The Heat Is Online

US Stands Alone Against Kyoto As Australia's Howard Falls

Rudd Makes Global Warming a Priority

The Associated Press, Nov. 25, 2007


Newly elected leader Kevin Rudd moved quickly Sunday to bring Australia into international talks on fighting global warming, and to head off potentially thorny relations with the United States and key Asian neighbors.


The emphatic victory for Rudd's Labor Party swings Australia toward the political left after almost 12 years of conservative rule, and puts it at odds with key security ally Washington on two crucial policy issues -- Iraq and global warming.


The day after sweeping to power in general elections, Rudd went straight into work mode, holding meetings with government officials about the mechanics of signing the Kyoto Protocol on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.


He also took phone calls from foreign leaders highly relevant to Australia.


Britain, New Zealand and Indonesia noted that Rudd's election would boost international efforts to address climate change -- ousted Prime Minister John Howard had refused to sign the Kyoto pact.


Malaysia's leader said Rudd's plan to pull Australia's 550 combat troops from Iraq would also improve the country's international standing, the Malaysian national news agency Bernama reported.


Rudd spoke by phone with President Bush late Saturday. Rudd declined to give details of the conversation, but said he plans to visit Washington next year.


The leaders agreed during the call that they looked forward to working together, said White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.


Rudd, a Chinese-speaking former diplomat, also talked with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, accepting his invitation to attend a December U.N. meeting in Bali to map out the world's next steps against climate change.


On Sunday, at his first news conference, Rudd promised "action, and action now" on climate change and nominated education, health and a high-speed Internet network as other top priorities of his

government. He said Labor lawmakers were due to meet on

Thursday, and he hoped his Cabinet would be sworn in soon after that.


Rudd's election brought a sharp and mortifying end to the 11-year rule of Howard, Australia's second-longest serving leader and a strong ally of Bush. Howard also faces the possible embarrassment of losing his own district seat in Parliament -- a fate suffered only once before by a sitting prime minister in 106 years of federal government.


Howard, who reshaped Australia's image abroad with his unwavering support for the U.S. war on terrorism and in Iraq, failed to read the signs that voters had grown tired of his rule.


But aside from Iraq and Kyoto, the bulk of Australia's foreign, trade and economic policies are not expected to change much under Rudd.

"The Australian people have decided that we as a nation will move forward," Rudd said in a victory speech late Saturday. "To embrace the future and together as Australians to unite and write a new page in our nation's history."


With 75 percent of the more than 13.5 million ballots counted, Labor had won more than 53 percent of the vote and a clear majority of at least 83 places in Parliament's 150-seat lower house, official Australian Electoral Commission results showed.


Howard's Liberal-National coalition had 46.6 percent of the vote, and 47 parliamentary seats. Howard's district of Bennelong hung in the balance, with the final outcome to be decided by postal votes to be counted in the next few days.


Howard had campaigned on his economic management, arguing that Rudd could not be trusted to continue Australia's 17 years of unbroken economic growth, fueled by China's and India's hunger for Australian coal and other minerals.


Rudd, 50, had argued that Howard, at 68, was out of ideas.


Copyright 2007 The Associated Press



Australia's PM-elect Rudd vows better global ties, Nov 24, 2007


BRISBANE (Reuters) - Australia's incoming Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat, has pledged closer ties with key friends and allies after sweeping away 11 years of conservative rule under John Howard.


Rudd, 50, presented himself as a new generation leader by promising to pull around 500 frontline Australian troops out of Iraq and sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, further isolating Washington on both issues.


"To our friends and allies around the world, I look forward as the next Prime Minister of Australia to working with them in dealing with the great challenges which our world now faces," he told cheering supporters at a victory party late on Saturday.


"We extend our greetings tonight to our great friend and ally the United States, to our great friends and partners across Asia and the Pacific, and to our great friends and partners in Europe and beyond."


The surge to Labor left Howard battling to win even his own parliamentary seat, which he has held since 1974, putting him in danger of becoming the first prime minister since 1929 to lose his constituency.


"King Kevin the new conqueror," said the Sun-Herald newspaper in Howard's home town of Sydney on Sunday. "It's Labor in a Ruddslide", said the Australian national newspaper.


At least four and possibly six government ministers, including Howard, looked likely to be ejected after a swing of more than six percent across the nation, bringing only the sixth change of government since World War Two.


Election analyst Antony Green predicted Labor would win up to 86 seats in the 150-seat parliament, giving it a majority for the first time since it lost power to Howard in 1996.


Rudd is expected to forge closer ties with China and other Asian nations and has said he wants a more independent voice in foreign policy, with past Labor governments more supportive of an energetic United Nations and global organizations.


Rudd promised to sign the Kyoto climate pact immediately and lead his country to next month's UN climate summit in Bali, expected to kick-start talks on a post-Kyoto deal to slash greenhouse gas emissions globally.


But Labor could be frustrated by a hostile Senate (upper

house), where the conservatives will have sway until July next year, possibly frustrating Rudd's Kyoto plan and promise to dump unpopular government labor laws which propelled his victory.


Centre-left Labor will have to negotiate with diverse minor Senate parties including the left-leaning Australian Greens and the conservative, Christian values Family First party.


In a message of unity, Rudd promised to govern for all Australians, including migrants and the poor.


"Today the Australian people have decided that we as a nation will move forward," Rudd, flanked by his wife Therese and family, told around 1,000 wildly cheering home supporters at a football stadium in the tropical northern city of Brisbane.


The election was fought mainly on domestic issues, with Labor cashing in on anger at labor laws and rising interest rates which put home owners under financial pressure at a time when Australia's economy is booming.


"Like Howard, he will quickly attempt to secure his administration with the fortress of institutional and cultural change. In short, Australia will shift to the left," said the Bulletin news magazine.


"Rudd will have to open negotiations soon with the United States about the withdrawal of Australia's combat troops from Iraq. This is a delicate operation because it will be Labor's first testing of the alliance," veteran political commentator Michelle Grattan wrote in the Sun-Herald.


President George W. Bush congratulated Rudd on his election victory, and praised Howard's leadership.


"The United States and Australia have long been strong partners and allies and the president looks forward to working with this new government to continue our historic relationship," the White House said in a statement.


Howard, who had won four consecutive elections and held power for 11 years, conceded his government had lost power in front of a crowd of supporters in Sydney late on Saturday, saying he took full personal responsibility for the defeat.


"This is a great democracy and I want to wish Mr Rudd well," Howard said. "We bequeath to him a nation that is stronger and prouder and more prosperous than it was 11-1/2 years ago."


The result puts Labor in power nationally and in all of Australia's six states and two territories, with the lord mayor of the northern city of Brisbane now the senior ranking elected official in Howard's Liberal Party.


Howard, who on Sunday went for his regular morning walk in the wake of defeat, had won four consecutive elections and was Australia's second-longest serving prime minister behind Liberal Party founder Sir Robert Menzies.


© Reuters 2006. All rights reserved

Australian Leader Defeated in Election

The Associated Press, Nov. 24, 2007


SYDNEY, Australia - Conservative Prime Minister John Howard, one of the Bush administration's staunchest allies, suffered a humiliating election defeat Saturday at the hands of an opposition leader who has vowed to pull troops out of Iraq.


Labor leader Kevin Rudd, a Chinese-speaking former diplomat, has also promised to sign the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, leaving the U.S. as the only industrialized country not to have joined it.


Howard, who reshaped his country's image abroad with unwavering support for the war in Iraq, dominated Australian politics for more than a decade but failed to read the signs that voters had grown tired of his rule.


Adding to the sting of his party's decisive defeat, official results showed Howard was likely to lose his parliamentary seat altogether. Only one other sitting prime minister has lost his district in the 106-year history of Australia's federal government.


Rudd, 50, has promised to pull Australia's 550 combat troops from Iraq in a phased withdrawal, and to quickly sign Kyoto. Howard had rejected withdrawal plans for Australia's troops in Iraq, and refused to ratify the pact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


"Today the Australian people have decided that we as a nation will move forward," Rudd said in a victory speech before hundreds of cheering supporters in his home state of Queensland. "To plan for the future, to prepare for the future, to embrace the future and together as Australians to unite and write a new page in our nation's history."


Australia is the latest country to see elections turn out governments that contributed to the U.S. war in Iraq.


Poland's new prime minister, Donald Tusk, has vowed to take a firmer stand in relations with the United States. He said in his inaugural address Friday that by the end of next year Poland would withdraw its 900 troops from Iraq, where it leads an international contingent of about 2,000 soldiers from 10 nations in the south-central part of the country.


Howard, 68, had stayed on to fight for a fifth term in office despite months of negative opinion poll numbers and appeals from some colleagues to quit. He took the blame for his government's defeat.

"I accept full responsibility for the Liberal Party campaign, and I therefore accept full responsibility for the coalition's defeat in this election campaign," Howard said in his concession speech in Sydney.


He said it appeared "very likely" he would lose his seat in Parliament to former television journalist Maxine McKew.


Rudd's Labor Party had more than 53 percent of the vote with over 75 percent of ballots counted, compared to 46.8 percent for Howard's coalition, according to the Australian Electoral Commission.


An Australian Broadcasting Corp. analysis showed that Labor would get at least 81 places in the 150-seat lower house of Parliament _ a clear majority.


Rudd, who was expected to be sworn in as prime minister in the coming week, had accused Howard of being out of touch with modern Australia and ill-prepared to deal with issues such as climate change and high-speed Internet.


Howard campaigned on his economic management, arguing that his government was mostly responsible for 17 years of unbroken economic growth, fueled by Chinese and Indian demand for Australian coal and other minerals. He contended that Rudd could not be trusted to maintain prosperous times.


Few in Rudd's team have any federal government experience. They include a former rock star -- one-time Midnight Oil singer Peter Garrett -- and a number of former union officials.


Rudd has more experience in foreign policy than any other area of government, and was expected to adopt a nuanced, non-confrontational approach to diplomacy. He sent "greetings ... to our great friend and ally the United States" in his victory speech.


The Bush administration congratulated Rudd.


"The United States and Australia have long been strong partners and allies and the president looks forward to working with this new government to continue our historic relationship," said White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore.


The White House also applauded Howard's time in office.


"Mr. Howard served the people of Australia well by pursuing policies that led to strong economic growth and a commitment to keeping Australians safe by fighting extremists and their ideology around the world."


Rudd's election as Labor leader 11 months ago marked the start of Howard's decline in opinion polls.


Howard held his district for 33 years, and his four straight national election victories made him one of Australia's most successful politicians.


Despite Rudd's stances on Iraq and climate change, little else was expected to change in Australia's trade and economic policies.

Rudd has pledged to govern as an "economic conservative," while pouring money into schools and universities. He will curtail sweeping industrial reform laws that were perceived to hand bosses too much power.


Copyright 2007 The Associated Press