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Kennett Shows Aussie Polls Way Off Mark

Victoria's Premier Jeff Kennett, stood before his people yesterday a broken man, but unbowed. In lessons for New Zealand politicians, the opinion polls were way off the mark. John Howard reports.

Too proud, too vain, Kennett could still not understand why the people no longer loved him. But without a tear or a quivering lip, a tired-looking Mr Kennett faced up to his ultimate humiliation and announced his retreat from power through "the pariahs" of the press.

After telling a party room meeting that he was stepping down as leader of the Victorian Liberal Party, Mr Kennett visited Victorian Governor, Sir James Gobbo, at 4pm yesterday to resign.

Premier-in-waiting Steve Bracks and his Labour Party team will be sworn in by Sir James at 11.30am today.

Mr Kennett had been convinced he would be returned to government after the September 18 general election. Opinion polls showed an 85 percent expectation that he would govern Victoria for another four years.

But disquiet had been gathering in the bush. Regional and rural Victorians were tired of an imperious leader who held court in a distant city that had become a monument to his corporate style of government.

The bush-led backlash finally tipped the Liberal-National coalition out of office and ended Mr Kennett's at times turbulent, at times inspired premiership.

Labour finally won Government on Monday when three rural independent MP's who hold the balance of power in the Lower House voted against Mr Kennett's autocratic style.

In another blow to the Liberals, National Party Leader Pat McNamara said the Victorian coalition, formed in 1991, was being reconsidered.

"It's obviously something we are reviewing as we go through the normal administrative processes." he said. A decision might be made by the party at a meeting of its MP's and party officials as early as Friday.

Prime Minister, John Howard, told the Coalition party room in Canberra that politicians should never take the electorate for granted.

"People want you to remain appropriately ordinary and humble. They want leadership but they don't want you to grow too big for your boots," he said, adding that he was not criticising Mr Kennett's demeanor.


ends

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