One more day. Another day, another destiny, this never ending road to… Canberra. Yes, a dash of Les Miserables on this election eve, with the voters starring as The Miserable Ones in this campaign after 34 days of spin, slogans and the occasional policy.
One more dawn until we know whether a first-term government — and first female PM — has been knocked off by a man that only months ago was seen as a risky, outside chance and has instead proved himself to voters as a worthy alternative.
Two new polls overnight tell two very different stories. Newspoll has the campaign on a knife-edge, with Coalition support rising to a 50-50 two-party preferred, while Galaxy has Labor ahead at 52-48.
The drop in Newspoll support will worry Gillard. “Labor’s polling nightmare has materialised. After being seen to be the easy frontrunner in national polls for most of the campaign there is a shift in voter sentiment and the danger that a ‘protest vote’ will unseat the Gillard government,” says Dennis Shanahan in The Australian.
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But Malcolm Farr predicts the Greens will drag Labor across the line. “A substantial number of voters don’t think the Government deserves to be returned but they think even less of Tony Abbott’s Coalition alternative”, he writes in The Daily Telegraph. “Labor will rely heavily on Green preferences to win.”
Polls can only tell us so much. “The polls still can’t tell us for sure whether Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott will claim the keys to The Lodge tomorrow. The only certainty is that there will be change,” notes Terry Barnes in the National Times.
What an ultimately miserable campaign, laments Dennis Atkins in the Courier-Mail: “Bring on the ‘who do you hate’ election. It’s hard to remember an election which is driven by such negative motives and arguments.”
Phillip Coorey reports in The Sydney Morning Herald that it’s not just voters who are disillusioned, both parties are stressed and depressed: “Optimism is in short supply on both sides in an election that is not just too close to call, but too hard to call.”
It’s hard for positivity when you don’t believe in the party, argues Peter Hartcher in the SMH:
“Julia Gillard draws attention to her positive agenda and contrasts it with Tony Abbott’s negative stance of cancelling out Labor’s mistakes, but it’s not quite enough.
There is a missing ingredient in her pitch, and yesterday she tried to address it. You can spell it two ways. In plain English, it’s trust. In Australian political parlance, it’s state Labor, specifically NSW and Queensland.”
It’s between the lesser of two evils now, writes Simon Benson in the Daily Telegraph: “Voters tomorrow will be faced with a choice between who they think will be the least worst government. What a sad state of affairs.”
This isn’t a depressing campaign. Far from it, argues Dennis Shanahan in The Oz:
“Neither Julia Gillard nor Tony Abbott deserves to lose this election. On the basis of political leadership and election campaigning the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader have achieved the aims they were set. Win, lose or (god forbid) draw, both sides have finished the campaign well ahead of where they were expected to be only months or weeks ago.”
A former Treasury policy advisor is unimpressed by a social-policy-destroying-leaking-money Gillard government. “It didn’t have come to this, Julia. Although a rusted on Labor voter, I will swallow my pride, confront an aversion to conservatism and vote Liberal, purely out of spite… It’s not as though Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party have earned the right to government but they are the least-worst of a diabolical major party choice,” declares Brendan Brown in the National Times.
A Labor loss would mean devastation, a Liberal loss would herald a rebirth for the party, explains Michelle Grattan in The Age:
“For Gillard and Labor, a loss would be far more devastating than any that federal Labor has suffered in a generation. A Liberal defeat, even if seats had been gained, would be a hard blow for the driven personality of Abbott. For the party — unless the margin was slender— it would be the beginning of a period of internal change, pain and instability.”
Punters are backing Gillard, but it’ll be tight, says Michael Sullivan of Sportbet on The Punch. “So our final wrap-up before polling day should be a straightforward matter of calling the election for Labor, except extraordinary last-minute betting in marginal seats has painted a very grim picture for the Gillard Government going into their second term.”
Remember the garden state down south? Victoria may not have dominated in this campaign, but it could help decide the election if a few Liberal seats turn Labor, writes George Megalogenis in The Oz. “If that scenario secures a narrow Labor re-election by offsetting expected losses in NSW and Queensland, it would carry a double message that will resonate nationally: Victorians found both Abbott and Gillard too small-minded for their tastes.”
Phillip Hudson agreed in the Herald Sun: “Julia Gillard needs big gains in Victoria to withstand a growing backlash against Labor in northern states.”
Abbott is desperately fighting until the polling booths open, even forgoing sleep in these final days for his chance to be PM. As Ben Packham and Alison Rehn report in the Adelaide Advertiser: “Tony the ‘Iron Monk’ Abbott has campaigned through the night in a desperate attempt to convince undecided voters he has the ability and fortitude to become prime minister.”
Tony has a lot of prove to himself. “Tony Abbott’s biggest battle is always the fight deep within himself. The Liberal leader was always going to approach the election witching hour fighting his own frailties; this last big theatrical joust is his destiny somehow,” says Katharine Murphy in the SMH.
He’s run a good race, writes Ben Packham in the Herald Sun:
“She started out with perfect hair, perfect make-up and Tory pearls. She finishes as ‘real Julia’ — slightly flustered, fearing defeat and trying not to show it.
He started as the underdog, but with a swagger in his step, full of self-belief and self-control. Labor hoped “real Tony” would emerge. The Coalition feared he would.
But perhaps this is real Tony; measured, on message and determined to prove his critics wrong.”
These last days are like “Tony’s Amazing Race”, declares Katharine Murphy in the SMH: “Mr Abbott has campaigned non-stop since 6am yesterday. He will not sleep until after 6pm tonight. Funnily enough, his official car bears the number plate: ‘ZZZ’.”
Whatever happens, there are two very leaders on offer to voters.
“Australia will change tomorrow,” declares Jessica Irvine in the Sydney Morning Herald. “Whichever side wins will embark on a reform agenda of similar ambition to the Rudd government’s first term — that is, frenetic.”
Ben Eltham over at The Drum agreed, as he outlined the difference in party policies: “There are real and hugely important differences between the major parties’ positions. That’s a fact worth remembering when you cast your ballot this Saturday.”
They may be different, but they aren’t exactly grand ideas, in search of creating a better nation. As Richard Ackland writes in the SMH: “When you think of exciting possibilities for this nation that could be debated and proposed as contentious, although winnable, policies, you just have to weep at the smallness of the ideas on offer.”
One more dawn, one more day, one day more.