Aussie election starts; opposition tipped to win
By Rod McGuirk, APCANBERRA, Australia — Australians voted Saturday in a national election that is expected to see the Labor Party ousted from government after six years in power.
September 7, 2013, 2:18 pm TWN
The change is forecast despite an apparent lack of overwhelming enthusiasm for opposition leader Tony Abbott. He seems on track to guide his Liberal Party-led coalition to a victory over a ruling party marred by infighting and a much-maligned carbon tax, with opinion polls giving the coalition a commanding lead.
A poll by Sydney-based market researcher Newspoll published in The Australian newspaper on Saturday showed the coalition was leading Labor 54 percent to 46 percent.
It was based on a random national telephone survey of 2,511 voters over three days this week and had a 2 percentage point margin of error. Newspoll has correctly picked the result of all 56 Australian federal and state elections since 1985.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was once widely liked by the public, becoming the nation's most popular leader in three decades when he took on the top job in 2007. Now, his party is facing the prospect of an end to its six years in power amid voter frustration over years of party instability and bickering, and widespread hatred of a carbon tax on major polluters.
The carbon tax has long been a thorn in the side of the Labor Party. The previous prime minister, Julia Gillard, broke an election promise and agreed to impose the tax in a bid to form a coalition Labor needed to stay in power.
Labor required the support of the minor Greens party — which insisted on the tax — in order to have enough seats in Parliament to control government.
The deal helped lead to her downfall, and in June, Gillard lost her job to Rudd in a vote of party lawmakers. Gillard herself came to power by unseating Rudd in a similar party coup three years earlier.
The Gillard vs. Rudd drama and the squabbling between their camps left many voters disillusioned. To some former Labor supporters, Abbott — once dubbed "unelectable" by a former boss — was seen as the lesser of two evils.
Abbott has vowed to scrap the carbon tax and instead introduce taxpayer-funded incentives for polluters to operate cleaner.
Paul Perini, a pastor, walked out of a polling station in the Sydney suburb of Glebe having voted for Labor — despite grudgingly acknowledging he believes Abbott would make a better prime minister than Rudd. Labor won his vote for its overall vision, though Perini said the party's chances at victory had unquestionably been hurt by the years of infighting.