Gillard’s certainly been Galloping, but she’s not Polling too far ahead.

Posted on July 20, 2010 by

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The pre-election scramble for support has begun and the latest wild grab for ammunition has taken the form of a controversial refugee policy. Off the back of caving in to the big Mining companies, a lack of commitment to resolving climate change and a standard regressive stance when it comes to gay marriage; Gillard tackles Australia’s border security in the lead up to today’s polls.

This morning’s Herald/Nielsen poll confirms that Labor’s sudden change of face has given it a standing change in the upcoming election. It is, however, nowhere near the sort of dramatic lead that the first post-Gillard Nielsen poll suggested as she waltzed into a projected popularity lead of 55% to 45%. This has since shifted to a more moderate figure of 52%: 48%, indicating that Labor could just snake in with a shaky 5-seat lead.

None of this is surprising really, but it does put Gillard in an interesting position of deciding when she should call the Australian public to the voting booths.

Gillard has leapt into her new position as Prime Minister by tackling a series of highly controversial issues. To re-cap for everyone who has understandably gotten a little giddy – Gillard professed an understanding of the gravity of the environmental problems we face and then pandered to the Mining sector. She talked of the impetus to act on climate change but then asserted that she will wait for (the already established) community consensus. She declared that she wanted an end to hyperbolic rhetoric around refugees and then proposed to ship off boatloads of people to an unsuspecting country. Finally despite leading Australia’s history of Prime Ministers in ‘firsts’ (first female Prime Minister, atheist, de-facto childless relationship…_) she can’t quite bring herself to be a “first” when it comes to equalising all couples’ access to the perceived legitimacy and sanctity of marriage.

The Labor party’s dilemma as to when to summon the public to the political slaughter-field therefore seems understandable. To call the election soon, would add to the frenzy that ties the end of Rudd’s era and the beginnings of Gillard’s together in uncomfortable proximity. It might however, stop Gillard from toying with any other politically precarious topics. On the flip side, if the election were left a little longer, Gillard might have a chance to carefully extract herself from Rudd’s legacy and present herself more gradually and moderately to the Australian public.

One can only hope that the tried and tested allure of potential votes will be enough incentive for Gillard to step up on any number of issues. She could rope in a nice bundle of progressive votes if she decided to pilfer the planet a little less, treat asylum seekers a little more humanely or maybe reduce our international contribution to blood shed by a couple of gallons.

She doesn’t have to do it all mind you. Just one of the aforementioned wildly radical steps would be enough to slow that steady trickle of Labor votes to the Greens.

Words by Sophie Trevitt

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