But why would John Howard be facing this difficulty? The answer, according to an informative SBS article, has much to do with a demographic shift brought about by immigration. One part of the PM's electorate has become Korean, another part is increasingly populated by immigrants from China and Japan.
If it weren't for John Howard's status as PM, it's likely that he would already have lost his seat of Bennelong. As the SBS article explains,
The characteristic that separates Sydney inner-metropolitan electorates between Labor and Liberal is not income, or even property prices, but race. The dividing line is an ethnic mix of roughly 20 per cent of the population. Any seat with more than 20 per cent of its voters born in non-English speaking countries at the 2006 census has a Labor sitting member today with one exception - Bennelong.
This trend is also obvious in Melbourne. If you were to compare a map showing Labor seats and areas of the highest concentration of migrants there would be a remarkable overlap.
It's interesting that the tendency of migrants to vote Labor is holding true even of East Asians. If any migrants (of non-English speaking background) were to vote Liberal it would be this group. They tend to have higher incomes, to be engaged in business activities and they have been favoured by the Liberals in terms of immigration, employment and education policies.
But it hasn't worked. They don't follow the Anglo commercial class pattern of voting predominantly Liberal.
So is the Liberal Party taking stock of the situation and slowing down immigration to preserve its long-term viability? Not at all. It's doing the very opposite. The current Government has almost doubled immigration over the last ten years to about 180,000 per year.
Why 180,000? Because this is the magic number that business wants. For instance, in 2002 the Business Council of Australia Chief Executive Katie Lahey wrote that:
As we look forward, we can also see the importance of immigration to continued strong business and economic growth. We think immigration targets need to be higher - 140,000 a year, rising to 180,000 a year over the next decade.
Peter Hendy, a spokesman for the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has pressed for the same thing:
In the current round of discussions on general immigration intake, we are pushing for an increase in the overall immigration intake to 180,000 people a year and a significant proportion of that will need to be skilled migrants.
So the Liberal Government has chosen to give big business what it wants, even if this means fatally undermining its own electoral prospects.
It's an indication of how much the Liberal Party is wedded to a right-liberal market ideology rather than a traditionalist conservatism.