This week has seen events that could well question the leadership of Federal Labor Leader, Kim Beasley; and NSW Liberal Leader Peter Debnam.
Kim Beazley has consistently rated poorly in polls asking who would be the preferred Prime Minister. Even if the polls are not accurate to 1% point, they indicate that the Australian voters prefer John Howard as Prime Minister. This weekend (18-19 Nov 2006), there has been speculation in the media about whether Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard would make a better leader, and be more acceptable to voters as a preferred Prime Minister.
Of the two, I think voters would find Kevin Rudd more acceptable, on the basis that voters want a more "conservative" person as PM, and he presents himself that way. Because Julia Gillard is supported by the "Left" faction, she is unlikely, at this stage, to win the support of the NSW ("right") party machine. Or voters! They are more likely to support Kevin Rudd. Neither, of course, have the first-hand Ministerial experience that Kim Beasley has, but that seems to be of less importance than the "image". That is not an ideal basiss for voting in a democracy, but I believe it's how many people determine who gets their vote.
I believe that Labor cannot win a Federal election with Kim Beasley polling only 30-40% as "preferred Prime Minister". Labor needs someone else.
Peter Debnam though he was having a cracker of a week with his Parliamentary attack on (Labor) Attorney-General Bob Debus. That is, until the press revealed the likely sources of his information were (Federal) Senator Bill Heffernan and a Royal Commission witness. Unfortunately for Debman, the witness seems to be a convicted criminal with a history of vexacious allegations. In 2002, Bill Heffernan was one who used fake documents and Parliamentary privilege to falsely accuse Justice Michael Kirby of using COmmonwealth cars for inappropriate purposes. John howard forced Senator Heffernan to resign as Minister and to apologise to Justice Kirby.
That Mr Debnam relied on Senator Heffernan (given his previous history in false accusations) and, reportedly, a vexacious convicted criminal for political advice is downright stupid. This will be one test of his leadership.
He seems to have failed another test: having publicly stated that he was happy with sitting members, it emerges that a third sitting Liberal member has lost preseection. Whether or not the so-called "Religious Right" had a hand in this is less important than the fact that the Liberal Party seems to not follow its leaders stated wishes regarding candidates.
NSW voters take fright at the Liberal Party's lurch further to the right. There is a conservative (Labor) government in NSW. I'm not sure the voters want a more extreme right-wing government where the Liberal Party does not support its leader, or one that simply indulges in inappropriate muck-raking.
Peter Debnam might be not long in the job as Opposition Leader, especially if he loses the election.