The 9pm Election Unhinging: Week the First

Scott Morrison calls the federal election on 10 April 2022. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Image) Inset: Front page of Melbourne’s Herald Sun, 12 April 2022. (Photo: Paul Kidd)

Australia’s federal election has been called for Saturday 21 May 2022. In a headrush of poor judgement, I’ve decided to produce a six-part mini-series of The 9pm Edict with an election theme, with episodes appearing each Thursday. This is the first.

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I’m going to Consilium and you’re not invited

I’m rather flattered to have been invited to speak at Consilium on 23 to 25 August, an invitation-only annual conference put together by the Centre for Independent Studies.

There’s a brochure [PDF]. but essentially Consilium is “leading thinkers from business, politics, policy, academia and the community” talking the “critical issues facing the world” under a modified Chatham House Rule. So I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to tell you afterwards.

I’m on a panel discussion called “Social Creatures: How social media is changing the landscape”, with Iarla Flynn, Google Australia’s head of public policy and government affairs; Nick Holder, a partner at LEK Consulting; and Cassandra Wilkinson, co-founder and president of FBi Radio, and author of Don’t Panic! Nearly Everything is Better than You Think.

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Representative Democracy

Frame grab from mock election advertisement

Here’s a nice antidote to the Coalition TV advert trying to scare us about [gasp!] the Labor party having links to trade unions.

Interestingly, it’s another election-related video that doesn’t have “real” names and addresses at the end saying where it came from. I wonder whether the Australian Electoral Commission will be attempting to prosecute any of these folks for this apparent breach.

Gentlemen, start your engines!

Ah, I love the smell of an election in the morning! Camera crews waiting outside Yarralumla sneak one last ciggie. Candidates of all persuasions reach for The Good Suit and ponder which tie they should wear. Journalists place last-minute bets on The Date and wonder just how many grams of speed they should lay in to last the distance. Media outlets everywhere reach for their plans and everybody says goodbye to their loved ones for a few weeks.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is on Sunday, live from his Adelaide Hills palace, dutifully repeating The Message. “To change the government is to change the country.” “Trade unionists.” Repeat ad nauseam.

We’ll hear Lord Downer repeating his scary mantra many, many times as the Coalition fights to the death.

“I think they need a miracle, really,” says The Sphere of Influence. “Unless Kevin Rudd falls over in the campaign, the Liberals will find it very difficult… Unless they get their [economic] message to the forefront of the campaign they’ll have no chance.”

So they’re the battle lines, at least so far. Labor will reinforce their message that it’s time for a change. The Coalition will reinforce their message that only they can maintain the economic boom. And everyone else will be scrambling for Senate spots.

And now we’re just waiting for The Announcement…

[Update 1215: The election date is Saturday 24 November. JWH is currently doing a media conference, which will doubtless be analysed to death over the next 24 hours. Have fun, kiddies!]

The Leadership (Non)-Challenge

When I returned to focus on politics after a busy morning yesterday, I discovered that not only was John Howard still PM, but also that there was never a leadership challenge. Really. How can this be?

I happened to read Crikey first, where Christian Kerr wrote:

Nothing happened in Canberra this morning. Nothing in a Samuel Beckett sort of way. A nothing that means plenty. A nothing that is quite profound.

You’ve right there, Christian! Every newsroom and every politics junkie in the country including myself arced up — prepared, as I said, for the biggest political story in a decade. And then come the time, Howard et al strolled out of the party room meeting as if nothing had happened.

Finally, at 12:45, Tony Abbott appeared. There had been “full and frank discussions”, he said, but there was “absolutely rock solid support for the Prime Minister”.

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Game on!

Photograph of Malcolm Turnbull

So, will Malcolm Turnbull (left) be Prime Minister by tomorrow? Sky News has just reported that foreign minister Alexander Downer and environment minister Malcolm Turnbull no longer believe Prime Minister John Howard should lead the Liberals.

Sky News says both of them have spoken to John Howard about the leadership. I’m listening to ABC News Radio just now, though, and they say Howard’s denying the conversations took place.

Someone here is lying: Turnbull and Downer, Sky News, or John Howard. Now which of those has the best track rcord for being truthful, eh?

It certainly appears like it’s game on for a leadership challenge. If so, coming just a few weeks before a federal election makes this the biggest political event of more than a decade. Every newsroom in the nation has just gone to red alert. Fun fun fun.