Labor government facing tough Australian election

June 11, 2013 at 6:03 AM
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CANBERRA, Australia, June 11 (UPI) -- With less than 100 days before the Australian federal election, the governing Labor party is struggling at the polls and worried about a potentially humiliating defeat.

In the 2010 election, Labor and the opposition coalition of the Liberal and National Coalition parties each won 72 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives.

It was Labor, after gaining support from the Green Party member of the House and three independents, that formed a minority government.

Some Labor MPs are worried that bloodletting from two leadership challenges by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his recent statements could harm their chances of re-election.

Media speculation continues over what Rudd might do, although he insists he isn't interested in taking over from beleaguered Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

But Rudd, sounding and acting like the political leader he once was, has started campaigning with fellow Labor MPs whose seats are marginal in the hope his presence will boost their re-election chances, The Age reported.

Last week Rudd, who was prime minister from 2007-10, reiterated he isn't interested in Gillard's job.

However, The Age report said Rudd continues to choose his words carefully, saying he couldn't ''see any circumstances'' in which he would be prime minister again.

Before Rudd's words were there were no circumstances that would bring him back to the top Labor job.

But differences and animosities are plenty between Rudd and Gillard, who as Rudd's deputy prime minister replaced him as prime minister in a 2010 leadership challenge.

After winning the 2007 federal election, Rudd's popularity swiftly declined, thanks to dithering over implementation and finally dropping a proposed environmental carbon emissions trading scheme for industry.

There followed a brutal backlash over a proposed super tax on profits of Australia's aggressive and internationally successful mining sector.

Gillard mounted a successful leadership challenge in June 2010, becoming Australia's first woman prime minister. She called a snap national election for August 2010 in which she beat the coalition of Tony Abbott's Liberal party and the smaller National Party by putting together a coalition.

In a conciliatory move toward Rudd, Gillard installed him in her Cabinet as foreign minister, but he resigned in February 2012 and called for a labor leadership vote, which he lost in a 71-31 vote.

After another failed challenge by Rudd in March last year, he said there were no circumstance in which he would run again for the top job.

Labor's chance of re-election is looking slim. The BBC reported opinion polls suggest a defeat for Labor that could be a rout.

The BBC said some Labor officials think the party might end up with only 30 of the 150 House seats.

The BBC quoted an Australian Broadcasting Corp. political presenter saying, "Australia, it seems, isn't having an election Sept. 14, but a handover. Never before has there been this level of expectation that a government is about to be thrown out."

Main opposition leader Tony Abbott of the Liberal party recently attacked the government over its failure to stop the influx of thousands of refugees arriving in Australian waters a year and trying to claim asylum.

Abbott said he would drastically cut the number of Asylum seeker boats taken by the coast guard, ABC television news reported last week.

Around 22,000 asylum seekers arrived by boat in Australia in the past year and they are adding to the thousands others being housed in detention centers off shore and on the mainland.

Abbott said a reduction in the number of asylum seeker boats would happen in the first term of a government he headed. "We'll make a difference from day one when it comes to illegal boat arrivals to Australia," Abbott said

Some of Gillard's own party members are warning the asylum seeker issue potentially could deliver a fatal blow to their re-election.

ABC reported Sydney MP Laurie Ferguson saying border protection was a "major ingredient" in Labor's poll woes and urged Gillard to engage voters more on the subject or "we are dead" in critical western Sydney Parliamentary seats.

Gillard accused Abbott of fear-mongering over border protection.

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