The jury is very much out on whether Kevin Rudd has the wherewithal to deliver his so-called education revolution, but what we witnessed in Australia on November 24 can deservedly be described as a political one. As revolutions go, it was a particularly bloodless coup, of course, as any coup involving someone as lilywhite as Rudd must surely be.
But it was a coup nevertheless, and it leaves the Liberals with no higher elected official in the country than Campbell Newman, the gormless Lord Mayor of Brisbane, and even he’s been tipped to be removed when he goes to the polls next year. Given the extent of the Labor landslide and the baffling choice of Brendan Nelson as leader, Robert Menzies’ party seems almost as dead as he is.
It’s hard to see them emerging from the wilderness anytime soon, especially since Nelson has come out in his first days as leader saying that he doesn’t support an apology for the stolen generation or necessarily rolling back WorkChoices. Which indicates his political antennae are even more defective than we might have imagined – the message from the electorate didn’t exactly strike me as ambiguous. I checked the Centrebet odds on any party other than Labor winning the next election, and they’re paying $4.60. Given what we’ve seen so far, I reckon that’s even more conservative than the party would be if Tony Abbott had won the leadership. Centrebet didn’t offer odds on John Howard coming out of retirement to lead the Libs back to victory after winning the by-election for Peter Costello’s old seat of Higgins, but I reckon they’d be about the same.
The enormity of Howard’s defeat can’t be exaggerated. He ought to be absolutely devastated, because his party sure is. There is only one way the election could have been worse for the Coalition, and that’s if it had been completely obliterated in the Senate as well. But the balance of power seems likely to be with the Greens, Family First and the SA “No Pokies” maverick Nick Xenophon, which will make every bill’s passage somewhat perilous even after the Senate changes. Pokies are generally regulated by states, so who knows what on earth Xenophon will do in the Senate? We can safely guess, though, that whoever leads the Opposition team in the Upper House will still have at least some work to do – certainly more than Nelson, who may as well put his feet up and clock up the superannuation until the party dumps him for Malcolm Turnbull.
After a result like this, all commentators jostle to say “I told you so”. But I feel I must take a bow for having backed the correct result. The polls predicted a Ruddslide all year, but given John Howard’s past electoral snake-charming efforts, few in the commentary game were willing to believe things wouldn’t change towards the end. Well, I was willing to stick my neck on the line. I backed Labor, and what’s more, I said so in print. I make the tough calls, and I make them first.
Now, some may note that I did actually hedge my bets somewhat by predicting a few other results. Well, I view that as entirely sensible. Lesser commentators make one call and stick to it no matter what, an approach whose flaws are probably only just now being realised by Janet Albrechtsen, but admittedly meant that in this last election Alan Ramsey had the satisfaction of getting it right for the first time ever. But really – Albrechtsen and Ramsey, who are they? I mean, other than, respectively, a member of the ABC Board and a press gallery legend?
They could learn a trick or two about the columnist game from me. Being the professional that I am, in various other columns I also predicted a narrow Labor win, a narrow Coalition win, and a narrow Greens win – unlikely I know, but very likely to endear me to the Inner West. (As President Bartlet said, people – see the whole board.) Heck, to cover all theoretically possible bases, I even tipped the Democrats’ survival. Admittedly it was in a satirical article, but I knew that if some freak Stephen Bradbury-type event happened and all the other Senate candidates were declared ineligible, I could pull the article out and claim that I knew their support would come flooding back.
So, those of us in the leftie gulag we like to call the Inner West now have a fresh challenge. After years of raging against the Howard Government with our regular marches, angry letters to the editor and literally billions of scathing comments during our dinner parties, it’s finally gone. Friends, we can now look forward now to a bold new era – an era of being disappointed by Labor.