Note: In Australia, the Liberal Party is actually the more conservative party. Go figure.
With Syria dominating the headlines lately, it’s important to point out that a major Western democracy and US ally is about to hold an election. In just a few days Australia will to vote to decide whether Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the Labor Party will get another term or whether the opposition Liberal/National Coalition, headed by Tony Abbott, should have their turn to run the country.
It was just a few months ago that Rudd defeated then Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who had previously defeated a then Prime Minister Rudd back 2010, for the leadership of the Labor Party and by extension the Australian government. This Labor inter-party turmoil has undermined their government and emboldened the opposition as Labor plunged in the polls. And while Rudd’s regaining of the leadership gave his party a temporary boost in the polls, the numbers are now pointing towards a Coalition victory.
So will the Coalition hold their lead and be swept into power? Let’s take a look at the polling (courtesy of Wikipedia):
As you can see the Coalition numbers have been pretty static over the past three years, hanging in the mid to high forties. Meanwhile Labor has seen their numbers rise and fall like a sine curve, with their support ranging from the high twenties to the low forties. Right now it appears that Labor is in the midst of another drop that, if it follows the pattern of the previous three years, should persist through election day.
Looking back at the numbers for previous elections, the polling consensus in Australia is quite accurate and it has correctly predicting the winner in 2007 and 2010 while getting actual vote within a few percentage points. Previous polling also shows no inexplicable electoral shifts in the week leading up to the election, so it seems that we can expect these numbers to hold barring a major scandal or other event.
So all the data says that on September 7th Tony Abbott will be elected as Australia next Prime Minister. What does that mean for the Coalition and how will they differentiate themselves from the current Labor government?
Luckily for us, the Liberal Party has published an entire book on what they plan to do if they are voted into power. The first thing on their agenda is to get rid of the controversial carbon tax and slash government spending. They also plan on reforming Australian labor laws to make it easier to hire and fire employees, creating a more flexible labor market. And similarly to their American cousins, the Liberals want to add additional border security to keep out the “boat people” coming Asia. Because in their words, “sovereign countries do not allow themselves to be played for mugs.”
Overall, it’s a typical conservative agenda. Personally, I think these guys have US conservatives beat when it comes to policy ideas and getting the message out. Rather than just pointing out the flaws of the Labor government, the Liberals have provided their own solutions to Australia’s problems and are working to sell the voters on their plan. In 2012, the US Republicans were inept at getting their agenda into the public sphere. This allowed President Obama and the Democrats to paint them as party out of ideas other than the word “no.” If conservatives want to reclaim the lead when it comes to political innovation, they may want to look at their brethren down under.