For the past four years, Australian politics has been the most dysfunctional in the English-speaking world. A venomous rivalry in the ruling Labor Party emerged from the rise of Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, ousting the popular but difficult Kevin Rudd in a 2010 party coup. Rudd, who spent the next three years waging a brutally effective destabilisation campaign against her government, in June repaid the favour by riding fears of an apocalyptic election loss for Labor back into his former job.
Rudd’s return has the Labor party suddenly running neck-and-neck in the polls with the opposition Liberal-National coalition for federal elections set for 14 September. Led by Tony Abbott (pictured), a pugilistic Rhodes scholar with the nickname “Dr No”, the coalition had long been seen as the government-in-waiting and the poll a mere formality. Now everything – including even the date of the contest – appears to be up for grabs.
Abbott remains favourite though and if he wins, Australians can say hello to fiscal austerity and a new generation of centre-right politicians who are set to play leading roles in the next government. In the six years since John Howard lost power many of the old guard have moved on.
Five Liberal-National politicians to watch
- Barnaby Joyce: The unapologetically conservative leader of the National Party is almost certain to be deputy prime minister in an Abbott government.
- Julie Bishop: The steely and elegant shadow foreign minister is Abbott’s staunchest advocate. Expect her to be Australia’s first female foreign minister.
- Joe Hockey: Hockey has the physique and manner of a bare-knuckle boxer. Whether that qualifies him to be treasurer, we may soon find out.
- Christopher Pyne: The photogenic Pyne, 45, is playing the long game. A skilled parliamentarian, he’ll be key to maintaining party discipline in case of a narrow victory.
- Malcolm Turnbull: For Turnbull it’s a win-win. If Abbott prevails, it’s the meaty communications portfolio. If not, Turnbull may regain the leadership he lost to Abbott.
To help contain violence spilling over from Syria, Fiji is sending 380 troops to the UN peacekeeping mission in the Golan Heights. A second unlikely collaboration is that the troops are equipped by Russia.
It gave us hits such as Skippy and The Wiggles but according to a recent government-funded report, the Australian children’s TV industry is in danger of going beddy-byes. New research suggests the sector has been hit by the rising value of Australia’s currency and the continuing fallout of the global financial crisis. The state-run ABC has even reported it’s reconsidering the future of Bananas in Pyjamas, (pictured) one of the country’s most successful media exports.
But the industry isn’t out of Play-Doh just yet: China’s CCTV is currently collaborating with the ABC to film a new comedy series aimed at preschoolers called Hoopla Doopla, which will debut in 2014.
With a place on both Australia’s national coat of arms and the tail of every Qantas jet, the kangaroo is among the world’s most recognisable animal mascots. But on home soil it is often seen as a nuisance. Each year up to six million ’roos are killed by state-contracted marksmen to combat the effects of population growth. In June, the Australian Society for Kangaroos launched a legal action to try to cancel Canberra’s cull.
“This is Australia’s dirty secret,” says ASK’s president Nikki Sutterby. “Kangaroos are the victims of the largest wildlife slaughter in the world.” The action was overturned but did result in a lowering of the Australian Capital Territory’s yearly quota.
The New Georgia Sound is a passage of water in the Solomon Islands that was a battlefield for Allied and Japanese naval forces during the Second World War. For years, a local rumour circulated about $1.2bn (€915.7m) worth of gold that was lost aboard a sunken Japanese ship. According to former Solomon Islands MP, Alfred Sasako, the gold has been found. He says a group of gold hunters led by the son of a cook who survived the sinking won’t reveal the loot’s location until authorities guarantee to split it evenly. Sasako also suggests the government itself spent $2.2m searching for it in the past.