Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Election Could Be Sooner Than You Think

So now the guessing game begins. When will the Federal election be called? Until last week, most commentators were predicting an October election, or possibly even September. Despite the fact that the current government can run through until the end of next February before they are required to confront the voters, there were several other factors influencing the matter. The New South Wales election will be held on the 26th of March next year, because it is subject to a fixed term. It was widely accepted that the Federal government would want to get their election well and truly out of the way before that date to avoid the risk of any association with that almost certain debacle.

December and January are generally considered to be a poor time to run an election campaign because it disturbs the summer holiday plans of too many people, risking voter resentment at the inconvenience, not to mention the fear of all politicians that people might just be too busy with other matters to be bothered paying any attention to their campaign messages. There is another State election in Victoria in November, leaving October as the latest possible time slot which is both practical and politically acceptable. But of course, all that has changed now, and rather than holding back the election for as long as possible, the new Prime Minister has ample reason to bring it on as soon as possible. In fact, she has more or less promised that she will.

Of course, there are some boxes to tick before rushing to the polls. First, there is the Government’s decline in the opinion polls, now arrested by the dramatic change of leadership. Support for Labor has risen dramatically after the departure of Kevin Rudd, so consider that box ticked. Uncertainty about climate change, immigration and asylum seeker policies has already been addressed by soothing words from the new Prime Minister with the promise of imminent announcements to illuminate these matters. Box almost ticked. And the big one, the Resource Super Profits Tax. It was front page news today that both the Prime Minister and the mining industry have set an informal deadline to have the matter resolved by this Friday. If that happens, then that box will have been most emphatically ticked.

If those boxes are ticked by Friday, is there really anything stopping Prime Minister Gillard from driving over to Yarralumla on Saturday and asking the Governor General for an election? In the present mood, I suspect that striking while the iron is hot would present the Government with a significant tactical advantage over an opposition whose plans for fighting an election campaign against Kevin Rudd are now in complete tatters. After the whirlwind of last week’s historic events, the Government now has considerable momentum, and if all the lights turn green in the next few days, why would they hit the brakes? An August election is now the hot tip, and if that’s the case, I suspect it will be closer to the beginning of the month than the end.

But if the next few days see all those boxes ticked, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if it’s even sooner, so don’t make any plans for the last Saturday in July.

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