Most of you would know that little would make me less happy than seeing Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, but that is my prediction for the upcoming election. Rudd's support will help and maybe Labor has a rabbit still left to pull out of the hat, but I don't think they will get over the line. The Labor Party nominated three main issues as to why they felt the Rudd Government had gone off track: climate change, refugees and the mining tax. These were the issues Gillard said she would seek to fix before seeking a mandate from the people to move forward into a new term. Had she done this, I believe most people may well have given Gillard a chance. As she has failed to do this, most people are getting frustrated with her. Normally, Australians give their Governments a second chance, a second term to prove themselves. However, Gillard is seen as not really being an incumbent Prime Minister. They don't feel that they need to demonstrate that sort of loyalty because she's not the Prime Minister they voted for. What's more they're angry at her for stripping them of their democratic power by taking out the Prime Minister they voted for. And they did vote for him. It was called the Kevin07 campaign and the Labor Party asked us to invest our loyalty in the Kevin07 phenomenon. I even contemplated joining the Party, even though I've never voted for them.
The Gillard Prime Ministership has failed to impress voters. On climate change, she has not changed anything. She still wants to delay the ETS til 2013. In fact, she even looks a little sillier than Rudd because of the guffaw-provoking Citizens' Assembly. We at least held out some hope that Rudd might change his mind and implement an ETS in 2011 or 2012, particularly if the Greens applied pressure.
Gillard's lurch to the right on refugee policy may have kept some conservative voters listening, but it has led to a severe bleeding to the Greens on the Left. Labor's primary vote is getting worryingly low and they are looking to be far too dependent on Greens preferences (which do not flow 100% to Labor). Meanwhile, the conservative voters have stopped listening as the Government has drowned in media reports about more boat arrivals. They now see Labor as incapable of delivering on the implied promise to stop the boats.
Gillard's mining tax has failed to impress many of those who hate the mining tax. There is no doubt that Rudd made a massive strategic error in taking this issue on this close to an election. But she has failed to convince people who value the mining industry that she won't send it bust and the issue is biting hard in crucial Queensland electorates, not to mention WA.
Other than that, it has nearly been a policy free zone for both parties. There seems to be only one point of difference and that's broadband. Labor clearly has a much better policy, probably because they actually understand the policy and they understand the fact that this actually will mean great advantages to our economy. Yet it should also be noted that this was a key part of Rudd's agenda and would have been delivered without a change in leadership. Can I also add that Rudd actually had a very good grasp of education issues, unlike Gillard and Abbott.
Rudd, on the other hand could have run on his record. Rather than repeating the Moving Forward mantra ad nauseum, Rudd would have opened the campaign with a speech fairly similar to the last one he made as Prime Minister: a list of substantial achievements delivered by his Government. The slogan could have been "Delivering For Australia" (or Australian working families). It would have been a triumphant opening speech and allowed him plenty of room to outline his vision for the next term (neither Gillard nor Abbott seem to have one of those). Rudd's one speech this campaign is the only speech we've heard from anyone that actually sounded Prime Ministerial. We also know that Rudd's debate with John Howard was considerably more empassioned than the lukewarm debate between Abbott and Gillard. Rudd has definitely not handled the media well in the last two years, but he loves a fight, and he does election campaigns well. For the record, I believe he would have won this year's election by a narrow margin, as most first term Governments do. The move away from Rudd in the polls was only soft support for Abbott. It was a protest, but most people I speak to say they would have come back to Rudd come election day (I was the same).
All this unfortunately is likely to lead to a Government led by Tony Abbott. He's managed to make people forget all the things he did in Government, like cutting pensions, kicking people off disability pensions, introducing Work for the Dole, cutting Medicare, making racist comments about indigenous affairs, blocking the contraceptive RU486, attempting to cut abortion funding and cutting hospital funding.
But the Labor Government does deserve another term. The Labor Cabinet boasts some remarkably talented Ministers like Wong, Plibersek, Bowen, Roxon, Shorten and Combet. They have delivered on core Labor values:
• paid parental leave,• widespread access to early childhood education,• the end of WorkChoices,• a more fair Medicare levy,• a 50% increase in Health funding• the First Home Owner's Boost• a significant increase in funding to indigenous health• establishing a Murray Darling Basin authority• removal of some middle class welfare including means testing the baby bonus,• the increase in GP and nursing training places• improved funding to public housing and disability services,• ending the Pacific Solution and placing a two week limit on refugee detention,• removing multiple pieces of legislation discriminating against same sex couples• withdrawing troops from Iraq• computers in schools and tax refunds for people buying computers• the rise in full time employment• a 20% renewable energy target,• and an end to Temporary Protection Visas
If by chance I am wrong, and I hope I am, I think that the people in the Labor Ministry have the potential to deliver some excellent things for Australia similar to those they have delivered in their first term. It will be very sad if they do not have that opportunity. Unfortunately, I think the Labor faction leaders have misread the electorate because it is more important to them that they run the Party than it is that the Party runs the country.