So much ground to make up, so little time to do it
Julia Gillard needs time to repair her scarified personal standing in the broad electorate and this year simply will not give it to her. She also needs time to reorient political debate to economic management and other areas of relative Government strength. Again there simply will not be enough days for her in 2012.
This is a measure of both the magnitude of the Prime Minister’s plight and the crammed agendas for this year, the crucial positioning period leading up to the scheduled election in 2013.
This week Ms Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott will bid to impose their own structure on the national debate in major speeches—Mr Abbott tomorrow and Ms Gillard the day after.
However, any attempt to maintain a consistent argument will be disrupted by a state poll, by thousands of young people being faster higher, stronger, and by the grandest political circus the world has seen.
The significant number of voters who have already made up their minds about the Gillard Government will want to follow some or all of these events rather than the Prime Minister.
The House of Representatives will sit for 18 days between February 7 and March 22. However, during this time a great deal of political attention will be diverted to the campaign leading to the March 24 Queensland election.
Major parties will be pile into the contest between Labor Premier Anna Bligh and LNP leader Campbell Newman, which is likely to see Labor lose another state.
Any campaign role taken up by Foreign Minister and leadership pretender Kevin Rudd will be spotlighted, but the state election will actually benefit Julia Gillard by hushing up internal agitation over her leadership out of respect for the Queensland colleagues.
By July Australians will be focused on the London Olympics which will occupy much news space until the end of August and early September.
Soon after that will be that enthralling demonstrations of political gymnastics, the US presidential election campaign which could see American’s first black president become an ordinary citizen on November 6.
In April, May, June and July, the least cluttered months before the holiday season takes over, the Government and the Opposition will be occupied by the introduction of the carbon pricing scheme. The advance compensation payments to those on the welfare lists will begin in May. The Opposition’s 2012 attacks on the scheme will start a lot earlier than that and will persist.
Tony Abbott wants an election as a referendum on carbon pricing and is not in a mood to relent.
The notion that Julia Gillard needs time is obvious. Much of the electorate simply does not believe her, and doesn’t believe she has any commitment other than to staying in office.
How bad has it become? Labor MP Craig Thomson, accused of using a trade union credit card to hire escorts, has reprimanded her on tactics; independent Andrew Wilkie, who leaked intelligence briefs 10 years ago, has lectured her on trust.
Tony Abbott is not considered a bargain as an alternative PM, but polling over the next few days will probably confirm a majority of voters would settle for him over her.
Ms Gillard also has to fend off Kevin Rudd. Mr Rudd’s ambitions—or his preparedness to consider the appeals of colleagues to return to the leadership—will intensify should Ms Gillard have more bungles and stumbles, and should the Government’s primary vote consistently fall well short of competitive.
The Labor Caucus will essentially be tossing up whether Ms Gillard should be allowed to see it through to defeat on her own terms at the scheduled 2013 election, or whether Mr Rudd should lead them into a loss with dignity.
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