Labour poised for defeat in Oz election
on 07/09/2013 10:39:10
The change is expected despite an apparent lack of overwhelming enthusiasm for opposition leader Tony Abbott. He seems on track to guide his Liberal Party-led coalition to a victory over a ruling party marred by infighting and a much-maligned carbon tax.
A Sky News exit poll conducted by Sydney-based market researcher Newspoll showed the coalition was leading Labour 53% to 47%, and was expected to win 97 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives.
The poll results, announced 90 minutes before voting closed on Australia's east coast, were based on 1,000 interviews with voters in Labour swing seats across New South Wales and Queensland states. The poll did not give a margin of error.
An hour after polls closed on the east coast, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. election analyst Antony Green said early counting suggested that Labour had been ousted. Early analysis of the results showed a shift toward the conservatives, he said, with the coalition appearing to have 75 seats - half the 150 seats in the House of Representatives. Labour appeared to have 42.
"The opposition is on a pretty secure 75 already. On that basis, they're going to get a majority," Green said. "So I think we can say the government has been defeated."
Prime minister Kevin Rudd was once widely liked by the public, becoming the nation's most popular leader in three decades when he took on the top job in 2007. Now, his party is facing the prospect of an end to its six years in power amid voter frustration over years of party instability and bickering, and widespread hatred of a carbon tax on major polluters.
The carbon tax has long been a thorn in the side of the Labour Party. The previous prime minister, Julia Gillard, broke an election promise and agreed to impose the tax in a bid to form a coalition Labour needed to stay in power.
Labour required the support of the minor Greens party - which insisted on the tax - in order to have enough seats in Parliament to control government.
The deal helped lead to Gillard's downfall, and in June she lost her job to Rudd. Gillard herself came to power by unseating Rudd in a similar party coup three years earlier.
The Gillard vs. Rudd drama and the squabbling between their camps left many voters disillusioned. To some former Labour supporters, Abbott - once dubbed "unelectable" by a former boss - was seen as the lesser of two evils.
Abbott has vowed to scrap the carbon tax and instead introduce taxpayer-funded incentives for polluters.
Abbott, a volunteer lifeguard, is often depicted by cartoonists wearing nothing but the red-and-yellow cap of an Australian lifeguard and swimming briefs.
Abbott has long struggled to connect with women voters, with Gillard once calling him a misogynist and sexist in a fiery speech before Parliament. In a bid to improve his image, he introduced a paid maternity leave plan that would give mothers the taxpayer-funded equivalent of their salaries for six months. Yet the plan has proven divisive even within the Liberal Party, with some of Abbott's own allies dubbing it unaffordable.
Abbott and Rudd have also clashed over a tax on coal and iron ore mining companies. Abbott has promised to repeal the tax, which he blames in part for a downturn in the mining boom that kept Australia out of recession during the global economic crisis.
The government and opposition also differ on how to curb a growing number of asylum seekers reaching Australia by boat.
Labour has promised that every bona fide refugee who attempts to reach Australia by boat from the policy announcement date of July 19 will be settled on the impoverished South Pacific island nations of Papua New Guinea or Nauru.
Labour claimed this week that the policy was already working. Only 1,585 asylum seekers arrived by boat during the month of August, less than half of the 4,236 who arrived in the previous month.
The Liberals have promised new policies requiring the navy to turn asylum seeker boats back to Indonesia, where they launch, and the government to buy back aging fishing boats from Indonesian villagers to prevent them falling into the hands of people smugglers.