Sunday, November 25, 2007

Howard's End

Australian voters ended John Howard's eleven and a half years as Prime Minister and brought in the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and its leader, Kevin Rudd, to form a new government. Howard's conservative Coalition was first elected not long after I arrived in New Zealand.

Howard's concession speech ended on a gracious note, after earlier partisan jabs, saying "I wish the government elected by the people today the very best of good fortune in the years ahead." Earlier in the speech, he said "I accept full responsibility for the Liberal Party campaign and I therefore accept full responsibility for the Coalition's defeat in this election campaign." Some pundits have said that having to campaign in his own electorate seat took his attention away from the national campaign and marginal seats that the ALP ultimately won. In the end, Howard appears certain to have lost his own seat, too.

The issues that defeated Howard's government were varied, including Howard's unpopular labour laws, inaction on climate change and other issues. Howard attempted to frighten Aussie voters into supporting the Coalition, but unlike previous years the effort fell flat. The ALP's commitment to an “education revolution” also interested many voters.

In his victory statement, Kevin Rudd said “I will be Prime Minister for all Australians.” In the campaign he said Howard's labour laws will be reformed, and his first action will be to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

For the US, this means the Bush Administration has lost its last staunch supporter among major allies. Australia will withdraw its troops from Iraq. Also, the US will be completely isolated on climate change, both through its continued refusal to act in any meaningful way, and especially through its refusal to ratify Kyoto.

I doubt there'll be any change in the relationship between Australia and New Zealand.

Gay and lesbian Australians won't be played as pawns by the ALP, but I don't expect to see any dramatic favourable change. Howard's government moved to outlaw same-sex marriage (as a wedge issue in electoral politics), and consistently prevented the establishment of civl unions. There's unlikely to be any change on marriage, but states may at least get the power to create civil unions if they want to.

I was never a fan of John Howard or his right-wing government. I'm not sorry to see either go. But to me, the greatest thing is watching democracy in action. Last night we stayed up until around 1am (NZ time), until Rudd's speech was aired, watching the change as it happened. I know that'd be the height of boredom to many people, but for me witnessing the power of democracy is something I'll watch any time I can, especially if it affects me in some way (and what happens in Australia always affects New Zealand).

I have to admit, though, I always like democracy just a little bit more when I agree with election results. This morning, democracy is a close friend of mine.


Anonymous said...

I came here specifically to see what you said about Howard's end. To me the biggest plus here is that Bush has lost his last major yes man in the world. Blair is out and now Howard... the air is smelling sweeter every day.

lost in france said...

Congratulations, then, on the result!

Anonymous said...

I came to check your comments on Howard as well. I am thrilled that Bush lost another ally. I am thrilled that another leader who tried to use gays as a wedge issue has gone down to defeat.

Now, if the Democrats would just nominate someone who could unite this country and at the same time lead it to a more inclusive society, to be more environmentally responsible, and be someone with a vision for the future, I could thrill in the power of democracy. Right now I'm not so sure.

d said...

Me too!

The radio station I listen to in the morning (the Rock) talked about the election today and the main point they had was that voters seemed to vote against Howard instead of for Rudd and insinuated it was because Howard had been in office for so long.

They asked listeners to call in and say whether Helen Clarke should now be worried, since she too has been in office for a considerable amount of time.


Anonymous said...

I was all sorts of stoked about the Ozzie elections - up till something like 4.30am PST, at that point mostly waiting to find out if Bennelong had swung over to Maxine McKew. Apparently the verdict is still out on that? (Pending full count of postal votes, but as I understand it, things look to be in her favor...:)

John Howard's said a lot of daft things during his tenure, but his comments earlier this year about Barack Obama just sort of put him firmly in the "Nature's Way of Signaling 'Do Not Touch!' " category for me.

It will be very interesting to see what transpires with the New Zealand elections next year - methinks Ms. Clark has a heckuva row to hoe, but the alternatives may be distasteful enough to keep her in office another term....

Arthur Schenck said...

Mike: Thanks for thinking of me! I completely agree with you, but I'd add that replacing Stephen Harper in Canada would be a good idea, too.

LiF: Thanks! It's definitely good news.

JQP: Thanks for stopping by! I agree with you. I still hope that the Democratic nominee will be the sort of person you described--or becomes that way--but I'm not too optimistic about it.

Dawn: They were only saying what others were. However, no, it wasn't just a vote against Howard, yes, it was a vote for Rudd AND change. I have more to say about all that in today's post.

Dagcentral: Maxine had a big enough lead that it was highly improbable that postal votes would matter. Even John Howard knew that. Right wing politicians and pundits are always going on about postal votes, but they always seem to forget that they're not necessarily all supporting their candidate.

In today's post I talk about how the Aussie elections mean nothing for the NZ elections, though at the moment things are tough for Labour and Helen Clark. But as I always remind people, a year is an awfully long time in politics.