By Tim Montgomerie in Sydney
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I’m jumping the gun a bit. Australia doesn’t even vote until tomorrow but it’ll be one of the biggest shocks in the country’s electoral history if the incumbent Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd, survives.
Here are ten things you should know about Tony Abbott, leader of the Conservative Party’s sister party in Australia.
1. He will defeat a government that has enjoyed good economic times: In the last year Australia has grown by 2.6% (easily enough to put a smile on George Osborne’s face). That’s the 22nd successive year of growth. Australia isn’t even close to losing its triple A status from ratings agencies. All governments get ejected eventually but, six years ago, Kevin Rudd led Labor to power as one of Australia’s most popular ever leaders. Rudd then boasted he was the prime minister who saved his country from the global recession and this resource-rich country did escape negative growth. But, according to every poll, Labor loses tomorrow’s general election and it will lose badly.
2. He’s a model Leader of the Opposition: Do you remember when David Cameron promised to end Punch and Judy politics? Even before he became leader of Australia’s Liberal Party (the Tories’ sister party, led by John Howard until ’07), Abbott embraced Punch’s pugilism. He ousted Malcolm Turnbull, his Liberal predecessor, who was preparing to back Rudd’s climate change agenda. Since becoming Leader of the Opposition in 2009 he has opposed Labor’s expensive carbon policies and its failure to control immigration. Labor became incredibly unpopular – first dumping Rudd for Gillard and then, hilariously, Gillard for Rudd.
3. His four-fold message has focused on immigration, tax, infrastructure and above all, the carbon tax: Most politicians get bored with repeating the same message. Pundits needing to fill their pages or broadcast slots with ‘new news’ certainly do. Abbott doesn’t get bored. A man famous for his physical fitness he has the stamina to conquer arduous bike journeys and marathons. Knowing that voters only start to hear a message when politicians are sick to death of hearing themselves repeat it for the squillionth time he has stuck relentlessly to four big themes: Scrap the carbon tax; Stop the boats (via which illegal immigrants enter Australia); Cut taxes; and, more recently, Build new roads.