It's been an odd couple of weeks of campaigning, with the elephant in the corner of the room that is logging of old growth forests remaining uncommented upon... until now. Both major parties were keen to wait for the other to go first in the launch of their policy on logging and old growth forests, and it was the ALP which went first with their announcement on Monday. Gut instinct says that the policy is a good one, reasonably balanced between the interests of all stakeholders and in the national interest. Of course, given that it was good POLICY, it was unfornuately poor POLITICS.
Latham copped a battering from all sides over the policy:
- The greenies (small g) were critical that the policy, arguing that it was not absolute and immediate in its ending of the logging of old growth forests.
- The unionists were critical that jobs would be lost and that workers would be the losers. The CFMEU even came out and suggested that its members vote Liberal to protect forestry jobs. Good work lads.
- The Murdoch pressed caned it, with the major papers critical of Latham's supposed cave in to the green lobby. Given the anti-Latham feeling within the Murdoch papers, Latham was on a hiding to nothing with this one.
- The Tassie state government are fuming that its interests have been sold out for those damn greenie mainlanders.
Politically, the policy will cost Latham seats. The Tasmanian seats of Bass (marginal) and Braddon (not so marginal) are looking very precarious and will probably fall to the Liberals if it opts for a more industry-friendly forestry policy. On the mainland, where the move is supposed to sure up Labor seats which were supposedly in danger of falling to the Greens, it may shift a few primary votes from the Greens to the ALP, but given that these votes would have flowed to Labor after preferences anyhow, the political gain is an illusion. Not one extra seat will be won by Labor because of the policy, but two (in Tassie) will probably be lost.
Mr Howard, time to come to the crease. These pace at one end, swing bowling at the other, and plenty of spin from both.