Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said “no determination whatsoever” has been made on an election date and he wants to attend a Group of 20 summit in Russia on Sept. 5-6, making a vote early next month less likely.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported today that Rudd will visit the governor-general tomorrow or Aug. 5 to seek approval for an election on Sept. 7, citing unidentified people.
“I’ve made no determination whatsoever in terms of the date of an election,” Rudd, who’s obliged to call an election by Nov. 30, told reporters in Brisbane today. “It’s my intention to be in St. Petersburg. But I’m very mindful, also, of the other challenges which lie ahead of us.”
Speculation is mounting that Rudd will seek to capitalize on improving opinion polls after he regained the leadership of the Labor party five weeks ago. Since ousting Julia Gillard, the nation’s first female prime minister, Rudd has sought to neutralize opposition attacks with plans to scrap the world’s highest carbon price, curb the number of asylum seekers arriving by sea and reform his party’s leadership rules.
Rudd today signed an agreement with the president of Nauru that will allow asylum seekers to be processed on the island nation and, if they are found to be in need of protection, to also be settled there. He said the deal was similar to an earlier one reached with Papua New Guinea.
Yesterday, Australia’s government announced the budget deficit will blow out to A$30.1 billion ($26.8 billion) this fiscal year. Rudd’s Labor party is framing the looming election as a battle between David Cameron-style austerity from the opposition and its own program that allows the deficit to widen as it prioritizes jobs and economic growth.
Finance Minister Penny Wong said today that the opposition Liberal-National coalition will need to cut spending by A$70 billion to bring the budget to the government’s position. The opposition has vowed to scrap Labor’s carbon trading plan and 30 percent levy on iron ore and coal mining company profits.
“We’re not going to cop a lecture from the Labor party about accuracy in numbers,” opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey said today. “For crying out loud, every number over the last six years has been dead wrong and the budget is bleeding.”
Rudd prevailed over Gillard in a 57-45 vote among lawmakers five weeks ago that underscored the party’s split between the man who swept Labor to power in 2007 and the woman who ousted him in 2010.
Surveys show the switch back to Rudd has boosted Labor. A Newspoll published July 23 had Labor trailing the opposition 48 percent to 52 percent on a two-party preferred basis, designed to gauge which of them is most likely to form a government, compared with a 14 percentage point gap under Gillard. The two parties are split 50-50, according to a Galaxy poll published in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper on July 28.
The G-20 leaders’ summit will be held in the former Russian imperial capital of St. Petersburg.
“I place enormous priority to the G-20 and its agenda,” Rudd said today. “At the same time, I’ll always balance that against other considerations before us as well. As I said, no decisions concerning election dates have been made.”