Monday, March 12

If mudslinging is such a failure, why is NSW Labor still flinging dirt around?

Should we be surprised that the Federal Labor Party, and its leader Kevin Rudd, are performing so well in the polls despite a week in which Prime Minister John Howard and his senior ministers have flung so much mud at them -- perhaps more than we've seen in any campaign this nation has known, even in the bitter conscription debates of the First World War?

As we know from the reputable ACNielsen poll published in this morning's Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Rudd and the Labor Party now have the highest approval ratings ever of any Opposition coming into an election. It supports The Australian's Newspoll a week ago, but suggests support for the Labor Party and Rudd is accelerating.

Read the SMH report here.

The poll showing Labor has 61 per cent of the preferred two party vote, against the Liberal-Nationals Coalition's 39 per cent, and Rudd's 53 per cent as preferred Prime Minister to incumbent John Howard's 39 per cent, startled even me.

But I'm not sure that I agree that the public have rejected mud-slinging, as much of this morning's commentary suggested. I think that after more than 10 years in office, the Howard government is suffering from an "It's Time" feeling against it. And I think Howard will claw back at least some ground when he switches his campaign to economic credibility.

Meanwhile, it's worth noting that in New South Wales the Labor Party backroom heavies have no compunction about running the most brutally abusive, mud-slinging campaign against Opposition Leader Peter Whatzisname I have ever seen.

It's disgraceful, and I mean that word. Journalists with access to Peter Debnam suggest he is shaken by the vehemence of these attacks, and is depressed about his failure to make inroads against Labor. In that case, one must admire the gutsiness of his fight to the finish for the election on March 24.

So where did the NSW Labor heavies find the model for this vicious television advertising? The answer: They copied the Coalition's ads attacking former Oppositon Leader Mark Latham in the 2004 Federal election, wiped out the name Latham, and inserted Peter Debnam's name in its place.

The story is confirmed by a report in the Australian.

So one might suggest, in the old phrase, the Libs have been hoist on their own petard (that is, blown up by their own bomb -- a petard was an explosive device used to blow in a city wall or a castle gate).

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