If the 2010 Federal election campaign was dismal, in 2013 it has seemed much worse. The binary choice of which major party to lead government for the next three years is not a comfortable one, even though for me there is one clear answer.
The Labor Party is enormously frustrating. As a government under Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd they have put in motion many great things over the past three (and indeed six) years - the NBN, NDIS, the Gonski education reforms, plain cigarette packaging, the carbon price mechanism among them. As a party they have been undisciplined and wrought with continued infighting, unable to settle on either Rudd or Gillard as its leader.
Many talented people have considered themselves unable to serve under one or the other, some have left parliament altogether. Rudd, a charismatic but shambolic leader, replaced by Gillard, a good but uncharismatic Prime Minister (and horror of horrors female) undermined to the point that her leadership to the election was untenable. Replaced by Rudd, marginally less shambolic, but his charisma of 2007 replaced by pathetic self-parody in 2013.
It is hard to imagine what shape a re-elected Rudd government would take, if by some wild chance all the opinion polls are wrong tomorrow. What will Wayne Swan and Stephen Conroy do on the backbenches? Can Rudd be imagined as still being Prime Minister in 2016? Will policy development grind to a halt again as it reportedly did in his intray in 2009 and 2010?
Labor made bigger mistakes, not so much of policy as of politics. They lost the public debate of the extremely important but complex issue of carbon pricing back in 2011 when the simplistic but quite inaccurate perception of a "carbon tax" became firmly entrenched in the public eye. They quite successfully carried legislation through three years of minority government, but the difficult struggle to maintain the numbers in the House of Reps led to two major errors - their arms-length defence of Craig Thomson and the appointment of Peter Slipper as speaker. The Thomson business probably did more damage to Labor's standing over the past three years than any other single event.
Labor as a government deserves re-election, Labor as a party does not. The alternative, however, is worse, Dangerously worse, in my opinion. Imagine a US administration led by Mitt Romney containing Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain and so on, and transposing them into Parliament House, Canberra, and you get some idea of the right-wing parallel universe that Australia is in for over the next three years.
Tony Abbott has been a brilliant Opposition Leader, perhaps the one truly great Leader of the Opposition that Australia has ever had. In doing so, however, he has broken the linkage between Opposition Leader and Alternative Prime Minister. A deceitful, obsessive, arrogant man whose personal history makes him, if elected, in my view the most undeserving Prime Minister in Australia's history. All policy promises from all sides are not to be taken seriously during election campaigns at any times, but while Rudd has been rightly accused of forming policy on the run, the Liberal/National coalition has been either delaying policy announcements to minimise scrutiny, or as in the extraordinary case of the internet filter announcement yesterday, publishing documents that weren't even official policy.
Nothing about the Liberal/National coalition gives me any desire to support them, The prospect that they will undo good work in areas such as NBN, carbon pricing, indigenous health and foreign aid is deeply unsettling. Their asylum seeker policies, including their buy-back scheme for people smuggler boats, is even more ludicrous and nasty than Labor's awful refugee policies.
Give minor parties your first choice as you will - I will be doing so for the Greens - but preferences must flow back to a binary choice between Labor or Liberal. I support the re-election of the Kevin Rudd Labor government tomorrow.