Australia PM faces election defeat in own seat: poll

Australian Prime Minister John Howard faces a crushing electoral defeat, which could see him lose his own Sydney-based seat, a poll showed on Sunday.

Australia PM faces election defeat in own seat: poll
Australian Prime Minister John Howard faces a crushing electoral defeat, which could see him lose his own Sydney-based seat, a poll showed on Sunday.

Howard, 11 years in power and facing re-election in a national vote tipped for November 10, trailed high-profile former television presenter Maxine McKew, 46 percent to 53 when votes were distributed to the two major parties, a Galaxy poll for The Sunday Telegraph newspaper and SBS television showed.

McKew, recruited to the rival Labour Party to take on the conservative Howard, was also level with the veteran prime minister when voters were asked who would do the best job for the seat of Bennelong, held by Howard since 1974.

The poll was conducted after Australia's central bank lifted interest rates last week to a decade high of 6.50 percent to head off inflation fuelled by strong domestic demand, unemployment at a 32-year low and rapid global growth.

Interest rates have been hurting Howard, who secured his fourth election victory in 2004 on the slogan "Keeping interest rates low". The central bank has since lifted rates five times.

Rates are also biting into support for Howard's LiberAl National coalition in key fringe suburbs where voters are struggling with large mortgages and a credit binge fuelled in part by the low-interest climate, successive polls show.

Also hurting Howard is a charge of boundaries in his own seat, which now has a large Asian community and is in the top 20 electorates for residents who speak a language other than English at home, according to census figures.

Howard has angered some immigrant families with policies making it harder for new arrivals, requiring them to adopt vague Australian values of "mateship" and "fair go" equality, while learning English to speed their assimilation into society. Senior Labour lawmaker Bob McMullan cautioned it would be hard to unseat Howard regardless of poll indications.

"We're very near the end of this three-year term and people are open to the idea of change. But I think their voting intention isn't set in concrete at all, it's quite fluid," he told Australian television.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Howard's wisdom and experience would carry him over the line and youthful opposition leader Kevin Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat, lacked a plan for Australia's future.

"There's always controversy about the record of the incumbent and so on, it happens everywhere," Downer said.

"I don't always want to seem Pollyanna-ish. I'm a person though who's pretty relaxed about the struggle that lies ahead."

Reuters
Last Mod: 12 Ağustos 2007, 16:30
Add Comment