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Opposition Leader discusses opinion polls.

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Tuesday 20 May 2003

Opposition Leader discusses opinion polls


MARK COLVIN: A slight improvement in the polls seem to have given Simon Crean a slight spring in his step. To day the Opposition Leader told ABC Radio that he would isolate those in the Party trying to white-ant him.  


"There are malevolent people in politics," Simon Crean said. But he added that he was impervious to them because he knows they're not connected with the real issues. 


Mr Crean also conceded that he has trouble getting his personality across to the Australian public, saying he's a "pretty easy going, passionate guy," but he's got to work harder to get that across. 


From Canberra, Chief Political Correspondent, Catherine McGrath, reports. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: Today's polls and particularly the AC Nielson poll, which is most favourable to him, have given Simon Crean a breather, but if he keeps talking about the leadership issue, then that breather isn't likely to last very long. 


Today on ABC Radio in Sydney, Simon Crean told Sally Loane a bit about himself. 


SIMON CREAN: Well, I mean you, you see me, I'm pretty easygoing, passionate sort of a guy, so um… 


SALLY LOANE: But you, do you wonder why sometimes that doesn’t seem to come across and doesn't register?  


SIMON CREAN: Yeah, well, I've got to work harder at it coming across… 


SALLY LOANE: Does that… 


SIMON CREAN: …because I've got it and I just have to project it better.  


CATHERINE MCGRATH: And while he tries to focus on policies like Medicare and tertiary education, the leadership issue is ever present. He agreed that some in his own Party will be examining the polls and wondering why he isn't doing better. 


SIMON CREAN: Of course they will because there are malevolent people in politics. But, look, I've had to deal with them for so long now, Sally, I'm impervious to them because I know that they're not connected with the real issues out there.  


CATHERINE MCGRATH: And he was asked what he plans to do about those who are white-anting him. 


SIMON CREAN: Well, isolate them, isolate them. 


SALLY LOANE: How many are there?  


SIMON CREAN: Not many.  


CATHERINE MCGRATH: So there it is again - a threat: this time isolation, but there's no further information. How can Simon Crean isolate those who are working against him when they include a significant number of his frontbench?  


In other parts of the country today, Labor politicians were digesting the polls. Crean supporters were saying it gave them some hope. Crean critics, those arguing for a change in leadership say, say it's too early to judge. 


They point to the next news poll out in two weeks as the crucial one. They say if that doesn't show a significant improvement then Simon Crean's position is terminal. 


Crean supporter, Labor frontbencher, Mark Latham, was in the Northern Territory, and he was talking up the poll result. 


MARK LATHAM: Well, if you want to read these polls, there's one that says the Howard Government is at 51 per cent two party preferred and Labor's at 49, and that would indicate a very, very close outcome. 


REOPRTER: What poll was that?  


MARK LATHAM: That's the Nielson poll that's in the Sydney Morning Herald . Sounds very exciting, we're well within striking range and got every prospect of winning the next election. That poll is actually showing no shift from the voting attention at the last election.  


CATHERINE MCGRATH: While in South Australia, Shadow Health Minister, Stephen Smith, was showing just how far apart the two camps are. He wouldn't even answer questions about the polls. 


STEPHEN SMITH: Well, look, as I've said, often in the past I've made extensive comments about leadership and opinion polls. In fact, I recall when I was last here in Adelaide last year with David, making extensive comments about the same subject. 


And I've made the point in recent times, I'm not proposing to add to those comments, I don’t think that helps anyone or anything, it doesn't much matter what I say, someone somewhere will try and use that or take it out of context.  


So I'm saying today what I've said in recent days and weeks, that the most important thing for me as Labor Shadow Health Minister, is to be out there talking about Labor's plan to rescue bulk billing and restore Medicare.  


CATHERINE MCGRATH: If there truly was no problem with Simon Crean's leadership, then it would have been very simple for Stephen Smith to simply welcome the poll and say it proved his Leader was doing well. He wasn't even prepared to say that. 


The latest internal ALP polling has between 18 and 20 seats listed as possible losses if an election was held at the moment. It's those figures that many backbenchers will be running through their mind as they consider whether to stick with Simon Crean or to back a challenge. 


MARK COLVIN: Catherine McGrath.