Reading across the papers today and watching my one bit of weekly television the virtual certainty that Gillard will be replaced by Rudd before the next election seems evident. The issue is not the virtual certainty that she will be replaced but when.
Even now, within the hundred days, there is still too much time for the rest of us to remember the kind of PM Rudd had actually been and why so many of us were pleased to see him go. In a policy sense, everything that is wrong with Gillard Rudd has as well but with an apparently poisonous personality that makes him anathema to his colleagues. That many of them had decided their preference to go down with the current captain in charge was only a vague distress call pointing to just how awful working with Rudd must actually be.
And while this far from the election the disastrous polling numbers talk of a rout, there are four considerations.
First, the Coalition does not in any way act as if it’s a lay down. They’re the ones who do the polling and they’re the ones in the focus groups. That they have not, for example, come out against either of the referenda makes me think there is a real trap in them for the Coalition. They do not exude any kind of confidence which may just be prudence but it may also reflect a real sense of their own vulnerabilities.
Second, there will be a switch in sentiment the moment the PM, whoever it is, goes to visit the Governor General. Polling results for the moment are mid-term stuff that reflect only a vague dissatisfaction for many. We will only know what the actual situation is when we are inside the real polling period. Most of the social and professional environments I travel in still talk of “the Mad monk” and almost none of these people would consider voting Coalition under any circumstances. These people make me very nervous as they must do the Coalition as well.
Third, if I read the papers right, it is only until the end of the Parliamentary sitting that the transition supposedly can occur. My memory, however, goes back to 1983 when the Hawke-for-Hayden switch came as Malcolm Fraser was off visiting the Governor-General. The less time there is for the Coalition to switch its campaign strategy to Rudd and away from Gillard, the more difficult it will be to mount a proper campaign.
Fourth, if the election is some kind of blow out but the Coalition does not capture the Senate, then nothing of significance can be changed. A double dissolution twelve months later would therefore take place after at least one Coaltion budget in which “austerity” will be the central issue. And this is not austerity as a notional idea but one in which very specific groups of people will have been affected. Meanwhile, the Coalition will have fixed the boat people issue to the extent that it can be fixed. The ALP will therefore be able to campaign with a better budget outcome and with the boats having been stopped assuming they can be.
Following from all that, even if one assumes that Tony Abbott will win the mandatory two elections, they will occur within four years and not six. Meanwhile, the ALP will have “rejuvinated” itself so that by the 2017 election they will not be all that far from government. Their strategy looking forward to 2017 (or 2019) has been relatively evident. Create as many problems for a Coaltion government as possible and then spend the years in Opposition criticising the various attempts to fix the problems the ALP had created.