Saturday, 7 September 2013

Massive day in Oz as the big top stages its marquee performance

With just zero days to go folks there's a new opinion poll out showing the centre-right Coalition on 50.8 and the centre-left ALP on 49.2 on a two-party-preferred basis. Roll up! Roll up! Unlike the other polls it's a mobile-phone-only poll - which is likely to be more accurate than polls relying on landlines, which mostly older Australians use - so get ready for a nail-biter. Will it be a 5% swing or another hung Parliament? WHO KNOWS!

The biggest show in town - bigger even than the Olympics - is about to stage its marquee performance and Barack Obama, for one, must be relieved. To this point the US president has been deprived of one of his country's most stalwart supporters. Those pesky Brits! If Australia hadn't been staging a federal election right now would the darn limeys have been more willing to go to war in Syria? A curse on their lower House!

For environmentally-conscious people globally this election is also important. The ALP government introduced a carbon price last year but the Liberal-National coalition has promised to repeal the law. Outside Europe, Australia is one of a few countries that officially prices carbon releases, so this election is a big one for people who want to see concrete action on greenhouse gases - not just here but everywhere.

Public servants in Australia will be hoping for an ALP win: the Coalition has promised to cut government employment drastically. But in these economically fragile times does the national economy need a whole slew of new unemployed? Shouldn't the government be taking up the slack in bad times to ensure continued growth? Australia enjoys GDP growth of about 2.6% right now - high by international standards but low historically - but a national survey by the public broadcaster says that it's young men in trades jobs who are saying they support the Coalition. Australia has had 22 uninterrupted years of growth to date. Will a Coalition win put that record in jeopardy?

If broadband is all you care about the choice is easy. The ALP is currently funding a country-wide high-speed fibre broadband network but the Coalition says it'll do it cheaper. The downside in that case would be slower speeds. An international overview run by the ALP showed that the Coalition's solution is far less than impressive: most people would not pay for the speeds they are promising by 2019. But do people really see the benefits of fast broadband? Has the ALP done enough to describe the kinds of future uses of such a network?

The left Greens party looks set to increase its performance on the last election in 2010, and the elephant in the room as always is the Senate, where the Greens have traditionally done very well. If the Coalition wants to repeal that carbon price legislation they'll need the support of both houses. If the Greens dominate in the Senate as they have done in the past few years then their job will be that much harder.

From America's perspective it doesn't really matter which party wins because both the ALP and the Coalition have a strong record of working closely with the US in matters of international importance; Australia is the only country in the world that has gone to all of America's wars since WWII. What is important for Obama is a settled mandate for either of the two majors. But that mobile-only poll makes the landscape a bit more uncertain; to date we've been told the Coalition would get a swing of between three and five percent. That's up in the air now. Up in the space above the big top, and we also have 15 million Australians who will today make their choices among a larger range of political parties than we've ever seen before. Roll up, folks, it promises to be a big day out.

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