IT'S been 12 years since Catherine King took the seat of Ballarat for the Labor Party.In that period we've seen just once change of government - when Labor's Kevin Rudd deposed John Howard in 2007.
In Australia, we like our politicians to provide steady leadership.Federally, the past three years has been anything but steady. A parliament hanging by a thread, a change in the Labor leadership, backroom deals, backflips and bruising battles on personal issues have dominated the political sphere.
None of which seems to have hampered the determination of Ms King very much at all. Publicly anyway.
This has set the scene for an election campaign in Ballarat signposted largely by what we already knew, rather than what we hoped to discover.
Liberal Party candidate John Fitzgibbon has run the best organised and consistent campaign of a conservative candidate in Ballarat since the retirement from the lower house of Michael Ronaldson before the 2001 poll.He has knocked on many doors, met with small business and questioned government investment in our region.
Much of his campaign has been based on the broader messages of his party's national agenda - economic stability and reducing the cost of living. The platform is strong but hasn't provided great opportunity to personalise his pitch to the electorate. It's hard not to think that the national Liberal campaign is based up making as few errors as possible during the campaign. Rogues are neither required nor wanted.
Mr Fitzgibbon's performance has been strong in the context of a party which has been tortured in Ballarat throughout the 2000s. What the Liberal Party has been unsuccessful in challenging during the campaign is Ms King's track record.
Through less restricted economic times where Australia's ability to avoid financial armageddon was built upon a strong mining sector and spending to provoke the economy, Ms King has built a long list of projects funded under her watch.
The complaint that Ballarat has not, and is not, getting its fair share hasn't gained any momentum.
There's been little pork-barrelling this time around. Is the wide margin in Ballarat detrimental to our cause or maybe our city is doing better than we think. Possibly not all advocates agree on what we need. How about starting with job opportunities?
The Ballarat West Growth Zone is the priority major project designated by Ballarat two most powerful advocates - the City of Ballarat and the Committee for Ballarat.
As of today, it remains a vast area of land which has potential rather than activity.It's a slow burner not necessarily exciting to Ballarat's current population but hopefully to those who might invest in our city in the future. Governments are reminded about the need for this project - Labor has made multi-million dollar promises - to succeed at every turn. Questions will be asked after this poll if the project is better placed now than it was 12 months ago in regard to government awareness and priorities.
The NBN has split the city in more ways than one. Troubles with the rollout mirrored other failures of the government and in many respects, Ballarat is the epicentre of differences between the Labor and Coalition policies in regard to this massive, and expensive, infrastructure project. By Monday, we could see part of our city having access to leading digital age technology and others being forced to adapt to a speculated inferior alternative.
It's going to be a difficult proposition to sell to new residents and businesses and also has potential implications for house prices and retail shopfront rental.
Speaking of shopfronts, business policy has been key to the region's campaign. There's those who want to bring down the major supermarkets, others concerned about retail drift and pressures on household expenditure. On the available evidence, the Liberal Party have done the best job telling its story on this issue. Dumping the carbon tax is sloganistic but during this campaign it has stood for a whole lot more.The voice of the Greens has resonated more quietly during this campaign, complicated by the noise coming from a new range of minor parties. Stephanie Hodgins-May has provided a smart and passionate explanation of her party's policies yet it is difficult to see her party increasing its primary vote.
The future of the Greens, most recently touted as the third major party, could be clouded in the aftermath of this poll. If it pines for more lofty ambitions, the Greens must take a broader policy approach.
The Palmer United Party candidate Gerard Murphy and Katter's Australia Party candidate Shane Dunne have made a mark locally almost in defiance of the shadow cast by their larger than life party leaders.
It would be remiss to remark on the the extent of lower house candidacy for Ballarat during this campaign. Three of the 10 candidates have hardly been sighted, let alone fronted to have their party's policy platforms challenged.We are fortunate in the seat of Ballarat to have outstanding and passionate candidates standing for election and our city deserve much better than parties who believe candidacy is right not needed to be earned.
In the spirit of democracy which our city historically claims a right, Ballarat residents will today vote with two very different considerations.There is a mood for change at a national level, according to almost every poll in the past four weeks. The second honeymoon for Mr Rudd was short and has turned sour. The electorate, it seems has not forgiven Labor for its role in one of our nation's most difficult, yet intriguing, parliaments.
So tomorrow night, we expect Tony Abbott will by anointed as Australia's new prime minister.
Ballarat voters showed faith in Catherine King in opposition during the Howard years and showed no signs of wavering during the latest test at the polling booth in 2010. However, the 11.6 per cent margin between the two major party candidates is false.
Given the lack of organisation from the Liberal Party during previous campaigns and the overriding national and state trend towards the Coalition, we expect a much closer battle in Ballarat tomorrow.
The benefits of a smaller margin are well prophesied, if mostly anecdotal. We need to have a Ballarat which is constantly high on the national political agenda and one which is served in this interest.
Ballarat residents will today decide if Ms King's reign will continue or if it is time to hand over the crown.