Shifting frontlines

G’day. Webdiary has a new conservative columnist in 2004, long time Webdiarist Noel Hadjimichael. Noel is a suburban solicitor and a member of the Liberal Party in Sydney’s West, that territory Mark Latham is hell bent on winning back for Labor.

Shifting frontline

by Noel Hadjimichael

News that Liberal Party researchers and campaign pundits have identified the Federal Government as open to defeat is good news for coalition voters and bad news for Latham groupies.

Any potential backlash against the John Howard style, the Free Trade Agreement or WMDs by conservative voters will now evaporate when the thought of young Mark running the country or his Shadow Cabinet controlling the economic and policy levers seems possible.

In 1996, the demolition job done on Paul Keating�s government (otherwise known as the �true believers gone arrogant�) was fuelled by widespread disenchantment from Labor voters and outright anger from middle ground conservatives.

The next seven years saw the Coalition muscle up in East Timor, deliver the GST-induced economic recovery plan, court then condemn the Hanson crusade and generally oversee a new conservative game plan for the Australian nation. No more �sorry marches�, no more Asian adventures at the expense of other markets and no further pandering to special interest groups associated with a grievance industry.

This year we have seen the emergence of a powerful, articulate and hungry Opposition Leader hell bent on making history. We now have real competition on ideas, policies and programs.

The intelligentsia in the triangle of power (inner city metrosexual Sydney, inner city caf� latte Melbourne and Whitlam-era Canberra) cannot but hate the current Federal Government for its part in destroying all the good bits from the Hawke-Keating power trip.

You know, the rush to become a Republic, any republic. Pity about the details and that horrible colonial relic the Referendum process.

 The commitment to multiculturalism as long as the definition allowed lots of easy grants for fellow consultants and plenty of ambiguity over the Australian national identity. Pity about that Flag, with the annoying British bit in the corner.

A recognition that indigenous Australians are disadvantaged and over represented in the Courts, on welfare rolls and in social distress environments. Pity about any calls from grass-roots leaders to get employment, family structures and substance abuse corrected. Rights and self-determination will fix that up. We hope.

The uncomfortable aspects of the last Labor government are trivialised or treated as not important.

What a surprise that mainstream ordinary Australians, the very people that inhabit the suburbs and regional cities, remember the early 1990s recession we had to have. What a bore that interest rates should be so low now and that inflation is under check.

It is terrible that social programs have been restrained and defence spending boosted. Butter for the well connected is always better than guns.

The battleground for the 2004 contest, in the suburbs of marginal seat Australia, will revolve around a mix of domestic and international issues.

Border control is fixed: most of us want tight borders and decent intake programs. Few want the scramble for places via the big dollar smuggler networks.

 The war on terror demands a focus on security arrangements tied to alliances with like-minded and friendly powers. No government in training should get relaxed about the current situation.

Troubled health and education sectors need to be addressed. Not so much with more money but better policies to offer affordable choice, cost control and true innovation. Ten world-class universities are better than 38 cash-starved dinosaurs. More self provision is desired if the quality can be guaranteed in health provision.

For aspiring pollies, the shopping malls of Penrith, the quiet streets of Camden, the commuter trains of the NSW Central Coast and the low-fee private school playgrounds of outer suburban Melbourne will be the battleground. Visit these communities and you will see what John and Mark might be saying in the near future.

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