6 Sep 2013

ALP faces defeat in Australia

12:56 pm on 6 September 2013

Australia goes to the polls on Saturday and the Labor government faces a crushing defeat.

The party's move to restore Kevin Rudd as leader appears to have done little to bolster Labor's chances, as opinion polls continue to show it lagging well behind the opposition Coalition.

Radio New Zealand's political editor says the party looks set to lose seats across the country.

Mr Rudd has tried to argue Labor got Australia successfully through the global financial crisis and made important policy changes.

But these achievements were overshadowed by the infighting between him and former prime minister Julia Gillard after she replaced him in June 2010.

The Coalition is proposing to redirect $A4.5 billion from the foreign aid budget to pay for infrastructure.

The opposition on Thursday revealed its plan for spending and cuts. It will spend almost $A5 billion extra in the next four years on infrastructure projects. Most of that money would otherwise have been spent on foreign aid.

The BBC reports the announcement means the opposition has now set out total cuts of $A42 billion.

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey said the Coalition's budget would improve the budget bottom line by $A6 billion and also reduce government debt by $A16 billion by June 2017.

The Coalition says it will be able to save another $A1 billion with its pledges to turn back asylum-seekers trying to make their way to Australia via Indonesia.

The latest Galaxy Poll conducted for The Daily Telegraph shows Labor's primary vote is 35%, compared to the Coalition's on 45%.

AAP reports the position is unchanged from the last poll taken between 28- 29 August.

On a two-party-preferred basis, Labor is on 47%, while the coalition is on 53%.

Galaxy polled 1503 voters between 2-4 September.

A black-out on all radio and TV election advertising came into effect at midnight on Wednesday.

Comment

Radio New Zealand's political editor says Labor's almost certain defeat on Saturday began with its victory in 2007.

In that election, the party ran a presidential campaign based around Kevin Rudd's leadership. It asked voters to vote for Kevin Rudd, not the party.

Mr Rudd was promoted as the leader of the future compared with the then-Coalition Prime Minister, John Howard, the leader of the past.

It was too good to last and soon Mr Rudd's leadership style began to grate with his Cabinet colleagues.

Finally just a month or two before the 2007 election they acted and, without warning, dumped Mr Rudd in favour of his deputy Julia Gillard.

Labour insiders now say the decision to dump Mr Rudd, even though later many of his colleagues were to describe him as dysfunctional, was a mistake.

There is a simple lesson for all political parties in the mess the Australian Labor Party finds itself in: if a party cannot run itself and is seen to be divided, voters will not believe it is capable of running the country.

Labor will lose seats across Australia, particularly around Brisbane and in Western Sydney. In a worst case scenario it might have as few as 50 seats in the 150-seat Parliament.

The worry for the Coalition is not what will happen in the Parliament but what will happen in the 76-seat upper house, the Senate.

At the moment the Green Party holds the balance of power in the Senate and Mr Abbott is urging voters to give the Coalition a majority there, too, so it can carry through with its policies.

Its plan to scrap the carbon tax could be stymied, for example, if the Greens retain the balance of power in the Senate.

Given the likely swing to the Coalition, though, the Coalition is almost certain it will also win control of the Senate, possibly with the support of some independent Senators.

Then Labor will face probably a worse result than when Paul Keating was dumped from office in 1996. That loss was followed by 11 years of a Coalition government under John Howard.

Labor's worst fear is that Tony Abbott will repeat Mr Howard's feat.