I'm working at home today, finalising my marking and my documents for my annual appraisal tomorrow, doing some emails for our little forum on Early European research next month, and booking my flights to Hobart for another conference, but have to keep checking compulsively back to The Age website. It's all happening out there!
A week ago, as Howard and the Coalition seemed to be clawing back some support in the polls, it seemed we might be facing up to another three years of the same old team. But since then, the Coalition was wiped out; and four ministers had lost their seats by Saturday night. Yesterday, the Treasurer, Peter Costello, who's been just waiting for the leadership to come to him, announced he's going to serve out the next three years on the back bench then go off into a second career in commerce. Everyone who endorsed him so warmly on Saturday must be feeling a bit stupid and pissed off. Jeff Kennett (former Victorian premier) is contemptuous...
Then this morning Maxine McKew (former journalist) has all but claimed Bennelong from the PM in her very first electoral contest, making him only the second serving Prime Minister to lose his seat.
Alexander Downer (ex-Foreign Minister: these glosses are for the non-Oz readers), says he'll think about contesting the leadership but admitted he had been very bad at being opposition leader last time. Remember? At the time, the Coalition's slogan was "the things that matter". He turned this into an appalling joke about domestic violence: "the things that batter." Incredible. Though I must admit he has grown up a bit since then and to his credit, has apparently been quite good in East Timor...
Malcolm Turnbull (rich republican [i.e. in favour of Australia becoming a republican], recently turned politician) has put his hand up to lead the opposition. He's smart, eloquent, stood up to Howard and said we should sign Kyoto, but has little experience. And none of being in opposition.
Tony Abbot also says he'll stand, though he admits his electoral campaign went a little astray (understatement of the year).
Who else? Julie Bishop and Brendon Nelson (both former Education ministers) are being touted as possible leaders, but are yet to go public.
And now Mark Vaile (ex-deputy PM, and leader of Coalition's National Party) is stepping down too.
Paul heard someone say yesterday that the Mayor of Brisbane is now the highest status Liberal politician in the country.
I think that the party must have been on the point of implosion. And I bet this is not the end of the resignations, or the recriminations, either.
But the more I think about Julia Gillard, and Maxine McKew and Jodie Campbell, who picked up Bass and who looked phenomenal in her interview on Saturday night, and even Therese Rein, who's going to make a fabulous PM's wife, I am vastly cheered by the numbers of these clever, passionate women stepping up into leadership roles. Gillard hinted that Rudd would soon be organising an apology to Indigenous people, another thing Howard couldn't bring himself to do. I'm sure it's too much to hope that the meanness of the last eleven years can be turned around overnight, but it's hard to imagine a better start for Rudd.