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For whom the bell tolls

By Everald Compton - posted Friday, 6 September 2013

Saturday will be a time of great personal relief for the vast majority of Australian voters. After the most painful and boring election of a lifetime, we will have made the decision that most of us would prefer not to make.

Is Abbott about to achieve his dream of becoming Australia's Prime Minister, or will Rudd pull-off what will be recorded as a political miracle? The making of this sad choice will enable us to experience the profound relief we cherish when we get-up after sitting for a long time on a really nasty bit of prickly pear. You feel a hell of a lot better, but you know also that you will have a sore backside for a long time thereafter.

It is not an exaggeration to say that I have never before seen Australians so disgusted with politics, or so disillusioned with the choice that political parties have forced upon us by presenting us with leaders who inspire such little confidence. But, there is not much we can do about it right now, and it is our democratic responsibility to ensure that whoever wins is given a fair go at trying to give positive and sustainable leadership to Australia.


So, let us look for a few moments at the key figures in this eminently forgettable election:

Kevin Rudd

The pollsters told us that his return to the Office of Prime Minister was welcomed by many voters, and some predicted that he would take the ALP on to an unlikely victory. This possibility has faded, but it does look as though some ALP seats that may have been lost may now have been saved.

In my view, the Labor Party made a tactical error in basing its campaign predominantly around Rudd, as he carries too much political and personal baggage. They would have done much better by running as an elite team, as their front bench is stronger than that of the Coalition. Younger Ministers like Mark Butler, Tanya Plibersek, Bill Shorten, Kate Ellis, Mark Dreyfus, etc, would have gained them far greater traction.

Rudd campaigned superbly against John Howard in 2007, but his effort this time has been a pale imitation of that high moment in his life. It would have been worse but for a sterling effort by his deputy, Anthony Albanese, who has campaigned his heart out. It seems that the very best that Rudd can hope for is another hung Parliament.

Tony Abbott

I cannot remember there being an alternative Prime Minister who has been so personally unpopular, but he should win in spite of it. He made a huge mistake in announcing his policy of six months paid parental leave. He was clearly in front at the time of the announcement, yet he put forward the most extravagant middle class handout I have ever known.

He also erred in taking too long to release his policies and costings, thereby leaving himself little time to reply to the inevitable criticism of them, particularly as he needed to overcome the image of negativity that he has unnecessarily built-up around himself.


He also made a wrong call in not making changes to bring younger members onto his front bench, as it looks a bit stale. Nevertheless, Rudd's overspending in past years offset some of that downside. Also, Abbott must be given top marks for tenacity. He is relentless.

Christine Milne

She has a significantly difficult job in following Bob Brown as leader of the Greens, particularly as most voters regard Brown as the historic Green icon, but she is a better leader than people give her credit, and she is the only one who has shown any compassion to refugees. Interestingly, she identified correctly that the Nationals are slowly fading-out in the bush, and she has gone after the rural vote, especially in those areas aggrieved about mining, gas drilling and water contamination.

But, I have been unable to identify any significant Green gains in that area thus far. So, it could be that their vote drops a bit this time and they lose one or two of their team, particularly Sarah Hanson-Young in South Australia while still retaining the balance of power in the Senate. Their sole member in the House of Representatives, Adam Bandt, faces a tough battle to hold the seat of Melbourne, as both the ALP and the Coalition are preferencing against him - but he may benefit from a protest vote against both Abbott and Rudd.

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About the Author

Everald Compton is Chairman of The Longevity Forum, a not for profit entity which is implementing The Blueprint for an Ageing Australia. He was a Founding Director of National Seniors Australia and served as its Chairman for 25 years. Subsequently , he was Chairman for three years of the Federal Government's Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing.

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