4 years ago27 views
Australia is days away from the September 7 general election. It comes after a dramatic three years that saw Labor Party bigwigs Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard fight for their party's - and the country's - leadership in a vicious battle that has left the federal Labor Party deeply wounded and divided.
A China-fueled mining boom and Labor's deft response to the global financial crisis shielded Australia from the hardships faced by many of its OECD peers. Most foreign observers, including the free-market champion Economist magazine and Euromoney - which named then-treasurer Stephen Smith as 2011's "Best Finance Minister" - have praised the Rudd and Gillard governments for their steady stewardship of the Australian economy.
Yet, Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott's incessant and disingenuous trash-talking of the the nation's economic outlook and his claims that Labor is taxing and spending Australia into the ground has made it difficult for the government to sell it's achievements to the public. And now Abbott's conservative Liberal-National Party coalition looks set to win the election.
Rudd enjoyed a brief honeymoon with the electorate after his mid-2013 return to the prime ministership, but polling data over recent months suggests Abbot and his conservative colleagues' messages are cutting through. The coalition is ahead on a two-party-preferred basis and for the first time and Abbott is now edging-out Rudd as preferred prime minister.
On Abbott's side is a large share of Australia's print media. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp Australia, which controls 70% of capital city newspaper circulation, has unequivocally thrown its weight behind Abbott with a series of extremely partisan tabloid headlines. Rudd and commentators from academia and media claim the intensity of the Murdoch press campaign to oust Labor can in part be explained by News Corp's 50% stake in Foxtel, a subscription TV service, the earnings from which would be threatened by Labor's National Broadband Network. Abbott has promised to scrap the NBN should his party win government.
Australia's has experienced 22 unbroken years of economic growth, enjoys high living standards and stability which is the envy of the rich world. In short, Australia has had it very good for a long time. Yet, but without strategic and far-sighted leadership and wise long-term investments in infrastructure and people, Australia could one day end up being little more than a second-rate tourist attraction and quarry for the world.
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