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.'

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
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
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup