Australian voters recently brought a long-expected end to a tumultuous six-year Labor government. The election gave a parliamentary majority to a centrist conservative coalition formed by the Liberal Party, whose leader, former Rhodes Scholar Tony Abbott, became prime minister with a pledge to encourage “enterprise to flourish.”
The rightward turn of the Australian electorate reflects the notion that the Liberals (remember, they lead a conservative coalition) offer a better chance of steering the economy and the government budget in the right direction.
Australia faces falling revenues and contracting investment as a long-term boom in iron and coal exports appears to be ending.
Yet Labor lost not just due to its failed policies, but because its internal divisions turned off voters. The party called in Kevin Rudd to replace its previous leader, Julia Gillard, in June as polls indicated Labor was headed for a historic defeat.
Ms. Gillard had replaced Mr. Rudd as the party’s head in 2010 because his stormy temperament alienated party leaders.
In the dead-heat 2010 national elections that followed, Ms. Gillard was able to form a government only by allying with a small number of Green Party members. That led her to enact a carbon tax that she had opposed during the election campaign, a move that was widely unpopular.
Mr. Abbott has promised to repeal it.
At least one U.S. political observer sees an American parallel in Australia’s power shift.
Americans for Limited Government President Nathan Mehrens says a repeal of the carbon tax by the new Australian government should encourage the congressional Republicans who want to “de-fund” Obamacare.
The Liberal ascendancy will depend on a coalition with the National Party in the Australian House of Representatives, providing a comfortable majority.
But it will have to look for support from six independent members of the 76-seat Senate to pass legislation, suggesting that gridlock may be in the offing.
Perhaps it can pick up one vote from the senator of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party and another from the senator for the Australian Sports Party.
After all, the new prime minister was described in an endorsement in The Australian newspaper as a “volunteer firefighter, surf lifesaver, endurance athlete and charity cyclist.”
On the other hand, as Charleston area residents know all too well, motorists and cyclists don’t always see eye to eye on policy issues.
One vote the new government will not have to worry about: Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks and the Australian Wikileaks Party, failed in his bid for a Senate seat, underperforming even the failed candidate of the Australian Sex Party. Mr. Assange is living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in order to escape an arrest warrant for his extradition to Sweden — to face sexual assault charges.
Like New York voters who turned away from Anthony Weiner’s bid to become the city’s next mayor, Australians appear to have had enough of candidates dogged by sex scandals.