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MacKerras: winter, winner … a trifecta for Labor’s cold snap election

Permit me to engage in a soliloquy. Am I entitled to brag about the date of this federal election? On Wednesday,  September 30 last year, the second story in Crikey was headed: “Rudd will go to the polls on August 21, 2010. Here’s why”. The article by me contained these words: “I predict the double dissolution will be effected in July 2010 causing a general election for all members of both houses to take place on August 21, 2010.” So I can brag that I was the first person to predict the election date. On the other hand there are two errors in the prediction. I should have written: “Gillard will go to the polls on August 21, 2010. Here’s why.” My more important error, however, was that the entire scenario I painted was based upon the belief that Kevin Rudd would have the courage to go for a double dissolution.

After the story was published I wrote a letter to Crikey later that same day. It reads: “Wishing, as I do, to keep my Crikey contributions short yesterday’s article (“Rudd will go to the polls on August 21, 2010. Here’s why”) omitted a point I now wish to make. If one looks at the calendars for 1943 and 2010 one notices that they are identical. Consequently the great John Curtin landslide occurred at a House of Representatives plus half-Senate election on August 21, 1943. Almost certainly Kevin Rudd will have a choice not available to Curtin. He could cause a half-Senate election or a general election for the whole Senate following a double dissolution. For a variety of extra reasons I lack the space to elaborate I expect him to double dissolve.”

Then I had an article published in The Weekend Australian for February 6 and 7 this year. It began: “The 43rd general election for Australia’s House of Representatives will be held later this year and my most likely predicted date is August 21, the same as in 1943.” So far so good. Then I went on: “There is still a chance that the election will be accompanied by a normal periodical election for half the Senate, as in 1943, 2007 and, indeed, most lower house elections. Should that be the case I would predict the election date as October 23. But it is a good bet there will be a double dissolution, which would cause us to have our eighth Senate general election.”

This is our third winter general election for the House of Representatives. The first was the Curtin landslide on August 21, 1943. The second was the Hawke double dissolution success on July 11, 1987. If Gillard gets the sort of win I am now predicting for her, then there will be a new Mackerras law of electoral history, namely “A Labor prime minister can be expected to call a winter general election if he/she has the constitutional grounds to do so.” A success rate of three out of three looks pretty encouraging for future Labor prime ministers.

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  • 1
    Posted Tuesday, 20 July 2010 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations Associate Professor Malcolm Mackerras. Indeed, I still have a copy of your piece predicting 21 August 2010 which was the basis of my entry into Richard Farmer’s competition to pick the election date (quo vadis, incidentally?) despite it being clear by then that Gillard wasn’t going to call a double dissolution.

  • 2
    Malcolm Street
    Posted Wednesday, 21 July 2010 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Sounds like Mackerras is celebrating his only correct election prediction for years :-)

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