PRIME Minister John Howard is under pressure to call the federal election quickly, after the release of boom economic growth figures that threaten to push interest rates higher by November. Despite another horrendous opinion poll this week showing a potential election wipe-out, Mr Howard yesterday appeared to hint he would go to the polls sooner rather than later. Political pressure on him to do so has been intensified by the latest GDP figures, which show the Australian economy has been growing at its fastest annual pace for three years … With an increased prospect of an interest rate rise in November, many in the Government which has staked its re-election hopes on its ability to sell its economic credentials will be wanting the election before the inflation figures come out on October 24, or at least before the Reserve Bank board meeting to be held in early November. That would mean a polling day of October 20 or 27. An October 20 poll would have to be called in about 10 days.
THE Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee was in Cairns yesterday conducting its inquiry into the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Democratic Plebiscites) Bill 2007. This dry piece of parliamentary advice masks an intensely political exercise and explains why John Howard will not call an election the moment his APEC fiesta shuts down next Sunday. The legislation is the stunt law that Howard pulled out of his box of tricks to drive a wedge between Labor leader Kevin Rudd and his fraternal Queensland Premier Peter Beattie … The committee reports on Friday and the Senate will debate the law next Tuesday, when it’s expected to be passed, in time for plebiscites on Beattie’s amalgamations likely on October 20.
THERE was speculation last night that Prime Minister John Howard could delay calling the federal election until November or even as late as early December. Yesterday, Mr Howard gave his strongest hint yet that the election date would not be held in October after declaring that the federal takeover of the Devonport Mersey Hospital would not occur until November 1. Mr Howard said the Tasmanian Labor Government had agreed to the terms of the handover of the hospital in the state’s north and that the documents would be signed between the two governments on that date. Senior Liberal insiders said it would be wrong to assume too much from the announcement, but said a later election was now a genuine possibility. Nobody knows the date except the Prime Minister, but you would have to think a later election is now a good chance, a senior government figure said.
A Canberra insider told me today with absolute certainty that the election would be announced on 13 September. I was told that Howard does not believe he can cut through the political disengagement that has grown up with the last 8 months of pseudo-campaigning. Howard needs a circuit-breaker. In whispered tones, it was also suggested that Howard would rather go to the polls now than face a leadership challenge from Costello, Abbott or Downer apparently an almost certainty if the Coalitionâ€™s poor showing in the opinion polls continues for much longer. According to my source, there would be a longish seven week campaign designed to test Kevin Rudd in the reality of campaign politics (and hopefully expose some Rudd flaws and gaffes). The election would be on 3 November 2007. Living in Canberra, I often hear these (so called) insider rumours. Rarely do they prove true.
Tips and rumours: The election date will be Nov 3. This is based upon the bookings made with Australia Post for mass mailots by the coalition – including in Bennelong. The Coalition recently cancelled their November mailouts and have maintained October ones.