Kevin Rudd photobombed by Joseph Kim
Kevin Rudd photobombed by Joseph Kim

My good friend Day Jeon from Korea asked me to keep her and her friends updated of events in the current Australian election. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called an election for 7 September 2013 on last Sunday 4 August 2013.

As we wrap up the first week, how has the performance of both leaders been, and more importantly what does any of this mean for South Korea and her relationship with Australia?

The first week was mostly uneventful. Some stupid slip-ups in media interviews from candidates from all parties, more showing their level of experience more than anything else. It is worth noting that this reflects well that the Australian public and media is fairly intolerant of poor conduct and performance by those who would want to serve Australia in our seat of power. As a country, for all of the faults that democracy brings, we have a good process of government with men and women committed to serving Australia’s interests.

There has been some discussion about one of the policy issues: the so-called ‘stopping the boats’ and the prevention of asylum seekers to come to Australia. That is an issue best addressed in another post, but it also needs to be reflected in the context of both political parties. It is an issue that is strongly held by the Australian public on both sides of the debate. It is a complex issue that requires more understanding, so Day if you want to know more for your audience in Korea please let me know.

There are two big pieces of news worth mentioning as they affect the Republic of Korea. You will note that the Australian Government is now in caretaker mode, but even so the good news is that yesterday the Government did release the newly published Country Strategy for South Korea as part of the implementation of the 2012 White Paper Australia in the Asian Century. It is a document that is well focused to the future, and what this means is that whoever does form a government, they we now have a good pathway defined for dealing with South Korea. This is the work that Social Alchemy is undertaking through the Korea Roundtable, and welcome questions and participation from Koreans, especially those who formerly studied in Australia who would want to engage more in the relationship between both countries.

Photobombed! Kim 1, Rudd 0.
Photobombed! Kim 1, Rudd 0.

Of significance was an incident that took place when Kevin Rudd visited Ryde Uniting Church to announced that Korean language has now been included in amongst five priority Asian languages to be taught by Australian schools. As he was being photographed, Joseph Kim, a young and somewhat cheeky Korean boy, ‘photobombed’ the Prime Minister. So as you can see, even in this early stage in the election, Korea is already making a difference, even if it is only stealing the limelight from the Prime Minister through the charming antics of restless children.

The odds of who is going to win have today lengthened from 1.24 : 4.0 in favour of the Coalition, to 1.21 : 4.50 in favour of the Coalition. The reality is that the Government needs to secure too many seats to win Government from a Government that was formed with a minority made up of preferences from Independent candidates holding seats. At this stage with 29 days to go to the election, it would seem the on the evening of 7 September 2013, Australia will have a new Government formed by the Coalition and led by Tony Abbott.

Some background to this election: This has been a somewhat eventful year as far as the election is concerned. The Government is required to hold an election at any time before the end of November this year, and from early in the year the polls indicated that the Opposition led by Tony Abbott was a strong contender to win the election and form the next Government for Australia.

In what was almost an unprecedented move to block negative media along with securing her position against internal instability within her own Government (the Australian Labor Party or otherwise known as ALP), the then Prime Minister announced early in 2013 that an election was set for 14 September 2014. The Prime Minister must seek the permission of the Governor General, who is our Head of State, to dissolve Parliament when calling an election which then places the sitting Government into a caretaker role until the conclusion of the election when a result is known.

As it turned out, Kevin Rudd who had been the target of a successful political assassination in 2010 when Prime Minister, responded to a leadership challenge called by Julia Gillard in on 26 June 2013, almost three years to the day when she claimed the position of Prime Minister. Since that time, Julia Gillard who visited South Korea three times when Prime Minister and formed a close bond with both Presidents in her time, has almost been airbrushed from history, exiting the narrative painted in the media as if she never had been.

It is significant to note that during Julia Gillard’s time as Prime Minister, Australia published an important White Paper in 2012 called Australia in the Asian Century. This document for the first time really spelt out a policy for how Australia would manage our relationship with South Korea, noting the the Free Trade Agreement that has been incomplete with ongoing negotiations since 2009 remained unresolved.

So we ended up with what in Australia we call a ‘two-horse race’ between the sitting Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott (leading the Coalition between the Liberal Party and the National Party).

When Kevin Rudd returned to being Prime Minister, bookmakers who had been placing odds on who would win the election shortened the odds significantly down from 1 : 8 in favour of the Coalition to somewhere around as low as 1.75 : 2.5 from memory in favour of the Coalition.

I’ll send more news to Day next week and see how week two of this election cycle turns out for Australia taking a Korean perspective to events.

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