I believe the election was announced with the intention of showing strength, command, confidence and authority.
The theatre of the National Press Club event offered tell-tale signs that this was the intent of the Prime Minister. It was hinted at by her clothing, that she wore glasses for the first time, and in the fact that she consulted with a select few before making the surprise announcement.
This announcement was carefully planned.
It was clearly a strategic attempt by Julia Gillard to take control of the political agenda and put herself in a position to dominate the forthcoming election campaign. The effect, however, has been to the contrary.
As a result, her political judgement has been widely called into question by commentators who feel that she has given away a key tactical advantage that is traditionally very useful to an incumbent government in the lead-up to an election.
She has conceded an advantage in timing and conferred authority on the leader of the Opposition as a leader-in-waiting. She has locked herself into a future that is now out of her control and largely unknown.
She hasn’t advocated fixed-term elections, which confirms it was a tactical move to gain an advantage.
It’s a gesture that has prompted a perplexed audience, including members of her own party faithful to ask ‘Why?’.
The reasons she has offered are not plausible. Her announcement was never going to put a halt to the long election campaign and all that comes with it. Nor has it placed any real pressure on the Opposition to produce its proposed polices for government. If it was intended to shore up her position within the party for 2013, it has not been achieved.
Political observers are busily searching for an explanation for her announcement. In the absence of a cunning, hidden reason, that may reveal itself in the future, most have concluded that it is a case of bad judgement. Whatever her intention was, her announcement has been subverted by the perplexed reaction it has triggered.
The fact that she has perplexed and confused so many has had the unintended effect of bringing her judgement into question. Even if the immediate purpose was to look authoritative, the vacuum she has created has only raised more questions. That is not what she intended or wanted.
Professor Haig Patapan is the Director of Griffith University’s Centre for Governance and Public Policy and the co-author of The Democratic Leader.