And they're rrrrrrrrracing!!

This will be a marathon campaign, a physical and mental test of endurance. Howard reakons he's got the young bloke's measure, but Latham looks calm and focussed. There'll be plenty of time for the substantial stuff, but first a couple of quickies on the issue of election timing.

This was The Bald Man with The Fat Man on Sunday on Sunday, 15 August:

JOHN HOWARD: A very good start. I think the Australian public are enjoying the Olympics.

LAURIE OAKES: Meaning you won't interrupt them?

JOHN HOWARD: Well, I think they're enjoying it. And I'm - I'm enjoying them and I think the opening was a great triumph for Greece... I think the Games have got off to a wonderful start, and I think there'll be a lot of focus on them now - I'm part of that focus.

Not totally. I've got other things I've got in my mind as well, but I think the public is pretty keen on following the Games at present.


LAURIE OAKES: Now, even though you're not going to interrupt the Olympics with a campaign, I'd like to ask you about the kind of election we can expect. Mark Latham wants three leader debates.


... and now we have an election called 24 hours before the circus packs up and heads to China. Howard didn't say he wouldn't call it during the Games, but he gave the clear impression the Games and the campaign would not overlap. Not quite another John Howard Lie, but perhaps a half-truth, with double-tuck-back-flip-three-point-turn-belly-flop.

At 41 days, this election campaign is the longest in 20 years, and superficially it seems a strange decision. Traditionally, the PM will keep the campaign to the barest minimum, 33 days, since the priveliges of office - and therefore advantage over opponents - are much fewer during the official campaign period.

Hmmm, so why would Howard give Latham 8 days more than necessary to make an impact? The inescapable conclusion is that Howard didn't want parliament to reconvene for the two week session scheduled for this week and next week, and dissolving parliament was the only way to do it. Gutless. The heat was really going to be on Howard over what he knew and what he said during the Children Overboard scandal in 2001, and the scrutiny of parliament would clearly have been unwelcome. Given that the Liberal campaign will focus on truth and integrity in government, it's a very worrying start.


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