Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Day 56: Let the games begin

Day 56 (30 Jan) It started as an ordinary calm after the storm-type of day...back in the office, developing courses, having meetings, eating lunch and listening to the news... Expecting updates on the flood and water situation in Brisbane, the Prime Minister in her speech to the National Press Club announced the date of the federal election...the actual date. Not, 'we will have an election this year' (yes, we knew that), not 'the election will be held in the latter half of the year', just bang, straight into it. Not many expected it and my twitter-feed went wild. 

I do like that mug, at 6.12am
It hadn't started like that. This morning at 6.12, having read yesterday's paper yesterday (unusual), I was reading over some of the material I found at the Parliamentary Library in Japan, oh, and drinking coffee, of course. This article was a presentation on what Japan might learn from Australia's multiculturalism. There's actually an extensive contemporary literature on this issue in Japan and, as I'm discovering in my research, that really extends back into the 19th century. Hmm, there must have been something in the coffee. 

The weather remains a bit unstable. Sunny this morning but with further rain forecast, it is always a calculated decision about driving 100km up the highway to get to work, knowing that the return leg might be in pouring rain, unexpected potholes, debris, drivers not driving to the conditions. 

'Game on', at 6.12pm
Of course, 6.12pm found me still in the office, in the usual spot, following up on the news of the day. I hadn't had much time between the announcement earlier in the day and getting back to my desk at 5pm to digest the news. That's what I was doing then, listening to PM, the ABC current affairs program at the same time. 

So, the Prime Minister has called the date of the election, 14 September. Is it a masterstroke, or a tactical blunder? This question will dominate discussion for a little while I expect. At the federal level, we don't have fixed-term governments. One of the characteristics of our parliament is that scheduling the election date does become part of the argy-bargy of the political class, particularly in the election year. 

Calling the date now eliminates that element of the discussion. It will be interesting to watch the tactics play out now. It is a clayton's fixed-term in a way, the fixed-term we have when we don't have fixed-terms. The writs will be issued in the usual way, so government continues until August when it goes into caretaker mode. On the radio this afternoon one commentator suggested that this a strategy which might fail, that the flexibility of being able to call an election at will, is now lost. I don't agree. As I was making the return 100km trip home in the rain, dodging potholes and maniacal drivers making up lost time...I recalled the 1983 election when then PM Malcolm Fraser called the election thinking he would go up against then opposition leader Bill Hayden. The Labor Party changed leaders, Bob Hawke led Labor to a victory...and the rest we know. 

From an analyst's perspective, I am very interested to see how this move plays out. It doesn't have the definition of the US presidential term, where a president in his (her, one day) second term can become a 'lame duck' fairly quickly. We've now had that element of uncertainty removed from the political discourse for the rest of the year. This is a game of political chicken between two combatants of the neo-political class. In some ways I find it unhealthy for our political wellbeing, but that is material for the other blog. For now, I'm intrigued and I expect 6.12 moments for the next 220+ days, have been pretty well determined. 

Let the games begin...indeed!

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