by Alan Thornhill
The Gippsland by-election result will buy a little more time for Brendan Nelson, but probably not much more than that.
The swing of more than 6 per cent against the government was a set-back for Kevin Rudd. The Prime Minister, himself, has virtually admitted that.
And with petrol prices still testing record heights, the government still has more hurdles ahead.
Brendan Nelson’s prediction last week, that Labor might win in Gippsland, was misplaced.
Nobody, though, is likely to blame him for that, or, indeed, even to remember that prediction.
Labor, though, is citing the obvious in its defence.
The electorate is in National Party heartland. It stayed that way.
Both Rudd and his Treasurer, Wayne Swan, have been saying, too, that with inflation high, the government has been taking the necessary tough measures, to prevent it getting worse. Looking out, in fact, for “the long term.”
That might be right.
But it won’t be popular.
And, as the great economist, John Maynard Keynes once said:-”In the long run, we are all dead.”
Rising petrol prices bite even harder in rural areas, than they do in Australia’s capitals.
There is little, if any, public transport in the bush.
So Brendan Nelson’s repeated argument that the Rudd government needs to “do something” about petrol prices has extra resonance there.
But all he is offering to do, himself, is to cut the Federal government’s fuel excise by 5 cents a litre.
As fuel prices have already risen by more than 30 cents a litre this year, that’s not going to make a noticeable difference to family budgets, either in the cities or in the bush.
Rudd keeps telling Labor MPs that their lead, in the polls, is not as great as some might think.
The Gippsland by-election result will emphasise that message.
But the Coalition is still a long way from winning back government.
And Nelson’s hold on the Liberal leadership is still weak.
Voters are still looking for firm, clear leadership from the conservatives.
And Nelson isn’t supplying it.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
Wednesday December 11
The Dow Jones index fell 53 points to 15,973
Acting PM Warren Truss writes to Mike Devereux seeking “a clear statement” on Holden’s future
The Federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey, says the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook will be released next Tuesday, at the National Press Club.
|Aud To Usd||0.9151||N/A||N/A|
|Bhp Blt Fpo||36.200||-0.620||-1.68%|
|Rio Tinto Fpo||65.810||-0.360||-0.54%|
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