Abbott Says Coalition Has Mandate Amid Senate Carbon Challenge
While the Liberal-National coalition won the Sept. 7 vote with the biggest lower house majority since at least 2004, Abbott needs the backing of a clutch of independent and minor party lawmakers in the upper house to drive through his legislative agenda.
“They all need to respect the government of our nation has a mandate,” Abbott, 55, told 2UE radio today. “The people voted for change and change they will get.”
Abbott’s coalition, which ousted the Labor government of Kevin Rudd, is also pledging to cut red tape and lower taxes to boost the $1.5 trillion economy as a China-led mining investment boom crests. The new government will be sworn in early next week and parliament will sit in late October or early November, Abbott said today.
The coalition led in 86 districts in the 150-member lower house to Labor’s 57 as counting continued, according to the Australian Electoral Commission. Forty of the 76 Senate seats were also up for grabs and while results will take days to be released, small center-right parties are poised to hold the balance of power in the upper chamber, according to Abbott’s manager of business in the lower house, Chris Pyne.
“It will be much easier, in fact, for a coalition government to deal with a crossbench dominated by center-right parties or individuals,” Pyne told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. today. The current Senate, where the Greens -- supporters of carbon pricing -- hold the balance of power, remains in place until the middle of 2014.
Glenn Lazarus, a former rugby league player representing mining magnate Clive Palmer’s Palmer United Party, is set to pick up a Senate seat in Queensland state, the ABC reported, citing its own voting estimates. The Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party may win a seat in Victoria state, while the Australian Sports Party is on course to win a seat in Western Australia, the ABC projected.
The Australian dollar gained after China’s exports increased more than estimated in August, adding to evidence the world’s second-largest economy is rebounding. The Aussie climbed 0.1 percent to 91.94 U.S. cents at 3:11 p.m. in Sydney.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.6 percent to 5,175.7. Evan Lucas, a Melbourne-based market strategist at IG Ltd., said Australian shares were lifted by the Chinese data and Tokyo’s winning bid to host the 2020 Olympics.
“The most exciting information over the weekend came from Japan and China,” Lucas said by e-mail. The election result was a “foregone conclusion,” he said.
Rudd, 55, stepped down as Labor leader, saying the party needed a “fresh start” as he conceded defeat to Abbott. Labor has been riven by internal feuding that saw Rudd ousted by Julia Gillard in 2010, only to reclaim the leadership 10 weeks ago in an attempt to boost its electoral fortunes.
After six years in office, the party was consigned to the shortest stint in power in almost four decades, and with its talent pool drained after nine former ministers didn’t seek re-election. Rudd didn’t say whether he would remain in parliament on the backbenches or quit his Queensland seat.
Outgoing Treasurer Chris Bowen said today he wouldn’t be a candidate for the Labor leadership and told reporters in Canberra the party needed to rebuild itself as an effective opposition.
Acting Leader Anthony Albanese yesterday told Channel 10 that Bowen and outgoing ministers Bill Shorten, Tony Burke and Tanya Plibersek were potential contenders.
The main damage to Labor came in New South Wales state where it was on course to lose seven seats, including Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury’s district of Lindsay in Western Sydney, a traditional Labor heartland, and Banks, held by Labor since 1949.
In Victoria, Labor was set to cede three seats to the coalition, including the nation’s most competitive district of Corangamite, according to AEC results. Labor saw off a challenge in Queensland, Rudd’s home state, where counting indicated it will lose one seat. It lost at least three seats in Tasmania, one in South Australia, and held its ground in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.
Palmer claimed victory in the Queensland seat of Fairfax, even as the AEC said the district hadn’t been determined.
Abbott, a former Rhodes Scholar and trainee priest, has promised to repeal Labor’s 30 percent tax on mining sector profits and dismantle its carbon pricing mechanism.
He has also promised to lower the business tax rate, while funding a A$5.5 billion ($5.1 billion) per year parental leave program. The coalition plans to reduce the civil service by at least 12,000 positions, lower subsidies for carmakers, cancel handouts to parents of school children and return the budget to a surplus equal to 1 percent of gross domestic product within a decade.
“I declare the government is under new management,” Abbott said in a victory speech in Sydney on Sept. 7. “Australia is once more open for business.”
The coalition will probably be able to negotiate an agreement with minor parties to scrap the carbon price once the new Senate sits, Elisa de Wit, a Melbourne-based partner at Norton Rose Fulbright and head of the law firm’s Australian climate change practice, said today by phone.
“It’s still looking like it will be extremely difficult to unwind it this financial year,” de Wit said. “But presumably they will have everything set up and ready to go so they can get the legislation through as close as possible to July 1 of next year.”