Friday, September 6, 2013

The End

Yesterday, all of Australia's newspapers bar one endorsed Tony Abbott as our next Prime Minister.

Today, the only paper that bucked this trend, Melbourne's The Age, has a front page story showing the Coalition leading 54 - 46% in their latest round of polling. Analysis attached to these results points to a Labor rout, even in Victoria where the Government's vote has largely remained steady in spite of volatility elsewhere.

Kevin Rudd's political career appears to be coming to an end, while Abbott's is about to reach a height unimaginable until very recently. Their colleagues will almost certainly be looking for new seats in the House of Reps when parliament sits again.

Some Labor excuse making has already begun.

The Murdoch press were out to get them. And Abbott and his befuddled shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, hid their figures. Even when they released them, they hid them, which is quite a feat if you give it some thought. And Abbott lied; publicly stating Australia faced a 'budgetary emergency' even while promising billions in new spending and overseas commentators called Australia's economy 'the envy of the world.'

But none of these reasons really explain the result that the Labor side are facing today. To rebut the above points:

- The Murdoch press is always hostile to the left.

- Opposition of both stripes obfuscates on detail.

- Politicians lie. See some of Labor's claims in this election for more examples of this.

The root cause of Labor's woes is simpler, and all the more frustrating for them as being largely of their own devising. You can sum it up in one sentence, hatefully supplied by former Prime Minister John Howard.

In 1987, Howard lead a disjointed and unruly Liberal Party to the Federal Election against Bob Hawke's Labor Government. Howard had been deputy to Andrew Peacock until 1985, but Peacock had suspected Howard of agitating against his leadership and had tried to force the party to remove him. When Howard refused to budge, the resulting showdown found Howard replacing Peacock as leader, but left with a determined core of Peacock supporters dedicated to undermining him. Years of instability followed.

Sound familiar?

Howard was beaten comfortably in 1987 and left one of his few enduring legacies to Australian public life. Commenting on his defeat, he said, 'Disunity is death.'

And so it goes for the ALP, in 2013.

Such happy times...

Having spent most of the last four years doing a fair impression of a dog chasing its own tail, Labor should not be surprised that voters want rid of them altogether. Looking back on their time in Government, its hard to imagine that ALP power brokers wouldn't consider the bloody coup against Rudd in 2010 a terrible mistake. They did it to avoid what they felt was a looming disaster in that year's election, and then ended up with a terrible result anyway. Worse, they were saddled with the restrictions of minority Government, which ultimately forced them into a number of unpopular policy positions they could otherwise have avoided or handled differently. Julia Gillard's time as PM was forever tainted by the method of its inception.

The other unforeseen outcome from 2010 was Tony Abbott's elevated status as a result.

Abbott announces his plan for offshore processing of puppies...

When he was elected Oppostion leader, by one vote, in late 2009, the Coalition's position could hardly have been worse. Malcolm Turnball's troubled leadership had left Labor in a dominant position and seemingly set for a crushing election victory, whenever Rudd  (still sitting above a  60% approval rating) decided to call it.

Fast forward one year and not only had Rudd been taken out of the game altogether, but the Liberals had clawed their way to a dead heat in the poll itself. Even though Labor managed to reform Government, just, the 2010 election capped one of the greatest turnarounds in Australian political history. The unexpectedly close result propelled Abbott from a nationally derided greenhorn to a political powerhouse in one stroke.

His one tangible achievement has been to keep things on track since.

Amongst all the crazed claims and misleading announcements during this election, there is one thing that is undeniably true. Tony Abbott has kept much the same course as he did three years ago; he has stuck to his simplistic catchphrases, he's kept much the same policy ideas (and cribbed watered down versions of Labor's more popular ones) and his supporting team is back and now seem comfortably familiar. He's even wearing the same outfit (light blue tie, dark blue suit).

The contrast to Labor is stark.

For the second election in a row their candidate is not the one we voted for last time. And this is a scenario so incredible, so fantastic, that if you hadn't been paying attention these last few years you would think it couldn't be possible. Incumbency is the one advantage normally enjoyed by all Governments seeking re-election, and Labor have nullified this because they just couldn't find a way to put personal enmity aside and work together.

It's difficult not to think the ALP are going to get what they deserve.

It's also difficult not to think that the country gets the Government that it deserves. Which is something that everyone will have to start facing up to from Sunday.

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