This book provides a truly comprehensive analysis of the 2013 federal election in Australia, which brought the conservative Abbott government to power, consigned the fractious Labor Party to the Opposition benches and ended the ‘hung parliament’ experiment of 2010–13 in which the Greens and three independents lent their support to form a minority Labor government. It charts the dynamics of this significant election and the twists and turns of the campaign itself against a backdrop of a very tumultuous period in Australian politics. Like the earlier federal election of 2010, the election of 2013 was an exercise in bipolar adversarial politics and was bitterly fought by the main protagonists. It was also characterised (again) by leadership changes on Labor’s side as well as the entry of new political parties anxious to deny the major parties a clear mandate. Moreover, the 2013 election continued the trend whereby an increasing proportion of the electorate chose not to vote for one of the main two political parties.
While the 2013 election delivered a clear victory to the Coalition in the Lower House, it simultaneously produced a much more mixed outcome in the Senate, where the Greens managed to record their largest ever representation and a new party, the Palmer United Party, initially secured three Senate positions at its first attempt (together with the election of Clive Palmer to a Queensland seat in the House of Representatives). With minor and micro parties also winning Senate seats amounting to a total of 18 Senators on the cross-benches, the Abbott government’s ability to govern and pass legislation was placed in some doubt. The 2013 election result suggested that far from ending the preceding tumultuous period of Australian politics, it merely served to prolong this era indefinitely.
The 2013 campaign was one of the longest on record, arguably commencing when the besieged Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the date for the election in late January 2013 – then over seven months away. This unconventional tactic overshadowed the election from that date onwards – providing a definite timeline for Labor infighting, influencing the largely negative tactics of the Opposition, and encouraging new parties to proliferate to contest the election. This volume traces these formative influences on the campaign dynamics and explains the electoral outcome that occurred (including the 2014 re-election for the Western Australian Senate seats ordered by the High Court). Abbott’s Gambit includes insightful contributions from academic experts, campaign directors and electoral watchers, political advisers and professional psephologists. Contributors utilise a wide range of sources and approaches, including the Australian Election Survey, to provide a detailed analysis of this important federal election.