The Prime Minister has performed us all the service of advising well in advance that she will call the federal election for September 14, to be formally initiated by a visit to the Governor-General and the issue of the writs on August 12 (remember where you heard it first). Professional strainers for things to say have criticised the move, but not on any reasonable basis that I can see (the rather esoteric concern of the date coinciding with Yom Kippur aside). It’s a bit trite to complain of a decision about election timing being driven by political considerations, which will self-evidently be the case wherever politicians are given discretion over the matter. The salient point is that the public and the political system at large have gone from not knowing something important to knowing it, which can only be a good thing. Antony Green (see video embed at 2:47pm) has more, including the observation that the practice of ambushing the opposition with an announcement five weeks out from the date is a modern development, and a very obviously unhelpful one at that.

Some recent political odds and ends:

• Labor’s national executive has confirmed the endorsement of Nova Peris, who became the first Australian Aboriginal to win an Olympic gold medal as a representative of the women’s hockey team in 1996, as its Northern Territory Senate candidate. Peris’s endorsement occurred at the initiative of the Prime Minister, who was seen to be reacting against the party’s record of failure in securing Aboriginal representation in the federal parliament, and the backlash against Labor in remote areas at last August’s Northern Territory election and the presumed threat to the corresponding federal seat of Lingiari. Local preselection processes were contentiously overridden in seeing off the incumbent of 16 years, Trish Crossin, who had been a supporter of Kevin Rudd’s bid to return to the leadership. Vocal critics of the move included two former Labor Deputy Chief Ministers, Marion Scrymgour and Syd Stirling, along with Senator and Left faction powerbroker Doug Cameron. Scrymgour nominated for the national executive vote along with another former Territory minister in Karl Hampton, who was among those to lose his seat at last year’s election. It was was reported that “at least two” of the 24-member national executive voted against the Prime Minister’s wishes.

• Robert McClelland has announced he will bow out at the federal election after 17 years as member for the Sydney seat of Barton, which Labor holds on a margin of 7.7%. Another backer of Kevin Rudd, McClelland served as Attorney-General from the government’s election in 2007 until his demotion to emergency management in 2011, and was dropped altogether last March in the wake of Rudd’s failed leadership bid. He was seen to have undermined Julia Gillard last June by making an oblique reference in parliament to the AWU affair, which was invoked as validating the subsequent blizzard of news reports into various details of the matter. McClelland’s most widely discussed potential successor as Labor candidate is Morris Iemma, who succeeded Bob Carr as NSW Premier in August 2005, led his party to victory at the 2007 election, and was deposed in September 2008 in a move which doesn’t seem as clever now as it apparently did at the time. Reports have quoted sources saying Iemma is “likely” to put his name forward. Others mentioned have been Shane O’Brien, mayor of Rockdale and official with the Public Service Association of NSW, and Kirsten Andrews, a former staffer who now works with the National Heart Foundation.

• Paul Henderson, who led Labor to defeat in last year’s Northern Territory election, has announced he is bowing out of parliament. This will cause a by-election to be held on February 16 for his northern Darwin seat of Wanguri, where his margin was clipped from 14.4% to 7.0% last August. Labor has preselected Nicole Manison, a former Henderson government media adviser who had backing from both Henderson and his successor as Labor leader, Delia Lawrie. The Country Liberal Party has again endorsed its candidate from last year, Rhianna Harker, a former president of the Young CLP.

UPDATE: Morgan has published a result from its face-to-face polling of the past two weekends, which has Labor down half a point to 36%, the Coalition down 2.5% to 39% and the Greens up 1.5% to 12%. This pans out to a 50.5-49.5 lead to the Coalition on respondent-allocated preferences, and 50.5-49.5 to Labor when preferences are allocated as per the result of the last election.

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