Last week I found myself in the company of people who were advising the Australian Labor Party on its 2013 election strategies. Let me pass onto you the five pieces of advice they are giving Prime Minster Julia Gillard. There are three "Don’ts” and two ”Dos”.
You will remember that last week, without making any predictions, I wrote that Gillard now had a real chance of winning the next election because she had taken Paul Keating’s advice to improve her stagecraft (Gillard overcomes her stage fright, November 23).
Stagecraft forms part of the advice under the to "Do” categories but let’s starts with the three "Don’ts” Gillard is receiving.
– First don’t take the advice of Robert Gottliebsen (Gillard has six months to go to the polls, October 24) and Alan Kohler (Prepare for an early election, October 24) and call an early election. Kohler and Gottliebsen may be right (or wrong) that the situation for the government will be tougher in the second half of 2013 but the electorate hates early elections. They will see it as a sign that the government does not believe its own rhetoric. Moreover an early election will put the Senate elections out of synchronisation with the House of Representatives. That will not go down well with an electorate that does not like too many elections.
– Don’t panic about the AWU affair. The AWU affair raises similar political issues to the Paul Keating piggery affair, although obviously the events are entirely different. Paul Keating bought into a piggery when on the backbench then sold his stake to his partner while prime minister. The partner then on sold the piggery to the Indonesians, again during Keating's prime ministership. There was lots of innuendo but Keating toughed it out and the opposition did not land a killer blow. Keating won the 1993 election. The advisers say the AWU can be the same if Gillard keeps her cool – which she is doing.
– Don’t believe in your own election promises rhetoric but remember the opposition has the same problem. Both sides of politics have not taken into account the end of the mining investment boom and the curtailment of coal and other mineral revenues so are making promises that are not deliverable without substantial cut backs in other areas or big increases in the deficit. (Wake up now from a Dutch disease stupor, November 19). The government advisers say leave room to defer some promises, put them to committees etc.
Now the two "Dos”.
– Gillard has have improved her stagecraft dramatically but there is still more work to be done.
– It’s important to go into an election standing for clear policies that are different to the coalition. What the ALP was stood for was clear at the last election. That clarity must be restored and it can be done during 2013 in preparation for the election.
The 2013 poll is going to be a very close election and if either side stumbles the election will be lost, so discipline on both sides will be vital.
As I have said many times, Tony Abbott’s greatest potential asset is the small enterprise community, which is Australia’s biggest employer. He has not understood how to woo it with a scare campaign. If Abbott masters this task then Gillard will be in trouble, but the fact that Abbott did not do it in 2010 means there is no certainty he will do it in 2013, and unseating a sitting government is very difficult when the polls are close.
Five easy pieces for a Gillard victory
If Julia Gillard is to win the next election there are three 'don'ts' and two 'dos' she must adhere to. Yesterday's press conference showed she is already well on the way to achieving the most important one.
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