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Monday, November 26, 2007

Australian Politics: Kevin Rudd elected as Australian new leader

Kevin Rudd's landslide win in the federal election tonight makes him only the second Queenslander to be elected to lead the country.

His ascension to the prime ministership comes 92 years after the last Queenslander held the top job - Labor's Andrew Fisher.

Artie Fadden and Frank Forde also hailed from the Sunshine State and had stints as PM, but they were only filling in for 40 days in 1941 and six days in 1945 respectively.

ABC News Online asked three experts in federal politics about what Australians can expect from the new Rudd Government, and how his rural Queensland background and personality will shape his leadership.

Professor John Wanna from the Australian National University, Associate Professor Carol Johnson from the University of Adelaide and Dr Rae Wear from the University of Queensland agree that Mr Rudd will be a cautious, exacting and quite conservative leader.

Dr Wear says the fact that he's from Queensland makes a difference to voters there.

"I think Queenslanders are notoriously parochial - I guess all states are - so I think it will be a boost to his popularity in this state and certainly help him," she said.

Professor Wanna also notes that Mr Rudd has enjoyed reasonable popularity in his home state, and says Queenslanders will welcome having a local in the Lodge.

"Queensland hasn't had many national leaders - [former Labor Opposition leader] Bill Hayden was the last and then you've got to go back to people like Forde and Fadden before you find a Queenslander who's led the country, so that would be a big issue," he said.

Associate Professor Johnson says Mr Rudd has tried to turn his Queensland origins into an advantage in two ways.

"Firstly in the leadership struggle he pointed out how crucial Queensland votes would actually be for Labor to win the next election, and secondly he's actually tried to use his rural background as an advantage by suggesting that basically he'll be a socially conservative, safe pair of hands who can look after the country and look after the economy," she said.

Caution, pragmatism

Contrary to environment spokesman Peter Garrett's infamous 'jocular' remark on November 2 that Labor would change all its 'me too' policies once elected, the three academics say the Rudd Government is likely to be fairly conservative and very cautious.

Professor Wanna says it will be characterised by pragmatism and managerialism.

"They will do some things that may surprise people, but I don't think it's going to be a radical government or a government that's going to burn a path towards a new social democracy," he said.

Associate Professor Johnson says having led Labor to victory after 11 years of the Howard Government, Mr Rudd is in an extremely powerful position as Labor leader.

"He's already indicated that he wants to have quite a lot of say in who's actually going to be in his shadow cabinet and make decisions there, taking power away from Caucus; he has a reputation from his time in Queensland and indeed during the campaign, of being a bit of a control freak," she said.

"So I think he'll actually try to be quite a powerful leader, especially because I think he'll want to reduce some of the power of the factions."

Dr Wear says the indications so far are that Mr Rudd is fairly controlling, but that may change now that the campaign is won.

"Certainly at the moment he gives every impression of being a very dominant leader and he's even gone further than previous Labor leaders in saying that he'll choose his own cabinet and things like that," she said.

In the Pacific Islands, the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands and Interime Prime Minister of Fiji has welcome Mr. Kevin Rudd as Australia's new top leader. The two leaders hope to normalise the deteriorating relationship that their country had with Canberra over the past years under the leadership of Howard.

Source: ABC

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