An excerpt of Tim Dunlop's article follows:
"Peter Hartcher gets it about right in his piece this morning about the prime minister's anti-state strategy". Noting that Mr Howard has recently pursued a strategy of attacking the states at every available opportunity, Hartcher conlcudes:
Howard sees clashing noisily with the states as a winning strategy, whether he wins the individual arguments or not. If he wins, he gets his way and prevails. He is seen as a strong, effective leader. If he does not win, he is still seen as energetic and full of fight, which is very handy for a Prime Minister whose opponents are portraying him as old and stale.
But it gets better. By being seen to stand up to the states, he helps frame one of the big questions looming for voters in the federal election - are you prepared to put every government in the land into the hands of the Labor Party?
It’s a terrific way to run the country, isn’t it? Pursue divisive policy options, refuse to negotiate on important matters, blame the states for anything you can think of, from housing affordability to interest rates, all in the name of looking “tough” and scaring people about the prospect of state and federal Labor governments. Throw in the government’s ongoing demonisation of unions and its exploitation of terrorism (bring a few hundred troops home from Iraq and you hand victory to al Qaeda) and what emerges is a picture of a government willing to do anything to stay in power.
It simply underlines the most telling ongoing criticism of the prime minister, that politics trumps policy whenever necessary. Thus, in the name of looking decisive, or imaginative, or full of ideas, we are, in the run up to an election, suddenly subjected to potentially worthwhile ideas—a water scheme, Aboriginal intervention, and, most recently, public housing (after denying there was a problem)—all hatched with a lack of proper planning and investigation, without “Ts” crossed or “Is” dotted."