New Zealanders could be forgiven for not realising that Australians go to the polls tomorrow following a marathon, and sometimes farcical, election campaign.
This is because there's been very little coverage or awareness of the campaign in New Zealand, as was pointed out by one Australian newspaper report yesterday which said "The campaign noise that's been blaring at Australians for weeks doesn't ring quite as loud across the ditch - which could be a blessing for those voting in New Zealand" - see Elise Scott's Aussies cast their votes in New Zealand.
Another Australian-based New Zealand blogger has also complained that "You wouldn't know an election was being held if you relied on the NZ media" - see: Australian election ignored by NZ media.
The main issues of importance to New Zealanders are New Zealand ex-pat rights in Australia, the Australian economy and refugee policies. However, with the Liberals looking almost certain to win tomorrow, an extra focus in New Zealand is likely to be on the fact that the rightwing Liberal leader Tony Abbott is married to a New Zealander. Margie Abbott grew up in Wainuiomata, and was even a member of the New Zealand Labour Party. For more on his "Kiwi wife", see Julie Ash and Katie Chapman's 2010 profile: Kiwi could be first lady of Aussie. You can also watch or read a speech by Margie Abbott in which she tells of coming from a Labour voting family, and about race relations and her experience studying the Maori language in an attempt to "help break down barriers and to hopefully build bridges".
In terms of the relationship between the countries at the prime ministerial level, Abbott is already on good terms with John Key, according to Tracy Watkins writing earlier in the year, saying that "he and Key have already struck up a good relationship, and speak to each other regularly" - see: A great dividing range. She also points out that Kevin Rudd was not especially close to this country: "Rudd did not prioritise New Zealand, and put off several trips across the Tasman".
New Zealander Australian civic rights
Abbott's New Zealand connection has become a source of great interest and is seen as potential source of leverage for many "Kiwis in Australia" campaigning against what they consider "discrimination". There are apparently some 648,000 "New Zealander Australians" - Kiwis living in Australia with New Zealander origins. And of these, nearly half do not receive full civic rights - such as the ability to vote, eligibility to social security - because they shifted to Australia after 2001. Some New Zealander Australians are hoping that this connection will be conducive to getting an incoming Liberal government to reform the rules - see Rachel Morton's TV3 report, Tony Abbott's Kiwi wife. However, the reality is that Abbott shows no sign of concessions or even interest in the issue - which is well reported in Nick Brown's story today, Kiwis expect no favours from Abbott's NZ ties.
The issue has become revived during the election campaign, especially since Kevin Rudd's older brother, who is standing for re-election to the Senate, spoke out strongly: "I was flabbergasted to discover last week that we've been giving our Kiwi cousins living in Australia the bastard treatment since 2001" - see Steve Marshall's TVNZ item, Australians 'ungrateful bastards' - Kevin Rudd's brother. The issue was covered recently in TVNZ's 5-minute Q+A video on Kiwis living in Australia. See also today's Herald story about the issue by Morgan Tait: Rudd's flyer floors Kiwi.
To make matters worse, New Zealanders who have worked in Australia but returned home are finding it very difficult to transfer their retirement savings. One news report stated that 'New Zealanders who have worked in Australia are believed to be the owners of perhaps up to a quarter of the $18 billion in ''lost'' super' - see John Collett's Kiwis face hurdles in pursuit of lost funds. There is also a Facebook page for the Oz-Kiwi campaign with 23,000 followers.
The Australian-NZ economy
The biggest impact of the election will be changes to the Australian economy. As the 12th largest economy in the world, and New Zealand's largest trading partner, we are heavily affected by what happens there. Robert Ayson of the Strategic Studies centre at Victoria University of Wellington puts his views forward in a column, NZ wants a boring post-election Australia. He concentrates mainly on what the ongoing economic situation will mean for New Zealand, and says "the first request from Wellington is for Canberra to ensure that its post-September policy settings are business and trade friendly".
The impact of the likely economic reforms of a Liberal government are discussed by the NBR's Nevil Gibson in his paywalled profile of Abbott (Abbott the Oxford boxing Blue heads for another knockout), in which he says that although he is "still virtually an unknown quantity in New Zealand, he is likely to get on well with John Key and, unlike Kevin Rudd, could help advance CER to single market status. There are similarities between the two". In another paywalled column (Tasman divide reveals sharp contrast in business outlook) Gibson deals with the relative unhappiness of Australian business leaders compared to their NZ counterparts. For example, "Of the surveyed Australian business leaders, 92 per cent viewed the economy as slowing, stagnant or in decline, compared to only 37 per cent of Kiwi leaders holding this view of the New Zealand economy".
The main man of interest in this area is Joe Hockey, who is the shadow treasurer, and therefore likely to take control of the economy after Saturday. He and Abbott often cite New Zealand as the model they wish to emulate - see, for example, TV3's The Nation 8-minute interview: Hockey praises New Zealand economy. One Australian economist, John Quiggin, has responded by saying that "Anyone who could seriously suggest NZ as an economic model should not be entrusted with the management of our economy" - see his blogpost, Oz, NZ and the election.
Of course, New Zealand could also be affected in other significant policy areas. As Robert Ayson points out, the next Australian government might well be asking New Zealand to accept more asylum seekers from Australia: "Whether it's Abbott's 'Stop the boats' policy or Rudd's policy using Papua New Guinea, it could end up with New Zealand being asked to take a number of asylum seekers as it has in the past". Ayson says "I don't think either Rudd or Abbott will have thought how this will affect New Zealand at all".
Analysis of the election issues
For the most comprehensive (and opinionated) view of the Australian federal elections from New Zealand's perspective, see Gordon Campbell's Australian Election: They're A Weird Mob. Campbell's article is part of a feature in the latest online issue of Werewolf, which also includes his other articles, Fetishizing The Surplus and Blaming The Boat People. Campbell argues that although Australians have a lousy choice to make between the incumbent and opposition, there's a lot more going on than just the Rudd vs Abbott personality clash.
TV3's Australian correspondent Rachel Morton has provided some colourful and regular coverage with a New Zealand dimension. See, for example, her two-minute report, Australian election campaign's worst moments. Morton also reports on the latest farcical element to the contest in her TV report last night: Serious end to Australian election campaign.
One of the best items published in New Zealand was by the Herald's Greg Ansley - see: Captain Kevin's last stand, in which he outlines why the Labor Government will lose. He also has a very good update today: The final pitch. For a view on the decline of Labor, see today's very good column by Michelle Grattan, Judgment about the Rudd Mark 2 experiment will depend on the size of the loss. And David Farrar has blogged his own analysis of the likely results in The 2013 Australian election.
New Zealand's own iPredict website also has incredibly comprehensive list of betting options for the Australian election - see: Australian Federal Election 2013. The main stock option, There will be a Liberal Prime Minister after the next Australian Federal election is currently running at 96%.
A lack of political substance?
Much of the analysis of the Australian campaign has lamented the dire health of parliamentary politics in that country, and the lack of real substance and choice on offer for voters. For an analytical/visual view of this, it's worth looking at the Political Compass website's Australian General Election 2013 page. The commentary there says that "the economic differences between Labor and the Liberals are increasingly blurred".
One of the more interesting and critical accounts of the campaign has come from former Labor politician Barry Jones, who has written about The 2013 election and the death of rationality. Similarly, Bloomberg correspondent William Pesek has summed up the campaign very well in his column saying that, once again, the campaign has been 'about nothing - see: Another Seinfeld election for Australia. Others have characterised the decision on prime ministers as simply a choice between a narcissist and a misogynist.
With Abbott likely to become PM, there will inevitably be huge interest in Abbott personally. For an in-depth and critical profile, see Matthew Donovan's The polishing of Tony Abbott.
Could New Zealand see some reverse migration as a result of the outcome? This is summed up by Melbournian hip hop artist Jack Hewitt's song on YouTube: If Tony Abbott Gets Elected I'm Moving to New Zealand. Certainly the new administration will be considerably to the right of New Zealand politics. Of course, many would argue that it already is.
For a New Zealand satirical take on the issues, see Ben Uffindell's Civilian parodies Tony Abbott struggles to name a woman, Tony Abbott distances self from Tony Abbott in first debate, Kevin Rudd announces election date was yesterday and Kevin Rudd wakes up after bizarre 3-year-long dream.
But reality is often stranger than fiction, so check out Hayden Donnell's Herald retrospective: Australian election: Five memorable moments.
Finally, for New Zealand-based analysis of the election results, TV3 will be screening an hour-long Three60 Australian election special on Sunday morning at 9am, involving Guyon Espiner, Rachel Morton, Amanda Gillies, Paul Henry, Steve Maharey, and myself. TVNZ's Q+A and Radio NZ will also cover the issues at 11am on Sunday.