Round 6: The End in View from the Arch

23/11/2007 - 17:12


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In the last View from the Arch, Andrew Hobbs wraps up the campaign for John Howard and Kevin Rudd, and casts a brief glace statewards.

Week 6 - John Howard

Prime Minister John Howard's final campaign week was much like the five which have preceded it - working hard to get his message out but being bedevilled at every turn by rotten luck and scandal.

Earlier in the campaign it was inflation figures; an interest rate rise, an embarrassing cabinet leak, allegations of pork-barrelling and a tardy, foul-mouthed minister.

This week yielded an exorbitant $281 million government advertising bill.

Mr Howard defended the spending, citing defence recruitment and domestic violence awareness ads, but to voters who have been bombarded with Work Choices ads for the past two years, it probably was not a good look.

Then came the Work Choices cabinet proposals which the government fought and won to keep secret after Network Seven applied for their release under Freedom of Information. The proposals supposedly wanted the government to consider another series of industrial relations reforms in 2005.

While Mr Howard insisted there was no "second wave", the revelation was a gift to Labor, which has been warning that Work Choices will be toughened if the government is re-elected.

Finally there was the deeply embarrassing Lindsay electorate leaflet scandal.

Although Mr Howard had nothing to do with the bogus leaflets and quickly condemned them, the scandal epitomised much of what many believe is wrong with the Howard government - that it's mean and tricky, with a hint of racism.

Each story pushed Mr Howard on the back foot and drowned out his message.

With no new policy initiatives and very little in the way of spending in the final week, that message was largely a negative one.

It said Labor will end the mining boom and destroy the economy; Kevin Rudd's team will be every bit as incompetent as Gough Whitlam's, Rudd's promises cannot be believed and, of course, trade unions are evil.

Some were expecting Mr Howard to finally pull a "rabbit" out of his hat in the last week. They were disappointed.

Mr Howard shook a lot of hands and probably won a vote or two during a seemingly endless series of shopping-centre visits in marginal seats around the country - but he did not unveil any new grand strategy to turn things around.

Mr Howard picked up the pace in the final week. Going from Sydney to Perth to Tasmania to Sydney to Canberra to Brisbane to Cairns to Townsville and beyond, he certainly got around.

On Thursday he managed three marginal Brisbane electorates in three hours.

Earlier in the week it seemed Mr Howard was pinning his hopes on Western Australia, where the coalition is polling best.

But in the final days he returned the focus to Queensland, where Labor is aiming to bag a bunch of seats.

Through it all Mr Howard seemed in good spirits - if he was fearing defeat, he didn't let on.

If he was frustrated with his bad luck, he didn't show it.

But Mr Howard really could have used a couple of good days in the final week and those days stubbornly refused to come.

Week 6 - Kevin Rudd

Handshakes have proven to be a risky business for Kevin Rudd this election.

The Labor leader shook dozens, if not hundreds, of hands today as he spent election eve trying to convince shoppers at three suburban Brisbane shopping malls that he should get their vote.

He's shaken thousands of hands over the past six weeks, at one stage developing a very sore hand after days of pressing the flesh.

Less dangerous than the hustings were the 20 plus radio and television interviews Mr Rudd conducted today to get his message out across the nation.

He continued to hammer his message that Australia needed to break with the past-focused Howard government and embrace a government with a plan for the future.

And he reassured voters who might be voting Labor for the first time or after a long hiatus that his government would govern for all Australians.

Today, everywhere he went, Mr Rudd was warmly welcomed, plenty were happy to shake his hand, and just as many wanted a photograph of, or with, the man striving to be the next prime minister.

One women even gave him a packet of Berocca B6 vitamins, telling him it was to "help get him through tomorrow".

But though they were happy to have a chat, many were still undecided about who would get their crucial vote.

If the latest Newspoll, to be published in The Australian newspaper tomorrow, is accurate, Mr Rudd's sweep through the seats of Petrie, Dickson and Ryan, all held by Liberals on a margin of seven per cent or more, could be in vain.

Newspoll has Labor's margin thinning to its lowest level all year - just four per cent on a two party preferred basis.

At Chermside shopping centre, Carlene Southgate, 20, and a first time voter, was impressed with Mr Rudd's "snazzy" aqua tie.

But Ms Southgate later admitted that while she liked Mr Rudd, she felt the same about his opponent, John Howard, and was still unsure how she would vote.

Fiona Ellevsen, however, who lives in Petrie, was in no doubt which box she'd be ticking.

"I'm so sick of John Howard's lies and John Howard's arrogance," she told Mr Rudd.

"I'm going to leave the country if you don't get in."

Victor Protheron, who voted before polling day, gave his support to Labor at the ballot box, but was thinking again after shaking Mr Rudd's hand at the Strathpine shopping centre.

"I didn't know he shakes hands like a girl, I probably would of (changed my mind)" he said.

Later at the Indooroopilly shopping centre, in the seat of Ryan, Mr Rudd had another handshake moment after sitting Liberal, Michael Ryan, gatecrashed his walk through the mall.

Mr Rudd, at first, rebuffed the outstretched hand of the Liberal who holds his seat on a 10.4 per cent margin.

Last election, Labor's then leader, Mark Latham, did his campaign irreparable damage after aggressively shaking John Howard's hand in the final days before the election.

Mr Johnson began to make a fuss, drawing a crowd as he asked the media accompanying the opposition leader, why Mr Rudd wouldn't shake his hand.

Mr Johnson was rewarded with a much sought after handshake on his second attempt.

However, he may not have been so happy when spontaneous cheers later went up through the food court for Mr Rudd.

Many of the shoppers to give Mr Rudd the warmest welcome were already long-time Labor voters.

Margaret Dwyer phoned her son Chris, 21, and handed him over to Mr Rudd to have a chat.

The Labor Party member said her son, a mechanic, was rapt with Mr Rudd.

"He wanted to put up a big sign in our front yard," she said.

Joan Kennedy, 78, raced to the shops to meet Mr Rudd after her granddaughter Richelle Anderson put her on the phone to the Labor leader, when he first arrived at the centre.

A Labor voter all her life, Mrs Kennedy was thrilled at the encounter.

WA: Archer, Fels and everything else

Premier Alan Carpenter's unprecedented move to have two upper house MPs expelled from the West Australian parliament for lying could have dangerous political consequences, analysts warn.

He's been accused of jumping the gun, denying the pair natural justice and turning parliament into "a kangaroo court" in his relentless bid to remove all trace of the influence of former WA Labor premier Brian Burke from WA politics.

Mr Carpenter called on the upper house this week to expel former Labor MP Shelley Archer and Liberal MP Anthony Fels from parliament - the first such demand in the history of WA politics.

Only one politician has ever been dismissed from an Australian parliament.

Labor MP Hugh Mahon was expelled from federal parliament in 1920 after he was found to have made treasonable remarks at a public meeting about British policy in Ireland.

Mr Carpenter wants Ms Archer and Mr Fels kicked out because a report last week found they had lied to a parliamentary inquiry and leaked information to disgraced lobbyists Mr Burke and former Liberal powerbroker Noel Crichton-Browne, respectively.

The premier has vowed to cleanse the government of the lobbyists' influence after a corruption investigation earlier this year revealed their scandalous ability to manipulate public officers for their personal gain.

He has since sacked three ministers over their links to lobbyists.

Now he has set his sights on Ms Archer and Mr Fels.

Mr Carpenter last week ordered Ms Archer to quit the ALP, which she did along with her angry husband, union heavyweight Kevin Reynolds.

This week the premier convinced the lower house to support a motion saying the newly independent Ms Archer and Mr Fels were not fit to be members of the parliament.

He wants that motion passed in the upper house next week.

Mr Carpenter says there is no doubt the chamber should kick out Mr Fels and Ms Archer, preferably next Tuesday.

But there is a groundswell of opinion from analysts and politicians that says Mr Carpenter has gone too far.

Neither chamber of parliament has had a chance to debate the report or consider its recommendations - which did not include expulsion, although it did recommend considering criminal charges against Ms Archer, Mr Fels, Mr Burke and Mr Crichton-Browne for lying to the committee.

Former Liberal leader Colin Barnett told Mr Carpenter in parliament this week he was way out of line.

"What do you think you're doing? (Turning us into) self-appointed grandiose judges and juries, the grand kangaroo court of Western Australia," Mr Barnett said.

Political analyst David Black of Curtin University agreed parliament should debate the report first.

"A number of people, including me, think this is in the wrong order," Professor Black said.

And Labor's upper house president Nick Griffiths accused Mr Carpenter of interfering in upper house business in defiance of the fundamental principles of the Westminster system.

Mr Carpenter is venturing into dangerous, unknown waters through his actions, says political analyst Harry Phillips, who is attached to Edith Cowan University and Curtin University

"It's one thing to request a member of your party to resign from the party, because that really is party business, but you have the scope to do that, at least indirectly, because you are the leader of that party," Dr Phillips said.

"However, I think calling for the expulsion of members is something that really needs to be very carefully considered.

"Because if premiers in the future acquire this power it would maybe have some dangerous consequences.

"You could alter the numbers in each house more or less on the claim that the premier believes that you've contravened the law in some way."

Prof Black says Mr Carpenter's moral high ground in relation to Mr Burke strengthened the premier's position within the ALP, but it may now be causing his colleagues some disquiet.

"I do think there is some uneasiness within the ranks, but whether that matters time will only tell," Prof Black said.

"I think essentially his position in the party has been made much stronger by what's happened with Brian Burke and all the rest.

"I mean an important faction within the Labor Party has been substantially weakened."

Mr Carpenter's government would benefit if the upper house got rid of Ms Archer and Mr Fels.

If Ms Archer departed, the ALP would get a new candidate who would vote on party lines.

The Liberals have no one to replace Mr Fels, so a by-election would have to be held.

However, procedural issues aside, nobody expects the move to succeed because Labor doesn't have the upper house numbers and neither the Liberals nor Ms Archer will support it.

Coalition and Labor election promises (by policy area):



  • $34 billion in tax cuts.


  • $31 billion in tax cuts.




  • Government vows not to take Work Choices laws further.
  • Workers to be able to take double their annual leave at half pay.
  • Grandparents to take one week unpaid leave when a grandchild is born. Grandparents working in a business of more than 100 to have the right to take up to 52 weeks of unpaid leave.


  • Labor would scrap the controversial Work Choices legislation over a transitional period.
  • It also plans to restore unfair dismissal protections.




  • $2.1 billion to build 100 more technical colleges over 10 years.
  • $393 million for skills training vouchers.


  • $539 million for 450,000 new training places.
  • $729 million to establish trade centres in high schools.
  • $84 million for on-the-job training grants for students in years 9 - 12.
  • $6 million over four years for a vocational training careers foundation.




  • $2.167 billion tax-free home saver accounts for first home buyers.
  • Undertake audit of surplus land that could be used for housing.


  • Identify up to $6 billion worth of surplus land for housing.
  • A tax-break scheme to allow first-home buyers to save for a deposit.
  • $603 million rental subsidy scheme.
  • $500 million housing affordability fund.
  • $32.5 million home interaction program.



Both the coalition and Labor have promised to spend the $22.3 billion in Auslink II road and rail funding.


  • Has committed $23.108 billion dollars to road and rail projects and has extended the program by another $7 billion.


  • Has committed $11.128 billion to road and rail projects.




  • Will not ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
  • Is yet to set targets for carbon emissions.
  • $10 billion dollar national water security plan.
  • $75 million for renewable energy grants.
  • $85 million for clean energy initiatives.
  • $1.14 billion drought assistance package.
  • $336.1 million school hot water/rainwater tank rebates
  • $252.2 million residential solar hot water rebates.
  • $132.5 million Hawkesbury River water quality plan.



  • 20 per cent of Australia's electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
  • Ratify the Kyoto Protocol
  • Committed to a carbon target of 60 per cent by 2050.
  • $489 million for solar panels and water tanks for schools.
  • $150 million climate change initiative for energy efficient insulation.
  • $1 billion for companies to invest in desalination plants and water recycling.
  • $100 million to help protect coastlines from climate change.
  • $415 million for renewable energy.
  • $500 million clean coal initiative.
  • $25 million CSIRO clean coal research grant.
  • $300 million for solar, green energy and water renovation program.
  • $250 million Urban Water Plan to fix leaking pipes.
  • $250 million national rainwater/grey water plan.




  • $6.337 billion 40 per cent tax rebate for education expenses including school fees.


  • Promised an education revolution including $2.3 billion for an education tax refund for families to claim 50 per cent of education expenses, except school fees.
  • $1 billion for high-speed broadband at schools and extra computers in high schools.
  • $201 million to double the numbers of undergraduate scholarships and postgraduate scholarships by 2012.
  • $175 million for 1,000 mid-career research fellowships.
  • $65 million over four years for an Asian-languages strategy.




  • Committed to keeping Australian troops in Iraq until country is secured.


  • Staged withdrawal of 500 Australian combat troops from southern Iraq by mid-2008.




  • $2 billion broadband plan which the government says will give 99 per cent of the Australian population very fast broadband


  • $4.7 billion broadband plan for a fibre optic network which would reach 98 per cent of the population. Up to $2 billion to be taken from the Future Fund and Communications Fund.
  • $1 billion for high-speed broadband at schools and extra computers in high schools.




  • Establish local hospital boards to run the public hospital system.
  • $433 million for 50 emergency medical centres.
  • $44 million to train more doctors and nurses to make home visits.
  • Federal takeover of the Mersey hospital in Bass.
  • $35 million for Tasmania's health services.
  • $37 million for 320 community-run programs to promote healthy and active lifestyles.


  • $2.5 billion investment injection, plus threat to take over financial control of public hospitals if states do not meet targets by mid-2009.
  • Establish GP "super clinics" in local communities (part of 2.5 billion reform package).
  • $85 million over five years post natal depression screening plan.
  • $400 million to reduce elective surgery waiting lists.
  • $81 million to put 9,250 nurses into public hospitals.
  • $510 million to improve the dental health of teenagers.




  • $4 billion pensioners' and carers' package with $500 annual utilities allowance.


  • $4.1 billion pensioners' package with $500 annual utilities allowance and Australia-wide concession travel rates.
  • $158 million for new aged care beds.




  • $51 million to build respite facilities for disabled.
  • $223.5 million in respite care for carers.


  • $1.9 billion in increased disability spending.




  • $652.4 million childcare tax rebate plan for 30 per cent childcare rebate to be payed up-front.
  • Up to $1 million for local governments to build or extend 35 childcare centres.


  • $1.5 billion to lift the childcare tax rebate to 50 per cent to be paid in advance.
  • Establish 260 childcare centres.
  • Universal pre-school education for all four year-olds.
  • $34 million a year to fund 1,500 new university places in early childhood education.
  • $12 million a year to pay half the HECS repayments of 10,000 early childhood graduates working in needy areas.
  • $60 million over four years to scrap TAFE fees for childcare trainees.




  • $1.33 billion over four years for NT indigenous intervention plan.


  • $186.4 million over four years for indigenous policy.
  • $90 million for 300 indigenous rangers.


The Final Word

In a week where the spirit has been one of "speak now or forever hold your peace," the final word goes to Arch.

This will be the last View from the Arch, as its author - Andrew Hobbs - will next week be pursuing new ventures.

On a personal note, I would like to thank my readers, who have endured my cavalier attitude to deadlines and the basics of spelling and grammar.

I hope you have enjoyed these articles, and wish you all the very best for the future.

Remember - The most successful politician is the one who says what everybody is thinking, most often and in the loudest voice.

My very best wishes to you all.


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