A year ago Tony Abbott was an unbackable favourite to become Prime Minister of Australia at the 2013 Federal Election. Only Black Caviar had shorter odds. Most punters reckoned that Julia Gillard would lead her party to absolute oblivion, irreparably damaging the ALP brand in the process.
Now, although the Coalition is still clearly in front, it is a genuinely contestable election that may yet provide the biggest political upset in our nation's history. Such a boil-over is worth a punt of a reasonable number of dollars down at the bookmakers, but don't put your house on it.
My best personal analysis of the current state of play is that we will end-up with another hung Parliament, because most Australians simply do not want either of the major parties to govern them.
Two Independents will hold their seats - Tony Windsor and Andrew Wilkie. The Greens will lose their Melbourne seat in the House because the major parties will preference against them, and Rob Oakeshott is in real danger of losing for local reasons.
I reckon that Bob Katter will switch from Representatives to Senate where, because of his high public profile, he has a splendid chance to take a seat from the Greens in Queensland, leaving him in a possible balance of power situation in that Chamber.
The Prime Minister's controversial announcement that the election will be held on September 14 enables her to honour her signed agreement with the Independents to serve a full three year term, while providing the Leader of the Opposition with plenty of scope to make some errors of judgement.
When all the dust has settled on this, it should be acknowledged in all fairness that she has proved that a minority government can survive in Australian politics and provide an active political agenda. Indeed, it has already passed more than 400 pieces of legislation. The fact that we may or may not like some of it is beside the point. The Parliament has been working and Gillard has survived one of the most vicious personal vendettas I have ever seen.
The crucial point to bear in mind about this election is that it will be held in an atmosphere where the voters are utterly switched off by politics - indeed disgusted by it wholeheartedly.
The vast majority despise politicians and believe that the debates in this current parliament have been vulgar and irresponsible, the emphasis being on holding or gaining power with no care being given to the real needs of the people.
Indeed, my personal view is that this has been the worst-behaved Parliament of my 81 years of life, and the new Parliament will face the challenge of spending its full term regaining public respect.
Given this fact, politicians must come to terms with the reality that most voters won't listen seriously to their policies or promises. They will vote for people, not parties. Hack candidates put-up by party machines will get a thrashing, and this will be a wonderful event.
Nevertheless, the electorate will make it very clear to the candidates what their aspirations are. So, for once, it will be the pollies who will have to do the listening in this campaign, not the other way round. In the hope that a politician somewhere is actually listening right now, these are the major matters that, in my humble opinion, concern voters most of all.
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