Liberal/National Coalition leader Tony Abbott has claimed victory over earlier Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in a landslide federal election this Saturday in Australia. The defeat ends six years of turbulent Labor government in the country, which saw fierce internal disputes for power that tarnished the credibility of the Labor Party. The election gives Abbott's party an 87 to 54 advantage in the House of Representatives
It began 2007, when Kevin Rudd was elected Prime Minister in a landslide victory over the Coalition. Rudd was extremely popular in his early years of government. In 2008, opinion polls gave him a 70% per cent approval rating, which was a figure rarely seen in the history of Australian government. Yet although he had the support of the people, his fellow labor colleagues were always wary of his leadership style, which was perceived as aloof and arrogant. This concern grew when Rudd failed to deliver on the cornerstone of his environmental strategy, namely the implementation of an emissions trading scheme. And when Rudd decided to target the mining sector with an unpopular "super tax" on profits, his colleagues in Labor decided they had had enough. In 2010, Julia Gillard challenged Rudd for the leadership of the Party, and won.
But not for long. Although Julia Gillard had managed to garner the support of fellow Labor colleagues to win over the leadership of the party, she was never popular with the Australian people. In 2011, polls revealed that about only one in four Australian voters (27%) were prepared to vote for Gillard. This unpopularity persisted until 2013, when in a comeback coup, Rudd ousted Gillard by 57 to 45 votes and regained power in a desperate effort to try and save Labor's plummeting popularity.
As we now know, his efforts were in vain. In a landslide victory, the Coalition, led by Tony Abbott, managed to win 88 of the 150 seats in the house of representatives, against 57 won by Labor. Three seats were distributed between three small parties, and the remaining two seats are still undetermined.
In his post-victory statement, Abbott promised a government that "says what it means and means what it says." He also declared that "Australia is once more open for business." In three years, he vowed to halt the carbon tax, "stop the boats" (a reference to reduce the increasing intake of refugees in Australia), and put the budget back into a surplus. According to the Coalition's calculations, they will save $91m by scrapping the mining tax, $439m from "unnecessary bureaucracy" by repealing the carbon tax, and $5.2bn from a staffing freeze across government agencies. They also contend that their "stopping the boats" policy will pay a $1bn dividend, although the causal mechanism behind this was not expounded in their policy document. In total, the Coalition has pledged to reduce outlays by a massive $42bn. This huge figure has left many concerned over its validity. As ACIL Tasman's executive director Stephen Bartos puts it: "If those are cumulative they're absolutely enormous — or they're double counting."
Ultimately, the Coalition is going to come in with a stricter government style than Labor, and this may be just what Australia needs at the moment. In a country that has seen significant levels of internal party turmoil since 2007, it would be in the benefit of the Coalition to ensure that they institute a more steady and robust government. It will therefore be up to Abbott to make sure he has the support of his colleagues and with it control over the house of representatives, so that he can deliver on the massive promises he has made. If this is not the case, then Australia may be in for more years of political turmoil and uncertainty, which can only come to the detriment of the Australian economy and the Australian population.