|Safe as Houses|
In spite of the protestations and predictions to the contrary, Johnny (now
using the 'V' word) Howard is riding a wave of popularity, while Simon (who?)
budget) Crean is somewhere between Iraq and a hard place. Post budget-reply
polls have put Simon somewhere between unmoved, and up one point.
With double dissolution triggers lining up like bowling pins, and denials
about early elections rolling thick and fast one has to wonder. Johnny is
feeling pretty invulnerable now, but there are a few clouds on the horizon
which may break the opposition's popularity drought - mainly falling
residential housing prices.
Readers may be sick of dire predictions about the bursting housing bubble,
and those of us who have nice houses and manageable mortgages (even if we can't
get Internet access you Telstra asses!) may not care. But elections are won
and lost in the western suburbs of Sydney, and these people are
vulnerable. Spending one's life savings on a nice place to live is nothing new,
but many people in the mortgage belt have committed their future life earnings,
and have forgotten the roaring eighties when (under the stewardship of the
Hawke/Keating administration) interest rates were in the high teens.
The economy is running smoothly at the moment, but small movements may produce
large effects. An interest rate hike of just a few percent would leave many
people in a position where they couldn't keep up their repayments, and a price
fall of 30% would give many people a negative equity in their homes.
Working two jobs to pay interest to a bank on something which has no value is
not something most people would enjoy. And if the usual responsibility-shifting
attitude of the proletariat ('the government should have done something') kicks
in, the electoral punishment would be brutal and severe.
Sometimes good things come to those who wait - look at Johnny Howard's
career - and that makes Simon a serious pretender to the Prime
Ministership. Simon lucked out in the Iraq war when the massive civilian
casualties didn't eventuate. But economic casualties may be an even more
powerful electoral tool - especially when the victims are Australian.
If the predicted collapse comes, Johnny may bow under pressure, cash in his
superannuation and hand the whole mess to Peter (Smirky) Costello.
And with residential property on the nose, Peter might be glad to get the keys to
the lodge for more reasons than one - even if his stay were only until the next