PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd is heading towards an election victory.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s negative politics, which worked so effectively undermining Julia Gillard, will now come back to bite him.
Abbott wants the election now so that the Prime Minister does not have time to really sell the positive things that the Labor Government has achieved over the last two terms. The most important of these is fiscal management.
The Australian community may have been receptive to the negative messages about our first woman Prime Minister, who was hogtied to some extent by her gender, lack of religion, her marital and parental status, her own occasional bungles and, most significantly, being constantly internally white-anted by Rudd and his allies.
Rudd has none of this weight in his saddle bags. The Opposition’s negative politicking is now likely to backfire as he sells Labor as a fiscally responsible, middle-of-the-road government with clear plans for the future of the country.
The Standard and Poor’s triple-A credit rating that has now been released within months of an election is a godsend for the Prime Minister. It is not all great news – but it is enough to ensure that Australians see the Labor Government as a good financial manager. Financial management has been one of the major reasons for a swing to conservative governments.
Australia is one of only eight countries to retain a triple-A rating from all three major credit rating firms. One of Standard and Poor’s analysts, Craig Michaels, is reported to have identified one of the factors as Australia’s ability to deal with large economic and financial blows “as was demonstrated during the global recession in 2009”.
The rating agency identified that Australia’s financial status has deteriorated somewhat in the last few years, but was “more contained” than was the case for other Triple-A countries. Even with the weakening of the mining boom, Australia is managing extraordinarily well in international terms.
The positive financial management demonstrated by Labor leaves Abbott with just two major areas to continue his attacks – refugees and climate change, unable to land effective punches against other areas such as the National Broadband Network and school education.
On climate change, Labor has been wandering all over the place. However, the Opposition is even worse! There are some simple things the government can do that are financially sound and will have a significant impact. The most obvious of these is to remove subsidies to fossil fuel energy and fossil fuel dependent transport sectors, including provision of infrastructure support such as railways and harbours.
NGOs advocating this approach suggest that savings from removal of this $10 billion worth of subsidies will assist the Government in reducing the overall Budget impact of bringing forward the introduction of the emission trading scheme without having to reduce support for renewable energy or reducing the public service.
“Stop the boats” has been the catch cry of Abbott and his conservative Opposition. With the advent of a new Prime Minister there is no longer widespread acceptance of simple, negative slogans. On boat people, Rudd has become more conservative than the conservatives with his “asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia”. And the Opposition still has no plan to explain “how” to “stop the boats”. A question that ought to have been asked many times over the last three years!
The irony is that Abbott squandered three years of minority government where the balance of power was held by quite conservative-leaning independents. The Coalition parties had the opportunity to demonstrate that they could both attack the Government and achieve some positive legislation for the country. But now it is too late – he has carved out his negative niche in politics and it is looking to me as though this will be his legacy.
In March I suggested in the “CityNews” that it was still possible for Labor “to rise phoenix-like from the ashes” although qualifying that “no party can expect to do well in an election when they fail to sell good economic credentials, present as unprincipled and lack unity”. I added, “but a week is a long time in politics”.
The election will be close but the tables have turned on the negativity of Tony Abbott.
Michael Moore was an independent member of the ACT Legislative Assembly (1989 to 2001) and was minister for health.