The events unfolded thus:
- The opposition leader Kevin Rudd was soaring high in the polls ahead of an election
- Howard’s government tried to bucket him by harping on his meetings a couple of years ago that were sullied by the presence of Brian Burke, a notoriously corrupt ex-politician
- As part of the pressure on Rudd, Howard then secured the resignation of one of his ministers, Ian Campbell, on the strength of his meetings with Burke a few years ago
- New polls came out, showing opposition leader Kevin Rudd still soaring high
- Another Howard minister, Santo Santoro, was found to have undeclared shares that were directly related to his portfolio. He wasn’t asked to resign.
Howard’s government, like many, started out with a pledge on ministerial conduct, and a few heads rolled early on. But none have rolled for more than five years now, until Campbell.
Letters to editors, blogs, internal party polling and focus groups uncovered the obvious. The mud wasn’t sticking because after all this time, it was seen for what it was: muckraking by someone who wasn’t untainted.
One comment on a very good web site, the Oz Politics Blog, was: “there may be an underlying principle that voters will return governments they don’t like when they don’t trust the opposition… When the opposition becomes credible, or at least fresh and untainted, the rip-tide/backlash can be catastrophic”
Thus Howard’s attacks on the basis of ethics have little effect. Maybe he’ll turn to policy.
The only victim, apart from the electorate’s faith in political integrity, was Ian Campbell, and they’re back to square one.
Keep an eye on the Oz Politics Blog. The comments, partisanship aside, yield good insights.