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Australia’s PM Losing Ground Over Climate Change As Election Nears

It’s election year in Australia and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is facing grief over his central policy of a cap-and-trade program to try to curb carbon emissions. Polls show Rudd’s Labour party losing ground to the conservative opposition coalition of Liberal and National parties headed by new Liberal leader Tony Abbott.

And Rudd, who was elected three years ago after more than a decade of Liberal coalition rule, says climate change policy will likely be the key issue at voting time, probably towards the end of the year.

“Climate change, together with other matters, will be central to an election this year,” Rudd said last week.

But given the way Australian public opinion is shaping up on the issue, it will be surprising if Rudd does not try to boost as election topics “other matters” on which he has a firmer footing.

A poll published last week showed a sharp drop in Labour party popular support to 52 per cent against the Liberal-National coalition of 48 per cent.

That’s still enough for Rudd to be returned to power. But there is a warning in another part of the poll, which showed that when Liberal party support is separated from its coalition partner, it clocks up 41 per cent against 40 per cent for Rudd’s Labour government.

Rudd hoped to have his cap-and-trade plan for carbon emission reduction enacted late last year so he could go to the Copenhagen conference on climate change in December as a hero of the industrialized world. Australia is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gas per person. But the parliament’s elected senate has twice rejected the government’s plan. The expectation in Canberra is that Rudd will try for the third time relatively soon. But a third rejection of the cap-and-trade scheme looks to be in the cards, and this could well be a trigger for him to seek an election, perhaps for both houses of parliament.

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