The Australian media is confused enough, but how did the rest of the world explain the Australian federal election which so far has no winner? Like in Australia, the major media narrative focused either on the collapse of the ALP’s popularity in recent months or Tony Abbott’s strength in leading the Liberal Party.
After Saturday’s election, “there are few certainties left in Australian politics,” writes Tim Soutphommasane at The Guardian. But rather than the rise of the Greens or the Liberals comeback, its “Labor’s cannibalism and self-destruction [that] represent the real story of this election” he argues. “The palace coup against Rudd, engineered by factional powerbrokers, reflected a party increasingly dominated by a nihilistic, all-consuming party machine. In political terms, it deprived Labor of its most potent narrative. How could Labor run on the record of Rudd’s economic management when it had deposed him?”
Meriah Foley agreed in the New York Times; it wasn’t so much a win for Abbott as a loss for Gillard:
“Ms. Gillard’s campaign has been marred by internal party bickering and a lingering sense of resentment among some voters — particularly in Mr. Rudd’s home state of Queensland — over the former leader’s abrupt removal… Yet despite claiming credit for keeping Australia out of recession during the global financial crisis, Labor has come under sustained criticism in recent months for its decision not to press forward with its cap-and-trade plan for carbon emissions and a battle with the powerful resources sector over a proposed tax on iron ore, coal and other commodities that form the backbone of Australia’s resource-driven economy.”
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The BBC is worried about world markets, with the AUD dropping this morning. But it gave Gillard a fairly decent wrap and said Abbott had “toned down his well-known climate change scepticism”:
“Ms Gillard, a former lawyer who called a snap election shortly after coming to office, is hoping to be rewarded for the government’s handling of the economy, which weathered the global recession remarkably well. Ms Gillard won a leadership race in June but, despite her success, her support has fallen in the two months she has been in office.”
Rather than Kevin Rudd, Gillard is now the face of everything that went wrong with Labor says Bonnie Malkin in UK’s Telegraph: “The electorate was alienated by the scale of the measures the government was willing to take and its equally audacious approach to changing its position — and its leadership. Julia Gillard, the Welsh-born prime minister, has personified both those flaws.”
Is the mining tax no longer a done deal? Rebecca Keenan and Elisabeth Behrmann at Bloomberg are worried, saying: “The fate of a proposed mining tax in Australia, the world’s biggest exporter of coal and iron ore, remains in doubt after no clear winner emerged from the weekend’s election, heightening uncertainty for investors.”
First Rudd, now Gillard could be knifed, says Nick Bryant at the BBC: “Julia Gillard failed to deliver Labor a decisive victory; the raison d’etre beyond the leadership coup two months ago. Presumably, she’ll be watching her back.”
In a Guardian editorial titled ‘Australia: how to lose an election’, it seems Australia is stuck between a rock and a hard place: “A choice between one party that persists in throwing away its advantages and another that persists in ignoring critical issues is not much of a choice.”
The Wall Street Journal gave a damning editorial — now oddly unavailable on their website — bizarrely blaming the Labor Party’s “lurch to the left” for its losses on Saturday:
“Labor’s fortunes changed as Mr. Rudd — elected in 2007 as a centrist — veered sharply left, and as the Liberals found in Tony Abbott a leader who was willing to challenge him. Mr. Rudd staked his personal prestige on cap-and-trade legislation that the Liberals repeatedly stopped in the Senate while exposing it to the public as a huge tax hike disguised as an act of environmental virtue.
“The public liked it even less when Mr. Rudd sought to impose punitive taxes on Australia’s mining industry, a mainstay of its economy. Nor did Australians approve of Keynesian ‘stimulus’ programs that turned an A$19.7 billion surplus in 2007-2008 into a A$32.1 billion deficit the following fiscal year, with little to show for it except mismanaged bureaucratic boondoggles.
“The Left’s initial reaction was to underestimate Mr. Abbott’s appeal to the average voter. Left-leaning media ridiculed his devout Catholicism, calling him a ‘mad monk’, though average Australians responded well to his family-man image and family-values message.”
Even more odd, minutes after inserting that editorial into this article — which is the same as the print edition — now the only editorial available is yesterday’s which focused more on a world view:
“Three months ago, Britain’s Labour Party was drummed out of office. This weekend, Australians woke up to a hung parliament as their Labor government lost its majority. America’s ruling Democrats may detect a pattern here.”
This is a win for Abbott and conservatives everywhere, writes Mary Kissel in the WSJ:
“Though unable to win an outright majority, they made up a double-digit poll deficit in less than five months, denied Labor a governing majority, and may yet take the reins of government if they can form one themselves. He has done it by doing the one thing so many Republicans in America and Tories in Britain shy away from: explaining what conservatives believe in, clearly, sincerely and without a hint of shame.”
One fascinating article — granted, it was from last Thursday, but still relevant — notes how Gillard received the same sexist media coverage that Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin and Elena Kagan were forced to suffer. “Since she has become prime minister, the national conversation about this trailblazing woman has focused not just on Gillard’s policies, but on her ring-less left hand, what on earth the function of a “first bloke” might be, and her childlessness,” writes Chloe Angyal at Slate. “Most appallingly, critics have even implied that the relationship between Gillard and Rudd has sexual undertones.”
The Gillard/Rudd love angle isn’t one we’ve heard before, but it flings more dirt into the already muddy waters of Australian politics. With a hung parliament likely, we don’t think we need any more excitement.