Thursday, January 11, 2007

2007 federal election in Australia - will we see change?

For those Australians returning from Mars, 2007 is a federal election year for Australia. Most commentators are predicting an October election although some Liberal Party insiders are increasingly suggesting the unusual step of a winter election in July or August.

And we are not alone – this year there are elections in Argentina, Bangladesh, France, Kenya, Pakistan, PNG, Timor Leste and many others. In Australia, the Coalition will face the new ALP leadership team of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. The ALP will try to push industrial relations as a key issue, particularly the fear around the Government’s Work Choices changes. But with unemployment at record lows (4.6%), it will be harder to sell this fear. More feared is the “other” IR issue – interest rates. If the Reserve Bank raises rates again, or even twice, this could swing some of Howard’s battlers in key seats. The ALP will also try to differentiate itself on social policy – especially health and education.

Other issues are water and nuclear energy, as part of increased attention to climate change. The ALP will try to highlight Iraq (and by extension AWB) and security but unless we see body bags brought home or another attack on Australians, this is less likely to gain traction. Key one-on-ones to watch will be Swan vs Costello, Garrett vs Turnbull, Roxon vs Abbott and Gillard vs Andrews. Other influences will be the Greens appeal on climate change and whether Pauline Hanson’s return drives the values debate. Ultimately it could boil down to leadership – voters generally know and trust Howard (33 years in parliament, 11 as PM), they don’t (yet) Rudd and Gillard (9 years each in parliament). The Coalition have the track record, the ALP doesn’t. One thing is for sure, we can expect to see plenty of “public interest” advertising in 2007.

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