Australia’s prime minister Kevin Rudd has called an election for September 7, kicking off a five-week campaign as polls show his ruling Labor party has dramatically closed the gap on the Liberal opposition. The election will centre on the management of the A$1.4tn economy, which faces an increasingly uncertain outlook. “This election will be about who the Australian people trust to best lead them through the difficult new economic challenges which now lie ahead — new challenges brought about by the end of the China resources boom,” Mr Rudd said in Canberra on Sunday, shortly after visiting Australia’s governor general to seek permission to hold an election. Mr Rudd was reinstalled as leader six weeks ago after ousting his predecessor Julia Gillard in a bruising leadership contest, Labor has closed the gap on the opposition led by Tony Abbott, a Rhodes scholar who trained for the priesthood.
By calling an election Mr Rudd is hoping to capitalise on a honeymoon period with voters and pull off an unlikely come-from-behind victory.
The widely followed Newspoll shows the centre left Labor party trailing the conservative Liberal coalition 48 per cent to 52 per cent — a marked improvement on the 14 percentage point gap under Ms Gillard.
Since ousting Ms Gillard, Australia’s first female prime, Mr Rudd, a former diplomat who is fluent in Mandarin, has sought to blunt opposition attacks by announcing a crackdown on asylum seekers, internal party reforms and changes to the country’s unpopular carbon tax.