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After APEC--what? « Previous | |Next »
September 10, 2007

So Howard is in a position to spuik the APEC' s success: aspirational goals for climate change, promise to revive global trade talks, modest progress on regional economic reform and a declaration that they would tackle regional security. Australia was a successful host and the conflict management was skilfull.

APEC is more than a talkshop, photo opportunity and new headline announceables, such as this years 'Sydney declaration on climate change':

Bruce Petty

But APEC fails to deliver as an effective trans-Pacific regional organization that results in significant regional trade integration or reducing the behind -the-border barriers to trade. Trade is still the core of APEC's business but it devotes little resources to fostering trade in the region.

Will there be an APEC bounce? If Howard came across as statesman, and not just a salesman pushing gas and uranium in bilateral deals, then can APEC be spruiked as a springboard summit? For the Liberal Party sure needs an APEC bounce as it is now back to the hard reality of two weeks of Parliament, poor election polls, leadership speculation and media talk about an early election as a circuit breaker.


There is very little happening in terms of normal governance and administration in Canberra. As the editorial in Canberra Times acidly observes:

The Government has been in election mode all year, though there have been a few distractions, including the APEC conference, to give an impression (a false one) of steady management going on regardless. In fact, the processes of routine government are at a virtual standstill. With APEC over, for what glory in Howard's memoirs can only be imagined, the election should be called as soon as possible. The people, and the economy, simply cannot stand for much longer the hiatus from normal administration and proper government.

Behind the false impression of steady management, normal governance and legislative processes lies panic at the grim prospect of electoral defeat. Hence the leadership confusion that is surfacing publicly. The Howard era is over.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:25 AM | | Comments (14)


I read in the media that Howard will only stay a year or if he wins the election. If so, how can he offer something substantive about Australia's future when he won't be a part of it?

Well, he may not win. The Canberra Times editorial says:

John Howard has left too late the idea of standing down from the Liberal leadership for the Liberal Party to stand to gain anything from a resignation, and change of leadership, now. It is quite true that polls indicate that the Government is in for a drubbing at the next election, which must be announced soon. By no means does it follow from that that a change any change can repair the Government's situation, or that a change now, particularly to Peter Costello, is likely to reduce the size of the rout....On the polling evidence, it is the Government as a whole, and not merely Howard, which is seen as being on the nose, of which the public is tired, and to which it has stopped listening.

Many in the Coalition cling to the belief that Howard is the problem and not the Government itself. The Canberra Times is not persuaded that Howard will necessarily lose:
And, in any event, though the odds against the Government are lengthening, it is still too early to completely write the Government off. John Howard is a formidable campaigner, no more so than when his back is to the wall. He has a formidable war chest, and (lamentably) not the slightest hesitation in deploying it. Labor, on the polls, has a big lead, but there are many seats it has to win before it is in government, and skilful marginal seats strategies by the Liberals may mean that the critical seats are not won, even as the country swings away from the Government. And the Government still has major assets, not least some reputation for economic management, and the general strength of the economy, on its side. It's not over yet, in short, and John Howard, whose own energy does not seem to have diminished, is probably better equipped, and in a better position, to use the weapons available than any other potential leader.

Still your point remains. It is a good one. If Kevin Rudd is Labor's answer, then the Coalition's is ...?" Costello would stand more for their future, than Downer surely.

I wonder what would happen if Labor won the 60 percent the polls are suggesting, but Howard still scraped through with a couple of seats. Their legitimacy would be dead, wouldn't it?

It is a likely scenario--Labor winning the majority vote but not getting enough marginals.

It would depend on whether the Coalition could renew itself (its leadership) and come up with a new policy agenda to the bash the states one.

My judgement is that they have run out of puff and would just hang onto power until 2010. Then they would be on a hiding to nothing.

whatever happens the Howard era is over. That much we know.

Does 'the Howard era is over' mean that it is just Howard or does it mean the Coalition government?

Here is Glenn Milne's latest op-ed in the Brisbane Courier Mail:

The wild card here could well be outside both Costello and Howard's control. There are now senior unaligned figures in the Government who believe that the Coalition can now win only if Howard goes.

These are ministers who have never been aligned with Costello, and up to now have defended the Prime Minister, but who have now decided that the Howard era is over. They base this conclusion on their travels around the country where the message has been clear: it is not the Government that is the problem, simply the Prime Minister.
These ministers judge the electorate has already moved on from Howard, and they no longer factor him into either their future or the future of the country. There is a subsequent, and important, judgment which flows from this – that a change in leadership could re-make that vital connection, one which Kevin Rudd appears to have made in the popular imagination.
This is the Costello camp talk.

Without looking too closely, was the Oz boostering him a bit this morning, contrary to Canberra Times?
The scenario for a greater percentage of votes not translated into seats occured in '98-of course blue collar seats will vote against IR, because they are on the receiving end of it. But the middle- class mortgage belt seats?

That's why I ask what would happen if Howard wins.

The Howard era is over, people have moved on, it's time for him to go. There's a general consensus that he's had his turn.

What if he wins? What if the Howard era is over and we still get Howard?

there is the stench of electoral death in the air. Possum Pollytics says, that as a result:

The Coalition is running a firewall strategy ...Firewall strategies fail nearly everywhere they are used by a government to defend incumbency – but they have succeeded when the aim is not win the election, but to simply save the party an enormous defeat. Clearly there is a firewall strategy in place, but equally clearly, it is just too many points and seats deep for the finances available to run it effectively. The only question left to answer is which seats the Liberal leadership has actually decided to sacrifice and which ones will be properly funded in the firewall.

They are limiting the losses as much as they can.


The atmosphere really is quite amazing. Even 1996 wasn't this bad. That has to be contributing to the polls. Why the hell would you want to be on the losers' side?

I haven't read my Crikey yet. I'm still digesting Beattie's announcement that he's resigning on Thursday.

First Bracks, now Beattie, both saying it's important to recognise when your time is up. To step aside gracefully. Hmmm. I wonder who that was directed at?

Possum Pollytics says that:

The ALP has had momentum behind their TPP [two party preferred]vote growth since May 2005.But it was only since December 2006 that the nature of that momentum changed from being a soft growth heavily reliant upon minor party preferences to being a hard momentum driven by the growth in their own primary vote that continues to this day.The fundamental nature of the ALP vote has changed.It’s changed from being a vote boosted by a dislike of government to now incorporating a large level support for the ALP.


I'm crossing wires all over the place today.

While you were posting that comment I was over at the Possum's place reading the whole thing. Maybe election night won't be that interesting after all. It's not about who will win but whether we're going to have a landslide or an avalanche.

It changes everything doesn't it? Even looking back, APEC looks different now. Let alone post-APEC.

'post-APEC' has become senior Liberal Ministers questioning Howard's leadership. They've had discussions, discussed all the options, and looked at their difficult situation. APEC has disappeared into history. It's all about them now.

The Liberals have decided to stick with John Howard. They stand behind Howard, after the senior ministers decided Howard should go to help save the Coalition. He refused, so they now say that Howard is the best option for Australia and so is the best option for the Liberal party.

Downer is doing the public talk on this--it's just natural to do this kind of stuff he says. By stuff they mean discussing 'our lot in the world.'

Their 'lot in the world'---refers to them being on the ropes in their corner desperately trying to pretend otherwise. Even if Howard can tough out this crisis, he will almost certainly lose the election.The Liberals are going down is the news story not the wonderful benefits of APEC. APEC is but a memory.

Howard told his party he wants to make sure Australia's prosperity continues, and he wants to help Australians capitalise on it. That is inadequate as a vision for a country, and an uninspiring policy future for a tired government.