In the lead-up to the 2013 Federal election, The Tunnel’s team of guest bloggers will be providing regular review and analysis of the campaign so far.
Today, Gideon Haigh, cricket writer for The Australian, dissects Day 1.
Five weeks sounds ample time to determine the better of two political parties – the better of rivals in anything, for that matter, given that marathons take only hours and the current Ashes campaign was done and dusted in a mere 14 days of play.
Whilst younger election watchers may prefer the spectacle and pyrotechnics of a short campaign – satisfied, if you will, with the 20/20 vision of the participants – political tragics and purists prefer the longer format.
Last time these two sides met, it ended in an acrimonious draw; Labor retaining the silverware with the benefit – or so Coalition supporters insist – of some dubious calls from so-called independents. The introduction of the Australian Electoral Commission’s Democracy Review System (DRS) was supposed to banish such talk to the past but already there have been issues with its implementation.
Take Day 1 of the election campaign.
Whilst Labor flayed at policies like David Warner at a Root family reunion, a listless Liberal attack wasted one of its DRS referrals on a dubious and self-contradicting appeal that lower interest rates were bad for everyday Australians. Showing all the judgement of Shane Watson, Coalition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey can expect to find himself lower down the order as the campaign progresses. Certainly, on current form, Hockey’s claims to be an all-rounder only go so far as his physical appearance.
From the outset, Kevin Rudd is clearly playing for the win, even if his team-mates would be happy just to be selected for the next campaign in three years’ time. Rudd – allegedly the prime minister but campaigning against Gillard-era Labor as if from Opposition – bowled himself from both ends, achieving prodigious spin and catching the few chances that came his way.
Tony Abbott meanwhile seems content for a draw. His low policy rate and unwillingness to play across the line suggest, at the very least, that he is adopting a risk-free approach to the campaign. Although as thrilling as a day in the company of Geoff Boycott, Abbott’s tactics may serve him well against a Labor outfit that seeks to play to both the left and the right, often with the same delivery.
It was confusing, then, for Abbott to announce on Day 1 that if the series were drawn, he would not seek to share the trophy. Not since Brett Lee sat out a karaoke night has an Australian so improbably refused what he clearly wants with all his heart and soul.
It will be interesting to see if Abbott’s restraint can be maintained if a draw indeed becomes the likely outcome. As Stephen Fry once remarked to a roomful of naked chorus girls, it is all very easy refusing what you know you will never have.
In the end, though, such matters were moot. Day 1 ended in a disappointing wash-out, with Labor on the attack but with nothing to show for its endeavours.
Fortunately for the purists, there are another 33 days to go.