Eight months ago Kevin Rudd was enjoying some of the highest rates ever enjoyed by an Australian Prime Minister. He was preparing to pass a wide-ranging environmental bill ahead of the Copenhagen Climate Change summit that would have made his country a global leader on green issues. Things look very different today. Last November, the Australian Liberals dumped their leader, Malcolm Turnbull, and installed Tony Abbot in his place. Abbott tore up the cross-party consensus on the environment. Today the environmental legislation has been abandoned – provoking the charge that Mr Rudd is a "coward". Even worse, Rudd proposed a super-tax on the mining industry (The Resource Super Profit Tax) as part of his plan to restore his green credentials and provide a fund for infrastructure investment. The tax, says Turnbull, has "produced the most extraordinary political backlash we have seen in many years."
Two other problems for Labour have been, says ABC, "the haste at which stimulus money was allocated and spent" and "the eventual abandonment of the home insulation program." The home insulation programme was abandoned after a series of lethal electrocutions and fires.
Rudd's support has tumbled in parts of Australia where the mining industries are powerful. In Western Australia Labour stand at their lowest ever level (26%). In Australia as a whole the Coalition of Liberals and Nationals is now level-pegging in the polls with Labour for the first time in Rudd's premiership (although Rudd still enjoys a clear lead as preferred PM). One poll even has the Liberals ahead. 51% are satisfied with Rudd and 39% are dissatisfied. There is even exaggerated speculation that Rudd might be dumped.
Rudd, says The Australian Spectator, faces trouble on two fronts. To his Right he faces an increasingly confident Liberal Party. To his Left he faces a base unhappy at his backtracking on the Emissions Trading Scheme and which is no longer united by its determination to end John Howard's record-breaking hold on power – as it was at the last election.
Abbott remains unlikely to become Prime Minister but the rout Liberals feared in November last year is a distant memory.