Under Australia’s complicated counting system, final results of the country’s general election will not be known for some time, but it is already clear that Kevin Rudd and the Labor Party have lost. Rudd has conceded defeat and announced that he will not fight to stay on as leader of the bitterly factionalized party. Outside Kevin Rudd’s home state of Queensland, the results look to be at the high end of expectations for the conservative winners. (Down Under, for reasons that no doubt make sense to all concerned, the conservatives are known as the Liberal Party and the liberals vote for Labor.)The biggest loser may be the tiny Green Party. In the old Australian Party, a minority Liberal government needed Green votes to stay in power. As a result, the Greens were able to protect a controversial cap and trade program that most observers say contributed to the Labor loss. The Liberals are expected to scrap a cap and trade program that was once hailed by greens around the world as a stellar example of the kind of green policies that could win public support and stop global warming. (The Greens may still have some influence, however; the Senate vote is very close and the Liberals may fall short of a majority there.)US-Australia relations were pretty good under the Rudd government and ties will remain strong under the Liberals. Labor is closer ideologically to American Democrats while the Liberals identify more with the GOP, but the strong common interests between Australia and the US mean that leaders in both countries usually cooperate to smooth over any rough spots. Australia has been one of America’s staunchest allies since US forces came to the rescue in World War Two, and there aren’t many people in Australia who want that to change.The biggest problem the Liberals face will be economic. Australia has had a fantastic run for the last 22 years. The Asia boom, especially China’s growth, fueled enormous demand for the raw materials that Australia’s mineral rich landscape provides. The slowing growth of many Asian countries has already led to trouble in many commodity exporting countries around the world. Australia has a more diversified economy than some, but a serious commodity downturn could put a quick and painful end to Australia’s long boom.Longer term, the Game of Thrones in Asia—the rise of an Asian state system characterized both by strong nationalistic competition and economic integration—will drive Australian politics and policy. China is Australia’s most important customer; the US is Australia’s most important ally. Australians watch US policy and politics very closely; these days, many see signs of weakness and division that make them wonder whether the US will be strong and smart enough to play its part in the Asian political world.Abbot’s Liberals start emotionally and culturally from a very pro-US position, but few anywhere in the world right now have much good to say about American foreign policy. Our enemies are pleased; even our best friends are worried. Alliances, even very close ones, will wither if one party loses faith in the other, and at the moment, the general world feeling is that the US has had two failed presidents in a row. Let’s hope that for the rest of his term, President Obama and the Congress act in ways that change that perception.[Tony Abbott of the Australian Coalition]
Australia Has a New Government; What Will it Think About the US?