Australia’s Federal election held this weekend saw the comprehensive defeat of the Rudd Australian Labor Party (ALP) Government which lost at least 16 seats to the Liberal-National Coalition in a historical landslide. In fact support for the ALP slumped to its lowest primary vote in 100 years. As a result, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott will become the country’s 28th Prime Minister.
The ALP, which has governed for nearly six years, recently installed Kevin Rudd in place of Julia Gillard in the hope of reversing its declining fortunes. Mr Rudd, first elected Prime Minister in November 2007, was himself defeated for the leadership by Julia Gillard in 2010 when the party’s polling deteriorated.
The level of internal distrust within the ALP (and the intense media scrutiny generated) created an environment of chaos with constant scrutiny of opinion polls, infighting that made its way into the press and character assassination when former allies turned on each other and played it out in the public domain.
Trust in politicians overall fell sharply and the political merry-go-round saw Australians increasingly disenchanted with the political process and the ALP in particular. Levels of trust in Australian politicians were reflected in Edelman’s 2012 Trust Barometer that showed trust in government significantly declining from the previous year.
Newly-elected Prime Minister Mr Abbott and his team ran a highly disciplined, united campaign with effective local candidates in seats needed to win government. Their success can be attributed to a simple narrative about a vision for the future of the world’s 12th largest economy.
The ALP’s campaign, which promised to be a positive one and a ‘new way’, spent much of its time and energy attacking Mr Abbott, running a scare campaign about potential cuts to government services including health and education. Unfortunately for Mr Rudd and his party, the Australian population stopped listening a year ago.
Now the dust has started to settle and the make-up of the new Parliament becomes clearer with a new Cabinet to be sworn in this week, a key focus of the new Abbott Government will be to rebuild trust from important stakeholders like business, trading and investment partners and the general population. In his first speech as Prime Minister-elect, Mr Abbott opened with the simple statement: ‘The government of Australia has changed’. He said ‘Australia is under new management and open for business’ and gave an assurance to Australians: ‘We will not let you down’.
These simple messages reflect a view that for too long, the focus of politics and government had been on internal bickering. Mr Abbott has already called out a need to support the country’s huge mining industry, encouraging investment and overseas participation and equity.
The implications for those wanting to do business in Australia are a more certain political and regulatory framework as the country leaves behind a year-long political campaign and a three year period of uncertainty.
And perhaps next year, when the Edelman Trust Barometer is published, trust in government may even increase!
- Nic Jarvis, Director of Corporate and Public Affairs, Edelman Australia