What utter rubbish.
The ALP’s “It’s time” campaign of 1972 is probably the most memorable in Australian history, if only for the jingle. Then, on the night of the 1996 election, Kim Beazley attributed part of Labor’s loss to the “It’s time” factor and in doing so, took the name of one of Labor’s greatest triumphs and used it as a sad excuse for a humiliating loss.
Today, “It’s time,” is used as a kind of no-fault divorce. It’s not that Queensland Labor did anything wrong as such, it’s just that Queenslanders aren’t that into them any more and wanted to see other people.
I’ve always held that most elections are lost, not won. That is, the result is usually a rejection of the loser rather than an endorsement of the winner. Having said that, it is an open question to what extent the Queensland result is a ringing endorsement of the LNP or a resounding rejection of the ALP. It has to be one or the other though. Nobody in their right mind (and I know that’s a pretty big caveat when talking about politics on any level) votes against a government they are satisfied with just because they’re bored.
If you believe in the “It’s time” factor, then you have to believe that “It’s time” in 1972 simply meant, “It’s time we had a go.” You also have to believe that in 2007, nobody had any problem with WorkChoices or the Howard government; they just wanted someone else to look at. You have to believe that there wasn’t actually anything wrong with the New South Wales Labor government in 2011, it’s just that after sixteen years, people were curious about what a Liberal government might be like.
This is not to say that longevity in government does not have its pitfalls. Most governments have enacted their agenda by the end of the second term and after that, it’s just a case of navigating the odd crisis and making sure the other mob don’t get in to wreck it all. Ministers get used to having departments, new MPs think that government is the natural state of their career and they all begin to start believing their own bullshit. That’s not the “It’s time” factor though. That’s the “We’ve become complacent and out of touch” factor. It’s also fair to say that familiarity breeds contempt, especially in politics. That’s why smart governments have succession plans.
The brilliant John Birmingham came up with the best explanation of why longevity in government can come to be a liability when he wrote:
If you govern for long enough, you will eventually make enough mistakes and tell enough lies that you'll be run out of office. Even if it takes 20 years.
- Great expectations ... but of what?
All governments make mistakes, break promises and tell lies. Count them from the time they take office and they’re going to keep building up. Count them across any random ten year period, and they’ll probably be the same no matter who is in office.
I’m not across all the issues that led to Labor’s annihilation in Queensland, but here’s what I don’t think happened. I’m pretty sure the people of Queensland did not, en masse, think to themselves, “I’m tired of fair representation, sound policy and good leadership. Let’s vote in some idiots and see if that’s more interesting.”