I am an avid follower of Australian politics so it was with a sense of incredulity that I heard this morning that Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called a general election for – wait for it – September 14th. Yes, you read that right – in eight and a half months time. And so begins the longest election campaign in recent history. Perhaps she intends to bore the Australian electorate into submission. She’s certainly got the voice to do that. Her reasoning is interesting…
It gives shape and order to the year, and enables it to be one not of fevered campaigning, but of cool and reasoned deliberation. I can create an environment in which the nation’s eyes are more easily focused on the policies, not the petty politics. I can act so Australia’s parliament and government serves their full three-year-term.
If you say so, Prime Minister. More likely she thinks that a long campaign will expose the weakness of Liberal Opposition leader Tony Abbott. And if I’m honest, she may be right to do so. He’s a singularly unimpressive man – overpromoted, given to intemperate outbursts and not really up to the job. He’s also given to sexist outbursts against Gillard, which may appeal to the part of the Australian electorate that is prone to a ‘tinnie’ and nine o’clock in the morning, but tends to put others off supporting him.
Gillard herself is a ruthless political operative who grabbed her opportunity to overthrow her predecessor Kevin Rudd. She’s a machine politician with a voice like a pneumatic drill. She may have been born in Wales, where she spent the first five years of her life, but there is certainly no trace of a Welsh lilt. She takes no prisoners and can argue her way out of anything. Her two and a half years as Prime Minister have been dominated by arguments about her plans to impose a carbon tax, something she adamantly promised she wouldn’t do during the last election campaign. Had the Opposition had a stronger leader she would have already been dead political meat. Yes, she’s behind in the polls, but I wouldn’t put it past her to edge ahead between now and polling day. This is an election which is Abbott’s to lose, and if he does lose it will probably his mouth which is the cause.
It will be an entertaining ride, watching this. Australian election campaigns are brutal.So let’s sit back and enjoy the spectacle.