Ignore the bookies, the Australian election will be a close run thing says Tom Cameron

For the first time ever an Australian Prime Minister who’s not a bloke has taken the charming five minute drive from Parliament House to the Canberra residence of the Governor General and advised the Queen’s representative of a Federal election date.  That in itself is a terrific thing. 

Interestingly, for the first time since 1993 neither of the two main party leaders – Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott – have previously faced the people in their bid to become the nation’s leader.  It’s also unprecedented that a Prime Minister has challenged and successfully deposed their first term colleague as party leader and sought their own mandate from the people only a few weeks after such a coup. 

And this coming contest will be only the second August election in Australia’s history, the last being back in the 1940s.  So there are quite a few rarities on offer in this 2010 Federal election, but not nearly so many predictabilities. 

If there is one tried and tested way to smartly pick Australian election results at the start of the campaign, it would be to check the bookies odds.  Rarely if ever do the punters end up getting it wrong.  So it is some surprise to concentrate one’s attention Down Under now and find not just a swiftly changed political landscape of the post-Rudd type, but an election scene that the book makers believe Labour will dominate. 

At the time of writing about $1.30 is what the Gillard led Labour Party was paying to be successfully returned on 21 August.  While the Abbott led conservative Liberal-National Coalition was quoted at around $4.00. Political courage versus timidity is something of an underlying theme in a few points below, so I should at least offer a bold prediction.  The bookies are wrong and the big current price gap between the parties is, frankly, silly.  This election is going to be very close and anyone keen on waging the proverbial sheep station on Labour at $1.30 is a brave soul. 

Let me be clear that as a former Labour staffer in Canberra and a recent Labor campaign contributor in the UK, my loyalties and bias are patently obvious.  This is a contest we progressives certainly should win, but it’s one for which we’re really going to have to pull up our socks to do so.  We need to be strong and we need to have the courage of our convictions throughout the weeks ahead.

Tom Cameron is an experienced Australian special adviser who worked in Victoria Street until June this year.

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