Peril on Political Seas

The new year gives everyone of us the opportunity to pontificate on the uncertainties of politics, as we can be certain that the shifting sands of power will be volatile always. As every pundit in Australia has already had a go, I reckon that I may as well have my two bob’s worth.

Let me say something about the Prime Minister. There will not be a challenge to her leadership unless Kevin Rudd makes one. Most of the ALP Caucus seem to have the view that her polling will slowly and steadily improve during the year, and put them in a position where they can at least put-up a respectable fight at an election in 2013. They are amazed that the media got her Cabinet reshuffle so wrong.

The whole purpose of the change was to promote some young turks with leadership potential from the outer ministry into the cabinet so they would form a buffer between her and Rudd. As the result, if Rudd challenges, one of them will throw his or her hat into the ring with the PM’s approval. His tilt at a return to the leadership will be killed stone dead.

Gillard achieved her goal by promoting Shorten, Combet, Plibersek and Butler, as well as giving Roxon a high profile portfolio with much less political baggage than Health. Any one of those five will get the votes to beat Rudd.

Fascinatingly, there is another political development within the ALP. By chance, I have stumbled upon a small group in Caucus who believe that Abbott is beatable in a 2013 election if one of the recently appointed young aspirants becomes PM by Christmas this year.

Most of the electorate will feel that these guys have done far too much hard drinking at more Christmas parties than they really should have attended. Be that as it may, these guys are deadly serious, and their main fear is that the Coalition will change leaders this year. This would make their theory very difficult to achieve.

This naturally leads us on to a chat about the Leader of the Opposition. He is in an uncomfortable position. The Coalition is streets ahead of the ALP in the polls, due mainly to his relentless attacks on the PM, and look likely to stay there, even though the size of their lead may shrink a few points.

Yet, Tony is lagging behind the Prime Minister in the same polls, and she is likely to inch a bit further ahead of him this year. This means that a challenge to his leadership is on the cards. It is not difficult to predict that it will most likely come from Malcolm Turnbull as, if he is to become leader, he must move quickly to do so before Mal Brough becomes a contender after he returns to Parliament at the next election.

When Turnbull does challenge, the final ballot on the day could be between him and Andrew Robb. Abbott could avoid any possibility of a challenge by doing a Gillard-type reshuffle of his Shadow Cabinet and promoting Robb and Turnbull, while demoting Joe Hockey and Julie Bishop. There are interesting days ahead.

My gut feeling is that the Greens are slowly losing ground since the Carbon Tax became law. Julia Gillard has now met her major obligation to them, and will gain in popularity every time she stands them up. Their only member of the House of Representatives, Adam Bandt, of Melbourne, appears destined to be a oneterm member, as the major parties will refuse to preference him in 2013.

Nevertheless, even if their declining vote causes them to lose some Senate seats in that election, they will still have enough votes to control the Senate and stop any efforts by Abbott to repeal bills.

The Independents are in strange territory. Tony Windsor, Andrew Wilkie and Tony Crook are currently well down in opinion polls, but they are under no pressure to withdraw their support from Gillard, as they are likely to hold their seats at the next elections because of particular local issues in their electorates.

But Rob Oakshott appears almost certain to lose his seat. Bob Katter has to watch his position carefully as, for some considerable time, he has been working fulltime at promoting his party for the Queensland elections, and may experience a backlash for neglecting his Federal duties, particularly as he is now a party leader, whereas his great strength with voters over many years has been his independence.