Four weeks ago, I published a post speculating on when the election might be held.
You can read the post here. In it, I speculated on the possibility that Gillard could announce the election date sometime around Australia Day.
In essence, I felt that the election date options were fairly limited. I never thought there was any possibility of an early election in the first half of the year. November was a bridge too far. Assuming an election in August, September or October, it seemed to me there were only a couple of real possibilities.
Whatever date Gillard had in mind, it seemed clear that the year would be dominated by election speculation at every turn.
What would really shake-up political thinking would be a surprise announcement of an election date at the beginning of 2013. There are few precedents for this, although New Zealand’s Prime Minister, John Key, gave similar advance notice of his election in 2011, albeit for different reasons.
I explained some of my thinking in an interview with SBS this afternoon:
In the end, I felt that September 7 or 14 were the most likely election dates, although I opted for mid-October on the basis that the government faces almost certain defeat and you may as well eke out as much time as you can without choosing a date so late that you look utterly desperate.
The more I thought about it, the more I believed that a government on the ropes needs to do something to change the political mood. For months now, the Gillard government has stepped up its attack on Tony Abbott. Whether it was the misogyny speech last October, or the continual allegations of negativity and the demand for Abbott to produce detailed policies, it was obvious where the government’s campaign was heading.
Some see this anti-Abbott campaign as sound politics. It has more than a touch of the 1993 election about it. Twenty years ago, Paul Keating was regarded as an almost certain loser. The country was in the grip of recession, the government was ten years old and John Hewson appeared to be on his way to The Lodge.
In the end, the electorate baulked at change. Keating’s ferocious attack on the proposed 15% Goods and Services Tax undoubtedly changed votes. The Coalition’s Fightback! package contained other policies which aroused fears in the minds of the electorate, especially about Medicare and industrial relations. On election day, there was a swing to the government and it increased its majority. To this day, John Hewson makes wry jokes about Fightback! as the longest political suicide note in history. [Read more...]