Nothing to swing a bat at

Saturday, 19 May 2007 

One of the comforts the government gives itself, which Howard repeated on The 7.30 Report earlier this week, is that at least voters are not waiting with baseball bats like they were for Keating in 1996.

But this is Howard’s problem. There is no agenda to swing a bat at. Howard’s historic dilemma is that he came to power too late. By the time he did, Labor had already completed the main elements of his programme; deregulation of the markets and a diminishing of union influence. Since 1996 Howard has had to constantly grapple with this lack of programme, something he seems acutely aware of before the War on Terror came along to fill the gap.

For example, contrary to popular belief that the GST was a hindrance to re-election in 1998, Howard’s more accurate view was that it filled a policy vacuum and helped him scrape back in. Here is Howard quoted in Megalogenis’s book, The Longest Decade, out last year:

I think the GST was a net plus in terms of the reputation of the government, that’s my view. A lot of people don’t agree with that; they think we would have done better in ‘98 if we didn’t have a GST. I’m not sure about that. We always do better when we are advocating something because we are seen to be standing for something.

With the fading of the War on Terror now exposing the policy vacuum, Howard is left to try and politicise some incremental workplace reforms to give the appearance that he is ’standing for something’. This time, unlike, in 1998, Howard now faces a Labor party that has finally put together something of an agenda mainly around climate change. With no one else in the Liberal party looking capable of a providing an alternative, Howard looks set to go quietly, but convincingly, into the night.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Saturday, 19 May 2007.

Filed under State of the parties

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