Gillard's election gambit pure opportunism

She's not giving the voters a chance to see her form

Julia Gillard has called the election in the same way she took the prime ministership – opportunistically. She had to take the prime ministership, she told us, because Rudd Labor was “a good government that has lost its way.” Yet we now see that she has no confidence that she can help it find a better way.

By calling the election after only three weeks in the prime ministership, she is telling us that she expects the government’s political conditions to worsen.

The election date is three months before the expiry of the three years that makes a notional full term. And constitutionally, the prime minister would be perfectly entitled to call an election as late as April 16 next year, seven months away.

Asked what she’d say to voters who wanted to know how she could be trusted after her lightning strike against Rudd, Gillard told the Herald: “I do understand that they might be looking at me and wondering. The only thing I could say to Australians is to judge me on how I do the job.”

But how can we? After only three weeks as prime minister, how can we make any sort of assessment of her performance? Other than rhetoric, all she’s done on substantive issues in the last three weeks is to apply emergency fixes in political trouble spots:

First, a slapdash compromise with three companies on the mining tax, with most of the industry still in a limbo of uncertainty;

Second, a half-baked effort to find a way of diverting the flow of asylum seekers;

And third, an ad hoc, ad interim mishmash of measures to pretend to have a policy on climate change.

True, the opposition doesn’t have any better policy on asylum seekers or climate change, or if it does we haven’t heard about it yet. And true, the opposition solution to the mining tax is to abolish it.

This has the virtue of simplicity, but it also leaves a reform deficit – what about the future of superannuation? And what about cutting the corporate tax rate?

These are among the difficult questions for the opposition to answer. But Gillard is not the opposition, she does not represent some hypothetical government. She IS the government.

Yet, in three weeks she has not done much governing, and certainly not enough to allow us to judge her on “how I do the job.”

So why the rush? Self-evidently, Gillard has decided that if she does give us a chance to judge her on how she does the job, her electoral support will fall.

What does she think will happen? More boats? Higher interest rates? Scrutiny her government cannot withstand? We cannot know precisely, but we know from her behaviour that she doesn’t want to wait to find out.

The opinion polls have Labor in a winning position. And so she is rushing us to the polls to take advantage of her electoral honeymoon, that wonderful suspension of disbelief that electors, in their endlessly hopeful open-mindedness about new leaders, is extending to her.

It’s pure opportunism. And Gillard is counting on it.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).

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