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Your brief guide to the fast-approaching Australian General Election

By Tim Montgomerie

Before directing you to an interesting link or two here are six bullet headlines on where we are in the Australian election, due to take place on 21st August:

  1. Six months ago it was a foregone conclusion that Kevin Rudd would be re-elected as Australian Prime Minister...
  2. The conservative Liberal opposition then dumped its leader and chose instead Tony Abbott who has acted as a model Leader of the Opposition on climate change, immigration and tax*...
  3. Rudd's supertax on the mining industry threatened to pull the Labor party below the water and he was ousted as PM by his colleague Julia Gillard...
  4. The new Welsh-born PM bolted to the polls during a honeymoon when she ditched (or at least diluted) the most unpopular of Rudd's policies...
  5. But that honeymoon has turned sour and some polls now have the conservative opposition, led by the Liberals' Tony Abbott ahead...
  6. But the election betting markets still think Gillard and Labor will triumph but are much less sure than they were.

Gillard is hoping that Rudd might yet save her and Labor by campaigning in his native state of Queensland where key marginals may decide the election outcome. Saturday's reconciliation meeting between the two did not go well, however, if the pictures are anything to go by. The Age - and I love the words - suggested the two former colleagues might be "sharing a lemon salad"! But if lukewarm support from one predecessor wasn't bad enough Gillard faced the wrath of another former Labor leader, the hot-tempered Mark Latham. Latham confronted the Labor PM about complaints that allegedly had been made about him, by the Labor operation, to the TV channel that employed him to cover the campaign. In this scatchy YouTube of the confrontation he also suggests that Rudd is sabotaging her campaign:

Labour have looked disunited and complacent since Rudd was ousted. Their great hope says Paul Kelly in The Australian is that Tony Abbott is unelectable. Their campaign is certainly attempting to frighten voters about Abbott's plans and they have a much bigger war chest to win the final ten days of the campaign (much of it union-funded). This scalpel ad is typical:

Labor is wrong to think Abbott is unelectable, concludes Kelly, in the must-read article on this election. Labor has become too metropolitan, ignoring the drift of the Australian population to frontiers with different values:

"The progressive hostility to Abbott's leadership transmitted from inner Sydney and Melbourne is mocked by the steady shift in Australia's population to the pro-development, more conservative states of Queensland and Western Australia. This is reinforced by criticism of Labor's brand in NSW ignited by state government ineptitude. Last weekend's Newspoll shows Abbott beating Gillard in Queensland on the primary vote by a huge 48-36 per cent. This is a Labor debacle. On these figures Labor would lose a swag of seats in Queensland. The numbers, if not the seats, are duplicated in Western Australia. They mean the Gillard transition has failed in the big resource states and is faltering badly in NSW. It suggests the deeper problems that afflicted Rudd Labor also afflict Gillard Labor."

Gillard is beginning to understand this cultural aspect of the election and has consequently adopted tougher policies on immigration, ruled out same-sex partnerships and even praised John Howard. Interestingly former UK Health Secretary Alan Milburn is again assisting the Australian Labor party's campaign.

The Liberals meanwhile are running a pretty traditional campaign, warning that another Labor government will lead to more debt, more taxes and more waste:

Abbott has put tax cuts and immigration at the heart of his campaign but may have made one mistake in recent days. When he was behind in the polls he demanded a second leadership debate. Gillard refused but when the PM looked in trouble she switched position and offered a debate on the economy. This time, Abbott refused. He may regret that somewhat opportunistic decision if, closer to election, Labor's wall of attack ads has restored Gillard's lead.

* On Abbott's Leader of the Opposition skills see this earlier ConservativeInternational post and this from The Spectator Australia:

"In the short time since he became leader, Tony Abbott has lifted the Liberal party out of the torpor of despair and depression, saved the country from the suicidal emissions trading scheme, prosecuted a series of government scandals very effectively and forced the ALP to get rid of a prime minister. Not bad for six months’ work."


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