Missed opportunity to change team captain
In 2002 the Catch the Fire Ministeries’, pastor Danny Nalliah in Melbourne gave a public lecture in which he attacked Islam, called Muslims liars and insulted the Prophet Muhammad. The case became public when two Muslims in the audience took the issue up in court under Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001. This if anything gave Catch the Fire more publicity and increased its membership. The group was emboldened by the case and not one bit remorseful for their position.
And on the eve of federal election the Catch The Fire held a special prayer for John Howard and the Liberal Party in Parliament House under the very nose of the head of Government. This was an extraordinary event and one that places Howard in a very embarrassing position. One must ask just how wise it is to link yourself to such a wacky fringe group. Howard has in his term as prime minister often pandered to the religious far right including the Bretheren and other protestant groups and most recently having held meetings with Catch the Fire and even being blessed by the self-professed messiah of the group. From an Islamic angle its nothing unusual to pray in public but nonetheless it is a very unorthodox situation and I believe it indicates just how far the prime minister has lost sight of reality. He is no longer fit to lead the party and a sea change is in order. several weeks before the election was called by the PM Costello had his golden opportunity to challenge Howard and take over the reigns. If anything it would have presented the Liberal supporters a new vision that everyone is expecting and a more viable contender to challenge the Rudd phallanx. The Liberal Party made a crucially suicidal decision that they will have to live with for at least three more years and most likely six. This would have made much more sense considering that Howard has already announced his retirement plans.
But that is all but a lost opportunity. The Howard team is going to find it difficult to approach this election with anything fresh or new. As we witnessed in the debate Howard was very agitated, aggressive and angry. He had little to offer in terms of a vision for the future and was upstaged by the impish Rudd. Although there is little to separate the two parties, elections are all about perceptions and deception. Who can con the electorate into trusting them with their financial future will of course be the winner. Smart suits and fast talking will give them the edge.
Its not a walk over because Howard still has his loyal supporters and those conservatives who are afraid of change or taking risks but that may not be enough to carry him over the line. Rudd is immensely popular with the under 30’s and with the workplace relations laws a key election issue Rudd will be hard to beat. Youthful and boyish it may be enough to push those swinging voters towards Labor once and for all, eleven years on. It appears that Howard is taking desperate measures if he really believes that Catch the Fire will be a significant vote. It looks like the campaign is quickly burning up before it even started as a likely interest rate rise may be the final blow that will ensure a landslide for the ALP.