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. 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.