Hostility to immigration looks likely to decide the outcome of the Australian election

The opposition leader says he wants to see "zero" boatloads of immigrants

Share

Australian politics serves two main purposes in this country, it often seems. First, it provides a parliamentary chamber in which the invective is ruder and more personal even than in our own House of Commons. Second, it provides counterfactual political histories in an English-speaking country which, unlike the US, has a parliamentary system similar to our own.

In particular, the Australian Labor Party has occasionally changed its leader weeks before fighting a general election. Bob Hawke won in 1983 and went on to win two more elections after that. Julia Gillard seized the Labor leadership weeks before the election three years ago, although she only just scraped back into government. Now Kevin Rudd is hoping that his coup against Ms Gillard at the end of June will improve Labor’s fortunes enough to keep him in office in tomorrow’s election.

The polls suggest that the change of leader will not be enough to prevent Tony Abbott, leader of the Liberal Party, taking over as Prime Minister. This may be partly because Mr Rudd is not quite the breath of fresh air that the late-change tactic requires – he was Prime Minister in 2007-10 before being ousted by Ms Gillard.

So much for the tactics. What does it mean for Australia and the world if the Liberal-National coalition resumes office after a six-year gap? A victory for Mr Abbott would confirm a trend that affects many rich countries, which is that hostility to immigration is starting to shift votes. The opposition leader says he wants to get to a position where there are “zero” boatloads of would-be immigrants arriving in Australia each year.

Another implication of an Abbott victory is that Australia’s contribution to global efforts to mitigate climate change will become a feeble thing. “If we in Australia turn our back on it,” Mr Rudd said this week of global warming, “it licenses everyone around the world to do the same.” He is right: in economic hard times, most other rich countries had put green policies down their to-do lists; but if Mr Abbott wins tomorrow, Australia will go from leader to follower. To his credit, Mr Rudd, having modified the Labor government’s unpopular carbon-tax policy, has stood by it.

Mr Rudd has also stood by his government’s proud record on gay equality, and that will endure, as will most of Labor’s advances in disability care, schools and the national broadband network. But on immigration policy and climate change, it looks as if Australia will take a step back towards a me-first approach.

Political parties that offer a more progressive vision around the world should mark well the lesson of hard economic times, and, if they try changing leader just before an election, make sure it is to someone who hasn’t been prime minister before.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

EYFS, KS1, KS2 Teachers

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to be part ...

class teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: a small rural school, is ...

Year 1 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: They want their school to ...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work in ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star