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Coalition Best Placed To Govern: Sunday Mail Election Editorial

This is the election editorial published by Adelaide’s Sunday Mail.

The Sunday Mail is a News Limited publication.

Adelaide Sunday Mail Editorial

Coalition Best Placed To Govern

This has been an underwhelming election campaign. It has been a campaign lacking in a galvanising differential to sweep undecided voters in one direction; it has been a campaign missing a clearcut vision of Australia’s future beyond electoral platitudes.

Instead, the Coalition and Australian Labor Party, which proudly once stood at either end with policies based on belief rather than electoral necessity, have conspired to move closer together, squabbling over the same middle ground with like-minded policy and pork-barrelling excess.

That Prime Minister John Howard’s Government stands this morning under threat is a mystery.

It is not untrue to say the majority of Australians have never had it better.

They have unprecedented savings in the form of superannuation holdings and home ownership.

None of this is accidental. Sound stewardship of the economy has made Australia strong as some other countries have wilted.

In SA, unemployment now stands at just over 5 per cent, the lowest figure since Australian Bureau of Statistics research started in the mid-1970s. It is a figure matched elsewhere in Australia.

Inflation is running at 1.9 per cent annually and voters are mostly prepared to give Mr Howard the benefit of the doubt on the interest rate surge, even allowing for his broken promises.

But somehow the Government finds itself in a grim struggle to hold its 16-seat majority, and for this they have only themselves to blame.

To name a few reasons: They have been badly out of touch on the touchstone issue of the environment, slippery in their dealings over the Iraqi wheat scandal, misread Australian workers’ fierce opposition to Australian Workplace Agreements and been distracted over a needless leadership debate.

This should all have been a launching pad for Kevin Rudd and the ALP. But it hasn’t.

Two cases in point: Mr Rudd’s environment spokesman, the millionaire singer Peter Garrett, made a pig’s ear of this vote-changing issue with intemperate comments and confusing policy. And Mr Rudd will be doubly cursing when he sees the Galaxy Poll in today’s Sunday Mail and on our website AdelaideNow, which shows strong support for the Greens. The ALP also has rightly found fertile ground over industrial relations and the divisive AWAs.

But, likewise, the party has found it hard to counter the notion – incorrect or otherwise – that a union movement which has poured record amounts into Mr Rudd’s coffers will not remain a silent and accommodating partner in an ALP government.

This has been a campaign of scare tactics and convenient omission of pesky facts from both sides.

For instance: Labor’s education revolution and promise for a computer for schoolkids between Years 9-12 sounds good in theory, but if it were a genuine revolution.

It should have come in the Keating years – the Australian Council of Educational Research says all senior schoolchildren already have access to computers and, importantly, that computer access does not necessarily lift standards.

The Government has been willing to throw money and promises at healthcare and infrastructure, but it has ignored the fundamental need for a coherent and visionary policy on healthcare management from primary schools up that keeps people out of hospitals and waiting rooms in the first place.

And amid all this, the elephant in the room – the drought – has struggled to rise above the horizon of both parties despite its very real crippling effects.

Yet today’s voters are erudite and not easily fooled. For the past five weeks, they have been subjected to an electoral campaign cloaked in the political fad of “me too-ism”.

It has proved an effective strategy for Mr Rudd, helping quell the view among some that an ALP Government would radically change direction from the steady course of the past decade.

But has this conservative mantra, coupled with broad smiles and the hoopla of New Leadership, provided voters with an overwhelming reason to change government?

Australians are clearly in the mood for change but, regrettably, we believe Mr Rudd has fallen short on this score. Change for change’s sake is not a good enough reason to vote out a Government.

The Coalition’s record as strong economic managers continues to provide Australia with a sound framework for prosperity, jobs and future growth.

Now is not the time to move into untested waters, particularly as the world economy comes under strain next year.

The Sunday Mail believes the Coalition is best placed to govern Australia for the next three years.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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