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Australian Politics

Well, Kevin Rudd has challenged Kim Beazley for the Labor Party leadership. And it's not looking good for Kym. For a start, Rudd isn't the kind of guy who moves precipitously.

This is not a factional affair. Kevin Rudd and his chosen deputy, Julia Gillard, are from the right and left factions respectively, as are Kim and his sidekick, Jennie Macklin. (Looks sort of like those TV news shows which have paired newsreaders of the opposite sex, doesn't it?)

Frankly, Kim is my kind of guy. He was a Rhodes Scholar who wrote his MA thesis on "Post-Evatt Labor Attitudes to the United States Alliance". He was Defence Minister and Finance Minister under the Hawke and Keating governments. (His dad was Education Minster in the Whitlam government.)

Kevin Rudd is a great spokesperson. He's always on top of his game, he's always read all the reports, he's always there with what-ought-to-be-done. He really knows his stuff when it comes to his Foreign Affairs shadow portfolio (but then he was a diplomat who worked in the embassies in Stockholm and Beijing - he speaks Mandarin fluently). He's from Queensland, where Labor holds just six of 29 Federal seats. Rudd is a devout Christian, but hates American-style religious politics.

Pairing him with Gillard (who, like Macklin, is from Victoria) calms fears from that quarter. She's done some good work fighting Tony Abbott over Health issues.

The folks backing Rudd include Simon Crean, Peter Garrett, Kate Lundy, Harry Quick and (of course) Julia Gillard, of whom I have a high regard.

The main issue seems to be, "just what do we need to do to get rid of this government?"

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Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
morgan_dhu
3rd Dec, 2006 21:47 (UTC)
I hope that whoever wins the Labour leadership in your part of the world has a better chance at getting rid of the government than the new Liberal leader we just got here has.

Sigh. Stephane Dion, the new Leader of the Liberal party and hence Leader of the Opposition in Canada is a nice, bright, decent, committed guy with eight years of experience in the last Liberal government, seven of those years in Cabinet - holding Intergovernmental Affairs (a fairly important cabinet post in Canada) and Environment portfolios - and also cute in a shy sort of way - so he has all sorts of credentials, but... I'm not sure he can win an election against our current government. He's never fought a hard campaign.

Ah well, time will tell.
hawkeye7
5th Dec, 2006 07:59 (UTC)
Well, Kevin Rudd has won it. The portfolios will be handed out over the next few days. We can hope that common sense prevails. The next battle - next year - against John Howard will be tough.
morgan_dhu
5th Dec, 2006 18:40 (UTC)
Good luck with that.

We'll likely have a federal election by spring ourselves, and we simply have to get rid of the Bush-worshipping, American fundamentalist Christian influenced neo-cons in our government or Canada will become unrecognizable.

I think we have a good chance at that, because our current Conservative government is doing things that many Canadians don't feel comfortable with - but elections can be tricky things.
hawkeye7
5th Dec, 2006 20:46 (UTC)
doing things that many Canadians don't feel comfortable with
Like what? Can you give some examples?

elections can be tricky things
Oh yes. Our PM Howard is nothing more than a narrow-minded small-town politician. (Although his electorate is actually one of the wealthiest parts of Sydney.) But he is very good at elections. In 2001 he manufactured an election issue over the Tampa, a Danish vessel that picked up would-be illegal immigrants in the Indian Ocean. He branded them terrorists, had the Special Air Service storm the ship and dumped them on Nauru. He told a lot of lies and it cost the country a fortune but then 9/11 happened and he got away with it.

In 2004 he campaigned on keeping interest rates low. Actually, he didn't even promise anything at all. He didn't say they wouldn't rise, didn't say what he considered low (as Treasurer he presided over the highest interest rates in Australian history), didn't even promise that they would be lower than under Labor (but of course who would know?) I thought it was risky - rates will (and did) go up unless the economy takes a dive (as it seems about to). But he got away with it.

What are the big issues in Canada? Global Warming? (That's huge here, thanks to the drought. Howard's tried to make it into another wedge issue by getting behind nuclear power.) The War? (We're committed on five six different fronts and could use a hand but the way things are going it looks like you guys need help more than we do. Kevin Rudd has already declared "I am rock solid on the alliance with the United States. I have never seen that as being mutually exclusive of a strong relationship with the People's Republic of China.") The economy? (The US economy is subsiding, which can't be good news for Canada.)
morgan_dhu
5th Dec, 2006 21:21 (UTC)
Re: Things that PM Harper is doing that we don't feel comfortable with.
Being too openly religious (both previous PMs, both personally observant Catholics, earned points for saying that the Pope's comments on same-sex marriage were not relevant to them as leaders of the government, because their responsibility in public life was to the Canadian people, not to their personal religious convictions).
Being too "American"
Appearing to be muzzling his cabinet, running the show all by himself, and not being very accessible to the press
Doing things that make us look bad on the international scene (not showing up at the international AIDS conference held in Toronto this summer, making us look really stupid at the Climate Change conference in Nairobi)

Issues:
Our never-ending constitutional near-crisis is heating up again, thanks to some positions taken by some of the Liberal leadership candidates. Harper attempted to trump the Liberals by introducing a symbolic act recognising the Quebecois as "a nation within a united Canada." This will likely result in many different kinds of reactions all across the country and has a good chance of complicating the election.

The environment is definitely gaining salience as a key issue, and since Dion has selected it as one of the pillars of his agenda as Liberal leader, it will probably become more of one as the election gets into gear.

The mission in Afghanistan is an issue largely because we still see ourselves as peacekeepers not as peacemakers, and we're uncomfortable with the greater risks (and losses). Some feel that the current mission has the right focus, others think that it's just not working and needs to be rethought. There are a lot of shades of opinion on this, which makes it hard to turn it into an election issue - there's lots of debate, but so far it hasn't polarised. It could be important come election time, but right now it's sort of simmering.

The economy is an issue in some provinces, but not so much in others. Right now, what we're losing in economic growth from the slow-down in the U.S. is largely being offset by spin-off from our home-grown energy boom in the western provinces. What will happen if the U.S. gets much worse is hard to foresee right now.

The biggest domestic issues right now are probably health care and the way that revenues are shared between the federal and provincial/territorial governments (particularly important these days because of those regional energy booms). There's a few other things lurking about that could erupt, such as some recent flawed (from our perspective, anyway) trade deals with the U.S.

Opposition will probably try to make the image of the Conservative government as mean-spirited and not respectful of the needs of the poor, underprivileged, etc. into an election issue.



hawkeye7
7th Dec, 2006 12:39 (UTC)
Religion:
People here tend to be uncomfortable with open displays of religiosity, although it is becoming more common.

Climate:
Making Canada not look really stupid was going to be a big ask in any case, given that Canada ratified Kyoto and then has exceeded its target. (Australia refused to ratify and is therefore classed as a "environmental rogue state" but is actually on track to meet its (admittedly ludicrously easy) target.) If it's not an issue in Canada though, it's not an issue...

Nationhood:
Obviously, one of those things only a Canadian can comprehend, because on the ace of it, "a nation within a united Canada" is just a recognition of the state of affairs which actually already exists. Expecting wangst on his issue.

Revenue sharing:
I remember the last boom and bust cycle in the west. They seem to get stingy when times are good, and like rattling the tin cup when times are tough. Canada's finances are in good shape, although the national debt is still large at CDN$450B (as opposed to zero in Australia).

What's the problem with health care?

Portraying a conservative government as mean-spirited and not respectful of the needs of the poor, underprivileged etc is a waste of effort. Everybody knows and the people who vote for them don't care. (Concentrate on the *marginal electorates* guys!)

Canada is taking losses in Afghanistan at a much higher rate than other countries. Admittedly, Canada is getting what it paid for but... The fact that Canadians "see ourselves as peacekeepers not as peacemakers", means that Canada and Australia do not see eye-to-eye.
morgan_dhu
7th Dec, 2006 22:12 (UTC)
Climate is an issue - it's just that until about a year or so ago, no one was telling the public that we totally suck at honouring Kyoto. Since then, people have been getting seriously engaged on climate change issues, and it's quite likely that the Conservatives have sealed their fate by saying "we're so far behind on Kyoto that it's not worth trying anymore, let's just make up our own plan and promise to do something by 2050, without making any demands on people or industyy right now."

Dion, bless his little heart, is saying "yes, we really dropped the ball, but it's still better to try and catch up than to admit defeat and do nothing like the Conservatives want to do." He might even actually try to reduce emissions once he gets elected, because he is making it a major policy plank in his party - he says that his agenda is based on three things, sustainable economic wellbeing, social justice and the environment.

Nationhood: of course it's only describing reality to say that the Quebecois are a nation within Canada. What is more politically problematic is to say the Quebec is a nation within Canada or not, and that's what the separatists keep saying and therefore everyone is confused. We are strange this way.

Health care is very expensive, and the government hasn't been funding it as well as it used to, because it's been working hard on paying down the national debt. Some kinds of diagnostics, treatments, and semi-elective surgeries (knee and hip replacements, for example) have very long waiting times. Many Canadians remain adamantly opposed to moving to a two-tier payer system, others are equally adamant that it's the only way to save health care, and the courts have ruled in at least one case that long waiting times for certain procedures are a violation of Canadians' Charter rights, so provincial governments are faced with finding ways to provide the kinds of health services that are or may be considered Charter rights, without violating federal law that prohibits privatisation of many kinds of services in the health care field, and without adequate transfers from the federal governemnt to do so.

Actually, portraying the governemnt as mean-spirited works in Canadian politics to a certain degree - it's all tied up with our image of ourselves as being nice and polite. We don't want to think of our governemnt as letting kids on First Nations reservations do without or refusing to help illiterate adults get better learning skills or any one of a number of "support for the marginalised" programs that the cons have cut recently. If we don't know these things are happening, we can be complacent, but the Cons went ahead and proudly announced they were cutting these things, so now we're upset - at least some of us. There is a group that will deny anyone anhthing to get $5 more back on their taxes, but it's a small number, relatively speaking.

Canadians tend not to be Conservative in the nasty neo-con sort of way. We voted for this governemnt not because we liked them but because some key Liberals had been caught with their hands very deep in the public coffers. Once we forgive the Liberals, we'll vote for them again.


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