Whose election is it anyway? Not yours

Has anyone in authority consulted you as to when the election should be? After all, elections belong to the people, don’t they?

Nope. Elections belong to the politicians. By royal prerogative, the election date is the Prime Minister’s to decide (subject to some constitutional niceties).

In the United States the President doesn’t decide election dates. They are fixed. The New South Wales Parliament has a fixed term, too. Here you are treated as fodder. It’s the politicians’ election and don’t you forget it.

It’s not even your election system. The politicians decided last year you will not get a look in on whether it should be changed or fine-tuned.

Does that strike you as a tiny bit odd, that the poachers run the gaming lodge?

No, probably. You’re used to it and it does provide a modicum of amusement on the 6 o’clock news as you watch the latest twist in the guessing game as to when you will be herded off to the polls.

A travesty? Well, this is a country where the Prime Minister signed paintings she didn’t do. (“How Great Thou Art”, sung at her pre-election “congress” at the weekend, might be her signature tune). Who cares if she doesn’t fulfil her commitment at the last election to govern three years?

So when will the election be?

It won’t be called before June 11 which means it will be at least a month after that (August is talked about). That’s because the wherewithal to run the government must be in hand before an election can be held and June 11 is the day Parliament will vote “supply”.

And it is unlikely before the Prime Minister thinks she has a plausible reason/excuse/pretext. Otherwise it would mock the government’s desire to present the election, like Thursday’s Budget, as “business-as-usual” in a stable, long-running government.

One credible reason would be if Jim Anderton were to suffer another bout of what struck him in 1994, when he suddenly resigned as Alliance leader and declared he would leave politics at the next election.

This is far-fetched because he has been hugely enjoying himself as development minister and Labour ministers think highly of him for his work — so why give it up? But some keen Anderton watchers in Labour claim to have detected real discomfort over National’s taunts about his circumvention of the waka-jumping law.

Anderton has given no hint of resignation so any such talk is purely speculative. But it illustrates the sort of reason the Prime Minister needs for an honourable early election: a major change in the cabinet and/or in Parliament’s proportionality, which an election would clean up. She could then plausibly round you all up to vote her back into office while the opinion polls are hot.

It is especially tempting right now because of the National party’s new, mostly self-inflicted, discomfort. The Serious Fraud Office (SFO), whose head showed, in contacting the Prime Minister’s chief executive over the affair, poor enough judgment to warrant non-renewal of his contract, is poring over what looks from the outside to be a murky business.

Surprisingly, president and public relations expert Michelle Boag mishandled the public relations. A counter-punching Boag fell into the some trap as a counter-punching Prime Minister did over her paintings: she greatly overreacted and she said too much.

Boag managed to say in the same radio interview both that the Herald had been pursuing a rumour for some time and that Labour had leaked it after formal notification. Then she said she would expel the complainant if a member of her party.

Wrong, twice. If there turn out to have been shenanigans, the complainant would warrant acclaim for service to the party. And assertions of ministerial political meddling just don’t wash.

The right course would have been politely and briefly to express disbelief and concern and cooperate to clear up a matter which, after all, did not happen on her watch (setting aside her connections with the donor at the centre of the inquiry and then president Geoff Thompson).

Instead, she gave Labour even more room for manoeuvre. The Prime Minister can call you to an early election and confidently expect you will not take amiss her short-changing her three-year contract.

For, don’t forget, elections belong to the politicians.