Friday, November 23, 2007
Australia's Election Showdown
First a confession – just don’t tell the boss. I don’t care who wins the Australian election, although I think it’s a fascinating clash with implications particularly for the endless campaign in the US.

My first focus whenever I arrive in Sydney is simply to race to the harborside or the beach, and suck in a huge lungful of Australian coastal air. Say what you like about the Chinese economic miracle but to live in China, as I do, tends to bring home every noxious particle of its miraculous growth.

On the Australian coastline, where most of the continent’s population lives, it feels easy to be happy.

Which raises the first mystery of this Australian election. Economic growth has been churning along for more than a decade, largely fueled by funneling resources into the mighty engine of China. Almost every Australian has a job. Unemployment is at a generational low of barely 4% and getting lower.

Why change?

After eleven and a half years as Prime Minister, John Howard is urging voters to ask themselves the same question.

The latest polls show a tightening of sentiment, but the Labor Opposition is still the bookies’ favorite to form government once Saturday’s vote is counted. Some polls still put them nearly ten percentage points ahead.

The last time Labor toppled a conservative Coalition government was 1983. Ronald Reagan was still a first term president.

Such momentous changes – should they be confirmed by the voters - indicate something important. The Bill Clinton/James Carville mantra, taken up since by both sides, “It’s the economy, stupid” will have been turned on its head.

If that happens, climate change may emerge as a decisive issue. Indeed, global warming may have contributed for the first time ever to the toppling of a national government.

Of Australia’s two major parties, Labor has made climate change its issue. Howard’s coalition has been far too late to spot the danger.

Until recently, Howard enjoyed the sport of dismissing global warming as the obsession of a crackpot fringe. It left him flatfooted. His attempted re-positioning, promoting nuclear power as a potential answer, failed to grip in a country that currently has only a single research reactor. No-one has yet found a community keen to have one built down the road.

Now not just country areas, grappling with a record drought but middle class suburbanites fret over a warming planet. Already farms are reverting to deserts and urban water supplies are strained.

Veteran conservative commentator Piers Akerman says there is a warning here for US Republicans. “Climate change is definitely a vote winner with younger voters these days,” he says. “You must be aware of it and you must have a coherent policy to address it.”

Associate Professor Rodney Smith from the politics department of the University of Sydney goes further, saying the Australian experience is that it is not just young voters taking it up. Polls show it draws a strong response, he says, among older voters too. And it crosses traditional party lines.

Expect a scramble in conservative politics to reposition more convincingly. Less Bush, more Schwarzenegger.

As an Australian who no longer lives here, there is much to be proud about this country. The melding of so many nationalities is one great achievement, a process far more successful than is sometimes projected.

But it is the air and the water, the spectacular clarity that strikes every visitor, that is influencing this election. Perhaps after years of growth, Australians are expressing the truest conservativism of all: they like things as they are. They worry that change is coming. They are weighing their votes.

-- From Hugh Riminton, CNN International Correspondent, in Sydney.
Election Australian style - breakfast, a run, a swim, some gardening, lunch, walk to polling booth, vote, have a chat to polling booth characters, walk home, have a beer, think about cranking up the BBQ, the stereo and waiting for the results to come in. That's democracy folks...get with the program the rest of yas! If Rudd wins, so much the better...back to work Monday, regardless.

Terry, Palm Beach NSW Australia
Hugh mate where did you get the idea that Australians are almost fully employed?? Mate the statistics do not specify full-time part-time or casual & if you looked closer you would see a high percentage of casual & part-time workers who are having trouble keeping up with mortgage payments or rent payments, the cost of food & fuel -due to a lack of foresight on the governments part to do something 11 years ago about it. The government could have stimulated research into alternative fuels & did nothing. Please do not say that it was not a conclusive thing about climate change 11 years ago because I have known about it since '83 when there were a lot of concerns voiced especially in Europe about acid rain.I have used solar panels & a wind generator since '88 I ride a bicycle & catch public transport but once again the Howard government has not encouraged the development of public transport as much as it could have & many train services in country areas have been reduced in the past decade. I could go on about the villification of the unions who every one forgets have been instrumental in ensuring the high saftey standards in the workplace that we have had over many decades compared to other countries the U.S included. People seem to wish that we had the saftey standards as seen in Chinese mines for instance, which I for one would not like to see.The workers rights in the workplace have been slowely deteriorating under Howard slowly before even the controversial IR laws came into place. Do not get me started on the many times he has gagged debate in the senate I do not call that a democracy & if you do you have a funny idea of what a democracy is.Well that will have to do me for now I can't really explain the erosion of our rights & the deferring to the coal industry & the logging industry over the wellbeing of our planet, that I have noticed over the past decade in as great a detail as I would like, & I know I am more well read than most on the environment & have practised what I 'preach' so to speak but the issues are much more comlex & far reaching than maybe anyone realises at the moment.Liz NSW
The eonomy might be good mate, could that be anything to do with Paul Keating's (Labor) far sighted economic planning at all? You have to ask yourself: if you have all the problems associated with climate change, an education system that isn't based on merit but on financial ability, a public health system that is falling apart and can't cope(I know, I work in it!!), and a working population that aren't sure that they'll still have their job when they turn up in the long will you have this 'good economy'. Also it is important to note that both 'history' and "statistics" are controlled and interpreted by those with power and we all know that John Howard has lied to the Australian population before (Tampa, Iraq War, Medicare changes, Work Choices, Interest Rates...etc, etc). Thank God he's gone, we Australians now have a brilliant opportunity to restore Australian to the land of "a fair go for everyone". Long live the Anzac Spirit!

Congrats to NSW and SE Qld, and Karen Middleton for they have spoken
Posted November 25th, 2007 by Anonymous

Congratulations to Karen Middleton for speaking the minds of the NSW and SE Qld people for they have emphatically delivered their verdict on the Howard Government.

"Australia is not just an economy, Australia is a society" (paraphrase)

While the commercial channels misuse and abuse all kinds of stats and gimmicks like the shreddder, it's refreshing to heard some debate and discussion on the stunning election verdict of the Australian people from SBS.

SO despite the strong ecomony and growth? Are we really prouder John? Obviously NOT. John Howard you tried to fool us again with a spineless Treasurer, who incidentaly has no balls for leadership in opposition and has declined to take the leadership of the liberals.

As the saying goes, "you can fool some of the people some of the times, you cant fool all people all the time"

Let it be a warning to Rudd the accidental prime minister. Bring on Maxine
Howard was stupid enough to have the Fuehrer of America visit him recently. That's worth at least 10% in any election. I am proud of Austrailia, long an ally of us Yanks, to join New Zealand in rejecting the Bush fascism that threatens to take over the world.
At the end of the day Howard was chasing former PM Menzies' record and only thinking outside the square when the boomgates were being lowered. His old adage that he was there as long as the party wanted him failed to appreciate that the Australian public no longer wanted him and he missed his chance to step aside with dignity. Many saw him as a leader out of step and unattuned to the concerns of climate change and industrial law fairness. The final electoral scare campaign was far too negative and just did not match the positive and reasoned approach that Kevin Rudd espoused.

Australians like a fair go and a positive future and that's what we have voted for.
Howard was the best of a bad lot for many years. Rudd is the accidental PM the tipped a tired Howard out. A message for Rudd: pick up the game or get out.
John Howard was a highly conservative Prime Minister and the nation was divided on his policies. Some liked him, some hated him, depending on your values and personal circumstances.

Voters will offer a number of reasons for not re-electing him despite the health of the nation's economy. Probably his industrial reforms were the most unpopular policies, which weakened the strength of the unions and made it easier for small business to dismiss employees. Also, his involvement in the war in Iraq was quite unpopular.
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