Gillard has set her departure date. She will know that even if she claws back the popular vote, she is unlikely to win the key marginal seats required to win. Between now and September 14, she is playing for history.
Gillard can now focus on ensuring that history will judge her more kindly than her contemporaries. She will be hoping that once all the noise and bickering subsides, we will discover she achieved more than we realised, and that she reshaped the Australian social landscape in profound ways.
We can expect her to go hard in the May budget, cutting the top end to honour her big new spending intiatives in the NDIS and education. She will want to claim a place as a great Labor leader by leaving a legacy of reduced inequality and a greater safety net.
It is likely that Labor and Gillard also realise that it is to their advantage for Abbott to lead the Coalition to the next election. Their reputations will be resurrected much more quickly if the government that replaces them is a fiasco. And the odds of that are better than average.
The Coalition will be coming to power with the most unpopular newly elected Prime Minister ever. One that is impetuous, poor on policy detail, and prone to shooting from the hip. The Coalition will face the same budget pressures as Labor, because of the dwindling revenue. They won’t be able to stop the boats because the push factors are too strong. Winding back the Carbon Tax will be a nightmare for business.
Gillard must be relieved today. And more than ever she knows Tony Abbott is her best asset.