John Howard needs at least 2 more terrorist attacks and he might win

That, at any rate, is my reading of the latest poll by Roy Morgan International.

The latest face-to-face Morgan Poll finds that primary support for the Coalition Government is up 4.5% to 40.5%. Primary support for the ALP is down 3% to 47.5%.

With preferences distributed as they were at the 2004 election, the two-party preferred vote is ALP 55% (down 4%), L-NP 45% (up 4%).

If an election had been held during the last fortnight the ALP would have won.

On the important question of who the electorate “think will win” the next Federal election, 52% (up 2%) think the ALP will win, 34.5% (down 2.5%) think the L-NP will win and 13.5% (up 0.5%) can’t say.

Among the minor parties support for The Greens is 5.5% (down 1.5%), Family First 2% (up 0.5%), Australian Democrats 1.5% (up 1%), and Other Parties and Independent Candidates 3% (down 0.5%).

Now, 55.5% (up 4%) of electors think Australia is heading in the “right direction”, 30% (down 1%) think Australia is heading in the “wrong direction” and 14.5% (down 3%) are undecided.

Currently, 19.5% (down 1%) of all electors are Soft ALP voters: Soft ALP voters are defined as those who said Australia is “heading in the right direction” as well as saying they would vote Labor if an election were held today.

Roy Morgan numbers

Using a national cross-section of 1,780 electors (enrolled to vote), and an interview dates 5 days after, and 12 days after, the arrest of Mohamed Haneef. That Howard benefitted from that arrest is not surprising – but he didn’t benefit much, and that benefit will wash away by an election (an election that the majority still expect Labor will win). Moreover, from today’s Sydney Morning Herald,

Commissioner Mick Keelty has defended the Australian Federal Police (AFP) against allegations of incompetence following apparent flaws in the prosecution case against Mohamed Haneef.

Mr Keelty today urged lawyers and the media to stop commenting on the case against the Indian doctor charged with recklessly providing support to a terrorist organisation.

Mick Keelty is the AFO boss, by the way – this isn’t independent defence, or anything. First, though, and I cannot believe this is required, “recklessly providing support to a terrorist organisation”? Are you fucking kidding me? Is there a lesser charge of providing support non-recklessly, or is that not even illegal? He wasn’t picked up for speeding through a red light, for Cliff’s sake. Please, please tell me this is just terrible ‘journalism’ and not the actual charge.

Secondly, and relevantly, Keelty is asking newspapers to stop criticising them? Touchy. Howard, however, should be watching his polling bump flatten out a little with each such story – especially if the case comes to look ever weaker, or is mis-handled further. Any government can arrest a man. It’s the ability to prosecute them that will make us feel safer. Meanwhile, criticism flies: here, here, here, etc. Howard must be sitting in a corner, crying heigh ho for Phillip Ruddock to have his old job back.

Meanwhile, another little piece in the Roy Morgan numbers:

Special Roy Morgan Qualitative research, released earlier this week, found a large number of Liberal Party supporters continue to refer to wanting a stable, experienced Government as the main reason for their support, whereas a significant proportion of ALP supporters said they intend to vote for Labor because they are dissatisfied with the industrial relations laws, the War in Iraq, with many saying it is ‘time for a change’.

It’s hard to know what to make of this. Obviously if one not supporting the Liberals there are reasons aplenty why not. If one is, one is going to need/want a reason – stability is as good, and non-specific, as anything. But stability? Even leaving aside entirely the economic numbers: inflation, food, fuel, mortgages, rent (equals “not stable”), what about Team Howard/Costello itself?

A new biography on the Prime Minister has dug up some tremendous stuff on just how petulant the Treasurer is.

That is mild compared with the frank assessment the Treasurer gave of Mr Howard’s fiscal abilities in two interviews for a prime ministerial biography.

In it, he says that the Howard treasurership was not a success in terms of interest rates and inflation, and adds that Mr Howard had not been a great reformer.

But that’s nothing. Did you know Howard has never invited the Treasurer to dinner? And re-vented about it to said biographer. The Age’s perspective matches that of most people:

But there has always been the unspoken understanding that though a treasurer might seethe, he either keeps it within or, like Mr Keating, tosses aside all pretence and goes for the kill.

Mr Costello has taken neither path. In stripping away the facade of harmony at the top, he had most of all harmed his own standing within the terror-stricken ranks of the party.

Crikey’s matches mine:

We did not need Peter Costello to tell us that he’s not like Paul Keating. If he was he would be Prime Minister today.

Paul Keating, for the uninitiated, was Bob Hawke’s Treasurer, until he challanged for leadership, won, and because Prime Minister. Costello’s lot is similar to that of Gordon Brown. Eventually you are gutless. If you want the top job badly enough, take it. If you haven’t the courage, shut up and do the job you do have, and stop making trouble. Stability, you were saying? What the biography presents is a picture of a child who would be Prime Minister. Who’d want him?

UPDATE: Rather than write anew: Peter Hartcher of the Sydney Morning Herald has written quite a good piece about this, in relation to the election.

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