Get ready! We are 4 months out from a federal election. It’s not the polling that has determined this will happen, it’s the roadblock ahead.
Between the 4th August this year, the earliest an election can be called and the 19th May next year, the latest, there is a minefield of events that the Coalition will not want to compete with, in its attempts to stay in power.
The most difficult are the Victorian state election in November and the NSW state election in March 2018. Throw in the AFL and NRL football finals in late September/early October, Christmas, School holidays and Easter and it’s obvious.
Politically speaking, this August or early September is the only clear-air time realistically available for the government to try to redeem itself.
And the first opportunity for redemption will be the May budget, next week. Already, the signs are that it will be as generous as it can be for a government that realises it needs redemption.
The promise of tax cuts resulting from higher company tax revenue, a higher job participation rate, the abandonment of the Medicare levy hike, all indicate the government has already locked in a date with destiny.
They will be able to spruik a lower than expected deficit and a better than projected surplus in 2020/21. They will tell us that the economy is strong (it isn’t), that business is investing ((they aren’t), that they stopped the boats (actually we don’t know) and that Labor will be soft on immigration (simply not true).
They will tell us that without them in charge, the economy will collapse, that our international relations with the USA will be damaged, that Indonesia will invade us, that the sky will fall in, that God has chosen them to rule.
These are the credentials they will present to us over the coming months. This is what they believe will save them. Never mind their incompetent handling of the Banking Royal Commission or their massive accumulation of what is wrongly referred to, as the national debt.
Never mind the absence of meaningful policies, their internal squabbling, the Abbott factor, the Joyce factor, the Cash factor, their broken promises, the savage spending cuts that have devastated community groups across the country, the NBN debacle, the shameful inaction when dealing with Manus Island detainees, never mind all that and more.
They realise too, that the planned electoral redistribution, which does not favour the Coalition, may not be finalised in time for an early poll. That redistribution renders two liberal seats notionally Labor and several others marginal.
Labor, in the meantime, have not been asleep at the wheel. They realised an early election was probable a year ago and have been on an election footing for some months.
Their recent policy announcements on franking credits, no company tax cuts, removing the GST on tampons, the establishment of a federal ICAC, all point to a party ready to go to the people.
The election battle will be a tale of two parallel approaches. Labor will concentrate on micro issues, that of household debt, housing affordability, wages, the cost of living and equality, while the Coalition will present the broader picture of company profits, employment growth and projected budget surpluses and union thuggery.
From the Coalition’s point of view, the rhetoric will be mind-blowing, perhaps overwhelming. In the absence of a policy framework, they will be relentlessly attacking Labor, saying anything to mask their deception and their ignorance.
They will try to scare the bejesus out of us. The truth of it, however, will be easy to discern. They will say, “judge us on what we say, not on what we do,” a clear indication that they are a policy vacuum.
Without a proper policy framework, the coalition are always reactionary. Labor, on the other hand, will demonstrate how proper economic management should be, when fit for purpose. Malcolm Turnbull is also conscious of the possibility of a leadership challenge before the end of the year, courtesy of a slip of the tongue by Barnaby Joyce.
They are a desperate rabble and determined to stay in power. However, it will be up to us to decide and that will happen either in late August or early September,