Despite an eventful week in federal politics, things were somewhat quieter on the electoral front.
ACNielsen turned in a near replica of last week’s Newspoll with the release of its monthly figures on Wednesday. The poll had Labor and the Coalition each on 42 per cent with Labor’s two-party preferred rating on 53 per cent, which differs from Newspoll only in that the Coalition are 1 per cent lower on the primary vote. Prime Minister John Howard’s approval and disapproval ratings were both steady on 55 and 37 per cent, while the impact of Opposition Leader Mark Latham’s rough month was measured as a 3 per cent drop in approval to 54 per cent and a 5 per cent increase in disapproval to 33 per cent. Howard gained 2 per cent as preferred prime minister directly at Latham’s expense, and now leads 50 per cent to 41. The table as published in The Age is available at Mumble.
Brian Deegan, Adelaide magistrate, father of Bali bombing victim Josh Deegan and vocal critic of the Federal Government, announced he would run as an independent against Foreign Minister Alexander Downer in his South Australian seat of Mayo. Deegan’s move was no doubt partly inspired by John Schumann’s surprise near-success as Australian Democrats candidate for the seat in 1998. However the latest redistribution has made the electorate more rural and presumably less subversise, with a poll published today in the Sunday Mail putting Downer on 48 per cent against 18 per cent for Deegan with no allocation of the 12 per cent undecided. In Bennelong Prime Minister John Howard faces a similar irritant from former Office of National Assessments analyst turned leftist crusader Andrew Wilkie.
Reports emerged this week that proposals for Senate reform raised in a government discussion paper in October last year died unnoticed in their sleep last month. Brendan Nicholson of The Age reported that an announcement was mistakenly placed on the website of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet calling attention to a non-existent prime ministerial response to the consultative group from March 24 announcing that "the Government would not be pursuing constitutional change at this time". As Nicholson puts it, "it appears the announcement was planned for March 24, but when it was postponed someone forgot to tell those in charge of the website", although the government is maintaining the line that it has yet to decide if it will proceed. Given the near-impossibility of any new model gaining acceptance at a referendum, the move always looked like a gambit designed to scare minor party Senators into believing that a hostile attitude towards the government could put their futures in jeopardy.