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Beazley blowback

April 24th, 2003

Ken Parish essentially sums up my views on the prospect of Kim Beazley being returned as Labor leader. I’ll just focus on one point. The argument that, “given the current focus on foreign policy issues we need someone with a strong background in these issues” is refuted by experience. The 2001 election was fought on foreign policy issues, and Labor was crushed. Another election on foreign policy would be a virtual rerun, especially as the subtext of the Beazley campaign is that he would ensure that “you couldn’t fit a cigarette paper” between Labor and the government on Iraq.

I also think the current assumption of an inevitable Liberal victory is not soundly based. The government may have a big lead, but public support is far from enthusiastic, and could be eroded rapidly by an economic downturn or (less severely, but still substantially) by a bad medium-term outcome in Iraq.

Update I should emphasise that any decline in the government’s popularity is unlikely to be sufficient to deliver Labor victory by default – the only strategy Beazley has. Crean did not make a good start on presenting an alternative, wasting his first year on meaningless internal party reforms. But he has shown more signs of trying to do something positive since then, and I think could produce something worthwhile in response to the next Budget (possibly his last chance, if a double dissolution is held).

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