John Howard is far from dead: don’t write him off too soon

Will the coming election spell the end of a Howard Government? I’m not so sure…

colin benjamin

This morning a report from the Liberal Party’s trusted adviser Crosby Textor warns John Howard that voters have lost faith in him. The secret document goes on to say that Labor Leader Kevin Rudd has a chance for generational change and was the most important reason voters were leaving the coalition.

But don’t write off the Howard Government’s prospects of re-election just because mid-year polls are showing Labor ahead. We have seen that before: in 2001 and 2004 everyone jumped at shadows.

Back then the Government pulled rabbits out of hats and we are seeing this again. Look at Howard’s decision to take over a hospital in one of Tasmania’s most marginal seats in Tasmania.

I would expect announcements like this every few weeks until the election, which will probably be in the first week of December. Also expect the attack by Howard on the states to gain momentum.

The new line is the “Kevin Rudd’s Labor premiers”. Howard will continue to attack the states to build fear while he then tries to appear on the front pages of the newspapers every few days with a local event.

Also expect a fear campaign from the Coalition to grow. The Coalition will fan concerns about Labor’s industrial relations policies. Hundreds of small focus groups show that small business and industrial contractors already have ongoing concerns about the industrial relations of the Rudd-Gillard team.

There will also be the hidden agenda of a new Hanson-style negative campaign that will be coming to small business via the web and the letterbox.

Brian Loughnane’s campaign for the Liberal Party of Australia clearly sets out the basis of the call to arms for small business to support the Coalition under the banner: “Can your business survive the Labor-union onslaught?” and the statement that almost 70% of Labor’s frontbench are ex-union officials.

Based largely on a document entitled Labor Workplace plan (p19, 28/4/07) Loughnane suggests that Labor will re-introduce unfair dismissal laws for all small businesses, deny small businesses the right to negotiate flexible working arrangements with their employees, force small business to return to collective bargaining, recruit staff members to the unions, and give unions access to home business, business records and all small business premises.

Loughnane goes further and says that Labor will remove the protections against secondary boycotts in the Trade Practices Act, allowing union officials to impose restrictions on job sharing, rostering and the use of part-time and casual employees across any number of small businesses in an industry, including imposing “good faith bargaining” with professional union organisers on staff promotions and use of independent contractors.

At the same time, expect the Coalition to work hard at fostering a strong export culture by facilitating export workshops both in metropolitan and rural areas aimed at presenting opportunities and increasing exporting knowledge and skills to small business and creating export networks through business clusters in industry sectors, both metro and rural, in all marginal seats to develop export groups that can claim subsidies for growth.

These programs will assist small businesses to expand their export potential with research and development, training and attraction of skilled labour.

So what does all this mean to small and medium business? First there is huge amounts of money about to be pumped into the economy. Now is the time to put your hand out and ask for things for your business and for your community, because the crunch is coming! The good times will not last.

Second, in the short term keep on eye on inflation. All these measures will certainly not dampen demand. As the Coalition spends the surplus, expect an excited economy to respond.


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