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Poll diving in Asia Pacific

11 August, 2010

Barack Obama (Democrat, USA). Yukio Hatoyama (Democratic Party, Japan). Kevin Rudd (Labor, Australia).

Three leaders in Asia Pacific that came to power amid an overwhelming yearning for change throughout each nation. After years (8, USA; 11, Australia; practically since post WWII, Japan) of conservative government stewardship, voters in all three countries desired not necessarily economic change, but for a shift of the nations’ social and moral rudders. Headlining issues included the war in Iraq, climate change, and  in Japan, US naval bases in Okinawa.

Yet a few years in, all three have been decimated in public opinion polls, with Obama the only one to remain in office. Hatoyama and Rudd, with low factional support bases, were ultimately axed by their own parties after the largest force keeping them at the helm of their parties – opinion polls – deserted them.

2010 being an election year in both Japan and Australia, the opposition have been quick to attack the economic credentials of the current governments and the alleged “financial mismanagement” that has led to budget deficits and a supposed “endangering” of all three countries’ economic stability.

It is startling to realise just how quick we have been to forget the momentous task that these governments were all faced with during the global financial crisis. It is true that all three leaders failed in pushing through some of their election platform policies. Yet once clear of the woods of economic crisis, it is disconcerting how quickly the tide of popular sentiment has changed for these leaders.

New Japanese PM Kan led his party to a battering in recent upper house elections. In Australia, PM Julia Gillard leads her party to an election with underdog status, if polls are to be believed. This despite the opposition being headed by an otherwise thoroughly unelectable Tony Abbott. Even as a non-partisan writer, I can say it has a mix of both tragedy and farce to see Abbott present an image of stability and consistency, even if he has achieved this through a policy platform of unrelenting criticism rather than logically designed public policy fundamentals.

The key question of course is, does the Labor government “deserve” to be returned to power despite their “sins”? I have tried taking a piece of paper and constructing an argument in favour of a coalition government. So far, the only point I had in their favour was communications/broadband policy. Yet since the opposition’s recent announcement on their broadband policy, this has been well and truly scratched, leaving me again with a blank page of “pros” for a coalition government.

Over the last 2-3 decades, successive Australian governments (both Labor and coalition) have made Australians better off by pushing through progressive reforms and making Australia more open, tolerant, influential, and affluent. Voters need to check both parties against such a scorecard before they vote this month to see if whoever takes office will continue this tradition of progressive reforms, or if they hope to wind the country back to a bygone era.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. ribbit permalink
    15 August, 2010 10:26 pm

    Yes. We are fickle and forget so soon. It’s amazing how the Coalition has invaded people’s head space and tried to make us believe (and many have!!) that they are the true action party and the Labor party has just caused the debt!! It’s incredible and startling to watch.

    How could we let the Coalition rip up and stop everything good that Labor has done so far? That would be the true WASTE.

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