Ratifying Kyoto and withdrawing troops from Iraq dominated the international discussion over our new Prime Minister, with a nod to Scores, of course…

On the US alliance: But the relationship with Washington seemed likely to be more distant than it was under Howard. Rudd has promised that one of his first moves would be to open negotiations for the withdrawal of the approximately 550 Australian combat troops stationed in Iraq, though he has said that some support troops will probably remain. And in another signal that the days when Washington and Canberra marched in lockstep are over, Rudd has said he would move quickly to get the new Parliament to ratify the Kyoto agreement on climate change. Under Howard, Australia and the United States were the only two industrialized nations not to have ratified the agreement. Australia’s participation will leave President George W. Bush even more isolated on environmental policy, just as the United Nations is preparing to convene a pivotal international conference on the subject on the Indonesian island of Bali next month. – International Herald Tribune

On China: Rudd is expected to forge closer ties with China and other Asian nations and has said he wants a more independent voice in foreign policy, with past Labor governments more supportive of an energetic United Nations and global organisations. China’s official Xinhua news agency on Sunday carried reports of Rudd greeting Chinese President Hu Jintao in fluent Mandarin in September and of his posting to China in the 1980s. — The Guardian (Reuters)

On Iraq: Rudd announced Sunday that he would visit Washington early next year to discuss the withdrawal of Australia’s tiny but politically significant 550 combat troops. He will keep in place another 1,000 military personnel, including Navy warships in the Persian Gulf and a diplomatic protection contingent in Baghdad.
Rudd has said that he is “rock solid” on the military alliance between Australia and the US. “I think there’ll be awkwardness rather than embarrassment,” says political scientist John Hart, an expert at the Australian National University. “The US is also talking about withdrawing troops, so I don’t think they’ll see this as a major problem in the bilateral relationship.” — The Christian Science Monitor

On Kyoto: His decision to go to Bali, which Mr Howard had not planned to attend, was welcomed by Gordon Brown, the UK prime minister, as a “very important factor” in the next stage of the global climate talks. The announcement is intended to draw a sharp contrast between Labor and the Liberal/National party coalition, which had only recently begun to address climate change issues seriously following a shift of opinion. – The Financial Times

On Rudd’s challenges: Mr. Rudd’s center-left government, which unseated the long-standing conservative administration of U.S. ally John Howard on Saturday, also inherits some difficult challenges. Chief among them: Keeping Australia’s red-hot economy from boiling over at a time when demand for the country’s vital natural resources is outstripping its ability to provide them. Inflation is already running at an uncomfortably high level and Australia’s ports and rail lines are so jammed they can’t keep up with orders for iron ore, coal and other materials. Another key issue for the 50-year-old Mr. Rudd will be maintaining Australia’s historically strong relationship with the U.S., at a time when the country’s economic fortunes are increasingly determined by China. — Wall Street Journal

On Howard: The sweeping defeat also appears to end the political career of Mr. Howard, one of Asia-Pacific’s most enduring conservative leaders. Mr. Howard can lay claim to a number of achievements, including major reforms to the Australian tax system, steps to affirm the independence of the Australian central bank, and improvements in the government’s financial health. Under Mr. Howard’s watch, the country of 20 million people enjoyed a long economic expansion and emerged as a far more important financial center. — Wall Street Journal

On uranium to India: With the Labor Party coming to power in Australia, the fate of the Australian Cabinet decision to supply uranium to India is now under question…Labou Party chief, and the new prime minister, Kevin Rudd has gone on record that a Labour government will allow the sale of uranium only after India signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Mr Rudd had pledged to overturn the Cabinet decision calling it a ‘bad decision.’ If the Labor government sticks to its stance, it could mean the reversal of the Cabinet decision. Sources said that the Indian government has been working over-time to save the situation. It is learnt that India’s high commissioner to Australia has been meeting key Labor Party members in a bid to soften the party’s stance. – The Economic Times (India)

China on Rudd: Howard’s reliance on the country’s economic achievements did not help his re-election campaign as before, as Rudd pointed to the failure of transferring the benefits of a booming economy to the families. Rudd asked, “the economy is strong, but why life is hard?” Rudd promised that when in power, he will, among other things, scrap the unpopular Workplace Agreements, and to “get the balance right between fairness and flexibility in the workplaces of the nation.” China Daily

On the Howard Bush relationship: Mr. Howard has a strong personal relationship with Mr. Bush that is based on a similar socially conservative philosophy and a shared outlook on terrorism. Australian opinion polls have shown that although Australians remain strong supporters of the so-called Anzus alliance — the security pact among Australia, New Zealand and the United States — they do not approve of Mr. Bush or the Iraq war. — The New York Times

On Howard’s defeat: The election was an embarrassing end to the four-term career of Howard, Australia’s second-longest-serving leader. As little as a year ago, he had appeared almost unassailable. But on Saturday he was in real danger of becoming only the second sitting prime minister in 106 years of federal government to lose his own seat in Parliament. — The Washington Post

On Rudd’s victory speech: Mr Rudd, 50, shiny-faced and beaming with excitement, lapped up the roars of a jubilant crowd of supporters for several minutes before launching into a victory speech that focused heavily on Australia’s endorsement of generational change…Enjoying the moment, he jokingly warned his team not to become too carried away with the victory, instructing them to have a strong cup of tea and an iced vovo, a popular Australian biscuit. — The Telegraph UK

On Howard’s humiliation: This morning, John Winston Howard could be forgiven for wondering how it all went so wrong. The prime minister who lost his seat had presided over a booming economy, low inflation and near full employment. “This result has defied every piece of electoral arithmetic I have known,” said Alan Milburn, Tony Blair’s former health secretary, who is in Australia to advise Kevin Rudd, the Labor leader. Howard’s north Sydney seat of Bennelong fell to Maxine McKew, a former television newsreader who worked as a BBC secretary during a gap year in London in the early 1970s. — The Times UK

On strippers and ear wax: As an opposition politician prone to accusations of dullness, his standing grew after he was reported to have visited a New York lap-dancing club in 2003 and claimed he was too drunk to remember what happened. The disclosure that he nibbled his own ear wax – he was caught in the act on YouTube – failed to tarnish his image as a polished political operator. Rudd even agreed to appear on a popular youth television programme where he was asked for whom he would “go gay” and whether he thought he could beat his opponent in a bar brawl. He agreed he could beat Howard in a brawl; but when he answered that his wife was the only person in his life, the compere replied, “Is she a man?” The Times UK

On Howard’s legacy: For Mr Howard, 68, the nation’s second longest-serving leader, the result was a humiliating end to his quest for a fifth term in office. Instead of going down in the history books for his longevity, he is likely to be recalled in the same breath as Stanley Melbourne Bruce, the only other Prime Minister to lose his own seat, as long ago as 1929. With his wife, Janette, widely regarded as the power behind the throne, whispering his lines to him, a pink-faced Mr Howard congratulated Labor on “a very emphatic victory”. Twice he declared that he was bequeathing to Mr Rudd “a nation that is stronger and prouder and more prosperous than it was 11 and a half years ago”. His voice faltering as he addressed his Liberal Party faithful, he said: “It has been an immense privilege every day of my life… to have been Prime Minister of this beautiful country. The Australian people are the greatest people on earth.” – The Independent UK

Peter Fray

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