Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has called a federal election for September 7th, kicking off his campaign by saying the election would be be about trust on the economy.
It is an echo of a speech John Howard gave in 2004 when, in announcing the election day, asked voters who they trusted most to managed the economic fundamentals of interest rates, jobs, and economic growth.
Today Rudd pointed to his government’s record of steering the country through the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, which involved a banking guarantee, $800 payments to households, the pink batts incentives scheme and a school buildings program.
Australia managed to avoid a recession in the GFC’s wake but so far this year there have been a string of strong down-draughts dragging on Australia’s economy – with commodity prices falling faster than expected, China’s growth slowing, a quickening end to mining investment and signs that other sectors of the economy like manufacturing and housing are struggling to increase activity levels.
Rudd’s drawing of trust on economic management comes just days after the release of a mini-budget which showed a further collapse in revenue since the May budget, with a projected deficit of $30 billion this fiscal year.
Here’s where there’s another parallel with Howard’s decision to start his campaign talking about trust. The Howard speech took many by surprise because at the time western governments were facing a backlash over the rationale for the Iraq war. Similarly Rudd is talking about trust just as he revealed the national finances were in far worse shape than outlined in the May budget.
Despite the deteriorating state of the nation’s finances Rudd is making a crash-or-crash-through pitch to voters on his economic record from his period in office. How he distances himself from the Labor party’s economic record under Gillard’s leadership – repeated deficits and a budget which is in tatters just months after being delivered – will be one of the fascinating undercurrents of the five-week campaign ahead.
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