By-Election: Day Of Reckoning In Ryan

A seminal moment in the life of the Howard government will come today with voting in the by-election for Ryan in Brisbane’s western suburbs.

TelegraphOpinion polls continue to predict a large swing against the Liberal Party, enough to deliver the seat to the ALP for the first time in its history.

Most polls put the swing around the 13% mark. The government needs to lose only 9.5% to be defeated.

The by-election is being compared to those in Bass in 1975 and Canberra in 1995. In each case, safe Labor electorates recorded large swings to the Liberals and heralded the demise of the Whitlam and Keating governments.

In a week which has seen the value of the Australian dollar fall below 50 U.S. cents and unemployment increase to 6.9%, the government has also been battling the growing belief that Australia is headed for an economic recession. Last week, the December quarter economic growth figures showed a decline of 0.6%.

The poll will be the first federal electoral test of the Goods and Services Tax that was introduced last July. It also comes weeks after the deadline for the submission of the second quarterly Business Activity Statement by around 2 million businesses.

The election also follows crushing defeat of the Western Australian coalition government and the decimation of the coalition by the Queensland Labor government.

Politicians such as Treasurer Peter Costello are already talking of a policy reappraisal should Ryan be lost to the ALP. There is speculation about John Howard’s future as Liberal leader and Prime Minister, but as yet no firm signs of a real challenge.

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