A short walk down the hill from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Norman Park home, there’s a small bowling club.
Outside, four older gentleman are having a game, and behind the bar staff cut lemons and wait for customers to arrive.
At lunchtime on a sunny Brisbane Saturday, Rudd’s local is miles from the chaos of the election campaign, now in its final stages. Polling makes it look certain Labor will be turfed out on Saturday night. But here in his electorate, the home team will have a lot of support.
“I would be very upset,” if Rudd loses, says Col Rolley, 58, taking time out from his game of bowls. “I have no problem with him.”
Even here in his neighbourhood, there are some who once counted themselves as big fans of “K-Rudd”, but not any more.
A recent poll shows his only real competition, the Liberal candidate Bill Glasson, to be ahead 52% to 48% on a two-party preferred basis (though the stated margin-of-error was 4%).
When he re-took the leadership from Julia Gillard, Rudd announced he would run the country from his back deck, just up the road from the bowling club, when he was not on official business.
After he won the 2007 election Rudd was the biggest celebrity politician Australia had ever seen. In his electorate he was greeted like conquering hero.
Though there has been a shift in the public view: gone is the wild enthusiasm, replaced by a more muted, head-to-the-wind support.
As one resident said, despite being turned off Rudd for his behaviour after he was ousted from the prime ministership in 2010: “I’ll still be voting for him, he’s better than the alternative.”
Several voters Business Insider spoke to said Glasson, a former Australian Medical Association chief, would give Rudd a run for his money.
Many also said there had been far less campaigning for the PM this time around than in previous elections.
Driving the streets, there are far fewer posters of Rudd than Glasson. On this day at least, Rudd’s looked like a much less visible local campaign.
It has been a rough few years for Labor, and it faces a reckoning.
After speaking to voters while travelling from Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s electorate in Sydney, to Rudd’s in Brisbane, Australians appear set to vote with their hearts, more than their minds.
On the trip there were several lifetime Labor supporters who said this time around, they would be ticking the box for the LNP.
None took objection to a Labor policy. The complaints were more about the tumultuous past three years in Parliament.
Even rusted-on Labor types, brought up by parents to respect its fight for workers, said while would still vote for the party they were upset with its performance in the past three years.
As with the voters the party did lose, not one of these begrudging faithful were turned off by a policy. They were angry that Labor kept fighting with itself.
This weekend, for many dysfunction will sway votes as much as – if not more than – the policy achievements which so often eclipsed by party infighting.
Rudd was the architect of these schemes. They will likely prove his demise.
Ben Collins is on a road trip from opposition leader Tony Abbott’s electorate of Warringah in Sydney to prime minister Kevin Rudd’s electorate of Griffith in Brisbane ahead of the federal election on September 7. He’ll be speaking to voters and business leaders about their concerns and what they hope to see happen in the coming three years.
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