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Confounding elections

Nick Bryant | 09:30 UK time, Wednesday, 31 October 2007

I have a happy habit of covering bizarre and often confounding elections. One of the more recent involved elephants delivering the ballot boxes, and a victor who not only did not expect to win, but had no great desire to do so.

I still bear the scars of India 2004 to boot - the tiniest of bald patches. For in celebration at Sonia Gandhi’s unexpected victory, supporters set off a volley of firecrackers, one of which briefly ignited my bouffant.

Then there was the Afghanistan presidential election later that year, where most of the main presidential candidates boycotted the poll by lunchtime on Election Day. They did so in protest at the delible properties of the supposedly indelible ink brought in to prevent electoral fraud.

And what of those pesky pregnant chads from Campaign 2000 in America, the limp and dangly fragments of paper which helped make election night drag on for a month.

For me, though, this election most resembles Britain in 1997. There are the distinct similarities, of course, between Tony Blair and Kevin Rudd: the fiscal conservatism, the muscular Christianity, the promise of generational change, the penchant for vapid slogans (for ‘New Labour’ read ‘New Leadership,’ Rudd’s variant), the policies tailored for Middle Britain/Australia, the courtship of Rupert Murdoch and his stable of opinion-forming newspapers, and even the presence of a careerist wife whom the press appears keen to target.

John Howard and John MajorTo my mind, there are similarities, as well, between the then British Prime Minister John Major and John Howard, which go beyond their love of cricket. The village green, the cosy local pub and the steepled church. Substitute cold beer for warm, and Mr. Howard would paint much the same similarly nostalgic picture of Australia that Mr Major did of Britain. Both politicians seem to prefer things as they were rather than as they are. Both might be described as status quo leaders.

Not only is there a palpable mood for change across Australia, as there was in the dying days of John Major’s premiership in Britain, but a strong sense that it does not require any great risk, especially when it comes to the management of the economy.

In many ways, this should be a classic ‘feel good’ election. With unemployment at a 33-year low, and the stock market at record highs, the strength of the economy would normally be enough to win the government another term in office. But five hikes in interest rates since the 2004 election have undercut the government’s economic message.

John Howard and his Treasurer Peter Costello face another problem. Because of the resources boom, which has been powered by the rise of energy–hungry China and India, many Australians have come to believe that the growing economy has an in-built momentum all of its own - that it is providential and almost preordained.

Worse still for the government, at the very moment when Mssrs Howard and Costello desperately need to take credit for the success of the economy they have scored something of an own goal. By reminding voters that the interest rate hikes were decided by the Reserve Bank of Australia, an autonomous central bank, rather than the Treasury, it has reinforced the impression that much of the running of the economy lies beyond the realm of government.

By kicking off his campaign with the promise of massive A$34 billion tax cuts, Mr. Howard managed to dent Labor’s lead in the polls. But Mr Rudd’s response, to promise $A31 billion cuts himself, helped reopen the election-winning gap, even if it did risk the charge of political plagiarism.

It also enabled Mr. Rudd to credibly argue during the first (and probably only) televised debate that he is an ‘economic conservative’. Tony Blair made a similar case ten years ago, and it helped win his resurgent Labour Party not just a victory but a landslide.

John Howard, a political escapologist’s political escapologist if ever there was one, may yet mount a comeback. If that happens, this blog will chart it day by day, and its author will have just covered his most confounding election to date.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 07:37 PM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Shack wrote:

A very good summary. As an Oz-expat in London I have been naturally folowing this election (although having just been booted from the electoral role i will not get a vote in Australia for the first time in 20 years)and did not spot the paralells with UK '97 (which incidentally was the first UK General Election I got to vote in.)

The compulsory voting and preference system in Australia make for a different style of election (no need to motivate them to go to the polls) and in the past decade appeals to racism and ignorance have played a greater part in the result (we have given the world the term "dog-whistling" to describe it.) Sadly, my experience of voting and following elections in the 2 countries is that my compatriots are far more gullible in responding to such influences than the British electorate.

I look forawrd to following your coverage.

  • 2.
  • At 12:53 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • matthew wrote:

I ca appreciate your summary but feel that you are gauging Howard not quite correctly.
John Howard is career politician who has seem the ebb and flow of politics in Australia and has learnt to understand Australia's place in this world better than any other leader we have had.
He has also been one of the first conservative leaders to embrace labour policy and as opposition leader was prepared to support the dropping of tariffs and taxes which today can be seen as key turning points in the boom in Australia'a fortunes today.
He has also done very well in being a statesman for Australia and putting us in the forefront of international politics. Whether right or wrong (Iraq / Terrorism) he has shown to be able to show strength.

Kevin Rudd on the other hand has no track record, a late starter in politics he seems to not have any resistance to the ascension of leadership of the Labour party.
He has not been able to produce policies and has been very quick to lay blame on everybody but himself when gaffes have happened amongst his shadow cabinet.
So far we have seen lots of backflips and copying of Liberal party policy in an effort to show he will not change Australia's direction from its current steady and successful course.
From a leadership position Kevin Rudd looks weak as a leader and this is starting to be reflected in general opinion of the people (radio / television feedback). from his man child look to his penchant of pointing fiongers of blame he does not feel like the best man to be the leader of Australia.....

  • 3.
  • At 01:55 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Ian Pavey wrote:

Yes, good comments Nick.

I emigrated to Perth in 1980 and take a keen interest in elections both here and in the UK. You're spot on about Rudd and comparisons with Blair. He's doubtless immensely intelligent and performed brilliantly as shadow foreign minister. He has, however, alienated some sections of the Australian Labor Party by putting expedience ahead of principle. One example was expelling firebrand union heavy Joe McDonald for what appears to be a weak excuse. Time will tell if Rudd suffers the same kind of disillusionment that afflicted Blair, particularly in his later years.

What is very apparent though, is that the electorate is looking for a change from Howard, a man they never REALLY loved. What the Liberals (read Conservatives with a different name) don't get is that their obsession with "protect the economy at any cost" doesn't resonate with the punters anymore. Even the Lib's slogan "Go for Growth" is actually a big turn-off. The electorate is looking for something extra, something that can't be counted on a balance sheet. Issues like leisure time, work/family balance, fairness and the environment are now front and centre, as people realise that the extra dollars in their wage packets have dismally failed to fulfil promises of endless joy.

Maybe it's even a form of spirituality, whether religion-based or not. Either way, it will affect this election outcome.

  • 4.
  • At 02:16 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • babette wrote:

Interesting review and I enjoyed the comment about Rudd's plagiarism. Will you review the minor parties and our exciting preferential voting system.

  • 5.
  • At 02:20 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • David Clay wrote:

If there was an ER after RUDD ie RUDDER then there might be an independant course taken by the ALP instead of being towed along by the Coalition. Following all the way with no new ideas and fiddling round the edges of the Coalition policies.

  • 6.
  • At 02:49 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Ross wrote:

One of the key sub texts of the Australian election is the Prime Minister’s own seat of Bennelong, a now marginal seat with a large Asian population.

Mr. Howard appears to be the quintessential political chameleon but one must wonder whether he regrets his comments of the last decade that “Australia risks being overrun by Asians” or whether he embraces his many constituents from Asia sincerely?

To me Howard is a PM for the executive suite. The full employment he boasts of is based on headline unemployment while underemployment of time and skills combined with a mean and intimidating welfare system runs at an estimated 10 to 12 percent. No wonder that under Howard the share of the economy wasted on wages falls consistently while the executive elites’ extraordinary levels of conspicuous consumption make the gorge rise.

As a voter in Bennelong, I shall switch my vote to the opposition this time, and hope to consign Howard to the history books at the earliest opportunity.

  • 7.
  • At 03:01 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Graham Williamson wrote:

What I particularly deplore during Australian elections is the pandering to the lowest common denominator and treating us all as though we are year 9 students.
Both Howard and Rudd have failed to be honest with voters regarding Kyoto, have failed to explain why interest rates have little to do with government policy and failed to tell us why the backgrounds (union membership or legal training) of our members of parliament matter.
They continue to throw our dollars at pet projects that they think we want and fail to engage us in intelligent dialog - witness the Howard/Rudd debate debacle in which the use of the "worm" garnered a factor of 10 times more coverage than did the debate content.
Former Chief Justice Sir Gerard Brennan said it best in his criticism of both Howard and Rudd in their positions on the death penalty in Indonesia "Ultimately, political rhetoric about the rule of law may be exposed to be as genuine as the the electoral kissing of babies." I'd lump most of what they say over the next few weeks in the same basket.

  • 8.
  • At 04:01 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Matt wrote:

I look forward to your observations as the election draws to its conclusion. As an Australian currently living in Sydney I have also noticed a 'mood' for change throughout the community. I have found that Australians are asking for more from there prospective leaders than "economic prowess". Issues regarding the Environment, Industrial Relations and our Foreign Policy in Iraq have all stuck out as key differences between the Parties and Labor appears to be offering not only a clear alternative but a better future for a society looking forward rather than at the highlights of the past 10 years of Conservative Liberal Policy.

  • 9.
  • At 04:14 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Graham wrote:

Great! Looking forward to some more in-depth, BBC quality coverage of the election here. As a UK expat in Sydney, I'm a bit disappointed with the sensationalist, tabloid-style media in Australia...

  • 10.
  • At 04:43 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Stuart wrote:

I believe that swinging voters voting ALP, Coalition voters now voting ALP and moderate ALP voters should carefully consider what they are really voting for. What they see may not be what they get.

The militant left of the ALP are all ex union activists who have spent twelve frustrating years in opposition, but militant left wing rarely win an election in their own right. I believe they will go with Rudd at least until they (possibly) win the next election and then, after a reasonable period, say three months, vote him out at a caucus meeting as leader/PM and replace him with one of their own, similar to the LCC when Ken Livingstone came to power.

Voting for Rudd in the hope that his moderate style will lead the electorate through a peaceful three/six/nine years may well prove to be false hope, three/six/nine months may be more likely.

  • 11.
  • At 04:45 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • C. Crosby wrote:

John Howard is all for business, not the workers. When he says "It's good for business" I know he means the environment and the employees be damned. The reality of his high employment rate is a smoke and mirrors trick. People who work 15 hours a week are included in the employment figures and have produced an undesirably large "working poor" population. His Australian Workplace Agreements law is a joke on the majority of unprofessional workers who don't have the confidence or skills to negotiate a proper living wage and conditions. There is a TV ad showing an AWA representative auditing each contract. There is no mention of how many auditors there are to administer them. It takes several weeks to get a response from the office. During John Howards term/s the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. That's just one issue. Go John.

  • 12.
  • At 05:35 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Shadowcat wrote:

Yes, a nice overview of the story so far. But I think the main thing to say about the Rudd campaign has been the "small target" strategy. i.e. limit the campaign to motherhood statements about looking after pensioners and funding hospitals and don't say a word about ideology (other than the endlessly repeated mantra, "I'm an economic conservative"). It worked a treat for John Howard in 1996, and it appears to be working just as well for Kevin Rudd in this campaign. It is interesting that nobody on the left, such as it is, is criticising this strategy, perhaps because after 11 years the main priority is simply to get rid of the Howard government. Labor's "true believers"- the party faithful who still think Labor should stand for social justice, will make their judgements once the party has been back in power for a year or two.
By the way, interesting also that the minor parties are not doing too well in this campaign, and appear likely to take a beating. Apparently this is what happens when the electorate is in the mood for a major change.

  • 13.
  • At 05:52 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Cary wrote:

I agree with the above analysis. Labor is desperate to win after the disastrous '96 defeat and is prepared to mirror themselves to the Lib/Nat coalition to get the middle ground - same thing Blair did in '97 so it seems. The Right faction of the Labor Party now dominates and the more socialistic Left (or Social Democratic) have been effectively marginalised.

I've always voted Labor, but personally I'm switching my vote to the Greens, as they seem to be the only party that has policies of their own. With preferences, Labor will still get my vote though. Anything to get the Coalition rabble out!

  • 14.
  • At 06:18 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Alastair wrote:

As a Scot (and a bit of a political anorak) currently living in Sydney, it's certainly interesting being bombarded by election news for an election that has little impact on me!

Having said that, I've already come to the conclusion that Australian elections, and politics in general, are a lot more entertaining than in the UK, whether it be the controversy surrounding 'the worm', the cock-ups of the Health minister or indeed waiting to find out how the PM's walk is going to be hijacked each morning.

I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say over the next three weeks, especially given that I'll probably learn more from you and the BBC than the whole of the awful Australian news media combined!

  • 15.
  • At 08:03 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Ram wrote:

What about that yucky ear wax chewing incident. Is it having any effect on the ratings? The very thought makes me shudder. How would the guy get any votes?

  • 16.
  • At 08:46 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Peter Kemp wrote:

A "good summary" report from me also Nick but I'd take small issue with:

By kicking off his campaign with the promise of massive $A34 billion tax cuts, Mr. Howard managed to dent Labor’s lead in the polls.

The polls have been at 56/46% (two party preferred, I'll leave that for Nick to explain for first past the post UKers) average for the last 9 months. All the extremes of 60/40 at the upper end or 53/47 at the lower are outliers ie statistical noise. The margin of error at 2.5%-3% explains that statistical noise.

Howard is finished, for similar reasons to John Major's loss. Unlike Major he will take it personally and badly (heh heh)

For interested Aussies, Antony Green has a spiffy (ABC site) election calculator where you can dial up swings on a national or state by state basis and get seat results, here:

http://www.abc.net.au/elections/federal/2007/calculator/

A popular psephological blog here [apart from Nick's :-)]:

http://www.pollbludger.com/

My prediction is a 55/45% landslide resulting in 92 seats to Labor and 56 to the coalition LNP.

  • 17.
  • At 08:57 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Frank wrote:

I keep wondering when Howard will pull the rabbit out of the hat, or what it will be this time. I didn't vote for him but that guys a political survivor.

I can't help get the feeling that Rudd is going to win unless something goes wrong... no matter how strong a fighter Howard is I think he needs Rudd to screw up in order to have a chance at *another* term in office.

  • 18.
  • At 09:08 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Anthony wrote:

Great to get a 'take' on the Australian elections from an "outsider". As an Australian who has lived in England under Blair's tenure, the reference between Opposition Leader Rudd and former PM Blair is a fairly valid one. Over-riding the opposition leader, however, appears a weariness about the Government's approach: far too often it has been caught out being short with the thruth; dismissive of non-economic issues as if they are somehow optional in a modern advanced society; an international outcast over climate change, and resorting to rather bizarre scare and fear campaigns (the latest being fear of labour unions domination, albeit at a time when just 15% of the workforce is actually unionised). I suspect the apparent zeal of Tony Blair's "special relationship" with the United States will not be a characteristic of any Rudd government. 3 weeks down in the election; 3 to go.

  • 19.
  • At 09:38 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Defrag wrote:

As a disenfranchised ex-pat living in Berlin, I too am keenly following this election. Before his rein as Prime Minister, Howard famously said he would need to be ‘Lazarus with a triple-bypass’ to lead the Liberal party again – in short he is a political survivor and not to be underestimated. His ability to salvage victory from seemingly certain defeat is evidenced by the Tampa / Children overboard election of 2001. For most of the first half of that year he was politically ‘on the nose’ and it took a combination of a tough anti-asylum seeker stance (with many well documented ‘untruths’) and September 11 to revive him.

Having said that I am a firm believer in the ‘slippery slope’ theory of political longevity – that once you crest the top of the hill and start heading down, it is fiendishly difficult (2001 shows it is possible though) to overcome this momentum.

So rather than making a comparison with the UK in 1997, we might yet see a repeat of Paul Keating’s victory in the ‘unwinnable’ election of 1993.

  • 20.
  • At 09:44 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Defrag wrote:

Peter - you allude to the difference between between the UK / Aus electoral systems (two party preferred v. first past the post), this is an important point...because it could help save Howard.

Labor might win 51 per cent, just as Kim Beazley did in 1998 and Andrew Peacock did in 1990, but lose in the marginal seats.

When you look at the election from the bottom up rather than the top down, by examining individual seats within Labor’s range, there are several, such as Malcolm Turnbull’s Sydney seat of Wentworth and a couple of the seats in Western Australia, that look difficult for Labor to win. If Labor manages to lose three or four seats it is not likely to win overall.

  • 21.
  • At 09:45 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Faustino wrote:

While Kevin Rudd is sometimes likened to Tony Blair, he's more akin to Gordon Brown, from Matthew Parris's comments on Brown in The Times. Parris writes "Well you know, don't you, how people who don't want to decide but don't want to look indecisive square the circle? They go for process rather than substance: “shake-ups”, consultations, very long-term goals and — time and again — “reforms” that affect the way decisions are taken, rather than the decisions themselves. So watch out for what will be called bold constitutional changes next week, endless stuff about procedure, and timescales with figures like 2025 in them. Faffing about."

Sounds a perfect description of "me-too" Kevin, who's echoed Howard's policies while releasing few substantial, sensible initiatives, and who proposes more than 100 new committees and reviews as PM. I worked with Rudd in the Queensland Cabinet Office, where his influence was a major factor in the subsequent long-term dominance of process over good, evidence-based, public interest policy in the Queensland government and public "service".

Howard has been a disappointment - he could have done much better - but I fear that an ALP government will be more "back to the future" and pro-vested interests than innovative.

  • 22.
  • At 10:07 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Andy wrote:

Afghanistan? Delible ink? Was this ink perchance supplied by the U.S.A.?

Each election in Australia has had a very definite fear based theme since Howard came into power.

We have had children overboard, (a blatant lie), greater interest rate rises under Labor, (another blatant lie)and W.M.D.s (yet another blatant lie).

The shame of this is not that a politician is lying (which would make breathing shameful for the rest of us). The shame is that these blatant lies make Australians seem to be so gullible as to be bordering on being mental retarded.

  • 23.
  • At 10:18 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Grant wrote:

The comments from Matthew (12:53) might (may?) have been written by Howard himself. Rest assured that a large majority of Australians would consign this sycophantic post to the drivel bin.

  • 24.
  • At 10:20 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Kerryn wrote:

I also look forward to your analysis and it's great to see an outsider taking an interest in Australian politics. I live in Ireland and have just applied for my postal vote. Even though I don't have to vote as I'm overseas, I think this election is a very important one and I hope my vote will make a difference.

  • 25.
  • At 11:23 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • David Odgers wrote:

As another expat bystander here in Aus. I think your article is on the money as are the majority of posts.
From what I can tell, the electorate made up it's mind when Rudd became ALP leader. There was a pent up desire to cut down the tall poppy Liberals who believe economy is everything and civil rights/climate change etc are irrelevant. The polls have been consistent ever since. Labor's great weakness is the dearth of talent/experience on its front bench but it seems Costello, Downer and Abbott are so odious to the man in the street that Howard can't even use this as a weapon. I thought the campaign might be intersting but it seems it is a march to an inevitable landslide and the interest is in how many Liberals will sink with the ship.
I get the sense that Rudd will drag the ALP into the 21st century and cross his fingers that the team around him can step up. Otherwise, this will be Labor's last term for another couple of decades

  • 26.
  • At 11:35 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Kai of the Brunnen-G wrote:

You're forgetting Bob Brown and the Greens, the third party. While they won't win power, they are steadily getting more popular and could pick up enough votes to hold the balance of power in the senate. The Greens generally present the only alternative viewpoint, as both of the main parties try to copy each other.

Traditional environmentalist Labor party member Peter Garret had turned his back on green issues, which has provoked a backlash against him by many environmentalists and green supporters. Both main parties support the Tasmanian Pulp Mill, which could be an issue in marginal seats.

  • 27.
  • At 01:36 PM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Sammy L wrote:

your comments are not quite balanced.It maybe true the commodity boom has helped the Howard Government but you need good managers to deliver the goods. As an analogy,let say you have a Ferrari car and you have one driver who is experienced and another who is young and inexperienced. Do you think the inexperienced driver will drive better than the experienced driver??? Rudd is the equivalent to the inexperience driver.
The bunch of ex-unionists tugging the coat tails of Rudd unfortunately have an agenda once the Labor Party wins power. The knives will be drawn and you will see a death blow to Rudd and a leftist unionist will take over. That's the fear of a Rudd win in the election. The unionists are ruthless in their actions when it comes to power grabbing. Don't think the red-head Gillard is a softie. There is still some socialistic blood in her system and it won't go away.
Howard and Costello have made some mistakes but they have done more good than bad in their economic management of the country. For a large country with a small population Howard and Costello has lifted Australia to the centre stage of world affairs. The pair managed to steer Australia from the Asian meltdown in the late 90s and escaped recession. As a result Australia came through unscath and that is why our economy is so strong and vibrant. You cannot just put that to luck or the resource boom.
If Rudd wins Government I dare not think what Australia will be when Federal and all State Governments are run by the Labor Party. It will be a real PARTY with rising wages, more jobs for the union boys and nothing will stop them from milking the 'fat cow' raised by the Coalition Government.
Howard is a good Captain and under his wings he has many capable Lieutenants but you cannot say the same for Rudd. Rudd has no policies. It is like a ship without a rudder which will ultimately be lost at sea.

  • 28.
  • At 01:45 PM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Gareth ap Sion wrote:

Hi folks1
Welshman in the 'beautiful city on the bay' Melbourne.
Howard has been around here for the last few days and has been thoroughly
unconvincing, tired looking and jaded.
However it must be taken into account that Victoria is an ALP stronghold and the powerbase of the 'socialist left' faction (Julia Gillard)and the Union movement.
I too was besotted by an Aussie lass, 13 years later, here i am aged 51 with two sons aged 7 and 5!
Some of Keating's tirades are wonderful reading, although i'm not sure they're too helpful during the current campaign LOL! great stuff none the less!
Come to Melbourne Nick, it's a totally different feeling to Sydney??
Saturday 10th of november, Melbourne Victory V Sydney FC at Telstra dome,
52,000 last year and a wonderful opportunity to gauge political feelings whilst taking in the Oz version of the 'old firm' game!
an eye opener for sure!
Regards,
Gareth.

  • 29.
  • At 01:59 PM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Graham wrote:

The idea that Rudd is endlessly copying Howard shouldn't be taken too seriously, it's just a right wing talking point.

So far in the election both parties have been shamelessly plundering each others policies. Labor mostly taking on Liberal economic policies but with a twist, and the Liberals taking on Labor social policies with their own twist.

Witness Howard's recent conversion to "symbolic reconciliation" with Aborigines, and also his sudden and dubious epiphany over Global Warming.

However, I can't see that any of this frantic pork barreling has affected the voting intentions of the electorate as yet, particularly since all the polls have been remarkably consistent for nearly a year.

  • 30.
  • At 02:33 PM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Steve Sims wrote:

Great to see the Beeb getting involved - there is a distinct lack of balance and depth in the Australian mainstream media, with a few notable exceptions.

It's an interesting election, with an unofficial campaign running all year. The political blogs such as The Poll Bludger and Possums Pollytics are much more evident this time around - while there is much sheer partisan nonsense in the blogosphere, it's also where the most insightful commentary can be found.

There are many reasons why it's time for a change of government - broken promises, lack of accountability, Iraq, rising cost of housing, and the running down of services and infrastructure - but the biggest issue is undoubtedly the extreme industrial relations regime of WorkChoices.

I'm conservatively tipping Labor 80 seats, Liberal-National coalition 68 seats, and 2 independents - but a landslide to Labor would not surprise.

  • 31.
  • At 12:08 AM on 02 Nov 2007,
  • Chris Curtis wrote:

Sammy L (27),

The union scare campaign isn’t biting. Only 20 per cent of workers are in unions, and most people are not afraid of them and remember that the unions gave us the eight-hour day (in 1856 in Victoria), long service leave, the world’s second highest minimum wage ($13.47 an hour), etc.

Labor has won the last 21 consecutive state and territory elections, being elected and re-elected at least once in every state and territory. As a Victorian, I see just about every day how much better off we are under the Labor government than we were under the previous Liberal one. I just have to take the dog for a walk past the brand new Country Fire Authority station, the brand new primary school, with its prep to year 2 classes capped at 21 pupils each, and the brand new police station. Wall-to-wall Labor is not a problem because Australia has a Senate that is hardly ever controlled by the government and which Labor cannot win control of this time. No legislation can be passed without the agreement of the Senate, which is elected by proportional representation and thus represents minor parties. Every state Labor government other than Queensland’s has an Upper House that it does not control.

Kevin Rudd has been releasing policies all year – a national curriculum, massive investment in broadband, repeal of the anti-worker WorknotcalledChoicesanymore, etc.

  • 32.
  • At 01:14 AM on 02 Nov 2007,
  • Shadowcat wrote:

Interesting to read that the Liberals' fear campaign still manages to strike a chord with a minority of readers. The hyperbole about ruthless leftist union thugs belongs to another century- if that. It is one of the ironies of Australian union politics that it was the Hawke-Keating Labor government that began the process of pacifying and ultimately neutralising the power of militant unions in this country. Another irony is that Howard's attempt to expunge the role of the unions as protectors of workers rights was so ill-judged and intemperate that it created a new groundswell of support for them.

  • 33.
  • At 04:26 AM on 02 Nov 2007,
  • Aussie Joe wrote:

I am quite surprised to read some of the comments in this listing concerning Australian voters and their attitude to the two political leaders. One would believe the Aussie opinion is that both leaders are neck and neck, when the truth is totally opposite. Labor looks to win with a majority never seen before in Australian politics. And here is why. For the first time since the ALP/DLP split of the 1950, Labor has a committed Christian as their leader, and all factions within Labor are now united. John Howard tried to fool Aussies into believing he was a Christian, but too many times did he deny the very elected Christian representative, Faulding's, opinion in parliament over the past three years. Secondly the Union has had very little power in the work force since Labor PM's Hawke and Keating reduced their power 11 or more years ago.
So why are there so many posters indicating that there is an even tussle? Most are ex Brits that can't handle the thought that Australia will become an independent nation under Rudd. This unfounded fear has seen us 'import' almost 1 million Brits to our shore over a 12 year period, directly and indirectly, as a means of preventing us being a nation in our own right. Is this what the British people want for their ex colony? Don't be fooled, read Australian papers and you'll find out what Aussies really think of the two proposed offerings for PM.

  • 34.
  • At 11:41 PM on 02 Nov 2007,
  • rosemary wrote:

Firstly, I've enjoyed the blog and the replies

I would suggest 3 issues to ponder, Nick, which make comparisons to UK elections rather fragile

1. Voting is compulsory in Aiustralia. None of this 40% of the electorate too slack to find the polling booths/too busy to vote/more interesting things on the TV/it's raining too much to go out, so why bother tuning in to an election
All Australians vote. And will continue to vote, and voted before ..and the time before..and before and..This is a more experienced sceptical electorate accustomed to steering their way through the 6 weeks of pre election follies, sensational journalism, lies, ear wax, temper outbursts by late Health Ministers,
Compulsory voting changes the election process, both for the electorate and the pollies

2. Voting is preferential. This gives the electorate more choices than just 'one vote'.Voting for minor parties can influence a major party

3. It's an immigrant society, 23% as compared to the less than 10% in the UK. There are considerable numbers of people in Australia who have arrived from countries which were not democracies, or very different political systems. In political terms this is a more worldly electorate than in the UK

Lastly, in blogs about Australia, I would suggest you don't mention Winston Churchill

  • 35.
  • At 08:49 AM on 03 Nov 2007,
  • jamie wrote:

Hey Nick,
If
A palpable mood for chnage across Australia? i don't see it champ. You've clearly not looked at the demographics of the nation - the chances of a change of govt are slim. Of course the Liberals will loose seats but on the night the changes of a dead heat or a majority of one seat either way are high. You heard it here first. The polling indicates a majority labor support - this was the case in 2004 but the Liberals still won. Like the Labour party in the UK, the Liberals have a major advantage without a PR system. A feeling for change in Brisbane where i am just isn't there. In the UK in 2007, people hated the Tories. That's not the case here in 2007. There's no comparison between the two elections. Most likely outcome, Liberals stay in power with a maj of 1 or 2. Check it out for yourselves by looking at each seat.

  • 36.
  • At 11:20 AM on 03 Nov 2007,
  • Raymond Sammut wrote:

I am compelled to take issue with Anthony's statement (09:08 AM on 01 Nov 2007) that the Liberal Party is:

"... resorting to rather bizarre scare and fear campaigns (the latest being fear of labour unions domination, albeit at a time when just 15% of the workforce is actually unionised)".

There is an ambiguity here that beckons to be clarified. Back in the eighties, under Robert Hawke as prime minister, membership was about 50%. I myself was a voluntary member of a union then. But since then, under John Howard as prime minister for several years now, this membership has more than halved. I would have expected that under Howard, the need of workers to join a union would have increased. But this is clearly not the case. Workers kept deserting their unions in droves. The crux is: why is it so. Contrary to Anthony's, my interpretation would be this. While workers have been disillusioned by their union leaders, at the same time, many of these ex-leaders are now fronting up and asking the same workers to let them have a ministerial portfolio. It is precisely this obstinacy that I find to be most confounding and bizarre, although not frightening.

  • 37.
  • At 12:54 PM on 04 Nov 2007,
  • Chris Lundberg wrote:

Aussie Joe (33),

I think that it's ludicrous to accuse the 1 million Brits who've come to our shores to have been taken in thus so preventing Australia from becoming a Republic.

There is no evidence to suggest that British people are more or less likely to be opposed to a Republic.

I'm an Anglo-Aussie, who happens to think that the monarchy is great for the UK but not great for Australia.

And you shouldn't forget that in the UK itself 30-40% of Brits think that the United Kingdom sould abolish the monarchy. If the Howard government has been importing Brits on the basis of preventing change, how do they know they've imported the right people!

There is also no definate proposal that Rudd would take on the monarchists. Certainly not in a 1st term. He'd probably use the issue as a 2nd or 3rd term vote winner, but alot can happen between now and then.

  • 38.
  • At 09:23 PM on 04 Nov 2007,
  • Charles Righyni wrote:

I can't understand why an Australian federal election commands the BBC's time and money to install a correspondant in Sydney to cover it.

The only thing that can be guaranteed is that the next will be as boreing as the last. So much so that compulsory voting is in place to ensure that we do our civic duty.

Alistaire Cooke once commented that just before a presedential election he saw a bumper sticker which read "MAKE YOUR POLITICIANS WORK. DON'T RE-ELCT THEM. Sound advice but there is a proble. Most Federal pollies or wannabes are so mentally challenged as to be totally un suitable for the job.

I take a small crumb of comfort from the fact that a recent poll indicates that John Howard will loose his seat. How sweet is that?

  • 39.
  • At 09:05 PM on 21 Feb 2008,
  • Ash wrote:

what ever happened to Micahel Peshard?

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