Chief Correspondent, Sydney
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Jul 16, 2010

Australian PM set to call election for August 28: report

CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is likely to call an election on Saturday, broadcaster ABC said, taking advantage of a rebound in support for her party as it struggles to sell policies on the economy, resources, climate and asylum seekers.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said Gillard would visit Governor-General Quentin Bryce in Canberra on Saturday morning to seek permission to call an election for August 28.

Jul 16, 2010

Snap Analysis: Australia faces election as economy hums

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australians will go to the polls to decide whether to re-elect a centrist Labor government for a second-term or a move back to a conservative government which ruled for 12 years until 2007.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is likely to call an election on Saturday for August 28, state broadcaster ABC said on Friday. [ID:nSGE66F02P] Recent polls indicate that the government is headed for a narrow victory.

Jul 16, 2010

Australia PM heads to polls after reviving party

SYDNEY (Reuters) – New Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has turned around the ruling Labor party’s fortunes in just a few weeks and could now lead the government into a second term at an upcoming election.

Gillard is likely to pick Aug. 28 as the poll date, Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Friday, citing party sources.

Jul 16, 2010

Australian PM set to call election for Aug 28 -ABC

CANBERRA, July 16 (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is likely to call an election on Saturday, broadcaster ABC said, taking advantage of a rebound in support for her party as it struggles to sell policies on the economy, resources, climate and asylum seekers.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said Gillard would visit Governor-General Quentin Bryce in Canberra on Saturday morning to seek permission to call an election for August 28.

"I’m not speculating on election day," Gillard said in a radio interview earlier on Friday, but media speculation subsequently grew that she would call a late August poll on Saturday or next weekend.

Australia’s first woman prime minister has resurrected the Labor party’s standing with voters after an party coup saw her topple Kevin Rudd on June 24, but opposition leader Tony Abbott needs to win only nine seats from the government to take office.

Gillard has pledged to introduce a new 30 percent mining tax if elected, raising A$10.5 billion from 2012, but the conservative opposition has vowed to dump the tax, even though it has been agreed by global miners BHP Billiton (BLT.AX: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz)(BLT.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), Rio Tinto (RIO.AX: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz)(RIO.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Xstrata (XTA.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).

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For TAKE A LOOK on the Australian election [nSGE66FO4C]

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The government has said it will return a budget surplus by 2013, but opinion polls show voters view the Liberal-National opposition as better economic managers, despite Labor steering the economy through the global financial crisis and avoiding recession.

"We’re coming back to surplus in 2013 and I’m not going to have an old-fashioned election spendathon," said Gillard, pitching herself as an economic conservative.

"Any new spending we announce in the election campaign will be offset by savings to keep that all-important budget surplus."

The opposition has also promised a return to surplus and tight controls on spending.

Gillard said she planned to fight the election on a platform of creating jobs. "The election is largely going to be fought on whether or not you believe it’s important for the government to support jobs," she said.

Financial markets showed no reaction to the report of an election with the Australian dollar steady $0.87/85.

Michael Blythe, chief economist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, said there would be very little market impact regardless of who wins the election.

"It is very difficult to see any real impact on the economy or markets due to election uncertainty. The broad thrust of policy is going to be the same whatever the outcome," he said.

Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital Investors, said: "Historically, during an election campaign, the markets have moved sideways. So I reckon we will be range-bound for the next few weeks".

GREENS KINGMAKERS

Many voters have deserted the major parties for the small Greens party, which is set to be the kingmaker in the upper house Senate and influence policy of the next government.

The Greens have said they will be constructive in the Senate and point to their backing of a A$52 billion ($45.90 billion) stimulus package in 2009. They have not rejected the government’s mining tax, but want to scrutinise the legislation and want tax revenue put into a sovereign fund for infrastructure building.

The government has said it would use the revenue to lower corporate tax and boost pension savings.

The Greens’ major demand on the next government is for the introduction of an interim carbon price ahead of a market-based emissions trading scheme.

The Labor government lost voter support in the past year over its failure to introduce a carbon trading scheme to fight climate change and business has warned that a lack of a clear climate policy is now hindering investment in the power sector.

Gillard has said it is inevitable Australia will adopt a carbon price, but her government will not make a decision on a carbon trading scheme until 2012-13. In contrast, the opposition is opposed to a carbon price or a trading scheme.

On the issue of asylum seekers and border protection, which is resonating in key marginal seats, Gillard has proposed a regional asylum processing centre, possibly in East Timor, as a way to stop boatpeople arrivals.

But the scheme has received little support in Asia and at home, while the opposition has said it would turn the boats back and reopen Pacific island detention centres.

Boatpeople arrivals are tiny by international comparisons and compared with people who overstay visas, but border protection is a "hot button" issue in outer Sydney and Melbourne where population pressures are stretching infrastructure.

Australia’s election will be decided on the eastern seaboard, in the most populous states of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, where local "bread and butter" issues are expected to determine key marginal seats.

(Editing by Ed Davies and John Chalmers)






Jul 15, 2010

Australia PM puts economy at heart of re-election

CANBERRA, July 15 (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister
Julia Gillard sought to sell her Labor government’s economic
credentials on Thursday, warning that the conservative
opposition’s policies could risk a robust economy.

In her first major economic speech since becoming prime
minister on June 24, Gillard set out her platform for
re-election at polls expected within months, centering on job
creation.

Jul 14, 2010

Australia government tweaks economic forecasts

CANBERRA, July 14 (Reuters) – Australia’s government
tweaked its economic forecasts ahead of an upcoming election,
predicting robust commodity prices will ensure the budget
returns to surplus in 2012/13 despite recently watering down a
proposed mining tax.

There is speculation new Prime Minister Julia Gillard may
call a late August election in the next few weeks, with the
robust economy likely to be a key factor for voters.

Jul 13, 2010

Australia govt reshapes climate policy before poll

SYDNEY, July 13 (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, facing an election where climate policy will be a key issue, has pledged again to bring in a carbon price but said it may take time as it needed industry and voter consensus.

Gillard holds a cabinet meeting on Tuesday to formulate a new climate policy, with media reporting it may include restrictions on coal-fired power stations and new energy efficiency targets.

There is speculation Gillard may call a late August election within days.

"I understand there are millions of Australians disappointed we have not yet been able to put a price on carbon. I am disappointed by that too," Gillard told a news conference in Canberra ahead of the cabinet meeting.

"But in order to get there we need to have a dialogue with the community that leads to a deep and lasting consensus about how we all price carbon, how we will go forward with a market-based mechanism, how we will work together to achieve the kind of transformations in our economy." ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

TAKE-A-LOOK-Australia’s Greens to sway policy [ID:nSGE667085]

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Gillard said there were other, unspecified, measures her government could take to tackle climate change, adding "we will take our time to get it right".

Gillard, who became prime minister on June 24 after the ruling Labor party dropped Kevin Rudd, has previously said there would be no decision on an emissions trading scheme until 2012.

Labor appeared headed for electoral defeat before Gillard took over, as voters deserted the government over Rudd’s inability to have parliament approve his carbon emissions trading scheme.

Labor needs to woo back disillusioned Green voters to ensure victory over the conservative Liberal-National opposition.

Opinion polls published on Monday showed the Labor party is set for a narrow victory in upcoming elections, ahead of the conservative opposition at 52 percent versus 48 percent.

POWER SUPPLIERS WANT CARBON CERTAINTY

Voters want quick action on climate change, according to opinion polls, and there is growing business concern over a lack of a carbon policy, with power suppliers warning of stalled investment and rising power prices as a result.

"Our energy prices are going to go up regardless," said Brad Page, chief of the Energy Supply Association of Australia.

"It’s a question of whether they go up more than they need to and they’ll go up less if we have a stable, predictable carbon policy rather than a situation where we have uncertainty."

The lack of an emissions trading scheme and price on carbon would cost the Australian economy and consumers an extra S$2 billion ($1.75 billion) by 2020 due to investment in less energy efficient coal-fired power plants, the Climate Institute estimates.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported the cabinet would debate a proposal to cut energy consumption by up to 3 percent a year.

It quoted sources as saying the cabinet may also opt to set nationwide energy-efficiency standards and possibly a scheme to allow farmers to claim credit for saving emissions through forestry.

The newspaper said the cabinet would also consider pollution standards for new electricity generators and requirements for existing generators to look at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Australia’s top two energy retailers are Origin Energy Ltd (ORG.AX: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and AGL Energy Ltd (AGX.AX: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).

The Australian newspaper said the government was also considering placing tough restrictions on all new coal-fired power stations.

Australia is the world’s top coal exporter, relying on coal to generate more than 80 percent of its power.

Gillard has also been seeking to reframe government policy in other sensitive areas such as over a new mining tax and on asylum seekers, and there is speculation she could call an election as soon as this week. [ID:nSGE66B084] (Editing by Ed Davies and Alex Richardson)






Jul 12, 2010

Australian PM may call election within days-media

SYDNEY, July 12 (Reuters) – Australia’s ruling Labor party is set for a narrow victory in upcoming elections, two new opinion polls showed on Monday, as speculation grew that Prime Minister Julia Gillard could call an election as soon as this week.

While the robust economy, in its 17th year of growth, should be a winning ticket for Gillard, voters believe the opposition is the better economic manager, according to the polls.

Gillard has also been seeking to reframe government policy in key areas such as climate and asylum seekers.

Opinion polls published in Fairfax and News Ltd newspapers put Labor ahead of the conservative opposition at 52 percent versus 48 percent. For Reuters Poll Trend [ID:nSYU010167]

"They’re in front and they’ve got a primary vote that can deliver victory," John Stirton, research director with pollster Nielsen, told local radio. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

TAKE-A-LOOK-Australia’s Greens to sway policy [ID:nSGE667085]

Reuters Poll Trend [ID:nSYU010167] ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Gillard, 48, is Australia’s first woman prime minister. She replaced Kevin Rudd on June 24, in a move that has resurrected Labor’s electoral standing and reshaped Australian politics.

Speculation Gillard may be set to call an election grew after Governor-General Quentin Bryce delayed leaving for a trip to Europe by a day until Saturday, sparking talk that Gillard could ask the representative of Australia’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth, to dissolve parliament as early as this week.

Gillard declined to comment on the timing when questioned by reporters on a trip to Adelaide, but said in a speech "in the days to come I will be putting forward more detailed arguments about some of the biggest challenges facing our nation.

"I will be explaining the steps I think we need to take and asking for people’s consideration of those steps. I will ask for the Australian people’s trust to move Australia forward," she said.

Political commentators said Gillard’s words meant she may seek to call an election on Thursday or Friday this week.

But commentators warned that Labor still risked losing an election expected in late August. [ID:nSGE6600MU]

"The coming of Julia Gillard to the Labor Party leadership appears to have stopped the decay in her party’s fortunes," said The Age newspaper’s national editor Tony Wright.

"She has stopped the Rudd rot, though she hasn’t been able to make any serious inroads into Labor’s loss of the disaffected to the Greens."

Labor took power in 2007 promising to tackle climate change, but under Rudd failed to implement a carbon trading scheme, a disappointment that saw Green voters desert Rudd.

Labor needs to woo them back to ensure victory over the Liberal-National opposition.

Gillard has acted quickly on key policies, ending a three-month row with mining companies over a new tax that was hurting the government in the polls, and proposing a regional asylum processing centre, possibly in East Timor, to curb boatpeople arrivals. [ID:nAUTAX]

The tax deal has been generally accepted by voters, but her asylum policy has received criticism for being in its infancy.

The cabinet will meet on Tuesday and was expected to discuss a new climate policy, but it is not clear whether Gillard will go as far as announcing a carbon tax as an interim measure before a full blown carbon trading scheme can be created.

She has said a carbon price is inevitable, probably via a market-based scheme, but that any decision on such a scheme would not be until 2012 and not without community consensus.

But voters want quick action on climate change, according to opinion polls and public comments in local media.

Until now the political risk of announcing a carbon price ahead of an election has been the threat of rising power bills. But two new surveys suggest power bills will rise and energy investment will fall because of a lack of a carbon price.

The lack of an emissions trading scheme and price on carbon would cost the Australian economy and consumers an extra A$2 billion by 2020 due to investment in less energy efficient coal-fired power plants, The Climate Institute estimates. (Additional reporting by Ed Davies; Editing by Alex Richardson)






Jul 12, 2010

Australia government ahead in polls, seeks policy revamp

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s ruling Labor party is set for a narrow victory in elections expected to be announced within weeks, two new opinion polls showed on Monday, but it is struggling over key policy issues on climate and asylum seekers.

While the robust Australian economy, in its 17th year of growth, should be a winning ticket for new Prime Minister Julia Gillard, voters believe the opposition is the better economic manager, according to the polls.

Jul 12, 2010

Australia govt ahead in polls, seeks policy revamp

SYDNEY, July 12 (Reuters) – Australia’s ruling Labor party is set for a narrow victory in elections expected to be announced within weeks, two new opinion polls showed on Monday, but it is struggling over key policy issues on climate and asylum seekers.

While the robust Australian economy, in its 17th year of growth, should be a winning ticket for new Prime Minister Julia Gillard, voters believe the opposition is the better economic manager, according to the polls.

Opinion polls published in Fairfax and News Ltd newspapers put Labor ahead of the conservative opposition at 52 percent versus 48 percent. For Reuters Poll Tend [ID:nSYU010167]

"They’re in front and they’ve got a primary vote that can deliver victory," John Stirton, research director with pollster Nielsen, told local radio.

Gillard, 48, is Australia’s first woman prime minister. She replaced Kevin Rudd on June 24, in a move that has resurrected Labor’s electoral standing and reshaped Australian politics.

But political commentators warned that Labor still risked losing elections expected in late August. [ID:nSGE6600MU]

"The coming of Julia Gillard to the Labor Party leadership appears to have stopped the decay in her party’s fortunes," said The Age newspaper’s national editor Tony Wright.

"She has stopped the Rudd rot, though she hasn’t been able to make any serious inroads into Labor’s loss of the disaffected to the Greens," said Wright.

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TAKE-A-LOOK-Australia’s Greens to sway policy [ID:nSGE667085]

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Labor took power in 2007 promising to tackle climate change, but under Rudd failed to implement a carbon trading scheme, a move which saw Green voters desert Rudd.

Labor needs to woo them back to ensure victory over the Liberal-National opposition.

Gillard has acted quickly on key policies, ending a three-month row with mining companies over a new tax that was hurting the government in the polls, and proposing a regional asylum processing centre, possibly in East Timor, to curb boatpeople arrivals. [ID:nAUTAX]

The tax deal has been generally accepted by voters, but her asylum policy has received criticism for being in its infancy.

She is expected to this week release her 2010 election climate policy, but it is not clear whether Gillard will go as far as announcing a carbon tax as an interim measure before a full blown carbon trading scheme can be created.

She has said a carbon price is inevitable, probably via a market-based scheme, but that any decision on such a scheme would not be until 2012 and not without community consensus.

But voters want quick action on climate change, according to opinion polls and public comments in local media.

Until now the political risk of announcing a carbon price ahead of an election has been the threat of rising power bills. But two new surveys suggest power bills will rise and energy investment will fall because of a lack of a carbon price.

The lack of an emissions trading scheme and price on carbon would cost the Australian economy and consumers an extra A$2 billion by 2020 due to investment in less energy efficient coal-fired power plants, The Climate Institute estimates. (Editing by Ed Davies and Jonathan Thatcher)