I didn’t hear Latham’s speech but the transcript here seems to hit most of the right notes (thankfully, just a single occurrence of “ease the squeeze”, and it’s not clear if that was actually spoken or is just a topic heading).
Latham has avoided the temptation to get into a general bidding war with Howard. The only new spending announcement appears to be on Medicare. Of course, Howard is spending big here, but he’s hampered by the fact that, for all but the last six months or so of his 30 years in public life, he’s opposed Medicare and done his best to destroy it. He was Treasurer in the Fraser government which actually did destroy the first version, introduced by Whitlam.
Given that the economy is going reasonably well, and that national security is rarely a winner for Labor, it’s still, I think, too early to predict a Labor win, especially in the light of the scary Nielsen poll last week. But there’s no doubt that, as far as the battle of ideas is concerned, Howard has conceded defeat already.
fn1. Neoliberals generally bag the Fraser government for having failed to introduce radical free-market reform when it had the chance. But hardly any government has managed, like Fraser’s, to repeal a major social democratic reform in a core area like health.