Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Three years later, Kevin Rudd finds himself behind Julia Gillard in the polls

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd hasn't been forced to battle the damaging leaks that all but destroyed Julia Gillard's campaign three years ago, but he and his Labor government suddenly find themselves in a much worse position than that which engulfed Ms Gillard at the same time in the last federal election.

Just short of three weeks out from the 2010 election, Gillard Labor had slumped to a primary vote of 36 per cent against the Abbott opposition's 45 per cent in the Fairfax/Nielsen poll, and 37 per cent to 44 per cent in Newspoll, or 50-50 on the two-party preferred scale.

Rudd Labor, also a few days short of three weeks before the election, is now on a 34 per cent primary vote, while the Abbott Coalition is on 47 per cent, according to the latest Newspoll.

That equates to a two-party preferred vote of 54 per cent to the opposition and a losing 46 per cent for Labor.

Mr Rudd, in short, has a vastly steeper cliff to climb than Ms Gillard faced if he is to have any chance of retaining the prime ministership.

The only advantage he enjoys is that he is not being undermined by the sort of leaks that brought Ms Gillard low.

Shortly before her slump, news reports quoted unnamed sources saying that she had tried to limit the increase in the age pension in the previous year's budget and wanted to kill the idea of paid parental leave altogether.  The source or sources of the leaks were never identified.

Mr Rudd at the time was in hospital having his gall bladder removed.

Shortly after, Ms Gillard arranged to meet him to persuade him to throw his weight behind her campaign.

Ms Gillard also publicly re-fashioned herself as "the new Julia", and her party turned its attention to attacking Mr Abbott.

Mr Rudd and his campaign team are now stepping up their public attacks on Mr Abbott, buying advertising time to warn that "if he [Abbott] wins, you lose".

Mr Rudd, having started the campaign saying he wanted an end to negativity, has defended his new negative stance by saying it is based on policy.

Whether he can turn around his campaign remains to be seen, but he has a task that has no recent comparison.


'Green bank' faces the axe after vote

The corporation - effectively a green investment bank - was set up as part of the deal between Labor, the Greens and independents over carbon pricing, revenue from which funds the institution.

Since its creation the $10 billion bank has invested close to $800 million in renewables and energy-efficiency projects across the country. Projects include $60 million for a solar farm in Moree and $75 million for plants capturing waste coal mine and landfill gas and turning it into power. But its existence is seriously contested.

Tony Wood, energy program director at think tank the Grattan Institute, said the corporation to date had done little but provide cheap financing to projects, meaning it was just competing with existing market players.

"If the government is going to intervene in the market you need to have a clear rationale and I'm not sure they have made a clear case," he said. Mr Wood said the corporation's energy-efficiency work was worthy but did not require $10 billion.

The Coalition has vowed to axe the corporation if it wins the federal election, saying it is backing speculative ventures with borrowed money, which the private sector would not support.

"Why would you pay more than you had to for renewable energy - it's a wacky idea," said opposition climate spokesman Greg Hunt.

On the first day of the election campaign Tony Abbott wrote to the corporation's chairman, Jillian Broadbent, to reiterate his government would close it down. It followed similar letters from other Coalition frontbenchers in recent months threatening not to honour contracts signed by the corporation.

On Monday, Fairfax Media reported that banks and other major investors were expecting about $4 billion to be sucked from the renewable energy sector as a result of regulatory uncertainty and the likelihood of lower returns under a Coalition government.

Mr Hunt rejected that report, saying he spoke regularly with major investors and banks and those concerns had not been raised with him.

The chief executive of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Oliver Yates, declined to comment on policies of the major parties, but said he thought the $4 billion funding estimate was likely to be "conservative".

Analysts estimate $20 billion in private and public investment cash would be required to meet the mandatory renewable energy target of 20 per cent clean energy by 2020 that has bipartisan political support.


Kevin Rudd accused of demonising migrants, as union campaigns on 457 visas

TONY Abbott has called on Kevin Rudd to distance himself from a $1 million union advertising crackdown on foreign workers, accusing the Prime Minister of demonising migrants who came to Australia through proper legal avenues.

The Opposition Leader said he was appalled at the stance taken by Mr Rudd on the issue, saying that 457 visa holders contributed to Australian society by working and paying taxes.

“Mr Rudd really should disassociate himself from this particular union campaign, particularly given one of the first things that he said on coming back into the Prime Ministership was `I'm sick of all the politics of division',” Mr Abbott said.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) will spend $1 million over the next two weeks in its advertising campaign to claim Mr Abbott wants to “massively expand” the temporary 457 visa program and put foreign workers first.

The campaign includes radio and billboard advertisements as well as television advertisements that began screening last night on free-to-air television networks in Tasmania and Queensland.

One of the ads features a worker who was among 106 redundant employees made to train 457 visa holders kept on by the employer.

Mr Abbott today said employers already had to meet requirement conditions to use foreign workers and that it was already more cost effective to source domestic workers to plug skills shortages.

“It's far more expensive to employ a 457 visa holder than it is to employ a local,” Mr Abbott said.”They aren't stealing our jobs, they are building our country.

“It appalls me, it really appalls me that the unions and Mr Rudd are running this campaign effectively to demonise the skilled migrants upon whose backs our country has been built.

“Just about every Australian is a migrant or a descendent of migrants and frankly we should be honouring and cherishing the contributions that migrants who've come to this country legally, the right way to join our team, have made.”

Mr Abbott made the comments in the western Sydney seat of Lindsay, where he released the Coalition's policy to crack down on gun imports.

Earlier, he was in the Sydney electorate of Bennelong to announce his small business policy.

Mr Rudd's first act after being returned to the prime ministership was to pass through the lower house Labor's contentious 457 visa legislation, placing more onerous requirements on employers.

The new restrictions include labour market testing provisions for employers, tougher monitoring of compliance by the Fair Work Ombudsman and strengthening the ability of the immigration department to prosecute wrongdoers.

It also includes a new dob-in hotline, allowing employees to report employers for unfairly treating foreign workers. It will also require businesses to allocate one to two per cent of payroll for training purposes for every year of the visa sponsorship.

The legislation was opposed by business and industry groups who pressed for evidence of rorts under the current regime.


Greens in deal with devil: Wilkie

TASMANIAN independent MP Andrew Wilkie will issue an open how-to-vote card for his seat of Denison.

Mr Wilkie will have an open how-to-vote ticket which instructs voters to put a one next to his name and fill in the rest of the preferences as they wish.

His election chances were bolstered this week when the Liberals announced they would preference him over the Labor candidate in the Tasmanian seat of Denison, Jane Austin.

"The Liberals have made their own decision that I'm the best of a bad bunch, or the least bad," he told ABC radio.

But Mr Wilkie said the Greens' decision to preference Labor ahead of him made a complete mockery of the party's criticism of the federal government.

"It's a great betrayal of your core philosophies ... that when it comes to your political self interest you're prepared to do a deal with the devil," he said.

Mr Wilkie was one of the key independents who helped Labor form a minority government, but later tore up his agreement with then prime minister Julia Gillard when she reneged on a promise to deliver poker machine reform.

He has ruled out entering into an agreement with a minority government if there is another hung parliament.


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