With 2012 now behind us, attention is being focused on timing of the Federal election.
The message coming out of the Labor Caucus is: the later the better.
There are two cogent reasons for this. First, the Prime Minister needs as much time as possible to turn around the poll results. Unless something radical happens to change the outlook, improving the polls will take many months – if, indeed, it can be done.
The second reason is that the Labor backbenchers don’t want to consider an early poll because their jobs are on the line. The polls would indicate at this stage that the ALP is on a hiding to nothing. Better to string out the salaries and expenses for as long as possible.
If there is a coup and the Prime Minister is deposed, a new leader – it would almost certainly be Kevin Rudd – would need time to establish (or in his case re-establish) credentials.
In fact, when Rudd was expected to take over late in August, the word was he wanted the deed done as quickly as possible so he would have at least 12 months up his sleeve. A leadership change now would leave him well short of that.
The theory that the Prime Minister would want to call an early poll to avoid having to bring down another budget doesn’t hold water.
Having insisted for the past couple of years the Government would bring down a surplus in 2012-13, the Prime Minister and Treasurer Swan are rapidly distancing themselves from that commitment. If an early election was in prospect, why would they bother?
The only wild card in election timing is if Rudd resumes the Prime Ministership and decides to call a snap election on a whim to take advantage of the honeymoon period granted all new leaders.
Based on the evidence surrounding the aborted coup in August, this seems unlikely. And the backbench wouldn’t forgive him for that.