Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Crean's rudderless leadership: "On border security, the Herald-ACNielsen poll showed, the Coalition is deemed preferable by 58 per cent of respondents, compared with 28 per cent for Labor, even though there is not a lot of policy difference between the two sides, except for the Government's theatrical and expensive offshore processing stunt.

"The Howard Government wins decisively, too, on international relations (57-33) and national security (60-29), which is ironic given a large majority of people also believe that Howard misled the Australian people about the biggest security and international relations issue of the moment, the war with Iraq."

'Border security' is simply calculated, dog-whistling racism; and 'national security' is a grovelling and deliberate 'all the way with USA' policy which can only increase the risk of terrorism and the proliferation of WMDs. Howard can get away with it because the opposition does not have the guts to challenge and destroy his position on these issues.

The particular irony of the 'border security' policy is that while it appears to have been temporarily successful in preventing a few hundred people coming in boats, it does nothing to stop the tens of thousands annually of Asian migrants who are coming into the country. In other words, its a con, a nasty con.

"Twenty-six per cent of respondents thought Howard deliberately misled them and 42 per cent believe he did it because he was misled by others. Added together, that makes 68 per cent of people who think he was either a deceiver or a dupe, and yet they follow him. Such apparent voter double-think is no doubt frustrating to Labor, but it is nonetheless real. The best the Opposition can hope for is that people will think less about these issues, and more about the domestic agenda, which is its strength."

For me, these poll results show the the absolute failure of the 'small target' political strategy: Howard is in fact a sitting duck, but he will sit there relaxed and comfortable forever unless you actually take a shot to blow him away. He should be attacked relentlessly, day after day, on the war issue. Virtually every day there is yet another devastating blow to the credibility of the Bush/Blair/Howard war, and this should be the occasion for direct attack. Of course, you would have to have the courage and conviction to define a foreign policy in detailed contrast to Howard, particularly on the core issue of the relationship with the US, and that is precisely what is lacking.

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