They say that any publicity is good publicity, and in show business that might be true. But in the world of politics things are different. Lately it seems that the only way Brendan Nelson can dominate the headlines is when it’s bad news. So far this week it’s all been bad news for Brendan. First the revelation that Malcolm Turnbull opposed the policy to reduce petrol excise, then the confrontation over who leaked that e-mail, and now the latest opinion poll figures which have been described in the headlines as “The Biggest Hammering In History”.
According to this weeks Herald/Neilson poll, Kevin Rudd is now even further in front of Brendan Nelson than John Howard was in front of Simon Crean five years ago. The Labor Party is even further in front than they were at the election. According to Newspoll, Wayne Swan is now the preferred treasurer over Malcolm Turnbull, despite Mr. Turnbull’s credentials as a self made millionaire and a former investment banker.
Despite the fact that the government produced a lacklustre budget which disappointed both the aged and disabled pensioners who wanted more support as well as the hardline economists who wanted real expenditure cuts, the opposition has missed the opportunity to score some points. Instead, it has been tearing itself apart over silly things like the petrol excise policy.
Of course it’s not really about the excise. It’s about Brendan Nelson’s leadership. It is unsustainable. It cannot last. It will not last. And while Malcolm Turnbull clearly covets the job, I think even he realizes that it’s too soon for him to make a serious move. But thanks to the e-mail affair he is now well and truly on the radar as setting himself apart from the current leadership, regardless of what he might say about supporting it.
With support like that, it’s a wonder Brendan Nelson is still leader at all.