As today’s Nielsen poll shows Labor and Coalition 50-50 on the two-party vote, Kevin Rudd is doing what has been expected – he’s narrowing the policy gap between himself and Tony Abbott over carbon pricing.
With Labor’s primary vote leaping to 39%, up 10 points since last month, and Rudd leading Abbott 55% to 41% as preferred PM, the PM is seeking to remove or minimise irritant issues on which Abbott can campaign against him effectively. Among these, the most obvious are the carbon price and boat people.
While he’s in Papua New Guinea – where he arrived late yesterday – Rudd and Immigration Minister Tony Burke will have talks on the asylum seeker issue. The Australian centre on Manus Island has been criticised by the UNHCR.
By moving to a floating carbon price in mid-next year, 12 months ahead of schedule, the government would be bringing the scheme more quickly into alignment with the low European price.
This is common sense and appropriate, and something the Gillard government should have done. But it is costly, and as it put together the budget it did not want to lose the several billion dollars in revenue.
Rudd’s overwhelming priority, however, is to undermine Abbott’s attack on this issue, by ending the carbon “tax” as soon as possible (as distinct from the carbon “price”).
He also promises to make his change budget-neutral – whether by big genuine savings or some craftiness, we’ll see when full details are put out in the next couple of days. (The government’s tactic is to flag and then confirm the change, to get maximum political impact from the announcement, then deal with the detail.)