.

Moreover, Mr Howard has deliberately cultivated conser-vative, rather than trendy, sentiments and is reaping the electoral reward of being traditionalist.

But what of the seat outcome in WA?

It’s likely Labor and the Liberals will each win at least two Senate seats.

The fifth is probably between Greens and Democrats, and the sixth is anyone’s guess.

Of WA’s 15 Representatives seats Labor and Liberals are virtually guaranteed five each, leaving five marginals – Stirling, Hasluck, Canning, and currently Liberal-held Kal-goorlie and Pearce. If there’s a solid swing to the Liberals, these marginal five would fall Mr Howard’s way, and vice versa if Mr Beazley manages to engineer one his way, something that most certainly shouldn’t be discounted.

But whichever way it moves, the main electoral tussle remains centered upon NSW (50 Representatives) and Victoria (37 Representatives), with their combined 111 out of 226 federal seats.

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