August 6, 2007

Three degrees of separation

Last week, PM in waiting, Thumbelina-Rudd, told us that there were a total of three areas of difference between Labor and the Government: the war in Iraq, climate change and industrial relations.

No matter how often our opinion piece journalists and our pollies hype it up, only one of the three areas might be considered a voting pressure point – industrial relations, and in that regard, Work Choices may be causing pain, but abolishing AWAs is as stupid as Gillard’s Medicare Gold from the last election. Both parties are equally on the nose when it comes to industrial relations.

The war in Iraq is not a defining issue. We have, maybe, a few hundred troops in Iraq, and as from the start, they are primarily involved with training locals and other useful practical matters related to rebuilding efforts, that’s why we’ve had no fatalities, other than one unfortunate accidental self-inflicted incident. Think about it: we’ve been over there for years now, with no fatalities. Not exactly an issue over which anyone needs to be taking to the streets. Our presence is symbolic, valuable for the work being done by our troops, but nonetheless, symbolic. As a point of differentiation, Rudd may as well be playing handball with a grain of sand.

Neither party has come up with anything remotely interesting or controversial to address climate change. In exchange for what he hopes will be picking up two seats, Rudd has expediently decided to support the logging industry in Tasmania, so if he tries to wave a greener-than-thou flag, his credibility is already tatty.

With theoretically negligible differences between the major parties, a perception deliberately pursued by Labor, it’s not especially surprising to start seeing predictions that – contrary to all current polling – the election is likely to be the closest since 1961, when one seat and a few hundred votes decided the result.

"This will be the closest election since 1961," Mr Sawford said. "And the party that wins will win by two to four seats. What Kevin Rudd has been saying is correct, this will be a line ball election."

At this point it's impossible to predict how well the "we're exactly like the other bunch, but with different hair-do's" campaign will hold up. Right now the facade looks credible to many voters, but Rudd and his team will have to keep mute during the election campaign, lest their significant ideological differences in relation to education, welfare, health, defence, policing, infrastructure, and economics, to name a few, inadvertently slip through the dizzying spin.

While Labor persist in making themselves a tee wee target, the Government will be attempting to find real pressure points that touch voters at a visceral level. That, and hammering away at Gillard, as the link most likely to snap under the pressure of having to appear moderate and reasoned week after week after week. (I can almost feel her pain.)

Meanwhile, Mr Howard is seeking input from voters over the coming week on the Yahoo!7 Answers forum, where people will be able to ask the PM any question they like.

"In what he called an exciting development, he plans to select five of the questions submitted and respond by video."

You heard correctly: the PM will answer five questions. Yep, I'm excited. Very, very excited.