This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au It's not you, really it's not. It's me. I blame myself for the things that have soured our relationship. My expectations were unrealistic. You never promised much when we got together, only that you'd wouldn't be like the last bloke. You hardly swept me off my feet. Perhaps naively, I assumed you'd attend to my needs. But your attention quickly drifted elsewhere and I became envious. And when you were absent so often, it seemed you'd forgotten about me altogether. While you were gadding about, enjoying the limelight and lavish parties, I was stuck here at home, trying to make ends meet. Maybe it was unfair of me to expect you to be home when your job took you away so often. Then again, you never really explained why so many absences were necessary. It's not over yet. It's not the beginning of the end. But it's certainly the end of the beginning and you have a lot of work to do to win back my trust. I am middle Australia, Anthony, and you are the Prime Minister. I am fickle and self-interested. I also determine the fate of governments. And you are making me cranky. The mid-term polls tell you not only that the honeymoon is over but that the relationship itself is drifting towards the rocks. Halfway through the term and you're neck and neck with the Coalition. Your backbenchers are telling you they're nervous. I suspect that, privately, some are wondering if you, not Peter Dutton, is the bigger threat to Labor's chances of a second term. Some of your frontbenchers like Clare O'Neil and Jim Chalmers are beginning to look like leaders. Even your union buddies are restive. The political commentariat is telling you to step forward with a bolder agenda. Something, anything, that captures the country's imagination. If you can manage that, Anthony, make sure you can explain it so we all understand. Don't fall into the same trap you did with the Voice referendum by leaving out the details and assuming we'd all step in behind you. You need to be articulate. You need to be convincing. Dutton might not look like much and he's definitely not at the door with flowers but the fact his standing is rising while yours falls should tell you that you urgently need to put more effort into the relationship with middle Australia. Remember that time you thought the other bloke was unelectable? That was Tony Abbott and you were wrong. Dead wrong. All is not lost. Governments of all stripes face mid-term blues. Some have come back from disastrous polling. But let things slide further and Dutton's plans to win back government will not seem so fanciful. Nor will the possibility that someone in your own ranks calls time on your leadership. HAVE YOUR SAY: Have you been disappointed with Labor's performance? Would Jim Chalmers or Clare O'Neil make better leaders than Albanese? Or are the days of the revolving door over? What can Albanese do to improve his standing with the electorate? Email us: email@example.com SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoy The Echidna, forward it to a friend so they can sign up, too. IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: - A Cooma police officer has been charged with manslaughter after 95-year-old Clare Nowland was Tasered in her nursing home on May 17. The 33-year-old senior constable Kristian White had been charged with recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and common assault before the charge was upgraded. - Underlying inflation has eased to its slowest pace since interest rates began to go up last year in mounting evidence that price pressures are coming down. The monthly consumer price index, excluding food, fuel and holiday travel, grew at an annual rate of 5.1 per cent in October, the lowest reading since April last year and more than 2 percentage points below the peak reached in December 2022. - Displaying Nazi symbols and gestures in public could soon land South Australians behind bars following a rise in "extremist" behaviour. Laws set to be introduced to state parliament next year would impose fines of up to $20,000 or a year in jail for people caught exhibiting swastikas or the Roman salute, SA Attorney-General Kyam Maher says. THEY SAID IT: "Elections are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody." - Franklin Pierce Adams YOU SAID IT: New Zealand government undoes planned ban of tobacco sales to people born on or after 2008 to help pay for tax cuts. John writes: "The NZ reversal of the restrictions on tobacco sales must rank with the 2016 backdown by the NSW government on its proposal to ban greyhound racing." "What a disappointing act of bastardry by the old or privileged (or both) on the young and the vulnerable," writes Old Donald from Lake Macquarie. "I really didn't expect that from New Zealand, of all countries." Lorraine writes: "Smoking is a personal choice. I chose not to. Could banning smoking to people born after 2008 make it even more tempting as it would be illegal?" "I believe any politician proposing to ban a popular substance should be investigated for links to organised crime," writes Helen. "History starkly shows that the only parties benefiting from illegal substances are criminals. We in Australia led the world in reducing tobacco use by education through the media, banning tobacco advertising and the introduction of plain packaging carrying warning messages and gruesome photos. Why would anyone with good intentions choose to ignore this tried and true method to introduce laws that have clearly failed with drugs?" Mark writes: "I, like you and thousands of others, am a reformed smoker. I am very glad that I gave up. But, smoking is still legal regardless of when you are born. I would happily support any campaign to make this illegal to grow, make and sell. Somehow I don't think the excise revenue the government, and those associated,gets, equals the cost to the health system. I wonder how many of our high-class pollies smoke?" "I was a smoker, on and off, much of my life," writes Sue. "Although I had cut down to five a day, it was very difficult to stop - bypass surgery was the motivator which finally did the trick. A year later, and at times I still find myself looking around for that packet. Quitting is not easy. Obviously the NZ government has found that quitting has its problems as well. Perhaps they should look at the long-term benefits for the health budget as part of their smoking accounting procedures. I found your comment about the Nationals really interesting. Particularly around election time, many political reports will comment about the ALP needing a partner to form a government, that is, forming a coalition, while referring to the LNP Coalition as if it is a single entity. It is nice to see them referred to separately for once." Bob writes: "Smoking is a known health hazard, and it beats me why it hasn't been banned altogether. It is addictive, and just like governments who are addicted to the revenue it generates, is hard to give up. Tailor-mades, are full of chemicals and much worse than roll-your-owns, which my dad smoked all of his life until he hit 60. He went cold-turkey but contracted cancer of the oesophagus and passed away at 80. He felt cheated. Now in my late 70s, I smoked in my late teens and through my 20s, and finally went cold-turkey without any problems. Here's hoping I stopped early enough."