Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard pledged to give tax rebates for school uniforms and forge on a new climate change policy ahead of an election she may call as early as this week.
“Education literally makes lives. It made mine,” Gillard, 48, told reporters in Canberra today as she announced a plan that will cover 2.1 million children and cost the government A$220 million ($191 million) if she is re-elected. “A school uniform gives people a sense of self, a sense of discipline.”
Talk of an election in August has increased after Governor- General Quentin Bryce, who Gillard must ask to dissolve parliament before an election, changed travel plans so she can be ready for a visit from the prime minister this week.
The Cabinet is resisting the idea of promoting a carbon tax, the Australian newspaper reported today, without citing anyone. Gillard is seeking to craft a climate change policy to appease voters who were disappointed former leader Kevin Rudd shelved carbon-trading plans in April.
“I understand there are millions of Australians disappointed that we have not yet been able to put a price on carbon. I’m disappointed too,” Gillard said today. “There are other steps we can take on climate change.”
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A new climate policy would be the last of the three key areas she has sought to address after taking her party’s leadership. Since ousting Rudd last month, Gillard struck a deal with BHP Billiton Ltd., Rio Tinto Group and Xstrata Plc to water down a planned mining tax. She’s said she’ll also open a regional center to process asylum seekers to curb the number of refugees trying to reach Australia by boat.
Bryce’s decision to delay travel increased the chance of the national election being held on Aug. 28, the Sydney Morning Herald reported today after Gillard hinted that an election announcement could be made within days. The governor-general will be out of Australia from July 17 to 21, according to a statement released by her office yesterday.
“Get yourself on the roll,” Gillard said today, urging first time voters to enroll to vote before she sets a date. The earliest date for a House of Representatives and upper house Senate election is Aug. 7, according to the Electoral Commission.
Treasurer Wayne Swan will release updated economic forecasts tomorrow, including expected revenue from the mining tax, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reporting on its website without saying where it got the information.
While Gillard’s Labor party remains in an election-winning position, her support has slipped, according to a Nielsen poll published yesterday. Labor fell three percentage points to 52 percent, compared with a survey taken immediately after Gillard replaced Rudd on June 24. Tony Abbott’s opposition Liberal- National coalition rose three percentage points to 48 percent.
“This is a Government which Julia Gillard said had lost its way,” Abbott told reporters in Queanbeyan today as he opened a campaign office. “The Australian people know that Labor parties, Labor Governments create the mess and it’s up to the Coalition to fix it.”
One supporter Gillard can count on is former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who embraced the new prime minister at a book launching yesterday.
“Rest assured Julia, anything you want me to do, I’ll be there with bells on,” said Hawke, who served as Australian prime minister from 1983 until 1991 before he was ousted by Paul Keating, his former deputy.
“It’s business as usual whether it’s early or later on,” Jason Teh, who helps manage $2.6 billion at Investors Mutual Ltd. in Sydney, said by phone today. “The market will only swing based on major policy decisions that affects particular companies and most recent one is the resource tax, but they’re trying to bed that down.”