The state elections could be an albatross for Rudd’s neck
As elections in two states loom it is becoming absolutely clear that voters are in the process of switching off the Labor Party.
What this means is that Australia will have a changed political landscape post March 20 - no matter what the outcome of the polls.
And the aftershocks from these elections could have profound implications for federal Labor, which will seek re-election with two crippled state divisions providing distractions and baggage.
If there is a saving grace for Labor at a state level, it is that the oppositions in both Tasmania and SA have to make up huge ground.
The Libs need to win 10 seats in SA to govern in their own right and the Tasmanians needs to augment their seven current sitting members with another six seats. Big swings are needed in both states.
This means that in both there is the real possibility of Labor scraping over the line (on Green preferences in Tasmania).
There is also a possibility of hung parliaments and the instability that would ensue
On the balance of probabilities based on the latest polls, what seems to be a likely scenario is that Kevin Rudd could be seeking re-election with voters still carrying their pent up frustrations with Labor.
In Tasmania the situation for Labor is dire.
The ALP’s primary vote has collapsed. The latest public poll has it plumbing a new historic low of 23 percent, dropping from 26 percent three months earlier.
Voters chose to ignore the premier’s pitch of $500 million in campaign promises, signalling clearly that there is a definite mood for change.
David Bartlett has lamely tried to dismiss the poll, claiming that he “spends not one day worrying about his own job” as he campaigns on creating jobs for Tasmanians.
No-one seems to be buying it.
His traditional support base has fragmented on the Left and gone to the Greens, which is just one point behind the ALP on 22 percent, and to the Liberal Party, which is on 30.
Bartlett’s last hope is to sneak back into office on Green preferences, although the Liberal Party is warning of the possibility of a minority Labor/Green government and the damage this would do to timber industry jobs in the state.
In South Australia, voters are fast tiring of Premier Mike Rann, who has spent 15 years as the leader of the Labor Party, the last eight in office.
Rann’s campaign has been dogged by persistent allegations of an affair with a parliament house waitress, whose husband pleaded guilty yesterday to physically attacking the Premier some months ago.
His denials have dovetailed into concerns that his last term has been characterised by more spin than substance. The opposition has made this a central point in their campaign with trust as a focus.
In both states the government has studiously avoided its record.
Both have run campaigns with similar slogans relating to the future and moving their states ahead.
This has been driven by the need to shift attention away from the baggage accumulated over lengthy stints in power and scandals (particularly in Tasmania).
Both have pitched on jobs and both announced jobs targets. Both are keen to try to exploit the assertion that only they can continue to be trusted to lock in the economic performance of the last term.
The ALP in Tassie has set a target of 15,000 new jobs over the next term, even though there are just 13,000 unemployed people in the state.
In SA, Rann has set a goal of creating 100,000 new jobs, the same target adopted by Anna Bligh in Queensland last year.
What has become acutely apparent is that both premiers will need to find other jobs post election. It is impossible for them to survive, even if they both limp over the line.
Bartlett has presided over a nadir in support and cannot expect caucus support when he has proven so politically poisonous.
Rann, who took the leadership when John Hewson was the leader of the federal Liberal Party, has no clear successor.
All the longer serving members of Rann’s ministry have been tarnished with their own problems, meaning that a re-elected government would present as more of the same.
No wonder Kevin Rudd, who has enough problems of his own, is wasting little time in either state. With friends like these….
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