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Australian Soap Opera Politics

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has just fought off a threat from within her own party. A member of Gillard’s ruling Labor party called for a leadership vote last week, worried that her faltering poll numbers would lead to wider defeat in September’s national elections. Though she won the vote unopposed, the Labor party’s outlook remains grim. The FT reports:

The Labor party has trailed the opposition Liberal National coalition in the polls for almost three years and is expected to suffer a heavy defeat at the federal election on September 14….

Tony Abbott, leader of the opposition Liberal National coalition, said Thursday’s “bizarre” events were further evidence that Labor was more focused on its political infighting than running the country.

“I think the Australian people watching today’s events would be saying to themselves, how long must this circus last?” he said.

More instability is not what Australia’s Labor party needs, but it’s what they’ve got.

And the question of who leads Australia is a big one. As the Pacific emerges as the center of gravity in world politics, Australia is steadily moving up in its importance to the United States. Fortunately, both parties in Australia support strong ties with the US, and all of the possible winners in Australia’s next election are going to be willing and able to work with the US. Like Americans, Australia wants to see China peacefully integrated into a growing and stable region, and with strong trade ties to China (and no territorial disputes with faraway Beijing) the Australians come closest to sharing basic American interests in the region.

Look for defense and intelligence cooperation to remain strong no matter what storms ruffle the surface of Australian politics.

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