One of Julia Gillard’s biggest political mistakes turned out to be announcing the 2013 election date many months out from the actual event. Robbed of one of the crucial ingredients in election year political journalism — the ability to endlessly speculate on when a poll might be held — the press gallery savaged her.
Malcolm Turnbull hasn’t made the same mistake. The PM has said an election will most likely be held between August and October, as scheduled. But he has also not ruled out going to the polls early if the Senate rejects the government’s draconian (and wholly unnecessary) anti-union Australian Building and Construction Commission bill.
Any election campaign called in such circumstances will feature little debate about the alleged merits of the ABCC bill — smashing unions is simply not a priority for voters, who are focused on economic management, health, jobs and education.
But if the polls are correct, it will enable Turnbull to win a mandate in his own right. And that could be the circuit-breaker his government, as young as it is, now clearly needs.
After this week’s woeful performance by Treasurer Scott Morrison, it is clear that the government is stuck in a sea of indecision on tax and wider economic reform. Labor, in contrast, has rolled out a series of bold, costed reform policies. And Turnbull is equally mired on other issues like climate policy and same-sex marriage.
Perhaps an early election is exactly what Turnbull needs to kickstart his government — indeed, to make it wholly his government — and start governing effectively. Another six months of what we saw this week will be appalling for the government and for the country.