As Australia goes to the polls, Labor hope for a narrow win

On Saturday, after just three weeks in office, Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called a General Election. She has moved rapidly since deposing Kevin Rudd. Neutralising negatives on climate change, immigration and on the mining tax she has seen a turn-around in Labour’s fortunes in the polls. The most recent poll gives Labor a 10 point lead over the opposition – 55-45, with votes coming almost equally from the Tories and from the Greens.

This is a high-stakes election, there hasn’t been a one-term government in Australia since the Depression. The (extraordinarily short) three year term gives a virtually automatic re-election to governments. And Labor should be riding high – Australia hasn’t had a recession, the minerals boom continues and the government have done well on issues from health care reform through to the Apology to the ‘stolen generation’ of Aboriginal children. But, as Gillard has admitted, the government lost its way. Rudd called climate change the ‘greatest moral challenge of our time’, and the voters responded strongly to this. Unfortunately, the legislation stalled and rather than attack the Greens and the Liberals who would have blocked it in the Senate, Rudd took all the blame on himself.  The Labor Party fell in the polls and looked unelectable. That’s when the ruthless unsentimentality of Australian Labor kicked in.

And it’s a important election for British Labour. The sister party relationship with the ALP is the closest we have – it’s not just the shared language and the historic links. There’s a living, vital connection. The modernising of Australia led by Hawke and Keating in the 80s an early 90s gave a policy inspiration to New Labour and a friendly home for visitors. In turn when we were in office over the last 13 years many Australians have visited. In 2007 I was able to work on the Australian election and afterwards helped to facilitate links between Australian and British ministers.

To kick off coverage we’ve go two voices. Tom Cameron is an Australian special adviser who worked in Victoria Street before and during the General Election. Sue Regan was until recently Chief Executive of the Resolution Foundation.

John McTernan is guest editing Labour Uncut for the next ten days. He writes for The Scotsman and The Daily Telegraph.

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One Response to “As Australia goes to the polls, Labor hope for a narrow win”

  1. I’m not sure why winning support from the Greens is considered that impressive. The vast majority of Green voters would put Labour before the Liberals anyway, even before the environmental neanderthal that is Abbott got the leadership. And my understanding of the Australian system is that you have to rank every candidate, so taking votes off the Greens just affects a few urban constituencies where Labour would be very heavily favoured anyway.

    Are you essentially just saying that the Gillard surge is only half as big as it’s been reported to be?

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