Many apologies for the long absence, but have been busy watching the scenes and taking in the general picture. Plus RL: family, work, hobbies etc.
There are several things I have to say.
1) A big part of me thought Rudd would hold out as long as possible and go to the G20 in full Prime Ministerial mode rather than as a caretaker (i.e. no major decisions to be taken or committed to between issuing of the writs and the polling day). I espoused this view on the Catallaxy Files blog, while maintaining the cautious qualification that part of him might want to avoid having face Tony Abbott in Parliament. Clearly I called this one wrong. Some believe the administrative (as opposed to the Parliamentary) branch of the party forced his hand. Whatever the case, it's going to make for some interesting theses in political history & 'science' over the next decade or so.
2) This is going to be a dirty campaign, and the ALP is going to smear Abbott for all it's worth. He's accused of relentless negativity, but to be true there is much to be negative about. The overall budget position is $250bn in the red, and we have nothing material to show for it. Even tinpot dictators who bankrupt their countries usually have lots of shiny weapons to point to when asked where the money has gone. The previous Coalition government ran surpluses for almost every one of its budgets and was ten years paying back $90bn and leaving us with a reserve for hard times (which this squanderous lot blew in one year).
3) The words "on time, on budget, on spec" are foreign to this government. It has utterly ruined almost everything it has touched, and where complete ruin has not occurred this is to the credit of the people who've held it together. It's Rudd, it's Gillard and it's everyone beneath them too. Not one of them has the slightest idea of how to run a program, consult with stakeholders, or calculate the consequences of their policies before those policies are announced. Howard made it look easy, and the ALP lost its memory for the fact that these things aren't easy - they require painstaking background work, checking with the people who are going to be affected, and working out how to minimise the unpleasant fallout that must sometimes be lived with in the overall national interest.
Perhaps things would not have been as bad if they had floated their thought-bubbles as proposals rather than sprung them on the public as Things They Had Already Decided To Do. They could then have reacted to negative press, backflipped without loss of face, and corrected their errors.
The polls (as opposed to The Poll, singular; i.e. the election), which were disastrous for Labor, shifted back to the centre (50-50), but the latest barrage of Labor proposals (which added up to more lack of consultation, pissing off of various stakeholders, undermining of industries and blatant tax grabs which intruded into the sanctity of people's bank accounts) seems to have had a telling effect. The most recent poll I have seen is for a 52:48 split the Coalition's way (i.e. a Coalition victory). This poll seems to have been taken before the announcement and published after it. The result cannot please Kevin Rudd.
The problem with these polls is that they are dispersed. It matters not if either party has HUGE swings in its favour if those occur in particular electorates which they already hold. Such swings might mask losses in more marginal electorates, which could tip the balance the other way. Because Australia has a Westminster Parliament, this is what matters - the number of Lower House seats you win. It's not an overall vote for the leader, like it is for the US President. These are the little things which determine outcomes. That being said, a 2PP poll which shows a split like 58:42 says far more - that's annihilation territory. The other things that matter are the preferences - basically, if you get over the line for 50% of votes, you win the seat, home and hosed. If you don't, the losers' votes are distributed to the top two candidates according to the losing candidates' locked-in preferences, and the candidate with the most votes then takes the seat. Occasionally the two major parties will preference each other, usually to ensure the elimination of screwball minor parties such as Pauline Hanson's One Nation, the Greens, or independent candidates who are clearly insane.
The Senate, of course, is another matter. That's decided on a state by state basis, each sending a certain number. There were over eighty candidates on the Federal senate ticket in my state in 2010, and bound to be more this time around. One may select the 'ticket' preferred by a party or individual candidate, or assign preferences from 1 to whatever individually. I put mine all below the line last time around, and it was a struggle to decide who to put last - the Communists, the Greens, or Labor. Liberal went first, National Party (their formal ally) second, and I think I might have put Shooters and Fishers third as a slap in the face to the Greens, who in Australia are nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with being upper middle class hypocritical antisemitic fascist dirtbags. If they are completely wiped out, I couldn't be happier and the environment will not suffer one jot because of it.
It's often said there's a lot of ruin in a nation. I don't think that's the case any more - one more term under these wankers and they will increase the size of the public service, the dole and other public-money mendicants to the point where they can't be voted out without raping puppies live on national TV.