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Get some pork on your fork

We need a Prime Minister who trusts the people, who tells them the truth about the great issues of war and peace. And when things go wrong, a Prime Minister who is big enough to take responsibility and not blame others.

We need a Prime Minister who will take the people into his confidence, not least about his own intentions. It's urgent to bring a new energy, a new accountability to Australia's biggest job. And that's the difference between Labor and the Liberals.

We've got a great public plan for the future. Mr Howard's got a private plan for retirement. I'm ready to lead. He's ready to leave.

I have a simple goal: to give Australia a government as good as the Australian people themselves, to bring new drive and ideas to the leadership of the nation.

Mr Howard, too, has a simple goal: he wants the electorate to help him beat Bob Hawke in the Guinness Book of Records.

- Mark Latham, ALP Campaign Launch, 29.9.04

The child care election warLatham's policy speech at yesterday's campaign launch in Brisbane was quite unlike anything I have ever seen from any major political leader in Australia, certainly an ALP leader. He exuded humility and working-class boy passion, even when personally putting down John Howard. His delivery style was the antithesis of his mentor, Gough Whitlam. It had none of the ego of Bob Hawke or the brashness of Paul Keating. (Never mind His Blandness Bill Hayden or Gunner Kim Beazley, nor Simon Crean, the leader of the parliamentary ALP who never got to fight an election.) He barely smiled. I reckon he was told not to.

A student of the philosophies of Bill Clinton, Latham even had his own Hillary, Janine, to give an eloquent introduction to her husband. If Mark Latham is following in the footsteps of Gough, is Janine Lacy his Margaret (or even his Hazel)? Now there's a comparison to Jeanette Howard, whose only contribution to politics has been to pick the wrong governor-general for her husband.

This election campaign has seen a staggering amount of pork barrelling from both sides, so much so that I have decided to close my eyes and ears to most of the fine detail. These aren't promises (or even "core promises"), but ambit claims. Medicare Gold sounds well and good, awesome in fact if it comes off. But will it? Or is it just a cynical pitch, not so much to the over-75s, but their fifty-something children?

An interesting difference between the Liberal/National launch on Sunday and the Labor launch yesterday was the attendance of the respective elder statesmen. Whitlam, Hawke, Keating were all at Latham's launch. Fraser, Peacock, Hewson were not at Howard's launch, nor were Doug Anthony, Nick Greiner, Jeff Kennett, Ian Sinclair, Tony Staley, and so on. I presume John Valder was not there to see the war criminal in action either.

John Howard's campaign launch speech, 26.9.04, is on the Liberal Party website as a PDF file. Now there's an astonishing display of pork barrelling for you.

Six billion dollars worth, described by the wags as "$100 million per minute". What happened to "sound financial management", Johnny? Stashing away a huge surplus to splurge away in a difficult election campaign is not sound financial management. In fact, building up a big surplus is not sound management for a government at all. Even Peter Costello who, one way or another, will not be Treasurer in 2005, appeared tentative when defending Howard's policy speech on TV.

I'll do my own take on the various policies next week, the last before the election. Here, meanwhile, is a selection from the blogosphere:

But for an exhaustive guide to the election seat by seat you can't go past The Poll Bludger. (Unless, of course, you are Antony Green.)