In late 2009 as the coalition was clearly moving to remove Malcolm Turnbull as its leader, the tortured genius Dr Craig Emerson coined the term ‘the killing zone’. Dr Craig explained that it was a favoured times of parties to switch leaders, it was close enough to the next election to ensure the new leader would get a straightforward run without having to fend off leadership speculation but also far enough from an election to allow the new Leader of the Opposition to accrue some gravitas and stature. But this was under conventional circumstances where an election was expected more or less between October and December. It’s a killing zone because parliamentarians know that the parliament will break for a prolonged period over Summer and if they have an embattled leader it’s their last chance to ditch him or her before it’s too late.
This time round it is Labor with an embattled leader whom they need to cut down sooner or later but the obvious period to do so is less apparent. An election is due more or less by the beginning of September next year so under the conventional rules the killing zone is now. But these aren’t the conventional rules and parliament isn’t about to break for two months, so it’s possible that a spill could happen in a month, or six weeks. Or maybe, without such a definitive ultimatum to change leaders, Labor won’t get the necessary wriggle on and procrastinate until it’s too late.
I believe Kevin Rudd can win the next election but he needs to have a decent run up to the next election. This governments problem (ok one of them) is that it doesn’t radiate stability. Rudd can be very reassuring when he wants to be but even he will need something of a run up to an election if he is bring the party back. Sadly though Julia Gillard’s mini recovery has probably given the party faithful some false hope which may delay a spill until it’s too late.