Australia’s Liberal Party won big in Western Australian state elections this weekend, with the latest count giving the conservative coalition some 40 seats out of 59 in the state’s lower house and returning premier Colin Barnett to power. The victory comes on the back of Liberal Party sweeps in the states of Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory. All of which should make opposition leader Tony Abbott feel confident about his party’s prospects in September’s federal election.
Australian voters seem to have tired of the Labor Party’s tax-and-spend agenda, which plunged the federal fisc into deficit and raised taxes and the cost of living for average Australians since the Labor-led coalition took power in 2007. Export-oriented mining states like Western Australia have weathered these burdens better than states like Victoria, whose economies have faltered. Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s latest response is to stoke anti-immigrant sentiments and promise $1 billion in pork barrel spending to politically important Western Sydney electorates.
Her gambit has afforded her a brief boost in the polls. The Newspoll released this week shows the Liberal-led coalition ahead of Labor and its allies by four percentage points, down from a 10-point advantage two weeks ago. Ms. Gillard is also more popular than Mr. Abbott, leading 42% to his 38%. But worryingly for Labor, Kevin Rudd, whom Ms. Gillard unceremoniously unseated as leader in a backroom coup in 2010, is even more popular.
Which raises the question: Will Labor stick with Ms. Gillard or plump for Mr. Rudd to lead the party into September’s polls? Or could Labor opt for the colorless Bill Shorten, a longtime Labor functionary who is marginally more popular with the business community? Whatever happens, it’s clear that Labor needs to change policies or leaders—or both—before September. Otherwise, Mr. Abbott can count on occupying Kirribilli House before the year’s end.
Source. (HT: vr)