With Australia’s national election one week away, a poll published Aug 31 in The Weekend Australian shows the Australian Labor Party (ALP) headed for a whopping national defeat similar to the Queensland state election of Mar 2012, when the Liberal National Party (LNP) won 78 out of 85 seats leaving Labor with a mere 7 seats.
Another poll by News Corp Australia shows current Federal Treasurer Chris Bowen and his predecessor Wayne Swan both at risk of losing their seats in Parliament. Mr. Swan was replaced as Treasurer June 26 when Julia Gillard was forced out as Prime Minister on a no confidence vote and succeeded by Kevin Rudd; who himself had been forced out in the same fashion by Ms. Gillard in 2010.
Wayne Swan was aligned with the Gillard faction of Labor that forced the ‘leadership spill’ in 2010 resulting in Mr. Rudd’s ouster and Dep. Prime Minister Julia Gillard becoming the first female Prime Minister of Australia. The events that led to her rise however still came as a shock to the Australian political elite and to the public in general, becoming infamous as ‘the knifing of Kevin Rudd’.
After 11 years of LNP government with John Howard as Prime Minister, Mr. Rudd brought Australian Labor back to national power in 2007 with promises of scrapping the Howard government’s ‘Work Choices’, making amends with and apologizing to Australia’s Aborigines for six decades of “Stolen Generations” and most importantly, signing the Kyoto Protocol on carbon emissions control and reduction.
Rudd’s undoing as Prime Minister in 2010 was due entirely to his Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) proposal, known as “Cap and Trade” in the US. Rudd’s and Labor’s polling numbers began to plummet as ETS looked more and more likely to pass into law. Though political experts still contend it was Rudd’s decision to shelve ETS that led to his sacking Labor, neither the facts nor the polls in 2010 bear that out at all.
It was not until Rudd shelved ETS that rumors began leaking out from Rudd’s cabinet members and US Ambassador Robert McCallum that Mr. Rudd was a control freak, micro-manager, obsessed with media cycles and given to fits of rage behind closed doors in a addition to making snap foreign policy decisions without consulting other nations affected or even his own foreign minister.
This unofficial campaign of mudslinging led to Rudd remaining well down in national polling lending support to the push by the ‘faceless men’ of Labor for the no confidence vote in Jun 2010 led by Dep. Prime Minister Julia Gillard who then was voted in as Rudd’s successor.
Gillard wisely held off from any firm commitment on ETS until after the Aug 2010 election; and vowed there would be no ‘carbon tax’ under her government. However, with ETS still looming like a guillotine over the Australian economy which had escaped the 2008 global financial crisis, election returns left a hung Parliament with each side four seats short of that needed to form a majority government.
Gillard finally forged an alliance with several independent and fringe party members of the House and formed a minority government in Sept 2010. In Feb 2011 Gillard resumed the push for ETS and though re-branded the Clean Energy Bill; it was in fact a carbon tax and viewed as a broken election promise.
Public polling immediately reflected voter disenchantment with what became known as ‘carbon pricing’. Union demonstrations and industrial protests soon followed. Since ‘carbon pricing’ went into effect in Jul 2012, various industries have greatly reduced workforces or closed altogether. American auto manufacturer Ford announced it was leaving Australia after having built automobiles there since the 1920’s.
Adding to Gillard’s woes were internal bickering among Labor factions, episodic dramas with Green Party and independent allies in Parliament, House Speaker Peter Slippers sex scandal, and never ending instigating by Kevin Rudd from the back benches; finally leading to the ‘knifing’ of Gillard in Jun 26 by Mr. Rudd after two previous leadership challenges by Rudd failed to remove her in Feb 2012 and Mar 2013.
Since returning to power, Prime Minister Rudd has largely rolled back ‘carbon pricing’ and put a ‘band-aid’ on Australia’s illegal immigration problem by making a deal with the government of Papua New Guinea to accommodate people arriving illegally via boat until they can be processed.
Though Mr. Rudd did gain a bump in public polling at the outset of his return, that has now evaporated and a poll has even shown Rudd at serious risk of losing his own seat of Griffiths in Queensland State. An indication Rudd takes the possibility seriously is his recent announcement to relocate the main Australian naval base to Queensland if his government is reelected.
Both Mr. Rudd and his opponent, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott publicly profess that the final vote will be a close call. However, the trend in local by-elections including the Queensland election of 2012 as been one route after another for Labor.
Mr. Rudd probably hopes to settle Labor’s ‘ship’ on an even keel so it doesn’t become a political Costa Concordia when it sinks. Mr. Abbott is likely underplaying his party’s chances to enhance its appearance as the underdog, which actually appeals to some voters. If the election is close, then no one will be surprised. But, if a disaster for Labor pans out as the polls seem to indicate then Mr. Abbott will be able to claim a powerful mandate from the people of Australia.
One factor likely to enhance a Labor disaster at the polls is Australia’s compulsory voting system because voters who might stay home dissatisfied with both main parties as happened in the 2008 and 2012 US Presidential elections, may likely vote for the Coalition candidate because they believe Labor is going to lose anyway and want to avoid a hung Parliament outcome like that which occurred in 2010.