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Now Is Not The Time For Change: Sunday Mail

This is the election editorial from the South Australian Sunday Mail.

The newspaper is part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

Election editorial from the Adelaide Sunday Mail.

Sunday Mail

Five weeks ago Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Mark Latham launched their election campaigns with the simple mantra: “Trust me, I’m the best to run the country.”

As Australian voters ponder their choice on October 9, nothing has changed.

This election will come down to whom voters trust more: the solidity, experience and wise management of the Howard Government, or the social change and vision of an energetic Latham Opposition.

Both parties have run at times ideologically similar but profligate campaigns. Billions of dollars have been promised on programs that many will rightly argue should have been drawn up and implemented regardless of the pork-barrelling of an election year.

Mr Latham’s innovative Medicare Gold plan, free hospital care for Australians over 75 and cheaper private health premiums, has struck a chord – providing it can work and not become another bottomless pit for taxpayer money. As yet, it has not been costed and more information is needed.

But his policy to strip funding from rich private schools and pump it into public schools was needlessly divisive as it penalised hard-working parents (many of them Labor voters) determined to give their children the best education possible.

On the whole Mr Latham has run a good campaign with sound, if conservative, policy. For the first time in a decade swinging voters have been given the choice of a Labor Opposition that actually looks like it knows what it is doing.

He has brought excitment, verve and some glamour to an Australian political scene desperately in need of it.

But opposition leaders are not voted into the Lodge on these issues.

The Government has an undeniable legacy of economic success so entrenched it is easy to forget the days of crushingly high interest rates and spiralling unemployment of the Hawke-Keating years.

Many will point to the fiscal smarts of Mike Rann and Kevin Foley in South Australia as evidence a Labor Government today can manage the till: Others will argue it is marginally easier running a state economy than a multi-billion-dollar national economy.

MR Howard also has been resolute and commanding during the War on Terror, where Australians have been attacked, wounded and killed on two continents since September 2001.

Such conviction has not been seen from Mr Latham, who is still haunted by his cut-and-run plan from Baghdad.

Mr Howard has not been without question marks this campaign. One has been his refusal to properly deal with his future should he win. This has cast doubts with some voters who find his likely successor, Treasurer Peter Costello, an unacceptable prospect as Prime Minister.

This week Mr Howard must spell out his plan; voters are entitled to ask who they will be electing as Prime Minister. Bob Hawke and Paul Keating were caught out last time, and voters will not forgive the Liberals for a similar stunt.

That aside, this election comes down to this: the economic experience and tough decision-making of Mr Howard, or the untested virtues of Mr Latham whose running of the Liverpool Council has raised many questions.

As such it is Mr Howard who deserves another term. Now is not the time for change.

And as unpalatable as it may seem today, Mr Latham, and Australia, will be better off with three more years of Labor in Opposition. He needs to show over the long term what he is capable of – not while he is trying to buy votes and keeping his temper in check during an election campaign.

The prosperity the Government has achieved must now be used to build an even better Australia. Mr Howard has promised much this campaign. If he wins he must grasp this opportunity forcefully rather than giving us lap of honour.

Responsibility for all editorial comment is taken by The Editor, Phillip Gardner, 121 King William St, Adelaide 5000.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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