Jun 17, 2010

Early election boat sails

Daily Media Wrap: Kevin Rudd had the chance to call an early election, one he probably would have won easily, but he didn't and now the election is a far deadlier fight.

Rudd's old foe Mark Latham has reared up in his regular column in the Financial Review today to crow about how silly Kevin was not to call a double dissolution on climate change when the going was good: i.e. earlier this year. Pundits like Barrie Cassidy are also using the wisdom of hindsight to wag their finger at the Prime Minister, who, we can safely assume, is acutely aware of the fact that had he called the election early, life would be a whole lot easier for him right now. Now Rudd's facing the prospect of far deadlier fight: and as commentators are pointing out, in what could be the final parliamentary sitting before the election, the PM is scrambling to steer the conversation away from RSPT-related matters, and back to family friendly stuff like paid parental leave, which is expected to be passed in the Senate today. As Bernard Keane wrote in yesterday's Crikey:
...things aren’t as bad as the doom merchants are making out — but it may not be long before they are.
Last week Antony Green raised the idea of an August election. If you're wondering about the science of election date choosing, First Dog covered it well in his cartoon yesterday. Parliamentarians and press gallery members alike relished the chance to take their minds off federal election speculation to frock up for the Midwinter Ball last night (no Malcolm Turnbull in sight), but this morning it's back to business -- resume the election speculation, name calling and RSPT hand wringing -- here's what the commentariat are saying this morning: ABC Barrie Cassidy: Rudd's election delay a political miscalculation
In retrospect, that was a political miscalculation. Whatever happens through the rest of this year, he can't hope to get a better result than the one he would have achieved in February or early March.
Australian Financial Review Mark Latham: Eating Kevin Rudd alive (paywalled)
The biggest question of all: how did it go so wrong? Hubris is one answer. Rudd thought he was having a permanent love affair with the Australia people and, no matter when he called the election, he would romp in. Mark Arbib and Karl Bitar told him not to go early and he was foolish enough to listen to them. This is the problem with the NSW Right: they can tell you what the focus groups said last night, but they have no idea about political trends six months from now.
Perhaps the only chance Rudd has now, is as Michelle Grattan suggests in today's Age, is by changing the political conversation:
Rudd is desperate to change the conversation. The passage of the parental leave scheme - which is imminent - is a positive, solid achievement giving him something to spruik. And the more controversial plan to extend welfare income quarantining in the Northern Territory has the government sounding tough. The PM has milked these issues for all they are worth, not just their substance but also to conjure up the impression the government faced serious obstacles erected by the opposition.
Rudd's choice? Stick to these issues or risk turning back to address the RSPT issue, which just won't go away.

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25 thoughts on “Early election boat sails

  1. Socratease

    When Latham talks about hubris, Rudd ought to listen. There’s no better expert on that subject.

  2. Socratease

    As for an August election, does anybody really think that Rudd can sort out his RSPT debacle before then? I’m still thinking October, but the thought of a long campaign makes me nauseous.

  3. sickofitall

    I can’t help but remember Robert Menzies’ words to Harold Holt when Holt took over the Prime Ministership: “look after Arthur”. He was, of course, referring to Arthur Calwell, the rather ineffective Leader of the Opposition, who had a charismatic and dynamic deputy waiting in the wings. Now, no-one thinks Julie Bishop is charismatic, or dynamic, or even competent.

    But Malcolm Turnbull is. Mr Rudd is chancing his arm on Mr Abbott’s incompetence (and Abbott is a worse Opposition leader than Calwell, previously the worst Opp. Leader we had) by giving him little victories, thereby giving the illusion of effectiveness. As long as Mr Abbott and his confederacy of dunces remain in charge of the Liberal Party, the ALP will win. Mr Rudd understands this – and is working as best as he can to ensure it.

  4. Psephos

    “but the thought of a long campaign makes me nauseous.”

    You may or may not be nauseous (a cause of nausea) before, during or after long campaigns (I know I am), but the word you wanted was “nauseated.”

  5. oldskool

    Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

    The PM has always said that he would not go to an early election, if he did would that have been heralded as yet another backflip? Now that he hasn’t everyone is going to bone him for that, He can’t win no matter what he does!

  6. Socratease

    From the Wictionary:

    nauseous (comparative more nauseous, superlative most nauseous)

    1. Causing nausea; sickening or disgusting.
    2. Afflicted with nausea.

    I use it in sense #2. The thought makes me afflicted with nausea.

    You use it as you wish.

  7. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    At the moment it is looking like neither side will win – just one side will loose least.

    In the 2007 election many people wanted Rudd to win. Even most of those who voted Green wanted Rudd to win.

    Now Rudd only has 35% of the voters giving him first preference. But how many of these really want him to win?

    Come election night I will not be at all happy if Rudd retains government.

    Come election night I will not be at all happy if Abbott wins government.

  8. Socratease

    In 2007 anybody that was not-Howard would have won. Once you’ve been around so long that you’re on the nose then you’re gone for all money. Like many before him, Howard’s ego would not let him hand over the reins.

    The apparent swing towards the Greens is the electorate saying “a pox on both your houses”.

  9. Billy Blogs

    Sickofitall – you need to get past the Turnbull thing. He failed dismally and therefore won’t be a Liberal option for at least 5 years. His place will be front bench at best where he’ll have to lie in the bed he made.

    Had he stood up for the majority of Australians when they needed him, he’d be a shoe in.

    Costello would also be a shoe-in had he sat and waited – if he ever really wanted to be PM, his decision to retire mid-term was more disastrous than not challenging Howard. Anyone with half a brain could see that Rudd was on the tipping point 18 months ago and the population were cryiong out for an alternative.

    So Abbott is probably the 3rd option in terms of going from Opp leader to PM, but you must give him credit for firstly taking an almost impossible job, and secondly for getting this close to a single term PM.

  10. David Sanderson

    Rudd would have won comfortably at the beginning of this year and he will comfortably win the election later this year. Too many people are letting some poll turbulence blind them to the underlying strengths of the competing sides. This government has a long way to go yet and a mere attack dog and easy one-liner spiv is not going to change that.

    Abbott is the most unsubstantial leader since Downer since Downer did his unedifying prance across the political stage. Turnbull is no fool and he can clearly see how short Abbott’s shelf life is and also how windy and lard-arsed the other alternative is. That is why he is sticking around and is likely to be opposition leader at some point during Labor’s next term.

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