Few would suggest that 21st March 2013 was not an important day in Australian politics. It was not as important as 11th Nov 1975 but thanks to the immediacy of the internet, unlike 1975 when half the players themselves had no idea what was going on, this was called play-by-play like some macabre football match. Just like a political football match, despite shots being fired no-one scored and it's still 0-0 and all to play for.
I wrote in Horse 1280 in February of 2012:
I think Abbott if he was really serious about forcing an election, he should have called for a censure motion. The fact that he didn't means that although he personally has "no confidence in this prime minister", I suspect that he can't get sufficient people to cross the floor with him in his lack of confidence.
And later in the same piece that:
If Abbott was serious about wanting an election, then why doesn't he just force one. The mechanism exists. Maybe he's just too politically cowardly to pull the levers?
Yesterday, after the spill had been announced by Ms Gillard in the chamber, Mr Abbott finally rustled up the courage to pull one of those levers. After a bout of sound and fury, in the end it signified nothing.
Although he did win more votes on the floor of the chamber, 73-71, he was still short of the 76 required to force a dissolution.
Abbott finally did call for a censure motion. So how then could I guess, from thirteen months ago, that he couldn't "get sufficient people to cross the floor with him in his lack of confidence"? Mar 2013 shares one key similarity with Feb 2012; it is the same reason why I think that any censure motion is always doomed to fail in this particular parliament.
An MP is unlike most employees in that every time an election is called, their job security disappears; this is even true if you are a sitting Prime Minister. Every MP, especially in a hung parliament, already has diminished job security and so unless they're pretty sure that they'd retain their seat after the election, the motive not to vote in a censure motion and thus deny the possibility of it passing is stronger than ever.
In other words, to pass the motion is to vote to possibly lose your own job. Most people would be quite daft to do that.
As for the spill:
Simon Crean who must surely by now have gotten the message that he's horrible at picking winners for the leadership (having led the party himself in 2001 on a brief walk to nowhere), tried to thrust Kevin Rudd into the top job, and failed gloriously.
Like his father Frank before him, Simon Crean also failed to be Prime Minister. Now, having failed to lead his own troops to victory, he's now tried to make a run across no man's land... with no gun.
Rudd pretty well much knew that he didn't have the numbers to make a challenge and he's been on television and radio now for weeks saying precisely that. When 20 MPs arrived in his office, even if they could all convince just one friend each, they'd have still been 11 votes short in the caucus room. No wonder despite the goading of Crean, Rudd still would not challenge for the leadership. To do so would be a waste of time and worse, provide statistics and ammunition to his rivals if he ever does decide to lead the party again.
Maybe this this a case of CHICKEN KiEV but there's certainly no hot bed on which to get anything cooking.
What we saw then, was no leadership challenge. I'd like to say that again - there is no leadership challenge. Maybe I need to restate this for the benefit of Fairfax and News Ltd who have driven the public mad and beyond the point of distraction - there is no leadership challenge.
I for one am sick and tired, my teeth are floating due to the incessant grinding because of the media's endless speculation about a leadership challenge when there is in fact no leadership challenge. There is no leadership challenge. Get it? Got it? Good. There is no leadership challenge.
This question is so boring, that it provides me with an opportunity to get up and make a cup of tea during QandA, makes me change channels if I'm watching the nightly news and makes me doubt why I bother to read through the political pages of the Oz, the Tele and the Herald.
This question fills up column inches which could be better put to use writing proper editorials and probably explains to some degree why the Herald and the Age in particular which used to be newspapers of record, are slowly sinking into the ooze of tabloid journalism.
Writing pieces with nothing more than mere speculation will not win you Walkley Awards.
Yours very sincerely,
The overly irritated people of Australia.
Mr Abbott can claim all he likes that the Labor Party is what he calls a "civil war" but really it's difficult to actually have a war when one side repeatedly refuses to fight, no matter how much people really really really want them too. A vote of 100-0, can not possibly yell any more loudly. As far as the spill goes, even Crean who called for the spill, Fitzgibbon who canvassed MPs who join Rudd, the 20 MPs who showed up in Rudd's office and even Kevin Rudd himself who never said that he would challenge, all voted for Gillard to remain as Labor leader.
Maybe it's entirely possible that part of what we saw yesterday was stage managed. If it was, then the Labor Party have trolled the media wonderfully.
Whatever rolls out of this I think that we can say with 99% certainty, that the election will still occur on September 14, despite and now in spite of Abbott's (and News Limited's) repeatedly shrill calls for it to be earlier. Unless Abbott is somehow able to force a loss of supply, it just doesn't seem likely.