New Prime Minister Julia Gillard faces a battle on many fronts, based around thorny issues that have toppled both Liberal and Labor leaders before her.
The government’s controversial Resources Super Profit Tax (RSPT) was arguably one of the issues that toppled former PM Kevin Rudd.
The mining industry engaged in a public battle to urge the government to drop the tax, saying it would mean fewer jobs and cost mum and dad investors and pensioners thousands of dollars.
Supporters lauded the tax as a way of making mining companies pay for the exhaustible resources they used, while critics said the initiative would scare businesses from dealing with Australian resources companies.
Rudd had budgeted $12 billion in revenue from the implementation of the tax. Gillard is under immense pressure from miners to either drop it altogether or compromise on Rudd’s specified taxation rates.
The new PM has already called a moratorium on government advertising of the new tax, and the mining industry has followed suit, saying that axing its ads is a sign of good faith with the new leader.
The issue that led to the spectacular ouster of Malcolm Turnbull from the leadership of the Liberal party late last year will undoubtedly haunt Gillard, whose predecessor was slammed for ‘backing down’ on the Emissions Trading Scheme.
Rudd planned to implement a ‘cap-and-trade’ scheme, which would see polluters forced to pay for any emissions they produced beyond a set limit. They could also buy ‘carbon credits’ from companies who polluted less than they were permitted.
The ETS was rejected twice by parliament before Rudd shelved it, severely weakening the government’s climate change platform. Voters for whom the environment is a key issue will now be looking to Gillard to find a new solution, while business will be watching her for any threats to their bottom line.
The arrival of asylum seekers by boat from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka have brought the immigration debate to the fore under the Labor government, despite their relatively small number in the context of refugee movement worldwide.
Rudd abolished various aspects of the previous administration’s Pacific Solution, including Temporary Protection Visas. The TPVs kept the status of refugees open, and did not allow asylum seekers to bring family even after they were deemed in need of protection. Ctitics of TPVs blamed the scheme for the drowning of women and children seeking reunion with their men by taking rickety boats to Australia.
The coalition has used the high visibility of asylum seekers arriving by boat – at a rate of at least two per week – to push for policies to deter them and to stymie the business of people smuggling.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has touted a return to a version of the Pacific Solution, in a move that is rumoured to have lost him the support of Liberal party stalwart and form PM Malcolm Fraser, who recently quit the party.