Keating takes to the hustings

PAUL KEATING, the Australian Prime Minister, who has called an election for 13 March, will embark today on a campaign to achieve the unprecedented feat of winning a fifth consecutive term of government for the Labor party.

It will be the most closely fought and bitter campaign since Labor came to power 10 years ago. An opinion poll published today indicates that the government would just win an election now, but another last week put the opposition coalition of Liberal and National parties ahead. Labor has a majority of five in the 148-seat House of Representatives.

A key factor in Mr Keating's choice yesterday of a March poll was a state election in Western Australia on Saturday, in which the Labor government was defeated. Such an outcome had been widely predicted in the wake of a public backlash against a series of scandals during the Eighties in which the state Labor government was embroiled in the disastrous business dealings of former Western Australian entrepreneurs such as Alan Bond.

Saturday's defeat ended a decade of Labor rule in Western Australia and with it the short reign of Carmen Lawrence, the state Premier and Australia's first female political leader. Dr Lawrence, 44, herself untarnished by the Western Australia 'WA Inc' scandals, was installed as party leader three years ago in a Labor attempt to recover ground from the damage caused by her male former colleagues, some of whom are now facing charges.

Dr Lawrence's personal popularity was insufficient to save Labor. But the swing against her government of about 2 per cent was not the landslide that pollsters and party strategists had predicted. The slim margin of the win by the opposition Liberal Party and its leader, Richard Court, is believed to have galvanised Mr Keating into launching the national election campaign promptly.

The election comes at a time when the 'Labor Decade', which saw Labor in power federally and in five of Australia's six states during the Eighties, is collapsing. The state Labor government in Victoria, the second most populous state, was swept from power five months ago and a Labor premier of South Australia recently resigned. In both states millions of dollars of investors' funds were lost in badly managed state banks.

The federal Labor government has sought to distance itself from the various state scandals but it has big problems of its own, notably unemployment at 11.3 per cent, the worst for 60 years. Fresh figures due this week could reveal more than 1 million Australians out of work. This will be the central issue of the campaign.

For Mr Keating, 49, it will be the first election as Prime Minister since he unseated Bob Hawke as party leader 14 months ago. Since then, he has managed to recover from the chronic unpopularity he suffered in his former job as Treasurer, in which he was the architect of policies which ended in the recession. As Prime Minister Mr Keating has done a U-turn on his former policies, replacing them with interventionist measures in a bid to revive the economy.

John Hewson, 46, the opposition leader, will also be fighting his first campaign as leader of the Liberals. A former economics professor, and less of a seasoned politician than Mr Keating, Dr Hewson has pledged radical economic reforms, the centrepiece of which is a controversial VAT-type consumption tax.

The two men have engaged in attacks on each other over their personal financial affairs. Mr Keating seized on revelations in a new biography of Dr Hewson by Christine Wallace, a Canberra journalist, that Dr Hewson exploited tax loopholes to pay income tax of 15 per cent during the Eighties. For his part, Dr Hewson suggested that Mr Keating's personal investment in a pig farm could have benefited from Labor government decisions. Mr Keating retorted that this was an 'unsustainable and outrageous slur'.

Mr Keating has also had to contend with an obviously embittered Bob Hawke, now retired from politics, sniping at his policies and predicting a Liberal victory. Mr Keating's response at the weekend was: 'The dogs may bark, but the caravan moves on.'

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Digital Content Officer - Central London - £33,000

£28000 - £33000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive (Digital Marketi...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform