The mystery of early elections

The TV news hear in Brisbane has been running rumours about an early state election for most of the year. Even though a string of predictions have already proved false, the rumours keep coming. I heard another one yesterday, but today’s news suggests not, though with the odd phrasing

ANNASTACIA Palaszczuk has fuelled speculation she may wait until next year to call the election

which seems to suggest there is something odd about holding the election on time.

I have a couple of thoughts about this. First, I assume that somebody in the government or the ALP machine must be a source for these rumours. But thanks to the conventions of journalism, we never find out who[1]. At the very least, couldn’t political journalists stop repeating claims made by people who have been wrong over and over.

More importantly, why would any government, anywhere, voluntarily shorten its term in this way? The idea, of course, is that the party hardheads know when to seize the ideal moment to capitalize on the government’s popularity. That doesn’t apply in the current case, where the polls have been neck-and-neck. More importantly, this kind of advantage regularly dissipates in the course of an election campaign. Spectacular recent examples include Campbell Newman and Theresa May. But from my casual observation, it’s the norm rather than the exception for governments that go early to underperform expectations. That was true for the federal elections in 1984 and 1998 for example. Hawke expected a huge win in 1984 but ended up with a swing against him. Howard actually lost the two-party vote in 1998, and only squeaked in by good luck.

The issue ceases to be relevant after this election since we will move to four year fixed terms. I support fixed terms, but think three years is long enough for governments to keep themselves safe from voters.

fn1. An even more egregious case of this is the confident assertion the Kevin Rudd undermined the Gillard government, even though he said nothing in public that could be regarded as disloyal (unlike another recently deposed PM). We are supposed to take this assertion as true, even though those who make it refuse to go on record, even in the broadest terms, about what Rudd is supposed to have said and to whom.

28 thoughts on “The mystery of early elections

  1. @J-D
    @Greg Pius

    Either way the duopoly parties (and others) mostly do the bidding of the large donors they have in common, not those who take a punt on them at election time, not the broader national interest, and too many pollies have an eye on personal post politics rewards they may gain for themselves by doing the ‘right’ thing where they can during their political career. Without a thorough reform of the system it is disheartening. Without at least a credible separate house of review it is all but hopeless.

  2. @John Quiggin
    I agree totally. The Oakes question with its clear intent of creating, without actually saying so, the idea that Rudd leaked is a prime example of how a nasty journalistic slur is lazily amplified and repeated. I recall, and may be wrong, that the Oakes question related to Julia Gillard’s views in a cabinet meeting. How many ministers knew of this? Staffers? Agree totally that journalists “protecting sources” is often code for snitches with an agenda and journalists with an agenda. Why oakes got an award (!!!!!) for that behaviour sums up the general laziness of our jornalists.

  3. @Svante

    That is correct. The major duopoly parties do the bidding of their corporate and capitalist donors wherever and whenever they can. This is true in relation to economic and business policy. There may be more room for them in social policy like same sex marriage, unless social conservatives and reactionaries in the party room stymie policy like that.

    There are economic policy cases where voter power could be effective. In such cases, the duopoly parties will lie, maneuver and obfuscate in an an effort to hoodwink voters and still put in policies that suit corporations and capitalists. When all of this fails and they face loss of office they will try to throw just enough bones (electoral bribes) to the voters. They will usually structure the budget so that the other party’s rusted on voters pay for the electoral bribes to get the swinging voters. They have got this almost down to a science now.

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