Two governments continents apart face defeat despite booms

Two governments continents apart face defeat despite booms
Australian Prime Minister and leader of the Australian Labor Party Kevin Rudd (L) listens as the leader of the conservative opposition Tony Abbott speaks during their People's Forum in Brisbane August 21, 2013.

OSLO/CANBERRA - Two centre-left governments on opposite sides of the globe are likely to lose power this month, despite both presiding over commodity-fuelled booms while other economies sank into crisis.

Voters in Australia and Norway are almost certain to boot out their governments within a couple of days of each other, fed up with blunders and scandals, and worried that wealth created by high minerals and oil prices has not been spent wisely.

Opinion polls indicate sound defeats for Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in parliamentary elections on Sept 7 and his Norwegian Labour counterpart Jens Stoltenberg on Sept 9.

In both countries a weariness with parties that have served relatively long terms is mixed with concern that the economic miracles are fading, leaving the countries badly prepared for life after the resources boom.

Oslo lawyer Peter Isaksen gives Stoltenberg no credit for Norway's good times. "The government doesn't set the oil price, so that's not their merit, and we have become dangerously dependent on oil," said Isaksen, who describes himself as a swing voter. "And I'm really tired of them."

"It's a comfortable life now but I'm not so sure about the future," Isaksen added.

Australia's dusty outback and the frigid seas off Norway are worlds apart, but wealth from there has helped both economies to prosper over the past decade. An unprecedented commodities boom made them among the richest countries in the world, insulated from years of international economic crisis after the 2008 financial crash.

Australia has enjoyed 22 years without a recession, thanks to appetite for its iron ore and coal, while Norway's per capita GDP hit $100,000 this year on booming oil and gas exports. The United Nations have ranked the two as the best places to live.

While some similarities are striking, so are the differences. Rudd's Labor party has been beset by a long-running leadership struggle, while the wider election campaign has sunk at times into smear. Rupert Murdoch's Sydney tabloid newspaper, for instance, has depicted Rudd as a bumbling Nazi running a"mob".

By contrast Nordic civility has characterised the Norwegian campaign. The government's handling of Norway's darkest post-war day two years ago - when Anders Behring Breivik slaughtered 77 people, most of them young members of Stoltenberg's Labour party - has been a taboo issue.

But the outcomes are likely to be similar. The latest Norwegian opinion poll showed a four-party conservative opposition bloc on course to win 95 seats in parliament, 10 more than it needs for a majority. In Australia, polls give the opposition conservatives 53 per cent support to Labor's 47 per cent, enough to sweep Rudd's minority government aside.

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