What You Need Know About the Australian Election

Citizens Down Under in the happy-go-lucky, beach-weather-all-year-round land of Vegemite and koalas are heading to the polls this Saturday, which will likely result in a change of government.

The current Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd of the Labor Party, who describes himself as an economic conservative and social liberal, was first elected in 2007. He served until 2010 when he was ousted by his then deputy, Julia Gillard, who promptly called an election that year. Gillard managed to form government in the resulting hung parliament with the backing of independent MPs. But when her public support dwindled earlier this year, Rudd regained his former office in a dramatic winter’s day in Canberra and social media networks came alight with the hashtag ‘#RuddWedding’.

Since then, Rudd has been quick to announce policies and the September 7 election. However, polling throughout the four-week campaign has seen a steady decline in the initial jump in support for Rudd’s Labor government. The honeymoon has come to an end and there is a slow realisation that we’re back to where we were, with a few notable exceptions.

Not least of all being marriage equality, which has enjoyed its first real time in the national spotlight as a matter of serious policy debate. Rudd has come out in support, whereas his opponent, Tony Abbott of the Liberal Party, is yet to make a firm commitment either way for this election. However he has previously stated that he believes marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

Abbott has run a traditional, conservative campaign, attempting to reflect stability, calmness and responsible economic management. Conversely, Rudd has run a presidential-style, personal campaign which has relied heavily on his previous record as Prime Minister and his ability to connect with a live audience.

Noted Canadian-born advertising guru Todd Sampson has described how Abbott wants the election to be about Labor v Liberal, based on the ‘chaos’ of the last two terms. Conversely, Sampson believes, Rudd wants the election to be about Abbott v Rudd, based on his confident, charismatic style in comparison to Abbott’s unfortunate proneness to awkward gaffes.

Other notable policy issues include a carbon tax, which Abbott will dump but Rudd will keep; a high-speed national broadband network, which Abbott will do more affordably but with less speed and Rudd will do more expensively but with greater speed; and how to process asylum seekers who attempt to come to Australia by boat, which both major parties have eerily similar, conservative-leaning policies on. In fact, it is this latter policy which is expected to keep votes flowing to left-leaning third forces such as The Greens, who are likely to share the balance of power in the upper house with other independents.

Perhaps most notably or controversially of all, though, has been the formation of the Wikileaks Party – Julian Assange’s bid for a seat in the Australian senate. Although many constitutional experts expect he would have to give up his seat to another member of his newly-formed party on account of being stuck some 10,000 miles away.

Polling has consistently indicated that Rudd’s Labor is unlikely to retain government and that Tony Abbott is likely to become Australia’s 28th Prime Minister. However, Abbott has committed himself to not forming a minority government like Julia Gillard did in 2010, so he will need to get an absolute majority in the lower house and requires a swing of at least four seats.

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