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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Election

The two countries that I have lived in for any substantial time are both gearing up for a general election; one definitely and soon, the other probably and not until next year. All being well with visas I will have the peculiar sensation of watching the Australian election, that I cannot vote in, from the perspective of living in the country and in the new year watching a British election which I could vote in, from the other side of the world.

In my native Britain the sitting Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, would be seeking the validation of having won an election on his own merits, having inherited leadership from Tony Blair, but has ruled this out until 2009 saying that he 'needs more time to lay out his vision'. Brown had considered an Autumn election and has faced criticism for leaving the country in suspense about his intentions, most notably from his deputy.

In Australia, where I currently live, the Liberal coalition will be seeking another term in office to return the 10 year veteran of the top job, John Howard, for only a few years before he steps down in favour of, who we don't quite know but probably the current treasurer, Peter Costello.

In both counties questions were being asked about when the election would actually be called. As the Head of State for Australia is in fact Queen Elizabeth II, John Howard is obliged to get permission from the Governor General to dissolve parliament and call an election; something he flew back to Canberra to do this weekend. I have just learnt from the BBC News website whilst doing a light bit of research for this post that he has, as expected, called an election to for the 24th of November.

Howard had been expected to call an election before now and his reluctance to do so has caused some bitter acusations from the Labor opposition. The accusations are that the Australian Federal Government is using its' advertising privilidge to market government policies and the delay in calling an election was to allow these to run their full course before polling day. There does seem to be some weight to this argument given the noticeable increase in frequency of these adverts on the TV every time a poll comes out favoring Labor and a definite slant in the advertising towards selling the legislation rather than telling people how it works.

The major election campaigning issues which I may do further posts on are going to be:


  • Work Choices and employment law (unpopular - favouring opposition)
  • Australian involvement in Iraq (unpopular - favouring opposition)
  • Assistance for drought areas (popular - favouring government)
  • Cuerrent economic position (popular - favouring government)
  • Ongoing climate change preparation (varying but mostly favouring the opposition)
  • Aboriginal and indigenous affairs (varing and impossible to place also a latecomer to the party)
  • Howard vs Rudd - it might come to punches, which speccy nerd will you be cheering for?

The last and probably the critical issue is who can maintain credibility not just personally but throughout their party and their campaign. This is going to be tricky as Howard has probably the greatest credibility of any Australian politician and is a real political street fighter with a knack for finding vulnerabilities his oponents didn't know they had.

Rudd has weathered a few storms on this front with his wife effectively being forced to sell her interest in the Australian arm of the business she runs, and Rudd having a boozy night in a New York strip club in his past revealed. Rudd should not be underestimated though. He might, as Dame Edna Everidge(CBE) pointed out, look like a dentist but he is also a former diplomat with postings in Stockholm and Beijing. During the APEC summit Rudd was able to address the chinese delegation in fluent Mandarin. The night in a strip club story only made him look human and has actually strengthened his position.

This is going to be a tough fought election that has another interesting aspect to it. Every party has embraced the internet as a campaigning tool. Google are running campaign channels on YouTube for all the parties and have an Election 2007 tab for their very popular homepage. Both of the main parties have been using social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook for a while. This is going to be Australia's first real internet friendly election.