Rudd Seeks Votes as Polls Signal Australia Election Loss
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says his Labor Party can win an election in less than a week even as a fresh national poll signals voters are set to elect Liberal-National leader Tony Abbott with a clear majority.
“We can prevail and we will prevail,” Rudd, 55, told party faithful who packed the Brisbane Convention Center for a nationally televised speech in which he promised tax breaks for small business and legislation to ensure Australian companies participate more in major expansion projects. “I’ve been in tougher spots than this and I’ve come from behind before.”
A Galaxy poll published today in the Sunday Telegraph shows voter support for Abbott’s coalition on a two-party-preferred basis has jumped to 53 percent, ahead of Labor on 47 percent. That would deliver the coalition 86 seats in the 150 seat lower house of parliament if replicated at the Sept. 7 election, Galaxy said.
Rudd was first elected prime minister in 2007, then ousted by his parliamentary colleagues in 2010 in favor of Julia Gillard. With Gillard trailing earlier this year in opinion polls, Rudd was returned to power in a June leadership vote. Gillard did not attend today’s party function. Former Labor prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating did, both receiving standing ovations.
Both parties have put management of the $1.5 trillion economy at the center of their campaigns, amid slowing growth as a China-led boom in mining investment wanes.
Rudd, declaring today that Labor is “now engaged in the fight of our lives,” vowed A$10,000 ($8,900) tax breaks for small business, extra cash help for 70,000 trade apprentices and to create a new agency to oversee job creation and training.
He also targeted the resources industry, saying he would legislate to ensure they used local suppliers in projects worth A$300 million or more, a move he claimed would generate A$624 million of extra work for Australian industry and jobs.
Rudd, who was introduced to the party faithful by his wife Therese Rein, said the core of his vision for the 21st century was that every Australian had the right to “a good job, with fair wages and conditions.”
Today’s Labor policy announcements “won’t make the slightest bit of difference” to the election outcome, said Malcolm Mackerras, a political analyst at the Australian Catholic University in Canberra. “I never gave Labor any chance of winning this election. For a while it looked as though Kevin Rudd might save more seats. But it’s now simply swung back to roughly the way it would have been if Gillard was still the prime minister.”
Analysis of 20 marginal seats based on 11,500 Galaxy interviews suggests the average swing to the coalition is 4.1 percent, the Sunday Telegraph reported. It did not give a margin of error or interview dates for the Galaxy poll.
“I am ready for the responsibility of the highest office,” Abbott, 55, said today on ABC TV’s Insiders program. “We need a stable majority government.”
Rudd said yesterday that Abbott “thinks he has the election in the bag.”
Today’s Galaxy poll follows a Newspoll published in yesterday’s Weekend Australian that shows support for Labor has collapsed on the east coast.
The opposition coalition may pick up 20 additional seats in just the east coast states of New South Wales and Victoria, the Weekend Australian reported when it published the Newspoll surveys. Abbott’s coalition needs to win just four extra electorates to claim power.
Newspoll’s surveys were conducted in the past week in 13 marginal Labor-held seats. They show the coalition leads Labor on a two-party-preferred basis 53 percent to 47 percent in five coastal New South Wales electorates, 53 percent to 47 percent in three Victorian seats and 57 percent to 43 percent in five western Sydney divisions. The surveys have a margin of error of 3.5 percent.
A separate Newspoll published Aug. 26 showed Abbott’s coalition leading Rudd’s Labor nationally by six percentage points on a two-party-preferred basis. Online bookmaker Sportsbet said last week it was already paying out bets on the coalition winning the election, conceding it is convinced Labor has no chance of victory.
Both sides’ ability to promise pre-election sweeteners has been hit by falling government revenue as they each have put management of the world’s 12th-largest economy at the center of their campaigns. Labor is pressuring the coalition to release details of the costs of its policies, including Abbott’s proposed paid parental leave system.
Abbott told ABC TV today that details of yet to be announced savings measures would be kept under wraps until Thursday, two days before voters go to the polls. The coalition unveiled A$31 billion in savings last week, a figure Labor claimed was A$10 billion short.
Speaking in Queensland yesterday, Abbott downplayed the latest polls. “This is a very close election,” he said in a press conference broadcast on Sky News. “ I think it’s inevitable that the polls will tighten sharply in the last week.”
Treasurer Chris Bowen and his predecessor Wayne Swan are also at risk of losing their seats at the election, the Australian Financial Review reported yesterday, citing JWS Research polling of five Labor seats conducted on Aug. 28.
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