Desperate measures suggest end is nigh

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 February, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 February, 1996, 12:00am

ALTHOUGH they may not have given up entirely (political miracles can happen), there is an aura of desperation among Labor Party leaders that suggests they know Saturday's election will bring them defeat.

With public opinion polls refusing to show any real swing towards the Government, Mr Keating is resorting increasingly to negative campaign tactics in an attemptto frighten the electorate out of giving its support to the conservative coalition.

He has concentrated for much of the campaign on his vision for Australia over the next few years and on contrasting his strong leadership style with Mr Howard, who is perceived as weaker.

However, an analysis of the key opinion polls suggests that while the gap between the parties may have closed one or two percentage points over the past few weeks, the conservatives still lead by around six percentage points - a margin which would see them win comfortably.

One of the defining characteristics of the latest election campaign has been the apparent lack of passion within the electorate - in contrast with recent campaigns, it has been a flat, boring five weeks.

This may be one reason many in the Labor Party, while aware of the polls, still say they cannot feel instinctively that there is a mood in the electorate to vote them out.

It may be that the electorate is, after 13 years, simply resigned to voting for change and made up its mind some time ago. It may be that this quiet resignation is being misread by the Labor Party as a lack of passion for change.

It may be also that after 13 years in government, the Labor Party is so used to power it cannot feel it ebbing away; cannot feel that voters are simply waiting quietly to drop the guillotine.

Whatever the mood, Mr Keating is now resorting to seemingly desperate attempts to prevent the conservatives from, as he would say, sliding into office without any grand vision for change.

The most obvious of these was his warning two days ago that if Australians voted for the coalition they would have a conservative government for at least six years, or two terms, because Australian governments were not traditionally defeated after one term.

The fact that he resorted to warning Australians they could not 'experiment' with the coalition indicates Mr Keating thinks there is a very good chance they will.